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Cupcakes and Strife

Cupcakes and Strife


Sometimes people will find out that I’m a recovering alcoholic, and they’ll praise my courage and my strength. I usually go along with it.

Because I like to be praised. You know. Who doesn’t?

But the fact that I quit drinking is not evidence of my strength or courage, one way or the other. It’s evidence only, really, of honesty and being straight with myself. Some alcoholics in recovery are strong and courageous people, but I’m not one of them. Because for me, getting off alcohol was really an exercise in acceptance more than anything else. I had to accept that I could never drink again, that there was no way to think my way out of it, no loop holes, no ifs ands or buts. And even that realization took me a while, too, by the way. I tried it my way several times before I finally accepted it. I got kicked out of a few bars on New Years Eves (the one day of the year I’d let myself drink during those years), forget my way home, forget how I got somewhere, and forget half the night the next morning before I could accept it. Let’s be clear: I can be a thick bastard on occasion.

But when people in meetings — back when I went to them — would say things like, “Today, I’m giving it over to God,” I’d be like, “Yeah. Give it over to God,” and it was all academic for me. They would talk about getting on their knees and all that religious crap, and I’d go along with it, but I really never did it. My thoughts on God and spirituality expanded as a result of sobriety, and whereas before I had been a fairly adamant atheist I’m now a much more tolerant agnostic with a penchant for talking about The Order of Things and the like. But get on my knees? Not a chance, pardon the expression, in hell.

I had never been physically addicted to alcohol. Or any drug, for that matter. My drinking was chaos, but it wasn’t every day. I never found myself, on a day-by-day basis (or minute-by-minute basis) having to give myself over to the care of God or The Group or Whatever in order to get through the day without a drink. I just did it. I committed to it and did all the work and tried (really tried) to expand my ideas about God for the sake of my sobriety. And I guess it worked, because it’s been almost nine years now.

But strong? No. I got lucky.

I joke about how I’m addicted to cupcakes and how I have a sugar problem. Bottom line: it’s funny. Mr. Right-Click says, “You’re only problem with cupcakes is that you don’t have enough cupcakes.” And yeah, that is totally a problem.

The truth is that I’m seriously addicted to food. To sugar, in particular. It is something that plagues me every day of my life. It’s funny, but it’s not, and then it is again, and then it’s not again. And so on.

I had to admit to Travis that I ate seven cupcakes on Saturday, and even while I was laughing about it, I was also kind of at my wit’s end, because I DO NOT WANT TO EAT SEVEN CUPCAKES IN A DAY. I want to commit to eating better, and not just totally waste my really super painful exercising and all the time I put in to try to look good. Because it really is about looking good for me — I wish it were about health, but it’s not. In fact, if it really were about health, it might be easier. If I could convince myself that eating even one more cupcake would be leading me down the path to death, I think I might have an easier time of it.

It would be more like alcohol — no ifs, ands, or buts.

I looked at the pictures of myself from Mini’s party and, people — and I’m not fishing for compliments here, people, really — it is physically painful for me. This is why you never see pictures of me from the waist down. I cannot look at them, and I’m driven to look at them. They hurt me. It is so absurdly vain and just SO STUPID, but it’s true. So I look at the pictures, and then I eat more cupcakes, and then I look at more pictures, and I eat more cupcakes. Before you know it, I don’t even remember how many cupcakes I’ve eaten, and I’m definitely not enjoying them anymore, and — wait a second, I’ve felt this way before . . . oh yeah, this is what it was like back when I was drinking.

Sugar and/or food are not something I can cut out of my life like I did with alcohol. And I’m fresh out of ideas, people.

I guess what I’m saying is: I’m on my knees. Typing, on my knees. Also: smirking. All of it. Because it’s serious, and it’s funny, all at once. I’m out of ideas. So I’m going to have to give it to God, as they say. I hope he/she/it doesn’t mind if I don’t believe in him/her/it.

Comments (27)

  1. Apr 20, 2010

    I’m an alcoholic and a sugar addict too. (HI, LINDA!) I know book suggestions are sometimes kind of more annoying than helpful, but if you haven’t read it, Potatoes Not Prozac is a pretty interesting read. I found it useful for understanding a bit about why, physiologically speaking, I might be the sort of person who can’t stick to one beer or one cookie — the actual diet plan (which involves repeatedly eating a potato before bed, if I remember correctly) isn’t something I’ve tried.

    Anyway: empathy sent your way. I know this slippery cupcake slope all too well.

  2. Apr 20, 2010

    Hi, Linda! (lol)

    The sugar/alcohol connection is obviously there, and I really wish somebody would do something about it because if there were ever going to be a drug that helped anybody with alcoholism, it seems like that is the start. I have read Potatoes, Not Prozac, but like you, I’ve never followed the diet. At present, I’m having specially made meals for me by a nutritionist, so when I stick to those I have more of a chemical balance. The problem is that I’ll have a cupcake situation, and it will be like, “How can I not eat a cupcake at my son’s birthday party” and then, you know, I’m face down in the proverbial cream cheese frosting gutter.

    I think I have to just not ever, ever, have these things again. And I’m really having a hard time with that concept. Because it seems harmless, sugar, even if it’s not for me.

  3. Apr 20, 2010

    Oh for crap’s sake.

    Sometimes I want to come there and smack you, because I read this stuff, and then I look at the pictures, and I think: Wow. Disconnect. Because you talk like you’re this horribly obese chick, and then there’s these pictures of this skinny chick. And you surely realize by now that I am not a nice enough person to bullshit you on this.

    And other times I want to come there and smack you because my god, girl, you treat yourself WAY worse than anybody on Twitter or in the blogosphere or whatever. If someone else talked to you like this, we’d all be trashing that bitch on Twitter.

    Seven cupcakes during a birthday party is not a capital crime. Geez. I think unrealistic expectations and self-loathing are way worse for your health (and probably your looks) than seven cupcakes.

    That said, I have never met a person who has been told “stop beating yourself up” and been able to say, “Okay, I will” and then do it. So never mind.

    But seriously—you are way, way, WAY hard on yourself. You should tell that bitch to suck it. Her voice totally does not resonate. Because when somebody beats you up like that, you know what you’re going to want? More cupcakes. That’s the whole secret right there.

  4. Apr 20, 2010

    Another alcoholic & sugar addict here! Maybe we need our own special meetings?

    All I know is…I found who I want to hang out with at BlogHer.

  5. Apr 20, 2010

    You’re right about the self-hatred leading to more cupcake eating. That’s for sure. I don’t really know how to stop it, as I’ve said before. I really wish I did, though, because this is getting absurd. It’s past absurd, at this point.

  6. Apr 20, 2010

    LOL! Yeah, all of us can stand around and try not to enable each other around the cookies. It will be awesome.

    Do you know the only time in my life that I found people who bought as much (and sometimes more) sugar than I do was when I went shopping with other alcoholics? True story. Somebody would always throw another creme egg into the cart and be like, “Well, we have to make sure we have enough.”

  7. Apr 20, 2010

    it definitely supports the theory that there’s something physically different about us, given that alcohol is metabolized as sugar in the body. But yeah, I’m just not good at balance overall. Like the original MTV…”Too much is never enough.”

  8. Apr 20, 2010

    I’m going to second everything Kerry said. Because when I looked at your photos YESTERDAY, I thought “Damn I wish I could pull of a shirtdress the way Anna can.” There’s a definite disconnect there, and you are way hard on yourself. I know that doesn’t solve jack, but it seems like getting that picture right in your head is more of the key than the actual food.

  9. h
    Apr 20, 2010

    I was told when I first got sober to stock up on ice cream. “It’s in the Big Book! You need lots of chocolate right now!” It makes sense, since alcohol has a high sugar content.

    Ironically, I was eating a bowl of Moose Tracks ice cream and trying to talk myself out of going for a second right as I read this. I agree with the commenter above, in theory, that seven cupcakes at a birthday party is not the end of the world, but on the other hand, who needs seven cupcakes? Eating seven cupcakes when you don’t even really WANT seven cupcakes and not being able to stop just feels gross, and I don’t know the answer, either. I do okay if I just don’t have anything sweet in the house, but have had a hard time sticking to that, even.

  10. Apr 20, 2010

    I wonder if you’ve had your thyroid checked or whether you’re on any anti-depressant meds? I don’t need to know, but my experience with those two things (and my doctor confirmed it) was that while my thyroid was out of control and while I was on the meds, I CRAVED those things. It went beyond simply “wanting” something to actually feeling like I physically “needed” those things. Once I got the thyroid under control and decided to stop taking the meds (which is another struggle in itself) I find that I don’t even think about sugar any more.

    I thought I’d throw it out there as something to maybe pursue. Take it or leave it. I leave this comment with nothing but empathy. 🙂

  11. Apr 20, 2010

    Yes, I did not show you the full length pictures, though. And for the record, this is why I said I wasn’t fishing for compliments. I KNOW that I’m not obese and I KNOW that there are people who are bigger than I am. What I’m saying is, I am doing the same thing over and over again, trying to get different results. I am killing myself with a personal trainer and then sabotaging myself with cupcakes, so then I can go beat myself up again with the pictures. It’s insanity, is the problem.

    I do have unrealistic expectations. I mean, I intellectually get that they are unrealistic, but I don’t really believe that they are unrealistic. I believe that I’m not trying hard enough.

  12. Apr 20, 2010

    One is too many and 100 is not enough. And the reaction I get to sugar is the same as with alcohol, like I have to get more of it in my body right away. I think there’s a psychological element, too, of course, but there’s definitely some kind of physical thing there.

  13. Apr 20, 2010

    Yeah, and if you have kids, that’s tough. Mini doesn’t eat a lot of sweets, though only because he’s not that into them (which WHOA? is he my kid?!), but I will grab pieces of white bread and eat four of them sometimes if I’m having a sugar meltdown. And yes, I know I’m slowly killing my child by making him grilled cheese sandwiches with white bread. The cheese is organic, though, so I’m sure it balances out.

  14. Apr 20, 2010

    Hi Melanie, I’ve had my thyroid checked and it’s supposedly normal. I’m also on anti-depressants, but ironically the type that I’m on helps with the serotonin-based cravings — if I go off of it, I tend to have more cravings than now. My diet being balanced helps. But if I let even a little bit of sugar in, it’s a disaster.

  15. Apr 20, 2010

    I get that, the sabotage, and insanity and unrealistic expectations (though I beg to differ on the full length picture thing. There are a couple of you cropped at about the knee, and unless you’ve got the cankles from hell, I can’t imagine that’s what you’re seeing as the biggest part of you).
    To me it sounds like two different issues. One is the sugar thing as a craving/addiction. The other is the unrealistic expectations/self-flagellation/slightly body dismorphic view you take of where you think you SHOULD be. Yes they feed–no pun intended–each other, but to me they seem like they are different issues which might have different solutions.
    But hell, I’m the person who actually knows I need to lose 30 pounds for health reasons and can’t seem to give up my french fries, so who am I to give anyone else any advice?

  16. Apr 20, 2010

    Not only am I addicted to sugar in a real, deep way, I am allergic to it according to blood tests. So I eat sugar, and my body reacts by producing all these extra histamines which then exacerbate allergies to all the other stuff I’m allergic to (mold, pollen, dogs, cats, dust, etc), which my brain interprets as stress, which then craves sugar because sugar gives me a chemical high that I am addicted to.

    I quit sugar cold turkey for 2 years. No cake. No beer. No wine. No fruit. Nothing with any -ose in it. And also, no fake sugar either. After three days my body stopped freaking out on me. It sucked. I took valium to get through it. And it remained difficult for the 2 years I didn’t eat sugar. I lost some weight, about 15 pounds, but not the 35 I’d hoped to lose. And then, one day, I decided to have a piece of cake on my birthday, just a small one, and the whole damn thing spiraled out of control within a week.

    I can’t have just a little bit. It is a physical addiction, and a mental addiction. The bad thing is that, as a cancer survivor, I’m supposed to do everything I can to eliminate inflammation in my body because cancer cells LOVE inflammation and it only takes one to grow a tumor that will kill me. So in that, I love sugar more than I love life, apparently.

  17. Apr 20, 2010

    1. I agree with Kerry that you look totally fabu, so yeah…I know self-criticism is the very fuel upon which our perfectionist lives run, but maybe we can all promise to try and be better about that?

    2. Sugar is so totally as addictive a drug as alcohol, nicotine, pick your poison. Much like your story with alcohol, I can avoid the substance no problem, I can live without it as a general rule, but one taste and it is game time. I don’t have a solution for I too would have to just give it up forever to really “fix” the problem.

    3. I do think it is correlated with so many other conditions like alcoholism, depression etc.. For me depression equals a need for sugar, which in turn makes me pissed that I foiled my pathetic attempts to be healthier, and then…yup, even more depressed. A really stupid cycle….thanks evolution, please explain how this is a beneficial system. Of course 30 of my mumble-something pounds I should lose are thanks to Prozac so what is a girl to do?

    I guess all this blather is just to say “yes, yes to all of it,” and “you are not alone in this.”

  18. Heather
    Apr 20, 2010

    I definitely think the sugar and alcohol is connected. It sounds like you are substituting. Like smokers sometimes do with gum. And I say this because when my father quit smoking, he upped his sugar intake subconsciously until the doctor gave him complete crap for it. Because obviously he was gaining unnecessary weight.
    I have a friend who does the same as you, she’ll go on a self-loathing binge and pigs out on food so I have an idea of what you do. I used to eat a lot of sugary food, I stopped buying it when I went on a diet. Not a crash diet but a “learn to make better choices” lifestyle. Oh and watching shows about obese people trying to lose weight ie X Weighted or Last 10 Pounds BootCamp…really really helped. I’m not even kidding. When you see what people eat and how much…it scares the shit out of you. And makes you want to not eat junk food! o.O
    If you want to eat those 7 cupcakes, bash on sometimes it’s just ok! 🙂 But it sounds more like a problem with self control. Like the little bell in your head doesn’t go off when you’ve actually had enough.
    Once again I think it’s all linked by to the alcoholism. There must be a book or some sort of reading material about this somewhere…if it was me, I’d stop buying artificial sugary foods and drinks and start doing my research. And I’m only encouraging you to look into this because it’s going to affect your health if not now, definitely later! I’m beginning to think I should become a nutritionist..even today..I was offered a granola dip bar and read the entire nutritional information and ingredients before it went in my mouth. *lol* I was told if you can’t pronounce it, maybe you shouldn’t be eating it! *lol*
    And all this talk of cupcakes has me wanting one right now! 🙂

  19. Apr 20, 2010

    Shit, Anna. I don’t have any advice for you. Kerry said it pretty well. We all know you are a right cute skinny mama. But they also say body image issues are some of the hardest ones to get over.

    But WTF do I know. I have 24 freshly baked cupcakes sitting on my counter waiting for icing and sprinkles. And for no particular occasion than: “Hey – there’s cake mix in my cupboard!”

  20. selfmademax
    Apr 20, 2010

    Wow… sounds like you are at your first step with food. Powerless over food and your life is unmanageable. Before I continue, I will admit that I am 20 yrs sober in AA – and am biased. I too have an ambivalent relationship with the god concept… but this did not inhibit my ability to get sober and stay sober for this long, or prevent me from quitting smoking and dealing with some other addictive behaviors and most importantly, live a life where I like the guy who stares back from the mirror every morning. I turned my life over to the care of the healing power of AA (i.e. the 12 steps and the people). My 2nd step was coming to believe that no matter what I was going through, no matter how unique I thought my situation was, somebody, somewhere in AA had gone through it, stayed sober and was thriving. That has been proven true over and over again during my wanderings in AA all over the country. So here’s where I am going to go out on a limb (at least in the interweb world)… I promise you that there is someone in AA who has gone through what you are going through, has stayed sober/abstinent, has overcome the food/sugar addiction, and has done it with grace and dignity. You don’t have to do this alone… you don’t deserve to. Get to a meeting, talk to other women, listen to how they did it and do what they did. That’s the power greater than yourself: a community of recovering people.

    You try to downplay your “non-addiction” to alcohol, and oversell the addiction to food – but they stem from the same place – a desire for control over your emotional experience… and what “cured” the alcoholism will cure the food stuff too. I don’t believe you are self loathing, I believe you are self absorbed – and I don’t mean that to be harsh, only to highlight that you are “plagued by this every day of your life.” That your attention is focused on yourself. Go to a meeting,. Work the steps on this… make a commitment and do all of the work again and continuously. Just for today, just for this hour, you don’t pick up the cupcake, or the white bread or ________, because you know you are powerless over it, and that your life is unmanageable. God, where ever he/she/it/they are will not make this easier for you – but hanging out with people who are on the same road you are on, speaking the same language you are speaking and coping with the same things you are coping with, will.
    Caveat: just keep in mind that AA is not Well-People’s Anonymous. You will find some nut jobs running around – take it as a sign that AA speaks to all sorts of people and move on.

  21. Apr 21, 2010

    The thing is that I am able to stop at one cupcake or one drink but it literally takes everything in me to do that. I will pass up wine, for whatever reason and yesterday I managed to avoid the cupcakery in my area but sometimes it’ really hard. Now tell me, oh wise Anna, what does this mean. I personally think it means that I have at least a little bit of self-control in some areas. Sometimes.

    Uh…I think I’ve turned this into a therapy session…shit. Sorry.

  22. weezy
    Apr 21, 2010

    I was reading dieting tips of a restaurant critic today and he mentions that to keep himself from continuing to eat something sweet when he isn’t actually hungry and he’s got the information he needs for his critique, he pours a big mound of salt all over it.and sort of mushes it in to keep him from mindlessly picking at it. I know this wouldn’t work for a tableful of cupcakes at a kids’ party, but it may work for other things.

  23. creampuff
    Apr 21, 2010

    Ironically, I sat down to read this post while I was eating a stupid mandarin – instead of another creme egg. I, too, am a recovering alkie, 10 years. I understand this VERY well. My advice – cold turkey. Break the sugar cycle, because the more sugar you eat, the more you want/need. A few days off it, and your mind clears and you feel AWESOME. And I know you can do this Anna, because you are a strong, ballsy woman.

    Get your sweet fix – from fruit, healthy treats, etc. Have you ever eaten a date? They’re like, Gods lollies. Fucking beautiful. (And, I DO believe in God – I call God a cocksucker all the time. He’s down with that.)

    Then you reach a point where your body wants more healthy shit. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll rinse and repeat this, ad infinitum. Nobody puts my chocolate in a corner. But when my arms feel flab and I feel like shit but keep wolfing down family packs of Cadbury, I know it’s time to do something.

    And right now, that stupid mandarin is sitting very nicely in my tummy. Who knew?

    (PS You’ve just gone through Easter, as well as Mini’s party. Easter is a hard time for a sugar addict.)

    (PPS Why don’t you do meetings anymore?)

  24. Apr 22, 2010

    Oh, my, Anna, you’ve totally hit me with this one. I have a sugar monkey riding my back something fierce. I’ve had my struggles in the alchol and drug department, too — and alcoholism & drug abuse are rampant in my birthfamily. Maybe there is a connection. I still drink, but I control it tightly. I do find that a glass or two of wine makes it harder to control my sugar addiction. So its either restrict the cocktails or buy cupboard locks and give the key to the dog to eat.

    I know when I get emotionally void or anxious over relationships/kids/work, I reach for sugar. Cupcakes. Cookies. Caramel filled chocolates. Junior mints. Things with frostings or fillings are right up my alley. I had to stop buying Ho-ho’s entirely – I would use the kids’ lunches as my excuse for having the crap in the house, and then eat half the box myself. Depression is a killer, and right now being depressed takes up a good part of my life.

    I can relate as well to the body dysmorphia. I hate my body. I hate everything about it that reminds me of my inability to control what I eat.

  25. Apr 22, 2010

    In some indescribably indirect way, this post has driven me to rethink my blogging, because I can’t but wonder that I might be addicted, and that the addiction isn’t the healthiest one in my coterie of addictions. (Cookies, on the other hand, which are *my* cupcake-y waterloo, are fine. I will continue to eat my way out of every pair of pants I own if it means I can keep eating cookies. Because I am letting go of my addiction to pretty.)

    (Please do not try to look at this comment as even remotely logical. There is no logic here. None.)

  26. Apr 22, 2010

    Um, I just found you recently and I knew I liked you. But I didn’t realize until this post that we are actually living parallel lives. Me too with the almost nine years and me too hitting the wall this week with a food addiction. Also, I went to AA and had the same issues as you did.

    I was also not physically addicted to alcohol. I feel like I am to food. Ugh.

    Do you think it’s something about the nine year mark in sobriety? I’ve been to a couple of meetings recently and just rejected the Big Book thumping. It did help a bit. But I feel like the key has to be in letting go of the self loathing about this.

    Ha-ha, funny story. I was mentioning to a friend once (who is a therapist) that I didn’t really do a fourth or a ninth step because I didn’t really want to make amends to a lot of the people in my life (toxic relatives, etc.) This is because the person I hurt most with my drinking was so clearly me. He said, “but that’s the most important amends you can make, to yourself! You have to fiorgive yourself before you can let go of the shame.”

    Huh. Imagine letting go of the shame.

  27. H
    Apr 24, 2010

    Ha ha ha, am moron- got this response in my email and thought, “Wow, that is a weird thing to send as email instead of just responding.” Just now realized it was sent because you posted it here. ANYWAY.

    I totally have not hit sugar bottom yet, but I think it is coming. And I have to remember as silly as it seems, my grandmother- who never picked up a drink- died of congestive heart failure/complications from diabetes and was drinking several two liter bottles of Coke a day up til the bitter end. Extreme, but that’s the genetic lottery I hit.

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