The sugar monster

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. White chocolate Magnums. Nutella on toast. Green and Black’s chocolate. Pick n mix sweets. Cake …. biscuits … and more cake.

Recently, I’ve been eating far too much of all of the above.

I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but nowadays I seem to love sugar more than ever. I know it’s common to crave it when you first stop drinking and I did experience that a little. In fact to start with I pretty much ate what I fancied because staying sober was the only thing I cared about.

Then, for a short time, things changed quite dramatically. As the pink clouds rolled in I began to eat more healthily. I was on a sober high. I think many of us know this feeling; after years of beating yourself up with alcohol, it feels so good when you finally stop that you just want to look after yourself by sleeping properly, exercising and eating nutritious food.

Of course, that saintly living didn’t last. Fast forward to now and I’m happy to say that tomorrow I will be 5 months sober (yippee!! I am very happy about this) … however on the way to this milestone I seem to have acquired a bit of a sugar addiction.

I’m still doing a lot of good things, like going to the gym and cooking from scratch (all made possible because of one of the best gifts of sobriety – the ability to get shit done). So that’s good. But in the evenings I find myself ploughing through tubs of ice cream and eating Nutella out the jar. I am never quite satisfied.

It’s become my way of treating/rewarding myself at the end of the day. There’s a sod-it element to it all. A ‘you’ve been good all day now you deserve whatever you fancy’ type mentality. That kind of thought process is very similar to how I justified my drinking. I also binge on sweet treats when I’m sad or unhappy. If I’ve had a bad day, my first thought is no longer ‘what am I going to buy to drink?’ but ‘what am I going to get to eat?’.

I deserve it don’t I? Just like I used to ‘deserve’ all those bottles of wine. 

What I can’t decide is how big a deal this really is. Part of me thinks: don’t worry. After all, it’s still fairly early days. Stopping drinking is an amazing achievement and if my biggest concern is about eating too much ice cream then that’s not a bad place to be. I’d always like to be a dress size smaller but I haven’t put on weight, yet. And so far overdosing on chocolate hasn’t led to me missing work, passing out on the sofa or sleeping with men I’ve only just met. 

On the other hand, I can see that using anything as a way of dealing with emotions is not wise. If (fingers crossed) I stay sober for good, will I still be doing the same thing in several years time? I remember going to restaurants as a child and always, always wanting dessert even if I was stuffed from the main course. Always wanting chocolate as my after school snack. Maybe sugar was my first love, before I discovered a much better substitute in my teenage years.

Is it unreasonable to want to be ‘fixed’ completely, within a few months? Is this my alcoholism talking, the part of me that just wants everything right now?


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22 thoughts on “The sugar monster

  1. Lilly September 5, 2013 at 12:04 pm Reply

    Ha, as usual I’m just one step behind you (four months today!) in these realisations and behaviour. My answer to your last question is: Yes, give it time.

    I agree with your thinking that it’s still relatively early days and you should cut yourself some slack for now and allow what is helping you to stay sober. No, it’s not good to use food to stuff emotions or escape as we did with booze. No, it’s not great to stuff our faces with sugar to the point where it’s an actual health risk in and of itself. But from all I know about you, you’re a generally health conscious fit person who it sounds like is eating pretty well otherwise and exercising and so therefore, for now anyway, the ice cream ain’t gonna kill you. You will probably have to clean up your diet a bit at some stage but you’ll know when enough is enough I reckon and when you’re ready. The fact you’re posting about it suggests it’d still feel like a big deprivation so maybe now is not the time?

    Those are my two cents anyway and maybe my own justifying as I’ve been through pretty much the same thought process and decided that as I am mostly eating healthily and exercising then I’m not going to beat myself up over some ice cream and the odd cake. Within reason. My thinking about this is 80/20. If I’m eating healthily roughly 80% of the time then sod the 20% not-so-healthy snacking or sugar fests.

    Go forth, eat, enjoy and then get on some super healthy virtuous sugar-free kick if and as when the mood strikes.

    Well bloody done on five months! Six is just around the corner!


    • soberjournalist September 5, 2013 at 2:06 pm Reply

      I think I heard someone on the bubble hour say it took them 2 years before they sorted their diet out! I guess this where the other recovery work comes in – you start to look at why you drank in the first place and the emotions behind it. Maybe working all that stuff out stops you substituting for something else?

      I think 80/20 sounds like a good idea – I am going to aim for that as cutting sugar out of my diet would feel like a real hardship. Congratulations on the 4 months. We’re pretty brilliant aren’t we?! x

      • Lilly September 6, 2013 at 1:15 am

        Yep, we are brilliant indeed. And I think it’s easy to forget we’re actually doing some BIG and HARD and we need to cut ourselves a bit more slack on other crap sometimes because this is more important, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

        Glittery sober unicorns, all of us 🙂

  2. Maggie Shores September 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm Reply

    Oh man! Sugar and coffee that’s all I think I ate/drank in the beginning! Lol! Alcohol has lots of sugar and since out bodies got used to having it, we crave it too. But you know, it’s way better thank being drunk! That’s for sure! Be easy on yourself 🙂 And Congrats on five months, woot woot! Keep trudging forward!

    • soberjournalist September 5, 2013 at 2:05 pm Reply

      You’re right – it’s always gonna be better than drinking! Thanks for your comment.

  3. atwistedsister September 5, 2013 at 7:39 pm Reply

    Weird! I was talking icecream sangies at my Women for Sobriety Group last night, and apparently the sugar cravings can be huge. I am thinking “mindfulness,” or at least that’s what I try for. If I’m feeling restless or having a craving, I try to tune in to my body kind of all over and observe where the stuff is coming from. So instead of thinking about indulgence or deprivation, just… observe. Moving around a lot has been helping me tons too!

  4. jenisthesoberist September 5, 2013 at 7:41 pm Reply

    I have been skimming through the book ‘Potatoes Not Prozac’ that talks about sugar addiction and what you can do about it. it is kind of a long term plan for looking at your diet and slowly adjusting it. I checked it out from the library because my sugar intake has been CRAZY since I stopped drinking. I am worried about it because it makes me feel so tired in the afternoons, but it is still so early for me with sobriety that I am trying not to make a big deal out of it. Plus, a little chocolate is pretty harmless and SO therapeutic. Anyway, you might want to check out that book! Peace, Jen

    • soberjournalist September 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm Reply

      Thanks I will do – not heard of that one before!

  5. Penny September 5, 2013 at 9:28 pm Reply

    Funny, because I just was listening to a podcast on this at The Bubble Hour, which I found because of your site! I’m 4 days sober — no sugar cravings for me yet. But I hear you on replacing one drug with another. I think it’s that “I deserve it” mentality that makes us different from everyone else. Good luck, and congrats on 5 months!

    • soberjournalist September 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm Reply

      I think I remember that one – I’m sure one of them said it took 2 years before they were ready to address their ice cream ‘problem’?! Congratulations on your 4 (or now 5) days sober – the first few really are the hardest. It gets much easier!

  6. soberjessie September 6, 2013 at 3:07 am Reply

    Oh, I am experiencing the exact same thing. I know that my desire for more is what helped fuel my alcoholism and now I am never quite satisfied with just a small treat. I believe it is part of my addictive personality. Trying not to make a huge deal out of it yet as I have only been sober for 55 days but I know it’s a beast I will have to conquer eventually. I hope it helps to know that you aren’t alone!

    • soberjournalist September 6, 2013 at 3:21 pm Reply

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. There’s just something in us that that always wants MORE, more of everything. I’d rather be over doing it on sugar than booze, but I think it’s something I’ll address a bit later, I can’t face it now. Congrats on your 55 days!

  7. carrieonsober September 6, 2013 at 9:14 pm Reply

    Hey Kate,
    I would really reccommend that you try the whole 30 inspired by Sherry over at oh for the love of me…
    I don’t mind a bit of cake, cookie, chocolate bar (topic, twix, snickers) here and there but oh boy, I have developed so much of a sweet tooth in the last six months.
    It’s not a weight thing…more like I wanted some peace from the sugar monster voice that can literally have me doing the zombie like walk to the local shop…bringing back bad memories of desperately panic buying wine.
    I have given myself six months and now the challenge is not only part of a health kick but it’s taking my mind of sober stuff and given me a new something to focus on for a short while.
    I can already (day 9) vouch for the benefits of not wanting to eat crap and being obsesive about it.
    And for a fitness loving gal like you, it’s great for muscle foods and energy levels.
    I have ordered the book (it starts with food) worth reading the reviews on not uk (its quite american, but we love the americans) sothe reviews are better on there.
    All this from a girl who never went longer than a day without toast or some porridge or museli. But I’m doing ok

    • soberjournalist September 7, 2013 at 4:19 pm Reply

      Hi Carrie, thanks for this recommendation. I’ve just been having a read through the website and it sounds pretty good. I’ve looked at doing a version of the paleo diet before but it seemed like a lot of hard work and I quickly tired of it. But that was back in the drinking days (when everything seemed like hard work!) so I’m going to give Whole 30 a go. Hope you’re not finding it too hard, I don’t want to feel too deprived. I’m going on holiday to Kenya next week so I will wait till I get back to try it – by then I’ll be at almost six months, so perhaps a good time to focus on something else for while. Kx

  8. Anonymous September 7, 2013 at 8:54 pm Reply

    wow! Have an amazing time in Kenya!
    I look forward to hearing all about that and seeing you maybe joining us on the Whole 30 when you get back.
    Six months, bring it on. Well done. C x

  9. Mrs D September 9, 2013 at 8:36 am Reply

    yay! Join us on the Whole 30 Challenge.. sugar is a killer.. it’s taken me 2 years to get to the point where I can see it is totally replacing booze for my reach-for cure-all when I’m in an emotional funk… I’m starting Sept 18 if you want to line up…

  10. searchingandfearless34 September 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm Reply

    I eat nutella straight from the jar. Give yourself a break. At least you’re not drinking bottles of wine (like I used to). I will be a year sober on the 29th. I alternate my nutella binges with green smoothies (you know, where you add leaves of spinach to banana, strawberry and yougurt). It all shakes out in the end. And yes you are expecting far too much to think at 5 mo. you kicked it. Recovery is the rest of your life. I’ve learned this the hard way…am learning.

  11. searchingandfearless34 September 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm Reply

    oh and nutella, or any dessert I’ve ever had for that matter, doesn’t impair my judgement enough to crash a vehicle, sleep with a best friend, or lose my dignity and self-worth like alcohol did.

  12. Kate Baugman October 2, 2013 at 3:37 pm Reply

    L-Glutamine (500mg capsules) help tremendously with cravings (sugar or alcohol). I learned of it in “Seven Weeks to Sobriety”. Also, moving to a whole-foods diet high in protein helps stave off cravings. Pumpkin seeds are my go-to snack (high protein) for staving off cravings.

    • soberjournalist October 2, 2013 at 8:40 pm Reply

      I’ve never heard of those capsules before – will give them a go, thanks.

  13. magpie October 4, 2013 at 9:35 pm Reply

    Hi, I understand completely about the personality of wanting more and more. It’s like you find trouble putting the breaks on once you get on a roll. It happens with spending, eating and of course drinking…day 1 for me today and I’m feeling really positive. Thanks for creating such an honest, entertaining and meaningful journal. I will be reading it every day as I put plans into action to get sober and stay sober. I am the ‘almost alcoholic, on the slippery slope, great at fitting my drinking around my life responsibilities so that is is MY big secret of shame. Just got to remember to breath 🙂

  14. […] The sugar monster. […]

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