Sugar Addiction and Other Imprisonments of Modern Society
Dear Sugar Addiction
I know you have a purpose, I know deep down that you are telling me something, I know that you are not the pure evil that I make you out to be.
If only I could know, find a way to see you for what you are, what you want me to see clearly. But as of now, I am not yet able to. I will try though, try my best to stop myself from scrutinising you, stop my conditioned mind from making you responsible for feeling negatively, towards myself or food. In a way we both are stuck in this together, you cannot evolve within me, you the stagnant energy that cannot move as long as I am not giving you enough thought, acknowledgement, love and compassion to transform yourself. After all, they say, energy does not disappear, it only changes.
Thank you for your understanding, for your perseverance. In a way you believe in me very much to solve this riddle of your existence, and I will, I am sure of it, unravel it little by little, one day at a time.
A strange way to approach an addiction. But it just happened to come to me, one of the many times I sat alone in a room, my laptop in front of me and crumbled on both sides the remnants of packaged sweet goods like cake, biscuits and cookies. I felt hollow, a loser, like someone without any discipline and I was self loathing. My mind was racing with the always unanswered “Why?”. Why is this who I've become, why this behavioural patterns, what is the reason for not being able to constrain myself better, find my way out of this vicious binge-eating and binge-watching cycle.
Was I not travelling to become a better person, a healthier person, going down a path of freedom to find a home for my soul and heart. Was this not enough to keep myself from doing this over and over again. Whenever hopelessness, pointlessness, loneliness crept up and I could feel it coming from deep inside me, I sought the comfort of consumption, with food and entertainment.
But I wanted to be free, I crave my freedom, I know that as long as the claws of this pattern hold my mind as its prisoner, I will never fully be able to experience freedom.
This thought process fought a war inside me. Continuing to consume content and sweets or get on with working on it and not give up on myself?
I snapped out of it, for the first time in a very long while. I put aside the crumbled packaging of my loathed frenemies, I closed the open window of the world wide web, I opened a button on my jeans because I felt sick and fat and unhealthy.
I wanted to write this down, I wanted to share my struggles. I wanted to be honest that even if I was away from everything, I still took myself and all the invisible, not dealt with baggage along with me. At first I thought I wanted to write an article with facts and figures, stating the realities of this very specific kind of addiction. Trying to find a way to neutralise and generalise something that now that I think about it, is so deeply personal. And whom was ever helped before by facts and figures? Certainly not me.
I needed a different approach. I needed a personal, intimate examination of my mind and who I had handled this behavioural pattern so far.
Do not get me wrong, having a name, and maybe even facts and figures, to what ails you might be some form of relieve. Only in the sense of comfort. That there were people before and there will be people after, so we are not alone in this. Though it does not help to cure it to know how many people are affected by sugar addiction, how many severely and how many of them are able to be cured.
The reason for being an addict, more or less, always comes down to the lack of self love we have for ourself, or the lack of love we are given. This might be a bold statement to make but I firmly believe that every lack of love experienced, sooner or later evolves into addiction. This could be anything from the addiction to substances to behavioural patterns, though strictly speaking, every form of substance abuse is a behavioural pattern in itself. In my opinion anyone out there is addicted to something or another, sometimes we cannot even divide them into healthy or unhealthy obsessions. Who, but we ourselves, is going to know where the invisible line is hidden that tells us when our behaviour is healthy and when it is not anymore. Anything can be an addiction. From fitness to health, beauty to diet, shopping, texting, social media, substances, art.
Isn’t it a saying that artists only thrive when there is disruption in their lives and consequently aren’t they therefore only thriving within their own miseries? Though you might argue that they turn their pain into something beautiful through their art, whereas heroin addicts creates nothing at all but more pain for themselves. I disagree in the sense that this person erases their pain of being alive by getting into a state of somewhat relieve, and therefore creating something beautiful for themselves. Destructive as it may be After all, no one would be addicted to anything if they would not get anything out of it. Arguably though, both of them differ very much from their inflicted pain, one is far more hurt and would need someone showing them on how to turn that inner suffering into something external to express their suffering, that then could be called art.
Addiction, contrary to how it is created, is a very intimate and personal state of consciousness. There simply is no getting rid of it, there only is coping, and coping is an even more personal and unique journey for everyone.
I myself have been addicted to pretty ordinary things, at least I would say that from observing our society and my environment. My addictions consisted of self-victimisation (that is making others responsible for everything whilst I took no responsibility for anything in my life or the world), material goods (clothing, interior and vacations), food (as in sugar and as you will come to read, if you are keeping on reading that is, still working on that one), cigarettes and Marijuana.
Out of these four, I am proud to say I got rid of exactly, and being perfectly honest with it, none whatsoever. Admittedly I do not consume two of them anymore, but that does not mean that I am not still addicted to them.
Let me explain.
I might not purchase or actively pursue a hunt in order to get Marijuana, if I was offered it by someone I would happily smoke along though. If it happens that I would settle down somewhere, had a routine of a daily life with the immediate availability of it, I am sure I would slide straight back into smoking it every single day, like I have done mostly from 2013 to the first semester of 2020.
Or take material goods- I might be a minimalist, traveling with at the topmost 101 items, having no interior stored anywhere and no desire to go on an ordinary vacation with the purpose of shopping, consuming and lying around all day, as I would have had earlier in my life during an ordinary summer beach vacation. Nonetheless I still simply adore dressing up, even if nowadays it is 2nd hand clothing and even if I change my wardrobe for the old items to constantly remain within the self inflicted owning 101 items rule. Mostly due to principle, and somewhat also due to available backpack space.
I would also, one hundred percent, if settling in somewhere, love to shop 2nd hand furniture and every once in a while switch these around for something new. As far as addiction is concerned, I would truly, honestly be absolutely unhappy and discontent if I could not do that, which is one key aspect of the definition of addiction, to me anyway.
So, not as firmly connected to my state of happiness as it was years ago, materialistic things and consuming them still remains an aspect that sparks joy.
Also, I somewhat smoked cigarettes during the summer. It was easy to stop again, but still, I smoked.
Or let us talk self-victimisation.
It is such a deep rooted behavioural pattern in my mind that still, after working non stop for four years on getting out of it, I find myself from time to time longing for those old days where I could gladly make everyone else around me responsible for my misfortune, my depression, my mood swings. Take it out on them. Be judgemental and not give a f-udge. I admit to that, I really do wish that, even though I know I feel better taking responsibility and ownership for my life and being empowered by this mindset.
For argument’s sake, I would say I am mostly done with the addiction to victimisation, although sometimes I am absolutely guilty on falling back into these old mindset of mine.
So all in all, three more or less down, one to go.
You might ask why the fourth is such a challenge when, according to this post, I, again more or less successfully, conquered my mindset and got around to not over-indulge within the other three obsessively anymore.
This is exactly my point, you cannot get rid of an addiction and the coping mechanisms behind them. They are so personal, sometimes buried under layers of subconscious programming, that I have not found yet one coping technique suitable for my biggest addiction of them all, sugar. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to get down to the very root of the issue. Maybe it is unreachable underneath all of these layers of life experiences.
But then again, I won’t settle for that explanation and make it easy for myself.
I crave freedom, so I simply have to get to bottom of it, no matter what.
The things I know from the last five years of trying to consciously observe my behavioural pattern and belief system relating to food are the following.
The economical reasoning:
In the book “In Defense Of Food”, author Michael Pollan explains the evolution of our modern age food and consumption system. He lays out his research dating back as far as 1890, pointing out charmingly how food science was brought into existence, how some nutrients were deemed good and others bad, how government took over the role of common sense and how over decades food pyramids changed, an industry of over 32 billion dollars grew around food and how we, the consumers, ended up in the middle of it all.
If you are interested in all of this, I highly recommend this book. I won’t go into the details of it though, it literally would be far beyond the capacity reserved for a simple blog article. Out of reading it though, came a simple understanding of my upbringing and how this messed up relationship with food was basically been fed to me since I came into this world. From the food formula I was fed to as a baby, to the forced three meals a day rule, to the eating the whole plate even if I was not hungry anymore, to the messed up ingredients in processed food at the base of it all. Everything, kind of, fell into place and made more sense than ever before. I was born into sugar addiction and brought up to contradict my own intuitive eating habits.
And here I am. Unable to keep my hands off the sweet seduction. But at least I know how I landed where I am now, so that is a plus.
The mental reasoning:
By now, and only because I left home and are travelling right now, I recognised the underlying mental connection to my personal binge behaviour. Whenever I feel lost, alone or hopeless, whenever I crave the warmth and love I am in need of and not able to gain from my environment, I get it from food. Sometimes it also is boredom, mixed with the need for being comforted. Mostly it overrules any rational thought, comes in waves, lets me go to a store, moves my feet and switches my brain off. Other times I spend hours thinking about if I should or should not give in to my inner cravings, with mostly the same ending to this thought tortured day.
Baseline- binging gives me an instant gratification and numbs the real issue underneath, which is the craving for belonging. Simple as that.
Or not so simple, because how am I supposed to work on that?
The sensible reasoning:
Sugar, in all its glorious forms, in pastry, in ketchup, in most substitute products suitable for vegans, in pasta, in dough, in chocolate, in all the colours of the industrialised rainbow of sweets, is something that I fear, I never will fully be able to cope without. The question might be, if I need to.
Sensibly I would answer, yes. Because there are times when I cannot do without them. I would pace up and down restlessly in my room, unable to concentrate and get heat waves if I did not have them at home to consume. This is a very clear sign indeed that I have had and still have, too much sugar in my diet. First step, recognising these symptoms, and getting clear on the fact that they are signs of an addiction. Luckily for me, addiction equals imprisonment. It takes away my freedom, which is why it shuts down my ability to enjoy life, it takes away the essence of being me. Luckily, because this is why I want to work on it, I want my freedom back.
What all this has got to do with my letter to my personal sugar addiction? It is a new approach, a very intimate one, to freeing myself from being imprisoned.
September 2021 and I celebrate progress. Not only have I gradually, over the last ten months, found out the societal reasons for getting addicted, I constantly was working on my observational skills and depicted the personal reasons for staying true to my addiction, rather then being able to move beyond it. This means that in and of itself, I was working constantly, which makes me very proud and gives me a sense of achievement.
There were episodes of binge eating and desperately hiding it at every destination so far, except the last one I have been to.
Ballymore Organic Farm.
The question is, what was different there? Was it the place, was it the people? Or was my progress in self observation, in self loving, in self caring finally coming to fruition in clearing emotional baggage leading to my sugar addiction, my binge eating cycles?
Maybe all of them combined. And also this is the part where momentum comes into play.
In Ballymore my weeks were filled with satisfying, gratifying projects. I was cooking, baking, trying out new things like making jam, working with wood, creating a logo and website, cleaning: all of this on the side from the regular, ordinary, day to day routines of the field work of harvesting, washing, packing and labelling vegetables for the customers. I was immersed in all of it. So, by the time I went to my room after a done day to get on with my online courses, blogs and vlogs and keeping in contact with family and friends, I did not have the time to think about cravings, much less going after them.
Even if I wanted to go after them, the main house was very rural, there simply was no supermarket in walking distance. So, I could not even give into cravings even if I would have had them, which I did not. This created a momentum on which I am still riding right now.
The habit changed drastically.
I do sometimes romanticise the ‘old’ days of binge watching and binge eating, how I found shelter and warmth and satisfaction in it. But, whenever I have a couple of hours to spare, which indeed nowadays is not that often as I keep myself busy with doing the newfound things I love to do, and go onto YouTube to indulge in mindful or mindless content consumption, a mug of oat milk (no added sugars) is sufficient to make me feel content.
Who knows how long this momentum will continue, who knows if there will be overwhelming seduction once I am somewhere with instant availability of sweets and I will give into the craving once more. Who knows.
But then also, who cares?
Because I know I have changed, I can feel it.
Because it only harms me if I am once more making it a habit, it does not harm me anymore if I indulge in it out of my free will. And gosh, how over the moon I am to be where I am now. Nearly two decades of having a dysfunctional relationship with food, two decades of a variety of eating disorders.
Finally, I am somewhat proud of myself.
I feel the healing, I feel the difference of thinking about and working with food. I feel the difference of how my body feels. I feel empowered once more that I can achieve any goal I set for myself, as long as I am willing to get to work on and for it.
I feel freedom.
I feel free.
And I finally feel real, healthy gratification.
Love and light, to all of you, beloved souls