By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
I stash a chocolate chip cookie in my desk at work. If it is still there in three weeks, then I win. (Note: I don't particularly like chocolate chip cookies, but I know that if I become desperate enough, I will eat anything short of Splendaand I have even tried that.) Halloween, of course, will also be a test.
The next part of my solution includes shopping at the beginning of the week for groceries. I usually don't buy groceries in advance; I just take it one day at a time (which pretty much means purchasing my meals from newsstands). But if I stock up on alternatives to candy, I just might stand a chance. For example, if I feel a craving coming on, I can try to combat it by eating a piece of fruit instead.
My journey starts the next day. I go to the Super Foodtown. Unfortunately, this is place that sells those strawberry laces. They whisper sweet nothings in my ear as I stroll by them, telling me that I should walk on over and rescue one of them from confinement. I saunter over, look at them, and contemplate taking "just one." But I can't let them win. I tell them to shove it and add kiwi, Asian pears, apples, and black seedless grapes to my cart instead.
The first couple of days are the worst. During this period of withdrawal, I often find myself getting up from my desk to stare at the bevy of beauties that the vending machine offers. Today they have Skittles. They haven't had Skittles since I've worked there. They're even in two slotsD4 and E0. I imagine what it would be like to "taste the rainbow." Eventually, I remember my diet and return to my desk.
I wake up Halloween morning knowing that I need to put my game face on. Trick-or-treating didn't stop for me until I was 18.
That afternoon, my co-worker and I head over to an office party. It's at another location, so we have to walk four blocks to get there. On our walk, we spot a couple of people who are just leaving. One of the ladies pats her sweater pocket, which is loaded with candy.
"Make sure you get a pocketful of candy while you are there," she exclaims.
We get to the party, and just as I anticipated, mounds of candy are spread over the orange-cloth-covered tables. My co-worker goes straight for the gold: a pack of Starburst. She eats one and offers me the other. I decline. To divert my attention from the luxurious piles of Dots, M&M's, and Skittles, I paint a pumpkin. Ten minutes later, after I realize that the attempt at diversion isn't working, I ask my pal if she's ready to go. She takes a few pieces of candy for the road. I take nothing.
Sometimes the biggest obstacle in getting over an addiction isn't your enemies; it's your friends. That night, my crew and I go to the annual Halloween parade in the Village. Before joining the masses, we stop off at a grocery store to load up on snacks. They all buy sweets. One purchases yogurt-covered pretzels. The white delicacies look glorious, peering through the plastic container. My friend pops open the top and sticks the container in my face.
"No, thanks. I can't eat sweets," I murmur.
Five minutes later, the container is in my face again. I shake my head.
"Uh-uh," I say.
Ten minutes go by, and I am being offered the treat a third time.
What's the harm in tasting one, I wonder. I mean, really, there's a pretzel underneath. That has nutritional value. But before I can grab one, my mouth blurts out, "No." Thank God for my mouth.
My next obstacle: Every Friday at 4 p.m. we have a gathering at work we call "cookie time." It's an opportunity to celebrate the week's being over with conversation and cookies in the conference room. Today is special because cake has replaced the usual cookies. There are two kinds: chocolate and carrot. The carrot looks especially delicious. It's laced with orange and green carrots made of frosting.
As people enter the conference room, they pick up small plates of cake and gather in groups to chitchat. I bring in a cup of water. I find myself staring at a spot of carrot cake that has fallen from someone's plate onto the table. I imagine what it would be like to lick it off.
By this point, it is evident that I can't hang with the cake eaters. There's too much heartache. I go back to my desk and nibble on the leftover broccoli and potatoes I brought for lunch. They're good for you, I tell myself.
The day before the three-week mark is absolutely dreadful. From the second my alarm clock wakes me up, I long for a pack of Red Vines. By the time I get off work, I'm in dire need of a boost. My first inclination is to run into the grocery store, go straight to the candy aisle, rip open a bag of licorice with my teeth, stuff my face into it, grasp as many vines as I can fit into my mouth, and run. But not only is that stealing, if I go that route I will have thrown away two weeks (and six days) of being clean.