If we accept that sugar is addictive, that it is a disease, then we might accept that is warrants treatment. Using alcohol and drug addiction treatments as a model, what would sugar addiction treatment look like? First, let’s review what defines an addiction. Second, let’s review the most common alcohol and drug addiction models. Third, let’s tie it all into sugar and into our community here at Sugar Sobriety.
An addiction involves a physical and/or emotional dependency on a substance. A substance that once offered a benefit such as a drunk, a high, a calm, etc. becomes necessary in greater quantities for the same or similar effect and eventually, just to feel normal or well. In other words, without the substance, the user suffers either physically or emotionally or both. Ancient parts of the brain focused on survival and the subconscious have been rewired such that absence of the substance equals a threat to survival such as dehydration or fear of attack.
Addiction Treatment Model
Typically, when someone gets clean or sober, physical DETOX is the first step. Often this must happen under medical supervision because withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable involving terrible physical symptoms, hallucinations, etc., and in the case of severe, prolonged alcohol abuse, withdrawals can be deadly.
Next, EDUCATION is offered about the biology of addiction, the biology of recovery from the substance abuse, the risk of relapse, the emotional/ psychological impact of addiction on the addict and their loved ones as well as information on what is required for ongoing recovery.
If an individual resolves to get sober without a formal inpatient or outpatient program that contains detox support and education, he might enter the treatment model here: CREATING A STRUCTURED LIFE THAT SUPPORTS ABSTINENCE. Within a formal treatment program which is limited to a few weeks to a few months, this begins before the program ends.
Creating a structured life that supports sobriety or abstinence is a multifaceted process. First and foremost, it involves connecting a few times a week with a community of others that share your addiction for support and inspiration. The 12 step programs of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, etc. are the best known but there are others such as LifeRing, Women for Sobriety, and SMART.
The recovering addict must take 100% responsibility for putting their sobriety first. For some this means leaving some friends behind, investing the time and money previously spent on substances on stress management, or ongoing therapy. Many will substitute the initial addiction with another, seemingly less harmful addiction. This is very common and many alcoholics and drug addicts do turn to sugar. I did. Others may turn to other kinds of food excess or restriction, exercise, relationships, sex, pornography, shopping, TV, or gambling.
But for every addict in recovery, deep personal growth, love given and received, and connection with others are REQUIRED for long-lasting health.
Treating Sugar Abuse as an Addiction
As you might guess, sugar ticks all the addictions boxes for me. I can’t have just a little ice cream, chocolate, whatever. I feel terrible after bingeing. Not just physically sick to my stomach, but I hate myself. I feel weak and unlovable. If the cycle goes on for too long and I gain weight, I am likely to binge more to manage the self-loathing and deeper and deeper I fall.
When I do gather the strength to cut the sugar, I get migraines, I feel restless and the cravings are terrible. The thought that I will have to live a life without brownies, I simply must eat nothing but brownies for days before the abstinence begins.
My alcoholism made my life small and pathetic and I see sugar doing the same thing. Thanks to my program of recovery (which I will review in another post), I see the truth. I see it. I see it, but I am still terrified of welcoming the change.
What I see is that I do not have any idea what I would do without sugar to handle life: the worries over money, the fear my 2 year old will never talk or stop having tantrums or start climbing out of the crib, the angst that my husband will find his wife’s eating a complete turn-off and run the other way.
I do not know how to handle my feelings without turning to something outside of myself. And I do not trust myself or my higher power. As many miracles as have been granted me in the moments I have chosen trust, I resist staying there.
Treatment Options for Sugar Addiction
Is complete abstinence required? Is it possible? I’m not sure if sugar sobriety is necessary for everyone. Most of the time, I know it is what works best for me.
I do know that sugar detox can be tough. I do know that I am completely unsuccessful when I try to white knuckle sugar sobriety alone. Everyone grasps why an alcoholic should never have another drink, but never have a slice of birthday cake?
In my next posts, I will discuss what the various aspects of treatment for sugar addiction look like. But let’s not wait on forming a community to support each other and bring this real addiction to light.
Community is Key in Facing Any Addiction
Three support meetings a week is considered the minimum for maintaining sobriety according to the court system . This number is from statistics collected to track repeat DUI offenders. But recovery is much more than meetings. Reaching out to others by phone or text, a prayer and meditation practice and service to others are often key parts of a recovery program. We will delve more into these aspects soon. But for now, know you are not alone. We have each other. Please feel free to comment or to reach out to me by email. Remember, what you resist persists, what you look at in the light, dissolves. Let’s look together.