Weaning myself from carbs and sugars was going to be an endurance event. If it required visualizing, i.e., ogling baked goods from behind glass like a peep show patron, then so be it. My addiction was extreme; I had to be unorthodox in my recovery.
I had kicked ass in the past. I wasn’t going to let sugar kick me. I thought of my poor clogged, congested Susie and the discomfort we were both going through. I thought of the discomfort my poor husband was going through. Eww. In addition to the physical discomfort my sugar addiction caused him, there was the mental and emotional toll it took on both of us, and anyone who came into contact with me. My sugar highs were glorious cloud-grazing flights of euphoria. The crashes unleashed the enraged fiend driven by desperation for sugar in any form: from a packet, a linty starlight mint forgotten at the bottom of a purse, the synthetic mini marshmallows in hot cocoa packets. Sugar — in tremendous quantity — was the one thing I wanted at those moments.
I couldn’t remember life without sugars. The soundtrack of my childhood consisted of candy commercial jingles.
“Sometimes you feel like a nut,/sometimes you don’t./Almond Joy’s got nuts,/Mounds don’t.”
“Taste the rainbow of fruit flavors in Skittles:/strawberry, orange and lime!”
“The world looks mighty good to me,/it’s Tootsie Rolls around I see./Whatever it is I think I see,/becomes a Tootsie Roll to me!”
I remembered the animated Tootise Roll commercial: a little boy walked along a path through a magical land where trees became smiling Tootsie Rolls pops, the sky was filled with winged Tootsie Rolls, and the river flowed with chocolaty goodness. Who cared about the Land of Oz if there existed some magical region where I could lick the trees and bathe in a river where waves of chocolate would wash over me, my mouth open and greedy? Promised Land, Garden of Eden, who cared about any of those supposed paradises, with their guilt and suffering and danger that lurked and tempted? I wanted the simple gluttonous pleasures of Candy Land.
Yet it had been gluttony that had made a mess out of my Susie. I kept candy stashes at home: a Hershey’s kisses-filled basket by the door that I reached into every time I entered and exited. The jar of jelly beans in the cupboard that I dipped into so often that my palms were always sticky with brightly colored splotches. There was always candy in my bag: individually wrapped Twizzlers, rolls of Mentos, Caramel Parfait Nips and mini Muskateers. In a corporate cubicle maze, I could locate any unattended candy jar. Throughout my lifetime, I had consumed enough candy and sweets that my taste buds were perpetually sugar-coated and numbed to more complex or unpleasant flavors.
To facilitate my weaning, I ogled at the bagel shop and groped at Rite Aid. I couldn’t touch the baked goods at Wonder Bagels or the Italian pastry shop, but I could touch at Rite Aid. I lurked in the “Seasonal” aisle beginning in September. Stores had become shameless about displaying holiday goods in exaggerated advance of the actual holidays, but I said “Bring it on.” Halloween candy on the shelves while summer flip flops were still being marked down for clearance was fine with me. I walked slowly through Rite Aid’s Seasonal candy aisle, like I was visiting old friends. I held bags of candy corn and mellowcreme pumpkins, and fingered the firm candies in the crinkly bags. I gave the bags a little shake to hear the soothing rattle of the treats inside. I touched but never pressed the shiny foil wrappers of the Russell Stover chocolate-coated marshmallow pumpkins. There were so many bags and sealed edges. I imagined taking a corner between my teeth to tear into a seal, and feeling the bag’s soft sweet exhale on my lips. I recalled and fantasized of past pleasures, but only touched while I stood in the aisle of Rite Aid.
I looked. I allowed myself to touch. The desire was strong. Always. I wanted to give in and indulge, but I resisted. The weaning was for the best of my health, but I feared it was making me weird and crazy. My worst fear was that maybe I’d always been weird and crazy, but had never recognized it in my serotonin-induced delusions of splendor.