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how I’m recovering from an addiction to sugar

My ego leads me to believe that I’m all alone in my struggles. I’ve been amazed by the messages and questions I’ve received about cutting sugar from my diet. I’m not an expert. I’m not eliminating it perfectly nor entirely, I’m sure. And I don’t really care if other people eat sugar – even around me. Live and let live…do what works for you. It wasn’t working for me. To those of you who can eat half a piece of cake, I salute you. I can’t. I want the whole cake. And then another. A half a piece of cake is too much for me and every cake in the world is never enough. But, I’ve been leery of telling people about this change I’ve made in my life – because I’m afraid I’ll fail / look stupid / be ridiculed. This is what ego does…out of concern for herself, she rehearses all that could go wrong to keep me from stepping out and showing up authentically in the world. I love my life – all of it…I certainly know this is not the case for everyone. And I’ve had my share of years and probably lifetimes where I didn’t. But now I do. So when I don’t wake excited about the day, I know the problem is within me.

And sugar was a problem for me. It had become one more way not to feel anything. Bored? Frustrated? Celebrating? Tired? Anxious? Sad? Empty? The answer was always sugar. Through this process I’ve been reminded of something Judith Lasater said to me a few years ago, “We mistake agitation for energy.”

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To sober up from sugar wasn’t a decision I made with vanity in mind. In an effort to fit back into my jeans this summer, I abandoned meals in favor of sugar. It was reminiscent of the way I used to starve myself and drink my calories in the evening. So basically, for a while now, I’ve eaten one meal a day (dinner) plus a steady stream of coffee and sugary snacks throughout the day. With this decision, I’ve not wished to lose weight. A former (not sure always if former is true) anorexic, I don’t get on the scale. Now on the other side of the withdrawals and mood swings, I feel amazing. I can sleep. I wake before the alarm. And my skin – it’s cleared up. My eyes are bright. Maybe because I’m sleeping each night which is amazing – a miracle, really. I emerged from the womb colicky, and not that much has changed – until the past 22 days. I can sit in meditation again without wanting to climb out of my skin. I can see auras and energy.

People keep asking me how long I’m going to do this, and I haven’t thought about it really…the future…because the only real success I’ve ever had has come one day at a time. So, I woke this morning and committed that I am not going to eat sugar today. For the first few days, I actually included this humble request and affirmation in my prayers:

Ahem, “God, humbly and gratefully, I thank you. For all that I have and all that I am, I owe to you. Please help me to act as you would have me act today. Deliver me from the prideful bondage of ego and help me to be of service to others, to you and Your will. Where I am judgmental, open me to compassion. And as I inevitably falter today, please help remind me of this prayer. I ask that you make me willing to eliminate sugar because the dependency, I know, is making my connection to You hazy. Should my car magically arrive at Starbucks at 3 pm or Melt at 9, I ask that you keep me away from the first cake ball / scone / cupcake / waffle cone. You’ve got your work cut out for you today, you hear? Amen.”

I added this sweet footnote for the first several days to my typical morning prayer because I cannot do hard things, alone. It doesn’t matter that I was raised to be independent, that I’m a self-employed Taurus with willpower for days. I am an addict. And I need help. And yes, I felt a little ridiculous. I’m talking about sugar not intravenous drugs. But Gabrielle Bernstein encouraged me to pray, and she’s been sugar sober for over 2 years. 2 years without sugar sounded absolutely impossible to me.

But I felt that way about alcohol too. I remember when I couldn’t string together 2 sober days. When someone had 2 years, I thought they were crazy.

They probably kinda were. As I am. We all are a little crazy. A crazy sliding scale. And sugar was making me insane. It had escalated to the point that I needed it. A few hours without it and I had a headache. And the shame. Oh the shame. The tired tape about how I’m a yoga teacher and should be healthier. It’s been around for me since the substance was cigarettes.

I recall a year or so ago, the woman at Central Market saying of the cupcakes in my cart “It’s not like you’re riding around in a chair or anything…you’re not even overweight.” These comments were enough to make me think I was managing it. But I was out of control even then. I didn’t know it yet.

Sugar was the first drug I ever abused. I remember being 4 the first time. I wanted to change the lonely abandoned feeling I felt. And what do you know a whole package of cookies worked?!

I abandoned sugar for years in favor of alcohol and prescription pills. And when I cleaned up those behaviors, my sweet tooth returned. Alcohol metabolizes as sugar. In the olden days, they actually fed alcoholics cake to get them through withdrawals.

And for a couple years I embraced sugar like a long lost friend. Because between alcohol and sugar – sugar was the lesser of the two evils. My sobriety depended on it, I feel. My life, really. Because when I drink, I want to die. Even though I have so many reasons to live.

But, there came a day a little over 3 weeks ago when I was done. I was done just as I had been done with drinking…and smoking. I didn’t blow it out for one last bender with all my favorite desserts. I just woke up one morning and said, “I’m done” followed by the prayer. Because though I felt done, I didn’t know what to do differently instead.

So in addition to the prayer, here’s what I’ve done. It’s helped me. It’s my experience. May it give you hope. Five people told me yesterday that I’ve inspired them. And I think it’s because they know I was really badly addicted and if I can do it, there’s hope for you, too.

  1. Water. Water moves the sugar out. It keeps you full. Start with warm lemon water in the morning. If lemon is too hard on your teeth or stomach, maybe mint. Drink water all day.
  1. Prep meals. Set yourself up so you have food to eat. I leave the house in the morning for a 10 hour day with:  homemade granola + yogurt or almond milk, a smoothie with greens and low glycemic fruit, cashew butter + rice cakes, eggs + sweet potatoes + avocado, and a salad. If you don’t cook, check out my friend Claudia’s made-to-order food service company, My Sweet Roots. She delivers.  
  1. Do something different. Especially at peak craving times. At 3 pm, instead of eating a cupcake and a latte during my break, I took the dog for a walk, practiced legs up the wall, read a few inspiring pages from a book, called a friend, drank hot tea, wrote handwritten thank you notes.
  1. Find a decadent substitute. For me it’s cashew butter and rice cakes. I don’t know how this dish is not sugary. My brain thinks it is. I love it.
  1. Prepare an evening ritual. I began drinking golden milk and returned to taking epsom salt baths. I had aches and pains from the withdrawals. I thought I was getting sick. I took essential oils for that. Around day 5, right as I was about to throw the white flag, I turned a corner. Sometimes the miracle comes on the heels of total surrender. Depending on how strict you are, reduce or remove the honey.
  1. Close the day in gratitude. I began writing in my gratitude journal again. I mean, just the fact that I’m writing a blog post about sugar should tell you how much I have to be grateful for. This is a “problem” some would dream of. This practice, especially putting the pen to paper, helped me to get over the obsession.

This is how I feel. Revived. Excited about life. And this is how I want to feel always, one day at a time.

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