And you want to call your mother and say
“Mother, I can never come home again
‘Cause I seem to have left an important part of my brain somewhere
Somewhere in a field in Hampshire.”
I have never been one of those people who can just “be”. I’ve never been able to meditate, or just empty my mind, and I cannot just sit and do nothing for extended periods of time. Sitting is fine, but unless I’m occupying my mind with something, I get incredibly bored, very easily. Now I don’t bore easily – yes that might sound like an immediate contradiction, but bear with me – because I always have something I can be doing, reading, watching, learning about…even if I can’t get up and about to go anywhere. I’m incredibly good at keeping myself occupied and even as a child I could often be found just sat reading as I devoured everything I could get my proto-bibliophile little hands on. So yeah, I never struggle to find things to occupy myself with, but I simply cannot just sit and do nothing.
My mind races all the time, jumping from one project to another as soon as I’ve finished, constantly making notes about the next 100 things to research or the next 10 books I “have” to buy. I read 2-3 different books at any one time, watch university lectures from around the world in order to learn more about…well…everything, and I have to check out/aggregate numerous news sources every day, to find out what the “bullshit du jour” is. (I’ve had it suggested on multiple occasions that I might have undiagnosed ADHD or even Asperger’s, because of the way my brain is always looking to keep itself stimulated, in a very logical, fact-oriented way. I have no idea if that’s true and I’ve never been tested for it, because what we be the point? I’m hardly suffering as a result of it and I certainly don’t require any more medication to add to my already vast prescription.)
But I know that whatever it is that causes me to be perpetually in need of stimulation is probably something that ties into my issues with sugar addiction, or food in general. When I think about what it was that really made me overconsume so many carbs, I’m perfectly ready to admit that it was an addiction. However, I also think that one of the reasons I did eat so much, was because of the experience of having different flavours in my mouth. Being so cued into stimulation at every level, I believe that food was also a way of doing something that felt interesting at the time. I love really sour things, spicy things, herbs, regional cuisines, different textures, different temperatures and of course…all things sweet. Food it seems, has been as much about the fun way flavours hit my taste receptors as it was a response to craving another hit of sugar. Addiction being the multi-layered disorder that it is, can have more than one contributory factor. Maybe I’ve been addicted to the sensory experiences involved in eating, almost as much a I’ve been addicted to the actual sugars involved? I mean, they’re probably two sides of the same coin, but it makes perfect sense when I think about it.
The weird thing is, throughout my life I’ve tried just about everything a person can become addicted to. And I don’t just mean “tried it once, didn’t inhale (I did not have sexual relations with that woman)”, lol. No, I’ve imbibed, indulged and partaken in just about every substance out there on the streets…and have done so on many, many, occasions. During my 20’s I was a complete party animal. I believed that you should work hard and then reward yourself by partying equally as hard on your time off. And I really went for it. I could list the things I’ve done, but it’s quicker and easier to just list the stuff I’ve never done. I’ve never done crystal meth (c’mon we all have to have SOME standards!), I’ve never done PCP and I’ve never used that weird khat stuff that people from Africa like to chew (that shit makes your teeth really gross and TBH you get far more bang for your buck with regular speed). Oh and I’ve never injected anything. But other than that, if it could be snorted, swallowed, smoked or absorbed through a ‘tab’, I’ve done it. A lot of it.
And I’m not saying any of that to try and make myself sound wildly interesting (trust me, most people who are completely off their face on drugs aren’t even interesting to other people currently off their face on drugs) I’m just trying to reveal a pattern in my past behaviours that I believe still exist within me today, despite me being far too old to party anymore. (I don’t even drink alcohol!). The reason I took so many drugs was partly curiosity, but mostly just because I loved the way in which different substances stimulated my mind and body in so many different ways. Up, down, sideways (thanks, Ketamine!) or completely tripping my tits off…whatever it was that I wanted to feel, I knew I could get just by ordering up whatever substance I wanted at that specific moment in time.
And I LOVED taking drugs. I’m not ashamed of that fact…I had so much fun with them and got to experience so many different sensations and levels of excitement / euphoria / relaxation / fascination / introspection, every weekend. I mixed them up, experimented with combining acid & ecstasy, ketamine & ecstasy, ketamine & heroin…all kinds of mad combinations. And looking back, yeah, I probably was pushing my luck and sailing a little too close to the wind with some of my more extreme weekends. At one point I got the nickname “munch” because when it came to taking ecstasy tablets (and this was many years ago when ecstasy tablets actually had a decent amount of MDMA in them) I would start of with just 1, then double drop a couple an hour later, then triple drop later still and by the end of the session had probably forked out about £150 for 20 pills and subsequently “munched” my way through them (and I use the term “munched” there in inverted commas, because ain’t no one in their right mind gonna chance a whitey by chewing one of those bad boys up in their mouth….bleugh!)
But you know what? No matter how many drugs I took or how often, I never became addicted to any of them. Maybe it was because I only ever did them on weekends because of the weekday work ethic. Maybe it’s because I was doing so many different things all the time, that I never became actually addicted to any one recreational drug in particular. I don’t know. But it’s the same with alcohol. When I was younger (15+) I would drink enormous amounts on the weekend. Binge drinking. But it never became something that I got addicted to. I never felt the urge to drink on weekdays, or drink alone. It was something I was able to walk away from as easily as I did the drug-fuelled party life. I did it while it was fun and then when I’d had enough, I just stopped. Inevitably, my reasons for giving up those crazy days of drug-taking were just the usual mundane reasons: 1/ the comedowns get a lot harder to get over (like hangovers) the older you get and 2/ I ended up working a job that required me to work a lot of overtime on the weekends, so it just wasn’t feasible anymore.
Do I miss it? Kind of. But not enough to want to go back to it. I’m now content with getting my stimulation from a vast array of intellectual pursuits….along with getting to enjoy the company of my other half. But it was all the talk of sugar-addiction recently that just got me to thinking about addiction in general and whether or not I’ve got what you’d call an “addictive personality”. And I don’t think that I do. As I’ve just explained, I’ve put myself in the path of potential substance addiction, just by the sheer amount of things that I’ve taken over the years. Why does one person become a disease ridden crack-whore, when the next person merely dabbles and walks away completely unscathed? What makes person ‘A’ become an intravenous smack addict, when person ‘B’ just finds it something they can enjoy here and there and not become dependent upon?
And the only reason I can think of, as to why I might have never gotten addicted to any drugs I’ve ever used…yet still somehow became a sugar-addict, is because everyone knows about the dangers of drug addiction. I grew up bombarded with the “Just Say No” campaigns of the 80s/90s (not that they stopped this curious little miscreant from wanting to find out for herself what these drug things were all about, lol) and there was no shortage of films or television shows that charted the terrible demise of some wretched junkie. The potential dangers of drugs were embedded in our consciousness from a very early age. So even though I was having fun taking everything from A-Z, I think there still must have been some part of my subconscious keeping an eye on me and stopping me from stepping over the threshold from user to addict.
But sugar? It’s in pretty much every kind of processed food on the planet. And grain based carbohydrates have been touted as “good” and “healthful” for as long as I can remember. Sure, we were warned that if we didn’t clean our teeth properly then the sugar would give us cavities; but no one was going around thinking:
“I really ought to be careful dabbling in these Mars Bars and cans of Coca Cola…I don’t want to get addicted and have to go turn tricks on the streets of crime to pay for my dirty, candy habit.”
There just hasn’t been the intensive campaigning out there in schools, youth groups, churches an from within the police, telling us to “Just Say No… To Sugar”. It’s really only in the past 15 years that we’ve seen the notion of carbs being the problem with triggering metabolic disorders (Gary Taubes has really done wonders for getting this message out there to the general public, but Dr Atkins had been waxing lyrical about the low-carb diets for years, before he very sadly passed away. Taubes just really refocused energy and attention on a low-carb WOE, and continues to publish books on the subject to this day) but not many of us grew up in the knowledge that carrots & sweetcorn, or cornflakes and crusty bread could be more problems than they’re worth.
I just say all this because I think our sugar-addictions crept us on us when we weren’t necessarily clued up about the effect carbs were having us. I’m not trying to pass the buck here…none of us got fat behind our own back; but it definitely helps to make sense of how I never became addicted to the various classes of “controlled substances” consumed over the years, but I definitely became addicted to sugar from an early age. And when it’s injected into everything from dressings, to freshly baked 100% chicken breasts in the supermarket, which have also been “fortified” with HFCS…well, what chance did we really stand? *GAH*!
I never wanted to admit that I was a ‘sugar addict’ (I mean, it sounds pretty fucking lame, right?) but going through those first 3 days of withdrawal taught me what it meant to feel infuriatingly dependent on a substance for pleasure, satiety and sanity. I’ve committed those 72hrs to memory, because I, in no way ever, want to have to go back to that place, admit to a relapse and put myself through the sugar withdrawal process again. That shit sucked.
But when I also think back to the withdrawal process and how amazing I felt afterwards, I was a little surprised to see how easy it was to just get on with my new low-carb WOE. Maybe I’m just lucky because I’m not a particularly addictive personality. Hence why I also never became a recreational drug addict, no matter how many substances I used. Do I have an especially good brain that doesn’t “catch” onto addictions all that easily? Am I just mentally stronger and better able to discipline myself, or is it a genetic predisposition to avoiding addiction?
Well, in full disclosure, I’ve actually been surrounded by addicts at various points in my life. My dad (now passed) was an alcoholic, my older half-brother was a heroin addict for over a decade, my step-brother was a heroin & crack addict, one ex-boyfriend was a paranoid schizophrenic heroin addict, another boyfriend was a gambling addict and a couple of friends ended up with one of them in jail and the other dying in the apartment downstairs after a heroin/cocaine speedball overdose. One would think me more likely to develop addictions myself with all those associations & relationships, but I think if anything those people all acted more as real-life examples of what not to end up like. I’ve had front row seats to the very real fuck-ups and failures of all those individuals. There was simply no way I was going to end up going to let myself end up like them.
But nobody was skulking around with a diagnosis of sugar-addiction, for me to use as an example of what not to do. Even if many of them were as addicted to the sweet stuff as me, it simply wasn’t a thing that anyone had really heard of or talked about, 25 years ago; at least it wasn’t in my social circle and I wasn’t clued into any nutritional concepts surrounding it online for a long time in the future. So yes, I WAS a sugar addict, but I wasn’t aware of it…ergo I wasn’t in a position to do much about it. Sure I was fat, but I’m really glad I never joined WW with all their low-fat/high-carb, sugary “points system” foods that would’ve merely been allowing me to stoke those inner fires with MORE unnecessary carbohydrates.
But today is a different story. I have that information, that knowledge, that power. And it has allowed me to re-evaluate my life choices, my diet, and all the behaviours I’ve needed to change in order to get a handle on it. My mind is focused, my goals are set in stone and I have multiple tools at my disposal to assist me in getting to where I really want to be. Some might think that it’s a lot harder to deal with a sugar addiction, when we live in a world that constantly surrounds us with sweet stuff, sugar fortified foods and no way of simply abstaining from all food, forever. We still need to eat and the temptations are all around us.
But I think it’s the opposite. Once you decide “oh I just don’t eat that stuff anymore” and don’t go down the slippery-slope of “just one cheat day won’t hurt!” then it’s a very simple WOE to follow. No complicated systems of sins/points/rewards, no wrecking one’s metabolism by massively restricting calories, no going hungry and no negotiating with oneself any time you’re presented with the opportunity to binge on something, telling yourself that you can make up for it with better behaviour, tomorrow. Just stick to the plan and work it – until it stops working for you. Then you can look at alterations, tinkering, eliminations, rethinking goal weight in relation to muscle mass etc…but don’t worry about any of that in the short term.
Sugar addiction is a real thing, but it also comes with a very simple solution. It just takes the individual to want to make the decision to “get clean” and stay that way. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy…some days will suck more than others. But it’s up to each of us, and us alone, whether we want to continue behaving like junkies, or get our shit together and work toward a happier, healthier future.
Because I’ve seen what that kind of addicted lifestyle has done to way too many people.
And I refuse point blank to end up like them.
Stay sensibly stimulated, y’all