Hello, my name is Danette and I’m an addict.
Those who know me and who are reading this might be raising their eyebrows in surprise. (Although some might be thinking “ah ha! I knew there was something about her.”)
There are millions of us who share this same addiction. Although our stories are similar, I can only share mine. It began as a child, when I was “turned on” to it by well-meaning adults. It showed up at holidays and celebrations. As a kid, I’d sometimes sneak it at home, where it was readily available. I’ve tried to quit my habit several times over the past year or so.
I’m hooked on sugar.
I’m being a little facetious here. There are people with serious addictions to drugs and alcohol whose loved ones can only watch helplessly as they destroy themselves; my heart goes out to them. But we could argue that sugar also is a drug, one that’s everywhere and often brushed aside as inconsequential.
I don’t have cookies, cakes and crullers stashed in my house. But I do love chocolate and if it’s mixed with coffee, even better. I like my tea hot and sweet and I have several cups a day.
This Lent, as I have for several years, I’ve attempted to give up mochas. New this year was the resolve to cut my tea consumption in half. My husband threatened divorce if I gave it up completely.
Well, he doesn’t have to worry about that. I’m a fallen angel. (And really, aren’t we all?) Only a few days passed before emotions and cravings took over and I drove to Starbucks for a tall café mocha.
When I was 32, after 16 years of smoking, I quit cold turkey. It was tough and it took me several tries that week. I’d buy a pack of cigarettes, smoke a few, pitch the pack, then repeat it the next day. Today, I can’t see myself lighting up anything any more. It isn’t who I am.
Quitting sugar cold turkey is a lot harder. You don’t need cigarettes to survive, but you do need to eat and sugar is everywhere. Start reading labels and you’ll see ingredients such as corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, honey, molasses, cane sugar and agave nectar, to name a few. Some will say honey and agave nectar are “natural” sugars and therefore better. But sugar is sugar. That’s why clean eating plans call for eliminating all sugar from your diet, along with heavily processed foods.
For too many of us, too much sugar can lead to obesity, fatty liver disease and diabetes. For others, like me, it’s more mental. Scientists found that sugar releases dopamine in the reward center of the brain. I’m here to tell you it’s true. There are times when I finally give in to my chocolate or sugar craving and a sense of “all is right with the world” comes over me. (Did I say “addict”?)
For people like me, there can be no moderation. I’m very aware of my habit and that’s the first step. I’ll keep trying, just as I did when I quit smoking.
If you’re struggling with an addiction of any kind — even sugar — know you are not alone. It won’t be easy to quit but it is possible. We just need to dig deep and find our strength.