I woke up this morning revisiting my first recollected memory of having sugar and when I actually fell in love with sugar, carbohydrates and even alcohol later on. My earliest memory of eating sugar goes back when I was around four or five years old on my grandfather’s dairy farm where we had a sugar bush. I remember unhooking the big aluminum bucket where the sap was dripping into it and drinking that sweet water straight from that bucket.
Having sweet, sugary taste or even salty and fatty tasting food was always part of my life. Later on, I expanded my preferences to include alcohol and volume eating. I remember at the age of 16 eating a box of doughnuts for lunch instead of a balanced meal. In my family environment, like a lot of families, we showed and received love or appreciation by giving chocolate, or cake, pies, candies, or hosting a meal. I believe I was addicted to sugar even before the fun memory of the sugar bush. I was born prematurely in 1959. At seven months old and from the get-go, I was fed baby formula full of sugar to survive. I was never breastfed and spent most of my incubated time with jaundice in an aquarium like bed away from my mother’s arms and her comfort. To make matter worse, we grew up quite poor on the welfare system and could afford only cheap foods like pasta, bread and potatoes or unsweetened cereals upon which we would pile on the sugar. We had very little meat, fruits, vegetables and only enjoyed nuts around Christmas time, when they were given to us. Today, I recognize that in those days I did not use sugar or volume eating as a way to escape from life’s hardship. That realization came much later in my journey toward recovery.
My first alcoholic drink was beer at six years old. I loved it (not on that first sip) but on the second and for many years after that. Even today, many years later, I remember the sensation, the smell and the taste. Of course, I did not drink daily at that time but by the age of 16 I was a full-blown, violent alcoholic with severe bouts of depression, full of regrets, saddled with low self-esteem and unable to face life to a point of attempting suicide many years later. It was very hard to wake up one particular morning in a psychiatric hospital heavily medicated. This was some time before being sent to a treatment center to begin dealing with my alcoholism. As I began working on my problems, I switched one addiction for another-from alcohol to sugar and carb.
By reviewing the past, I can see clearly that my addictive malady in food increased quite rapidly over time. I joined the Army at the age of 19. I was fed well and could choose from unlimited amounts of food in the military mess hall. In addition, I had money deposited in my bank account twice monthly. Being adequately sheltered and clothed, I enjoyed the luxury and leisure of cheap beer, cigarettes, wine, hard liquor and women. Life was good, better than I had ever known but my sickness had me by the throat and I did not know it at that time. Laboring under a false belief, I convinced myself it was normal to drink and eat the way I did.
In my heart of hearts, I knew that it was not normal to be that gluttonous nor was it healthy. But denial is a tool to fool the fools. My drinking abusive pattern got me acceptance and encouragement from my army buddies. A “real man” eats a huge plate of food, knows how to drink large quantities of booze, fight, court the ladies and get up the next morning to perform his duties. Yep, follow the platoon sergeant and don’t question orders. Always answer “yes” to the call of duty and keep pledging allegiance to God, Queen and Country. As long as I kept my nose clean, it was all going to be ok!
Although, I quit alcohol completely (once and for all) on February 20, 2000, 16 years later with a lengthy practice of gluttony, I was brought down to my knees with all sorts of medical problems. Physically, I was destroyed. Mentally, I was tortured. Emotionally, my feelings ran the gamut with bouts of uneasiness, impatience, nervousness and unhappiness. Spiritually, I even lost my faith in believing in a Creator of all things. My spirituality was shot. I was at a point of despair, again plummeting back into depression and hopelessness. Despite being part of another 12 steps support group for my alcoholism, I could not overcome this sugar and carb monster by myself. And, in all fairness and honesty, I was quite ignorant about sugar and carb addiction.
On January 1st 2021, with a new year resolution, I stopped on my own all sugar and carbs. By some miracle, while searching on the internet and praying to find help, I found Sugar and Carb Addicts Anonymous (SCAA). In February 2021, I made a commitment to try SCAA for at least four weeks before making a final decision and went to meetings online every day. Sometimes I attended three meetings a day as a source of inspiration not to pick up. It was very hard, but I held on. Ever since then, SCAA has been a great relief for my struggles, especially after years of trying different food plans to control Type 2 Diabetes. I have had great success in bringing my health problems to a level of manageability. For the first eight months in SCAA, I kept having these continuous obsessions of sugar eating and trying to fix myself so I could overcome cravings without having this constant mental obsession of wanting to lose weight or eating what I wanted whenever I wanted without any consequences. “One day at a time” was my mantra. Just hold on for 24 hours. That’s all I need to do. Just for today!
Furthermore, I experienced great relief when discerning the difference between selecting foods that were good and nutritious rather than choosing only the foods that would change my mood. When I was hungry, angry, lonely or tired, my ‘go to’ place was usually food to soothe my pain. As with any drug, behaviors or alcohol use, I had only two reasons to use and abuse. Either to stop feeling certain pains or to amplify certain pleasures, or even both reasons at the same time. Today I see food as a source of energy to repair my body, mind and soul while staying on the path of recovery so I can say: “Yes – I can recover!” I needed to understand that food and drinks are no longer makeshift medications to deal with life.
In matters dealing with some sort of Higher Power, I have often wondered, am I an Agnostic? An Atheist? Or do I believe in a divinity, or a deity of some sort, existing in the universe, a Creator of all things who wants what is best for me? These questions on spirituality were so confusing for me and I could certainly get lost in trying to find answers. One of my friends said to me many years ago: “Keep It Simple!” It was then suggested to me to find my own Higher Power (HP) and tap into that resource to overcome sugar and carb addiction. Having a relationship with a HP was not easy but I find that practicing prayers every day, or even thinking about a HP (even if I did not believe) while taking the time to ask for guidance just for today was very helpful. But most importantly, to act in a manner that a HP exists so I can do my best in becoming the best version of myself. The daily practice of prayers and meditation has helped me tremendously to start believing that there is such a Creator in the universe. As I look back, indeed, I received help in my darkest days without even knowing it at that time. Especially in those times of despair, sadness and hurt. There are so many examples in my life where I now can see clearly how some divine intervention happened. I was taken care of without knowing it. Today I do realize that! I will always be grateful and honor my HP by no longer destroying myself. I have awakened to understand my HP and how my Creator manifested and keeps manifesting itself in my life every day! Today, I do not go one day without tapping into that Source. It gives me peace, it helps me calm down when I need to, it helps me relax and pause before overreacting, thus catching myself before I do something I might or will regret later on. This Special Force that lives inside of me helps me accept myself for who I am, and let other people be who they are. Over the years I got into this practice of praying first thing in the morning by my bedside, meditating and communicating with my HP for guidance even during the day. I always start my day with a short prayer. “God bless me a thousand times, help me and guide me today. That I be present in situations with people, places and things where I need to be. That Your Will for me becomes my will. -So Be It!” Another version of that prayer I use is to substitute the word “will” for “wish”. This prayer now makes me realize what my HP wants (wills) for me. My Creator only wishes for me to have dreams and hopes, practice the talents I received, be a good person and not to self-destroy anymore. Today I am grateful for all the gifts I have received.
I believe, too, that my God’s Wish for you is to experience this complete change of body, mind and spirit in your heart. Just and only for today, that you no longer desire to use self-destructive behavior. That you build healthy relationship with your HP, yourself and others. Please stick around. Sometimes the miracle of recovery happens fast and other times slowly, but miracles do happen.
Today, I understand my disease is in remission and to keep what I have, I need to remember to be:
1. physically active with proper exercises,
2. use an adapted food plan that works for me; and,
3. apply the principles outlined in the Twelve Steps in all my affairs.
Hope to meet you in our SCAA Meetings. Please, stick around, you might just become so surprised of your own path to recovery that you might want to stay for one more day and be able to say, “Yes! I too, can recover.” I am not only abstinent today. I live a sober life.
About six months ago, I found myself once again in total despair about my weight, my health, and my inability to eat healthy foods even though I sincerely wanted to eat only healthy foods. For what seemed like the millionth time I pondered why I was making terrible choices about what to eat. Why would my brain get hijacked, and destroy all my good intentions of eating healthy, unprocessed foods? Why, why, why would I dive face-first into some kind of sugar food or carbohydrate food week after week, decade after decade, after promising myself I would never do that again? (I name the unhealthy, addictive sugar and carbohydrate foods as "Carbage.”)
Over several decades I had gained a lot of knowledge about nutrition, metabolic syndrome, the microbiome, the power of whole foods, and the addictive nature of sugar and processed foods. I read book after book, trying to learn something that might save me from my unhealthy food choices. I watched literally hundreds of videos on the internet about compulsive eating, food addiction, ketogenic diets, fasting, and many other related topics. And I went through many, many (!) weight loss programs - from well known established names in the fields of dieting to lesser-known dieting plans - and everything in between. I had been so desperate for help in managing my crazy and insane eating behaviors that I had even paid dearly to consult internationally known nutrition experts from South Africa to Canada, and from Oregon to Massachusetts.
In spite of all that knowledge, I could not get myself to simply stop putting carbage into my mouth. At the age of 60, and after decades of unhealthy eating behaviors, I was losing all hope that I would ever be able to change. I faced a bleak future of losing the daily fights with myself and the bad food choices that keeps damaging my health more and more over time.
However, I did not give up! I decided to take one more chance to search the internet for words like "sugar addiction" or "carb addiction," looking for something - anything - that could turn all my "head knowledge" into the ability to consistently make healthy food choices every day.
To my delight, up popped "Sugar & Carbohydrate Addicts Anonymous! (SCAA)” I was delighted because in years past I had experienced very positive results from the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 StepProgram. I scoured the SCAA website and learned how to request the SCAA online meeting schedule.
From the very first SCAA meeting I attended, my hope was revived. I felt welcomed and understood. I looked forward to each meeting as a source of peace from the decades of battling with myself about food.
Before finding SCAA, I had not been applying any spiritual principles to my problem with food. I hadn't equated my prior success with Alcoholics Anonymous to applying the 12 steps to my sugar and carbohydrate addiction.
As I began considering my unhealthy eating behaviors in the context of the 12 Steps, everything finally started to make sense. I gained some insight as to why I had been losing endless battles of willpower against my addiction to sugar and carbohydrates. Relief slowly appeared, like a gentle breeze. I started to embrace a more compassionate approach to my unhealthy eating behaviors, rather than continuing the constant inner battle over which foods to eat and which to avoid.
Hearing SCAA members describe their 12 Step journey with sugar and carbohydrate addiction lifted my hopes and helped me understand the wisdom and effectiveness of the SCAA Program. Each meeting was like a promise from a Higher Power saying to me, "Yes, you are on the right path now. Yes, a "carbage" addiction can be addressed with peace and hope. One day at a time... one meal at a time... You can begin to heal not only your body, but your mind and soul as well."
Have I reached 12 months' abstinence from carbage yet? No!
Have I reached 30 consecutive days' abstinence yet? No!
But I HAVE made tremendous progress! I have strung together multiple days of abstinence multiple times, which has led to more carbage-free days than I have experienced in decades. It's been an emotional - sometimes fun and sometimes rugged - journey toward abstinence from sugar and carbohydrates.
But my SCAA 12 Step friends have been with me all along the way. In 2015, I was watching a British Journalist on the internet who said something that really rang with me strongly: “Everything You Think You Know about Addiction is Wrong.” And “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is connection!”
I haven't "fixed" all my food issues or concerns. But - with my SCAA friends and this amazing 12-Step Program - I have found a peaceful way to take better care of myself so that I can begin to help other people find their way to self-care, too. I am grateful for SCAA, and today I am abstinent from sugars and carbohydrates (aka Carbage).
I have hope that one day all my food issues will be things of the past. I will keep coming back to meetings and share my experience, strength and hope. I know it works! I’ve witnessed it many times from other active members.
I encourage you to do just that: keep coming back!
Psychologists say it is rare for a person to remember anything before age five, unless of course one experiences a traumatic event. My life seems to have been full of trauma. My first, at the tender age of two, was the death of my great-grandmother. I recall my parent’s comments regarding how strange it was seeing a two-year old being so intensely upset to the degree that I was. Quite frankly, both my mom and dad could not understand she was my candy connection. Caramel, rum and maple flavored, was my drug of choice.
There were other traumas as both grandmothers died of cirrhosis due to alcoholism. Both parents were alcoholics as well. Living in a dysfunctional family throughout most of my childhood, I was convinced that something was severely wrong with me. Was I possibly mentally retarded, or was it something else? Either way no one was going to tell me. So, I lived out most of my pre-teen years as an accident-prone kid.
An array of additional traumas followed such as, getting a fishhook in a finger, having a ring stuck on another finger which had to get hacksawed off at 5 AM on Christmas morning. And how could I forget getting my arm caught in a drainpipe or having a shower glass door fall
on me at age three, leaving a Harry Potter lightning scar on my forehead. By far the most serious accident was when I was kicked in the head by a horse at age five, leaving an indention over an inch deep in my left temple. Needless to say, I should have died. Oddly enough the surgeon who put my skull back together would later die of alcoholism. It was deemed a miracle that I survived, much less sustained no permanent damage. My father’s only comment was that he was hoping that it would have knocked some sense into me but he passed away 50 years
later a very disappointed man.
My older brother received all the attention as he was an exceptional athlete at a very young age. But due to the head injury, my fearful mother became obsessively overprotective, saying that my head was like a cracked eggshell and it needed time to heal. So, regarding sports, I was held back. Just one year after the accident, my brother was the home run king and I was either the strike out king or the top recipient of getting hit by the baseball in my bony ribs—yet another recurring Trauma.
After enduring each baseball game, I looked forward to celebrating as I would load up on caramel and sugary syrupy snowballs, sweet consolation after enduring athletic participation that I hated. It was not until junior high that I began to excel in sports after hitting a massive
growing spurt. At age 11, I was well over six feet tall and the coaches encouraged my participation. During high school, I was hitting my stride having lettered in three sports my sophomore year. Senior year, athletic honors came my way on a national level, culminating with a scholarship in two sports, football and track. It was then that I discovered booze in college, became a binge drinker and my performance dropped to a mediocre level.
I majored in Psychology with the hope that I would discover just how emotionally messed up I was and why. But there seemed to be an answer to a prayer when I explored the spiritual realm and entered a Jesuit Seminary for seven years. During this time my father’s alcoholism progressed and I quit drinking for nearly three years and joined my first 12 Step group for the family and friends of the alcoholic called Al-Anon. After leaving the seminary, I began drinking again only to join my second 12 Step group Alcoholics Anonymous. During my first week a fellow AA member asked me if there was any connection between obsessive sugar consumption which he had during childhood and alcoholism, later in life. His comment served as an ominous warning which I ignored until years later.
Soon, I was married, working and in graduate school for Psychology with a focus on family therapy and the addictions. After graduation, I became a college professor. Workaholism and compulsive overeating began as I traded one addiction for two others. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that after cutting off the hydra’s head of one addiction, two heads grew back. With ongoing research and numerous publications, I was no longer practicing what I was preaching, as the words “physician, heal thyself” fell on deaf ears.
My hypocrisy knew no bounds! Here was an international conference presenter of addictions, steeped in his own disease. My addictions were now legion, including alcohol, drugs, sex, work, food, video gaming, the internet and sugar. I have a disease called MORE: My Obsessions Require Everything. Such was my heroic flaw, great will power, lousy won’t power. Simply, I could not stop the seeking of things that would grant me a false sense of pleasure, power or prestige. My addictions would only temporarily grant me insulation from a harsh world and isolation by disconnecting me from my thoughts, feelings and relationships. How I tried so desperately to seek pleasure and avoid pain, but in the process, I became the cause of my own pain.
Two quotations had become my mantra. “If you cling to your obsession, your ruthless pursuit will achieve your desire, then kill you” and “Where you fall, that is where you find your treasure.”
Weighing well over 300 pounds, my medical conditions included sleep apnea, Type 2 Diabetes, high blood sugar and high blood pressure, I concluded that it was time for a change. My kindly doctor told me that, at first, life gives you things and then life starts taking them away. She said that unless I changed my life soon, I would be dead within a few years. I felt as if I were looking up the barrel of a rifle and saw a bullet with my name on it. I had to have the gift of desperation before I received the gift of desire.
While in fear and despair in an AA meeting, a 12 Step group that I had attended for nearly 40 years, I prayed for guidance. And looking up I saw a woman, wolfing down a candy bar in two bites and then reach into her purse and inject herself with insulin. I thought My God! Am I looking at my future self?
The thought occurred to me that if there is an Alcoholics Anonymous, maybe there is a Sugar Addicts Anonymous. I searched the internet and my prayer was answered. Here I was at a crossroads, I decided to change my life and got off to a good start making 90 meetings in 90 days, got an SCAA sponsor and began working on my fourth step Inventory.
So, the past serves as prologue, and I remain sober and abstinent by attending frequent meetings (almost every day), morning prayer, daily maintenance program and sponsorship. Today, I pass on what I have learned from my first sponsor who would realign thoughts, feelings and actions in the early morning for nearly two years.
He suggested that whenever a get a new sponsor that I should do another fourth and fifth Step. In doing so, the result has been the same as I have bulldozed a mountain of horse manure out of my life, there is the discovery of a smaller, more densely packed one which emerged shortly thereafter. The benefit of such work is either an epiphany, a profound insight, a sudden spiritual experience or a slower spiritual awakening. In simple terms the AA Big Book tells me that it is “the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery” whether it is sugar, alcohol, food, work or any other addiction.
In summary, I had to do things my way until I did not want to do them anymore. I was always looking for something outside of myself to soothe the trauma. Little was I to know, but the answer was also inside, a Higher Power who comforts me when agitated and that same Higher Power prompts me to reach and be of service, helping others who suffer from the same condition.
The following essay is a synopsis of my personal journey from a world of addiction to what has happened since I became a member of Sugar and Carb Addicts Anonymous (SCAA).
I am one of the lucky ones. I experienced the gift of desperation: that lonely, hopeless, desperate place of the bottoming-out sugar/carb addict. On April 14, 2022, in despair and out of options, I typed into an internet search engine: “12 step help for Sugar Addiction.” My search led me to the SCAA website.
I am no stranger to 12-step programs. In 1984 I had gotten sober in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). However, sober and an active member of AA, I felt like a fraud because of an all-consuming secret life of sugar consumption. I believed it was about the number on the scale. “If I can just control the number on the scale/the clothing size…” I can somehow, someday, learn to control and enjoy my eating. At any given time, I had at least 3 sizes of clothes in my wardrobe that I would throw away once again, stating, “Never again”, then outgrowing my remaining clothes and having to purchase bigger sizes, one more time. As my size grew once again, the shame and embarrassment increased too.
Some of the ways I tried to control my sugar consumption were: eating only sweets I really truly love to only eating sugar treats at home (without an audience); or, only eating sugar treats when with people; only eating sugar Monday-Friday; only eating sugar treats on weekends; eating only vegan sugar treats; eating only treats made with “organic” sugar/molasses/local honey/maple syrup/agave nectar/coconut sugar/ fruit juice sweetened; paleo treats; raw food diet- approved desserts: only eating raw food ice cream sent to me from California on dry ice.
At other times I promised myself I would only eat homemade ice cream from local stands; no sugar before 6pm; stopping sugar consumption before 5pm, including only buying a small bag of XYZ; only buying a large bag and storing XYZ in the basement/closet/pantry/in the car; going to a 2-week raw food retreat and taking a solemn oath to abstain from sugar after completing the retreat; exercising; having sex; not having sex; eating sugar treats only on Thanksgiving/Christmas/Valentine’s Day/Easter; making New Year’s resolutions; not making New Year’s resolutions.
The insanity continued, over and over for decades. After a period of weight loss that familiar voice would say, “Just one bite and then I will absolutely start again tomorrow.” And I really meant it, then falling again into the insane cycle of broken promises to myself and pleas to my Higher Power, “God, please, please, please help me.”
When I turned sixty, in 2012, and still living a life of sobriety in AA, I met and married “the love of my life”. So, I thought! Looking back, I believe that my sugar-intoxicated state contributed to the inability to see the red flags in that relationship. The marriage, my 2nd, turned quickly into an abusive marriage. By the 5thyear, it was painfully clear that I had to leave for my well-being, safety and protection.
Incredibly, I knew that being with an abuser who wouldn’t tolerate weight gain, and the chronic anxiety and fear of reprisal, prevented me from gorging on sugar. For six years I ate nightly small, creamy sugar foods but dared not eat the amounts or variety I really wanted. It is painful to admit that I feared nosediving back into the sugar foods I denied myself, more than I feared for my life.
Finally in 2018, I left the abusive marriage and returned to another kind of bondage: every day I was either planning where I’d buy my sugary drug foods, or secretly eating my stash, or I was recovering from a sugar coma. Moments of self- confidence had long ago disappeared, and I often felt weak, ashamed, and out of control. Sugar had affected my brain and I knew it. I was a writer, and I could no longer concentrate or find words. I had been a competitive athlete but became too tired and sore to compete. My balance was off, and I felt unsteady. I was spacey and embarrassed I couldn’t remember things. I knew the massive amounts of sugar I ingested were killing me. I just couldn’t stop.
Three years after ending my marriage and many broken promises later, on April 14, 2022, I found myself going through the garbage at 2am to fish out the chocolate I had buried amongst the table scraps, coffee grounds, empty sticky pints of ice cream and dirty napkins. I wiped the putrid garbage off the chocolate and ate it. When I woke up the next morning, I looked at the chocolate stains on my pajamas. I felt hopeless. “How could I have done it again? What is wrong with me?”
After the humiliating garbage eating episode, on April 14th I went to my first SCAA meeting. “Maybe I’ll check out one meeting” I thought, “but, it probably won’t work for me. How could those people possibly understand the sick things I do with sugar?” After that first SCAA meeting, I went to bed abstinent from sugar and bad carbs. Something happened at that SCAA meeting, deep inside of me. There was a feeling of hope, an emotion I had not dared feel for a very long time.
I have been to at least one meeting a day ever since and have abstained from sugar since that day. I came to realize that sugar was no different from alcohol and drugs for me. Today, I remain willing to go to any lengths for my recovery: meetings every day, prayer and meditation, reading the literature, working the steps with a sponsor, doing service by leading meetings and sponsoring women. It is hard work but worth it to be freed from the bondage of the sugar addiction that had consumed my life.
Every morning, I pray: “God, help me to remember that I can never safely take the first bite of sugar. Remove all my thoughts and desire for sugar for these 24 hours.”
Am I free of temptation? No! Do I think about the sugar foods I worshipped and used as a drug to medicate my life? Of course. I have mourned the loss of those sugary treats and the promise of a dopamine hit. But nothing feels so good as the freedom from bondage of sugar addiction.
In SCAA, there are no prescribed “diets” or required names for God, fortunately for me, because I am a defiant addict who doesn’t like to be told what to do. What I did find in SCAA was the solution. I was welcomed warmly by people who understood and were rooting for me. Every time I see a new face in a meeting my heart fills with joy because I know another Sugar and Carb Addict has the chance to know freedom from sugar and carb addiction.
My message to the newcomer: there is a seat for you in SCAA with your name on it and it is marked hope. The first day of a new life is waiting for you.
I could not stop eating sugar and carbs
No matter what, I just could not get a handle on my eating. I have 29 solid and productive years in Alcoholics Anonymous, but I never made the connection that I was addicted to sugar and carbs much like my addiction to alcohol and drugs!
What it was like: hitting bottom on 11/26/2017
I weighed over 350 pounds and could no longer fit in my clothes AGAIN. This time I was embarrassed, not for me, but for my wife and daughter, along with all the people in my ministry that rely on me for Spiritual support, guidance, and help. I looked in the mirror and decided to reach out for help. Thank God I found Bitten and she responded!
What happened: learning about sugar addiction
Bitten explained sugar addiction to me in a way that I could finally understand. I was finally able to relate my sugar and bad carb addiction to my alcohol and drug addictions and knew that working the Steps was where my solution to abstinence would be. She introduced me to folks in another 12 Step based program for sugar addiction following a keto food plan. They helped me to start working the Steps and learn how to plan and live on keto-based foods. I read The Obesity Code and other books by Dr. Jason Fung. As I used the Carb Manager to help me plan and monitor my daily eating, my body slowly adapted to the keto way of eating and my life began to change for the better!!
What it's like today: I am abstinent, happy, and healthy!!
Over 4 years abstinent now and 127 pounds gone! No sugar cravings! No carb comas or carb cravings! I still enjoy meals with my family and friends, but I no longer need the massive quantities of food I used to eat as well as crave all the addictive sugar and carb-loaded foods.
Your life can and WILL change for the better!
If you are like me and many others in this program, you have probably tried just about every diet and food program available. The difference between what we suggest and what the commercial programs offer is just this: we are only suggesting that you do what we did, and still do! No weighing and measuring! No pills, powders, or shakes to buy! No club to join! Real food with real results and the 12 Steps will help to set you free from the bondage of sugar and carb addiction!
I grew up during the 1960s in a family of four girls. Over the course of my childhood, I witnessed the change in North American diets from primarily home-cooked, whole foods, to processed and artificial foods served from the freezer microwave or takeout restaurant.
When I was a child, most people I knew were regular weight. Far more individuals were skinny than fat. I remember thinking I was probably “pudgy”, and I dreaded that I might have to choose my clothes from the “Husky” pages of the catalog. There may have been an equivalent section in the Girls' clothes, I don’t remember. I think now, I may have thought I was chubby due to the popularity of the Chubby Checker song, The Twist, which was famous when I was a small child. Doing the twist with my sisters and cousins is one of my earliest memories. But I internalized the message of chubbiness as being something endearing but not particularly desirable.
I was raised on three home-cooked meals a day with minimal snacking and limited desserts. In my mom's repertoire included cereal, toast, sandwiches, soups, and meat & potato dinners. Desserts were puddings and Jello home prepared from the box in addition to homemade cakes, cookies, and pies. And every summer my mom and grandmother made jams and jellies.
I had access to and a great fondness for candy. I remember the name and price of almost every penny candy and chocolate bar that ever existed in Canada. I remember the introduction of salt & vinegar chips and the switch from bottled pop to cans in the market. Looking back, I realize I was obsessed with this junk food. It wasn't sanctioned by my mom; I knew it was bad for my teeth, but from a young age, I begged, borrowed, and stole to get it.
I discovered the sedating effects of alcohol and the magic of sex in my teens. Love was a huge drug for me and I pursued it like a starving woman. In fact, I was starved for love but that discovery came a long way into recovery and step work.
Every time I was in the throes of Love, whether a burgeoning romance or its tragic end, I turned into a skeleton. I used to joke that when I was fatter it was because I was happy. The pain, of what I perceived to be love, was excruciating, and I would never wish that weight loss method on anyone.
I gained and lost weight with two pregnancies and when my children were babies I learned more about human nutrition in La Leche League.
I didn't gain much weight or suffer any health consequences from my lifelong indulgent diet until menopause. Then, the fat arrived and stuck, along with a host of hormonal disruption symptoms like skin tags, wiry whiskers, sleeplessness, early waking insomnia, brain fog, and cravings for carbohydrates — sweet and salty, sweet and salty, every night until I fell asleep. This went on for several years.
Every morning I'd wake with a plan to eat right; and I thought I had pretty good habits: homemade granola, yogurt with berries, a glass of fruit juice, and black coffee. My day would proceed. I'd be starving by lunchtime and I loved restaurant food, the richer the better. If I brown-bagged it to work I'd eat my boring sandwich and drink my V8 juice and feel mightily deprived. If I managed to find a willing companion to indulge in restaurant food that bag of food stayed in the fridge.
During the last years before SCAA, I tried the Slow Carb Diet, the Whole 30, and various other methods to lose weight but I could never curb the evening bingeing or the cravings. I didn't know I was developing, or had, insulin resistance. One night a friend who had lost a great deal of weight told me about the keto diet. I went home and read about keto online and found a wealth of informatio. I ordered a cook book written by a dietitian.
For the next couple of years I struggled away eating my version of a keto diet, listening to podcasts, and gobbling down any information I could find. I felt good. I was fat adapted. I was dropping pounds and inches. I slept better than ever, no more nightmares. My skin tags disappeared as did my whiskers. My brain became clear. And my previously ravenous appetite abated.
But something was wrong. I felt so alone. No one asked me how I lost all the weight, or if they did when I mentioned no more carbs they turned away in dismay. No one seemed interested in what I was learning. I felt alienated and weird. Restless, irritable, and discontented.
It was 2020. The pandemic hit and 12-step meetings moved to Zoom. I attended AA half-heartedly, participating and upholding my commitments, but something was missing.
Finally, after hearing on a podcast about yet another fee-based peer support group I decided I must start a carbohydrates anonymous group. But first I Googled Carbohydrates Anonymous. Imagine my delight to find SCAA already listed in the search results.
I contacted Mark F. and received his reply. He wanted to know about my journey so I told him briefly. He sent me the schedule of meetings and the Zoom links and strongly suggested I add all the meetings to my calendar. He said: get a sponsor as quickly as possible, download a carb counting app, and a few other directions, at which I balked! I'm a defiant addict. Don't tell me what to do. But after a few days I wondered to myself, what's wrong with me? Can't I follow a few simple directions?
I joined a meeting on August 9th 2020 and I've been regularly attending meetings ever since. My abstinence has become cleaner as I've learned in SCAA how to navigate the world of food and meals. I don’t obsess about food or weight. I am happy, joyous and free. Most importantly, I am no longer alone.
My spirituality has grown and my gratitude is boundless. SCAA offers me a smorgasbord of opportunities for service and I've never felt more at home just being me. There are no rules to adhere to, just love and tolerance, and when I stay close to the program and my abstinence, and remember every day that I am a sugar and carb addict, my life feels full of meaning and purpose and I want for nothing. As I heard a speaker say one time, my cup isn't half full or half empty, my cup overfloweth.
Living in NYC, working on Wall Street, and proud to be a single woman who was succeeding in business, my life was positive and moving with nice momentum. And then I was assaulted, and life changed drastically. My body recovered quickly but my confidence was demolished.
Raised without a religious belief that lent itself to a creator who could be relied on to help in a crisis, I envied others who benefited from such beliefs. My religion celebrated all religions as being beautiful and valid, but it did not preach that our particular form of Christianity was the one true path. There was no belief in a male god who was all protective and could be trusted to provide comfort and healing. That idea didn’t seem plausible to me, but growing up, I sensed an overseer of something outside myself who seemed to be a sort of benevolent guide. I referred to this entity as my Guardian, but it never occurred to me to ask Her to heal my damaged soul. The way I always understood Her role was to guide me to opportunities, laying out a gentle path, but not solving problems.
My family consisted of strong, independent women and men who relied on themselves for happiness and success. The family philosophy was that we alone were responsible for where we are in life and to blame others for anything that went wrong was not just a narcissistic waste of time, but it relinquished one’s independence and power. Yet, here I was, feeling very victimized and very sorry for myself.
Not sure why I turned to sugar for solace. When growing up, sugary foods were considered a “treat” and no one in my family would have been considered overweight. But the sugary “treat” memory was probably an influence.
Another trigger occurred during adolescence when I was hospitalized for 17 months with a girl, my age, on the same ward. Twice a day, a nurse would come around with a cart and a little bell to announce “nourishment.” Well, there was nothing nourishing about cookies and fruit juice, but the girl would sometimes load up, stashing cookies in her pockets. When asked about it, she said that overeating was her way of handling stress. I tried it for a while but put on a few pounds. She told me to "just throw up." I wasn’t able to do that, but after discharge, I lost the 12 pounds (5.5 Kg) by following a high protein, low fat, low carb diet before college. Still, the idea of bingeing to deal with stress stayed in the back of my mind because years later, after I was assaulted, I resorted back to bingeing. This time, big time. Six months and many sugar binges after the assault, I was 56 pounds (25.4 Kg) heavier.
I couldn’t work, friends started avoiding my self-pitying diatribes, family members were pretty much of the “snap out of it school” of advice, and finances kept me from seeing a psychiatrist. I was alone but felt self-righteous in my victimhood. With so little self-esteem and self-reliance, I pretty much walked around blaming the assailants for my misery, looking for a quick fix to lose weight, so I was a sucker for things like the cabbage soup diet, the liquid protein diet, and any other diet touted by the tabloids in the grocery store check-out lines, but then I tried high protein, moderate fat, very low carb eating.
That was a breakthrough. Weight came off quickly. The energy was amazing and I started making good choices. I got out of NYC and moved to Newport Beach, California, got a stressless, part-time clerical job that gave me just enough money to hold together body and soul, and made a couple wonderful new friends. It was a time of soul restoration, regaining lost confidence and certain that my Guardian had a lot to do with this. Problem was, I kept falling off the diet by resorting to sugar. Lots of sugar. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Eating this way, I lose weight and feel great, so why do I keep veering off into sugar binges? A conundrum. Family urged me to “eat less, exercise more,” and that this new diet was too high in calories and probably not safe. Of course, that made sense. Basic physics. Calories in, calories out. Little did we know.
By a marvelous twist of serendipity, I landed in Seattle, made a lot of new friends, and continued to heal—except the eating. I went back to school to study nutritional therapy, soon afterwards started seeing clients and got tremendous joy and satisfaction as they responded so quickly and well to regimens of whole food supplements and high protein, moderate fat, low carb eating. Still overweight and only occasionally eating the minimally processed, organic foods that I was recommending to my clientele, I’d succumb to unrestrained bouts with sugar. It’s a good thing hypocrisy doesn’t bother me as much as it probably should.
Then, in 2012, it was time to pay the piper. I was rushed to the emergency room with congestive heart failure, two dysfunctional heart valves, and atrial fibrillation. They said I’d need valve replacement surgery in a year or two. I got my own nutritional therapist and got serious about getting well with a proper diet (very low carb) and exercise. All my cardiac markers got back into normal ranges; and, within four months, open heart surgery was no longer a consideration.
Fear is a great motivator; it just doesn’t last long enough.
Four or five years later, sugar bamboozled me again with added weight and poor health. I was discouraged. I languished and would rarely socialize, grateful for work that I could do remotely. Finally, on the 24th of February 2022, with yet another outbreak of war, I was deeply sad and turned to sugar, of course, again failing at low carb eating and had to satisfy uncontrollable sugar cravings yet again with more sugar. I wasn’t suicidal, but it would have been fine to never wake up. I reached what a 16th Century mystic called “the dark night of the soul.” Exhausted and defeated, I finally did something I had never done before.
I GAVE UP
Addressing my Guardian, I said, “F*ck it. I can’t do this. I need Your help.”
The answer soon came: "AA for sugar.”
Was there such a thing? Google took me straight to SCAA, Sugar and Carb Addicts Anonymous.
I had never been in a 12-step program. Much to my surprise, the only requirement of SCAA is a desire to stop abusing sugar and carbs. More astonishment, there were online Zoom meetings—no need to drive anywhere. Surprised by how relaxed and easy it is to be with these awesome people who share their challenges and successes every day and surprised how every single meeting keeps me on a path of not trying to satisfy the unsatisfiable—sugar.
The first or second meeting I attended, a lovely lady who had been off sugar for almost two years said the defining difference in her ability to abstain was when she gave up artificial sweeteners and what she called “look-a-likes,” meaning mostly desserts made using fake sugars and fake flour.
Oh, no! No, no, no! Surely, she did not mean she gave up artificial sweeteners. They're my main squeeze. It’s the centerpiece of all my low-carb eating. And without fake flours, how am I going to have keto pancakes Sunday morning? Please tell me, she did not mean it.
I struggled with her statement for four days. It did not sit well. I kept looking for a loophole that would let me have sweetness with impunity. Finally, my Guardian said, “What if she’s right?”
So, I tried it, and after three or four days of craving something, anything sweet, my cravings were gone, so were cravings for the look-a-likes. What’s different is that this time, they stayed gone. The no sweeteners and no look-a-likesseemed to work synergistically with very low carb eating. I found out that despite no calories or carbs, artificial sweeteners trick the body and brain into thinking sugar is on the way, so that unnecessary insulin raises its ugly head and the hunger hormone ghrelin wakes up. I’ve now easily abstained from things that taste sweet or metabolize as sugar, like grains, fruit, and starchy veggies for 143 days now, with one 4-day reset back in March, a 29-pound (13.1 Kg) weight loss, and with an 87 dc/L (4.8 mmol/L) blood glucose, I'm no longer pre-diabetic. It’s been an EPIC victory. The days of being overwhelmed by thoughts of food and sugar are gone. I’m no longer tempted. I’m free. Knock wood.
With my Guardian, my fellow SCAA members, and meetings, I’m loose from the morbid grip of sugar, no longer bringing harm to my body, but actual restoration.
Hard to imagine, but out of all this I got an even more spectacular gift. The relationship with my Guardian has broadened. We have developed a comfortable and comforting familiarity; we often walk together. I ask Her every single day for world peace and She tells me every single day to accept the things that I cannot change. And when I ask Her to please help me abstain from sweets "just for today," She says, “Sure.”
© Sugar & Carb Addicts Anonymous