Well, I have survived nine days without sugar. The book I am reading to pump myself up and to encourage self-righteous feelings of rightness (as opposed to abject self-loathing), Beat Sugar Addiction Now, claims that I will only have intense withdrawal cravings for the first seven to ten days. Bring on day number 11! Because my hands have been clenching the steering wheel a little too tightly the last few days.
The problem is that I crave sugar at two keys times of day: whenever I leave the house and whenever I am at home.
Venturing out is tricky. The outside world is populated with dozens of sugar-hawking stores that I have mapped out in my brain to a degree that would be impressive if it involved useful or helpful information. I’m shocked at how many times a day, as I drive across and around town, my instinct is to want something sweet. Nowhere is safe. Entire suburbs are off limits because the rarity of driving through them warrants a stop at a favorite bakery.
School is treacherous too. All three of my classes this semester are within site of the school coffee shop. Which just so happens to carry my favorite brand of chai, a chai so good, so gingery and so local, that drinking it feels virtuous, if only because it is not Starbucks. In my wallet, taunting me every time I open it, is a fully punched punch-card from the well-stocked school coffee shop that would, in any other month, entitle me to a free chai.
Then there is the traffic that stands between me and everywhere else. I know this may not come as a surprise to you, especially if you have a pulse, but traffic is lousy. And after a particularly bruising battle to get home, I feel like I deserve something sweet. Think about that logic- I went to work, it was work, the universe should reward me!
My other big temptation occurs when I stay home, especially at night. Across the room on a stainless steel shelf, buried under dozens of virtuous cookbooks about vegetables, canning, and cooking from the garden, is a classic, one of my first cookbooks, How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. The book might as well be called How to Cook Butterscotch Brownies. If I were to cross the room and pick it up right now, and part its many pages, the spine would split open right to the brownie page (717- not that I have it memorized). It’s such a simple recipe, requiring at a minimum, ingredients that I have in my house 360 days a year. In the margin I’ve scribbled notes about taking it up a notch- the effects of adding bourbon, almond extract, spelt flour, various nuts- depending on the percentage of snow, other drivers and traffic lights on my drive home that day.
When did I adopt this belief system? When did I start to believe that any difficulty, any hint of unpleasantness, should be immediately counteracted and pushed to the back of my mind with something sweet? What would I do if my life were actually difficult or unhappy? I’d have to be hooked up to an IV of Mexi-Coke.
With luck, the last nine days were the worst of my withdrawal period. In the meantime I will continue to clutch my copy of Beat Sugar Addiction Now, brandishing it like a cross against the blood-sucking cravings in my brain. And I’ll take the light rail whenever possible.