Addicts often replace one addiction for another one. For those in recovery, it starts with replacing the drug of choice with something more benign and then gradually changing the addictive behaviors. You’ve never seen sugar consumed until you’ve seen a former meth addict in rehab. I once sat with a friend of mine and watched him dump at least half a cup of sugar in his milk.
This is also why AA meetings are shrouded in a smog of cigarette smoke in the entryway.
For those going the other way, deeper into their addictions, this process works in reverse, with addictions trading up in search of a better high. Either way, the process is in constant motion, evolving and adapting to our ever-changing mental state.
The key, as was pointed out in a seminal book on addictions, Addiction and Grace, by Gerald May, to recognize this process rather than fight it. By dragging our addictions up from the depth of our unconscious, we are less ensnared by them. By recognizing that we have these addictions we are far less likely to be consumed by them.
May does an excellent job in explaining that most people suffer from addictive behavior. A rarer special group of us addicts take those addictions to extreme levels and therefore need treatment. Most simply manage them.
Regardless, the process of making these addictions conscious (not conscience, which can be similar in this regard) is important for everyone, not just those of us in recovery.
When I went through rehab, I took on a spirit of monk-like deprivation. I cut everything out of my life. No booze to be sure, but also a long list of other things I said no to like sex, and sugar and even for a short while caffeine. Eventually I allowed myself to return to more normal experiences of all of the above with the exception of booze. I’ve been clean and sober now for 55 months, thank God.
Slowly but surely the other old addictions returned. I drink a lot of coffee these days. As you can read from my post, I have reunited with sugar too. Both crept back into my life until I really wanted both each day. I even called it happy hour, which it is… coffee and chocolate? That’s happy:
Ding, ding, ding, the bells went off in my head. Addiction alert?!
Food is a drug, I realize that now. I don’t spend hours in the kitchen crafting crazy recipes over and over without understanding the addictive needs I have are being met.
Like everything else, I simply have to recognize the process. I have to accept that making food and eating food (especially sugar, which is the Meth of food) my brain experiences sensations similar to what alcohol used to do for me.
I watched a great documentary on this recently called, Hungry for Change. It expertly explained the addictive properties of food, especially my beloved devil: sugar. Watching that show was like going to an AA meeting. I felt my out-of-balance need for food shift within me back into greater balance.
It finally dawned on me this nagging feeling I’ve had for weeks. If food is going to be my drug of choice (which it is along with coffee… I’ve accepted these in my life) then why not go for the best. I don’t want to waste my addiction on crappy food. I want to enjoy it with excellent food.
It made me think back to rehab when they’d talk about triggers. I was asked if the holidays were triggering me to drink.
“Well, nobody’s tossing a bottle of Grey Goose onto the grounds here, so it’s not too bad,” I told them.
I was just like that as an alcoholic. I didn’t want my addiction diluted with beers at 7 a.m. I’d hang on each day until Happy Hour and an expensive cocktail followed by a nice bottle of wine. That’s what The Bride and I would call it, “Nice.” It was always a nice bottle of wine even when it would cause an ugly hangover the next day.
Well, those tendencies serve me well now. If I focus on good food, healthy food, food I make and grow and nurture, I get far more bang for my addictive buck than a blast down to McDonald’s. I also keep that lusty sugar in check. (By the way, I think my sobriety date for McDonald’s or other fast food joints is going on 31 months. Not bad?!)
Food is my drug now. It beats the other ones I’ve had. So I may as well make it good food and everything will be just fine.