No Wonder We Are Junkies

My father died of a heart attack when he was 45 and I was 10. Though it was clearly congenital, the fact that he smoked 20+ cigarettes a day, as many did back in the early 80s, was a major contributor in its timing.

Faced with the trauma of losing my father at age 10 caused in part by cigarettes, I grew up a fervent anti-smoker. That was until the age of 21 when, with the help of my idiot boyfriend and studying for finals, I started smoking. I then smoked like a trooper for about 10 years. Intellectually I knew that smoking was bad. I tried stopping so many times. My mother was even diagnosed with cancer, and even though it was breast cancer and not lung, it was a daily reminder that smoking was bad, gave you cancer and I was a f@&king idiot.

So why couldn't I stop? I always felt so deprived whenever I tried. I felt like an evening out would never, ever, be fun again. I would never be able to enjoy a drink without a cigarette. I would always be wanting something. And when I went cold turkey, all I could do is just think about it the whole time. And by the third evening, I would break down, take a few puffs, and then I was back on.

And then I read a book about smoking and addiction. It explained how deeply addictive nicotine is.  It explained that when we have a chemical addiction, the brain will tell the other part of the brain ANYTHING in order to get its next fix.  This voice is known as the Addictive Voice - that basal voice coming from the same part of our brain that will tell us to do crazy things that would typically have us arrested or spectacularly dumped by our partner. The Addictive Voice is telling smokers how evenings will never be fun, how you can stop tomorrow, how just a few is ok, “what the hell, it’ll be fine”, how life is so miserable without.  Anything, to make you pick up that cigarette and get that first “ahh” moment when you take that first drag.

As I read the book, absorbed, related and understood it, I was finally able to say no to a cigarette. Because I knew that it was the addiction fueling the need. It wasn’t really reality. It was the Addictive Voice giving me every possible excuse to get me to take my next hit. I took it one decision at a time and said no, not because I should or had to, but because I fundamentally wanted to, with the knowledge that it was the Addictive Voice trying to convince me otherwise. The Emperor Had No Clothes. Nicorette gum to stop you smoking? Yes, you cut out tobacco, which is great, but you are still feeding the addiction demon. You are still addicted to nicotine.

Are you still with me?

Sugar is highly addictive. It is medically shown to be addictive - more so than cocaine. It triggers a dopamine hit. It’s really real, and as a nation, we are setting up our children from an early age to become dependent on sugar and face a future life of chronic health issues. As parents, we are so careful about keeping smoke, alcohol, and drugs away from them, yet our food industry pumps food with sugar and sweet tastes. We deify it, and we are all addicted.

Unfortunately replacing every sugar desire with a sweet substitute like dried mango slices or frozen bananas will still fuel the addiction. Now, are they better than a cereal bar or handful of gummy bears? Sure. But it’s still a sugar hit. It is so common for people to switch to sweet, dried fruit or go overboard on tropical fruit, in search of that next hit.

Get the sugar out of your system first.  Cut the sugar-fix sub WAY down, else you’re still a junkie. Healthier junkie, sure. But still a junkie. Want to be popping Nicorettes for the rest of your life? No. Get it out of your system, and then you can reintroduce it for what it should be. Dessert, every now and again, as a special celebration.

How do you do it? Think about the cigarette situation. Each moment you say no, you are saying it because you understand the Addictive Voice that is speaking to you and don’t want to be a slave to sugar for the rest of your life - or have your family become that slave. Each time you get the sweet hit desire, rationalize why you are getting it. And decide. One decision at a time.

This is really hard, but ultimately it will become the easiest way to make the best long-term health decision in your life.

Let’s not allow big food to continue to manipulate us. Let’s take back our control and in doing so restore our health and well-being. We’ll all feel better.