By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
I am lurking in a stall in the bathroom at work, preparing to feed my addiction. Wait. I hear someone. They're washing their hands. I pause, keeping quiet.
My mouth begins to water. What's taking them so long? You just need to squirt a drop of soap into your hands and rinse. Squirt and rinse. And wipe. OK, squirt, rinse, and wipe. There's nothing difficult about that procedure. But to any junkie attempting to scratch an itch, no one seems capable of getting it right.
When the coast is clear, I eagerly dip my hand into the pocket of my long, blue trench coat. I grasp a box, yank it out, and then spew a portion of the contents into my hand. I shove the pieces in my mouth.
As they cascade down my esophagus, I feel the substance disperse into my bloodstream. An unmatchable state of euphoria ensues. The high lasts about 45 seconds. Once the feeling begins to subside, I exit the stall and look in the mirror. That was one good pack of Milk Duds, I think as I gaze at my reflection. Time to get back to work.
I'm addicted to candy. It's my best friend and worst enemy. I've been teetering on the brink of addiction since birth. When I was little, I used to suck on sugar cubes as if they were a part of the five food groups. As a result, I have cavities in every tooth except the front four. I even had two of my wisdom teeth yanked because they had rotted away to stubs (and, yes, I brush my teeth twice a day).
A week has passed since my bathroom binge. I am wandering around Brooklyn chomping on a rope of red licorice. A flyer stops my snacking. It reads, "Suffering from the sugar blues? If you are constantly craving sweets and want to understand why, or if you want to gain control without willpower, please join." The advertisement is for a free lecture given by a holistic health counselor.
It's an omen. I know I'm out of control; if I don't stop soon, I may end up with a bad case of diabetesnot to mention dentures. The class is just what I need to regain control of my life.
At the workshop the next week, I scan the crowd as I take a seat on one of the foldout chairs. I see an older man and his daughter, a middle-aged woman with glasses, and a young couple. The instructor, 27-year-old Felicia Desrosiers, welcomes me to the group and informs me that we are going around the room sharing what our favorite sweets were as children, what our favorite sweets are now, and how sweets make us feel.
Licorice, I reveal, was my favorite sweet growing up. It still is.
"My intention for this afternoon is to permanently change your relationship with sugar," says Desrosiers.
I'm not sure I am ready for that. Most of me wants to end my unhealthy relationship with sugar, but a deplorable part of me knows that it makes me happy. And it's not just the instant high I get from eating candy that I don't want to give up. Similar to a smoker, a candy addict has an oral fixation on the sweets. Much of the joy I get from eating Jujyfruits is hearing my jaw click as I smack those rebellious suckers into submission.
But after listening to what Desrosiers has to say about how sugar will ruin your life, I change my mind. I'm ready. The thing that affects me the most about her talk is a simple diagram she creates about how sugar affects your blood. She starts by drawing a horizontal black line. This is what your blood sugar is supposed to be likean even keel. She then draws a spike in the line and tells us that this is what happens to your blood-sugar levels when you eat refined sugars (candy, sweets, white bread, pastas, etc.). She says that in order to get it to come back down, your body produces insulin.
She brings the spike back down under the original line. We learn that if you eat sugar throughout the day, you put your body through a roller-coaster ride. Do it for too long, she says, and you may develop hypoglycemia. Do it for a lifetime, she continues, and diabetes might ensue.
By the end of the lecture, Desrosiers has scared me straight. I leave the class vowing not to eat refined sugars for the rest of my life.
I made it a week.
The day of my relapse, I'm out shopping with my roommate in the East Village. After a two-hour walk, we grab a bite to eat. The meal fills me, but my roommate suggests we get some rice pudding for dessert.
"Rice pudding?" I ask. "What's that? It sounds gross."
Amazed by the fact that I have never had rice pudding, she insists we go. I tell her that I can't eat any because I haven't eaten any sugary substances for a whole week.