Struggling With Sugar in Recovery – Ask A Sober Mom
“Hi there! I am a recovering alcoholic and have been sober for 15 months. One thing I continue to struggle with though is sugar consumption. I go in spurts and binge eat sometimes up late at night eating anything I can find that has processed sugar in it. Usually peaks with stress. Any way I can learn to control it? I run when I have free time and it does help but when I sit still is when I feel the need to eat sugar foods.” Signed, Pam
I’m going to get real with you and tell you this is one of those Ask A Sober Mom questions I was really tempted to pass to one of our other really talented writers. I sat down to write this week’s post with a pack of Twizzlers and a latte, and your question stopped me in my sugar- laden tracks. This is a very real problem for many of us, so I’m going to put down my candy and tackle it with you here, instead of for you.
The first few years in recovery, I justified all kinds of things with, “well it’s not as bad as what I was doing….” While this is true, I’m still putting things in my body that are not helping me feel any better. The effects of sugar consumption on wellness, mental health, and energy levels are all well-documented. I know for a fact sugar isn’t helping me feel better yet , like you, I turn to its comfort when I am overwhelmed. (I’d like to say that like you, I run when I have free time, but mostly I just run if something is chasing me, but I’ll work on that in a later post. Baby steps, Pam. Baby steps.)
The first thing I want to look at is why. Why am I picking sugar at those times? Because it makes me feel all warm, tingly and happy; because it takes the edge off. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Those are the same things I felt when I chose alcohol and drugs. So I can tackle it like I did those things and ask what I’m numbing. For me, at the end of the day I’m still trying to numb those same old feelings of “not enough.”
I can use the same tools that got me sober to approach this too. What if, instead of reaching for a sugar-laden snack when I sit down at the end of the day I actually took a genuine look at how I feel? Personally, I use guided meditation or journaling to do this since I’m easily distracted. This helps me see I’m probably tired, dehydrated and maybe a little sad. I know logically none of those problems can be solved by sugar, but they can be helped by a glass of water and doing something that brings me joy.
When I’m anxious, I can call a friend, read a book or blog I enjoy, listen to music or podcasts or take a walk. Or I can reach for something to numb that feeling. Habits are hard to break as you well know and sugar is one that is difficult because there’s no escaping it. It’s in everything from the natural sugar in fruit to my favorite candy-coated chocolates. So while moderation is something that personally hasn’t worked for me in recovery, I suspect it is necessary here.
I can rely on the same tools that I use in my recovery to look at these sugar-soaked patterns. As much as I would love to believe that I’m going to find my worthiness at the bottom of this bag of candy, I’m no more going to find it there than I did at the bottom of a bottle. And I suspect, neither will you. Nor any of us.
So Pam, I’ll ask you the same: what feelings are you experiencing when you reach for the sugar? Is there another way to get those needs met? Please know you aren’t alone in this struggle. There are many of us, in recovery and elsewhere, that are with you tackling these hard feelings. I like to think we have an advantage here, as we have already demonstrated we are strong and capable of change. We have already risen over so much, so this is just another bump for us. It’s a chance for me and you to keep using the tools that have already brought us success. And I’ll tell you, I’m proud of that and I’ll take any advantage we can get.
Nicole is a mama of three and a woman in recovery from the mountains of NC. She is a survivor of incredible things, and uses her gifts on a daily basis to support the members of the Sober Mommies community.