Sugar Ain’t Sweet

//Sugar Ain’t Sweet

Sugar Ain’t Sweet

The night before I quit smoking forever, 25 years ago, I chain-smoked a whole pack of cigarettes. I had a smoker’s cough; I wanted to free myself from the tyranny of nicotine; and I did not want to follow in my father’s wake and die from lung cancer. But I also didn’t want to lose my friend, my companion, my crutch that helped me cope with feelings of uselessness, self-pity and fear.

The toxic inhalation of 20 cigarettes in a few short hours, to help quell the panic I was feeling about quitting, satisfied nothing, but made me feel sick enough the next morning to delay the inevitable craving I knew would come. And other than a cigarette here and there over the years—when I spent three months in Paris in 1997 I would sometimes smoke in an outdoor café while sipping my café au lait; I told myself it didn’t count, it was Paris—I never returned to the habit.

Today is the day, once again, to give up refined sugar, the drug that doesn’t look like a drug.

Two nights ago, in preparation, I ate a 12.6 oz bag of my favorite poison—the one I consume when I’m lonely or depressed or angry—M&M’s peanut chocolate candies; hoping it would make me sick enough to stay away from sweet things for a day or two. It didn’t work. I loved eating every sugar-coated-chocolate-covered-colorful peanut. And I wanted more the next day! I didn’t have more but I did eat another chocolate treat last night for my final hurrah.

Proof that I’m a sugar addict: I cannot eat just a bite, I cannot order a sweet with my café au lait in Paris, I cannot not want more.

It was about 20 years ago when I first decided to swear off sugar. I don’t remember exactly the day or the year as I hadn’t yet admitted I was an addict, but I was on a health kick and knew sugar wasn’t healthy, so I stopped eating it and felt better. But I do remember exactly when I decided to fall off that wagon and eat some chocolate.

It was April 1992 and I was living in a Zen Buddhist Monastery. I had lost my job and I was somewhat lost myself. My favorite monk had died early in the year and I wasn’t sure why I was there. All my usual touchstones, grounding me to life as I knew it, were not available. I still have a visceral recollection of missing my phone and answering machine—there were no cellphones yet—every time I walked into my austere room. I was lonely, out of touch and scared. It was a very strict environment with no entertainment or distraction. Except, each morning, there would be a small sweet offered with our tea. I caved early on in my stay and savored every tiny morsel. There was never enough to over indulge so I convinced myself I could finally eat sugar responsibly. Until I returned to the real world, when slowly but surely my consumption of it escalated into the danger zone and once again I had to quit.

Much as I hate to admit it, I’m an all or nothing gal when it comes to addictive substances.

I have been refined-sugar free for most of the past 20 years. I wish I had kept closer track. Today, Monday, August 13, 2012 I once again swear off eating refined sugar products—no matter how I’m feeling, no matter what is going on, no matter whom I offend by declining an offer of sweets.

I choose this date because I know I’ll remember it: two years ago on Friday, August 13 I got married. I wasn’t depressed or lonely or sad. I was happy. I wanted to celebrate. I ate the dessert. It was beautiful, it was scrumptious, it was perfect.

I told myself that would be it, just one day of indulgence. Instead, no surprise here, it triggered the sugar craving that lasted two years and culminated with that bag of M&M’s.

Already I am beginning to bargain with myself about this resolution. At the end of this week I leave for a two-week vacation in the country, where most of the entertainment is self created. A visit to the local Creemee Stand each night after dinner is our recently established custom.

I’m thinking that I may allow myself a scoop or two and start the no-sugar-no-matter-what diet after vacation. But I don’t have to decide that right now. All I know is that for today I vow not to eat any refined sugar products. We’ll see about tomorrow, tomorrow. Wish me luck!

By | 2016-10-22T08:21:15+00:00 August 13th, 2012|Let's Eat|4 Comments


  1. Mary Lou September 12, 2012 at 10:11 am - Reply

    I do wish you luck! And I understand. I’ve been clean from drink and drug for 29 years. The hardest to quit was smoking cigarettes. That’s been since 1990 I think. When I quit smoking pot–my all time favorite, I played a little game with myself. I said that even though it was a day at a time; when I turn 70 I will go back to it. I still have 17 years to change my mind 🙂

    I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, yet I know it’s a powerful addiction. Tonight I will dedicate my prayers to you. All the best to you!

    • Nancy September 18, 2012 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Congratulations on your long term sobriety! I, too, have been drink and drug free for many years, 27 this year. We’re both winners. I once said if I lived to 80 I’d buy a bottle of bourbon and a pack of unfiltered cigarettes. How alike we are. Today that idea no longer appeals so I’m grateful for that. The sugar thing is another story – I never ate much sugar when I was drinking and for most of my sober years have been sugar free. It’s a process and I’ll have another story soon about that. Thanks for your comments and your prayers.

  2. Steve Regan October 3, 2012 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    We quit smoking the identical way 25 years ago except you were focused on withdrawal and I on failure. I had quit a couple of dozen times in three months and was really trying to quit quitting. Sugar is a bitch. I’m snacking before I realize it and although I maintain some control over portions I’m lost as to frequency. Just a little bit is an almost unconscious mantra. I wish you great success and hope to follow in your footsteps.

    P.S. I came across a plaque that I’m putting back up on my wall –
    “Discipline is remembering what you want”

    • Nancy October 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      I love that quote. As for the sugar, like with all my addictions, the first time is a gift. I have to follow up on the above as it didn’t stick till Sept 11. So now I have 23 days off sugar and it’s still hard. But I do feel better. If you want to count days with me, let me know. Always good to have company.

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