“You Can’t Escape Genetics”

That’s what my sister told me the other day when we were discussing addiction.  We’re from a long line of sugar addicts who believe every meal should be followed by dessert.

Seriously, sugar is like crack. No, it’s like crack with a cocaine chaser and a crystal meth cherry on top and it’s been my life-long love/hate nightmare.  So significant are the memories of my “scores”, I can conjure them at a moment’s notice.  For example, when I was about 9, my best friend and I staged a neighborhood “fair”. We charged 10 cents for the privilege of a spin on a swing set we covered with blankets and called “the tunnel of doom” or some such nonsense. We charged extra for palm readings and told kids  their futures were rosy and their parents would never get divorced…stuff like that.  We made a buck or two and in those days it was nothing to sneeze at.  It was enough to head to the local drug store and invade the candy aisle.  Real, honest-to-goodness store-bought chocolate outside of Halloween was nothing short of an out-of-body experience for addicts like us. The holy grail of head rushes. The Mount Fuji of euphoria. Cavities and Dr. Bob the Nazi dentist, be damned! We had money for sugar and it was burning a hole in our pockets. We spent and consumed with reckless abandon, the aftermath of which saw us supine on the floor of a backyard playhouse surrounded by discarded wrappers.

I have learned a modicum of restraint since then but it took a little more than that to convince me to make a concerted effort to kick my habit.

I recently had some extensive blood work. I say that as if It’s somehow profound or significant, like “I recently gave birth to a 35 lb baby”. For me? It is. Blood tests cause me to faint dead away. This  tends to frighten medical professionals as they have to pick me up off the cold, hard linoleum, force orange juice down my throat and pack my forehead with icy towels despite my strong warnings.  And when I say “extensive blood work” it means they had to extract something like half the blood I carry in my body. It had been a while since I had blood work and they wanted to take full advantage while I was down.

My doctor was wonderful. I was allowed to pop a pharmaceutical so I wouldn’t give a shit about participating in this medieval blood-letting, don some noise canceling headphones and say “when” at the precise moment of the anti-anxiety med’s apex.

I came through with flying colors and no orange juice or ice packs were necessary.

The test results?  I was pretty clean except for…excessive candida in my body.

One of the major causes for this:  Sugar consumption.

I did some research on candida after which I wondered what in God’s name Tony Orlando was thinking when he named a hit song after common yeast that thrives in the intestines and, left unchecked, ravages the “good” bacteria we all need in our bodies. Maybe he just didn’t know? Or maybe, it was something, more…compelling.  More on that later.

Regardless, I had to give up sugar. It was hard. Really, really hard. I was angry for about a month. My cravings were overwhelming. But I survived. And after about 6 months of being on the wagon,  I’ve learned to concoct “treats” that, yes, have a little bit of sugar but satisfy me enough to keep me from loosing my shit and holding up a bakery at gun-point.

My secret?  Fresh ground almond butter and a tablespoon of marshmallow fluff  on top of a Carr’s whole wheat cracker… once a day.

My Own Private Methadone.

As for Tony Orlando? Well… a snippet from the lyrics tells me it was a cry for help.

Hmmm hmmm Candida….Just take my hand and I”ll lead ya
I promise life will be sweeter….and it says so in my dreams.