When “All or Nothing” is Everything

One of my biggest weaknesses: chocolate and marzipan. But any processed sugar will do...
One of my biggest weaknesses: chocolate and marzipan. But any processed sugar will do…

I am a sugar addict. And it just isn’t funny anymore.

Am I the only one getting sick and tired of being told “everything in moderation?” I think balance and moderation are beautiful ideals, but they just don’t work for every person or every situation.

In other words, let’s apply that moderation principle in moderation, ‘mkay? For example, I was addicted to nicotine. I was a heavy smoker for about ten years. I mean heavy. Like so many of my addictions, I couldn’t stop increasing my intake until finally, at 3 packs a day, after having tried so many pills and patches, gums and decreases, my only solution was to quit cold turkey.

I was at all, and my only solution was nothing. I know, like an alcoholic knows he can’t have another drink, that one hit will addict me again. For many “normal” people, moderation works. For those of us prone to chemical dependency, “nothing” seems to be our only salvation. There are few experts who would disagree that as an addict, I should completely avoid cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. So why is it so extreme to look at caffeine and sugar from the same point of view?

As I type this, I’m on my second grande latte of the morning. I’m currently on a caffeine upswing. Caffeine is something I’m not really supposed to have anyway. I have PACs, little extra beats that, when mixed with caffeine, put me in constant palpitations. It feels constantly, like my heart is going to explode. So why not just cut back? Good question. I have spent the last fifteen years with therapists trying to “teach” me moderation, and it just doesn’t work for me. The only thing that has, is to stop completely.

I had a lot of support with cigarettes and moderate support with alcohol, but people tend to think you’re being dramatic if you need to completely eliminate caffeine or sugar from your life…especially sugar. Part of it is that many of those “normal” brain people, who don’t have addictive personalities, don’t see most substances as a threat. They therefore, unintentionally, become enablers to those of us who have come to realize that for our survival, we need to be in “nothing” mode.

I don’t have answers to any of this, and today’s post is from my Android phone as I begrudgingly sit in Monro muffler, waiting for the misogynistic attendant to see about my “new” car, Henry the Jeep (I’ll introduce you to him soon).

What do you think about “all or nothing?”

Why does it only apply to certain addictions?

Have any of my readers gone “nothing” on something as pervasive as sugar? How is that even done? What makes it “stick?”

I think a lot about being a nonsmoker now and it’s hard to believe I smoked so much for so long. But sitting on this end of the sugar shack (couldn’t resist) I can’t imagine a life without sugar.

Looking forward to ALL your opinions, as usual.

Love, Marla

18 thoughts on “When “All or Nothing” is Everything

  1. Sugar and caffeine….over the years I’ve gone through plenty of “need to get healthy” phases. Each time my family begged me to return to my addictions. Hum, perhaps I got a little difficult to be around. According to my son, ‘difficult’ is putting it mildly….lol.

    I’ll always struggle with my sweet tooth 🙂

  2. Oh god yes. For me I think most of it is about patterns and rituals, which I need very much. That was the hardest part of quitting smoking for me, getting through those moments that had previously involved the spark and deep inhale in a new way – changing the ritual. I hardly felt any physical cravings, but it was mental torture. And I can feel as addicted to abstract rituals as to concrete things like caffeine and cigarettes (of course I can’t think of an example right now…). It’s all about the neural pathways our every little choice deepens or diverts?

  3. I feel your pain, little sister! Unfortunately I think we both “inherited the gene” (sounds like a copout) but I think there may be something to it. I too truly believe that the “nothing” is the only approach that actually works, I just can never stick to the nothing for more than a year or two at best. For me the greatest problem is pride. I refuse to let people help me kick my habits (fact is most don’t even know what a few of my monkeys are just because of the “shame” associated with them) and therefore I have little support when I get to kick one. Envious of your ability to be so “open” sis, but I could never be like that….maybe there won’t be as many sweets available in the R.S.A. 😉

  4. Sugar is absolutely a problem. I certainly have issues with it. But, I have food issues in general, so it’s sometimes hard for me to label any particular part of it as something like “addiction.” I can’t figure out if it’s really the food or the behavior itself–more often than not, I think, it’s less an actual physical addiction (that’s obviously part of it, but…) than it is psychological, which, to me, is actually much, much worse.

    1. I agree with you on psychological addiction being worse than physiological. I do think for me my brain chemistry is “off” but the psychology sometimes feels insurmountable. It’s my biggest challenge in food, and I can trace it back to some of my earliest, best memories.
      I am really considering trying a “zero tolerance” for myself with sugar, just to see if (a) I can do it; and (b) if by doing a re-set, I can address things without the sugar before considering adding it back in.
      I always wonder if in any of their studies on moderation, they’ve looked at the success of moderation from people who completely gave up something first, versus trying to begin moderation by subtracting. I would think that moderation (and perhaps the psychology related to food issues) is easier when starting from a point of a relatively clean slate and adding, than from a sated one and subtracting.
      I dunno. Brain is firing all over the place right now. “Need” more caffeine…

      1. What if you started a zero-tolerance policy towards refined sugars? It’s still a ‘nothing’ policy. Unlike cigarettes or hard drugs, natural sugars aren’t going to kill you. And, unless you’re going to go out of your way to replace all refined sugars with natural alternatives (which would be a ton of work), you’d be relegated to just those things you can easily add, say, some raw honey to. It’s all *and* nothing, if you differentiate between natural and refined.

        1. Yeah, that would definitely be the target. I’m not willing, for example, to give up my raw honey. I buy it in the comb and I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that (um, as long as I eat it in moderation? :-/ )
          I think I’m going to start by going completely raw for at least 30 days though, before I even add cooking back in. I feel like, for me, a complete re-boot is the only thing I haven’t tried yet.
          I think there’s going to be much planning involved with this.
          Now I’m scaring myself…

  5. Marla, A great blog that applies to so many of us!! Could we have a “all or nothing” club with you as our fearless leader????? Keep up the great work!

    1. I don’t think I’d be a good leader, but I will definitely post to the blog when I start this sugar removal and let you know how it goes for me. I’m going to do it, but the when and the how are the scary parts. I don’t know if it will be a permanent thing, but I’ve tried everything else, why not try a complete shutdown of processed sugar? Maybe going to a completely raw table would be a way to initiate that. I’m not sure. I know I don’t want to give up honey, and I don’t think it’s a big issue for me like the processed stuff is, so there’s a lot to plan if I’m going to do this…

  6. I have been following your blog for some time – and have discovered that you have a generous amount of wisdom! You recognize addiction for what it is – the thing that keeps us from experiencing life to the absolute fullest. Most of us recognize addiction in others but fail to see it our personal experience. You are well ahead of the curve. Thank you for another excellent post.

    1. I never feel wise, so that’s really wonderful of you to say. I feel raw, exposed and honest though, so maybe that’s a kind of wisdom? I don’t know but I do hope I’m always learning and growing through the posts.
      Sometimes I think I have the opposite problem. I forgive others, I’ve been told, to a fault. I forget transgressions quickly and easily and try to understand why they would do or say some of the things they do and say. Yet I’ve been brutal and relentless with loving and forgiving myself for even the slightest missteps.
      It seems always uphill, but I’m trying.

      1. What I so enjoy about your posts is your honestly. You are not afraid to tackle the “tough stuff.” You have a intuitive way of sharing your experiences so that others, like myself, will be more open to inward reflection. Thank you!

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