Addiction Recovery Story #27, Pink Magnolia: Sugar Addict Slips at Night

I walked with grace through the Easter candy season, free and clear, no longing for kiddie candy and magic chocolate rabbits. Under my snug control top L’eggs pantyhose and pink Lilly Pulitzer dress, my belly was full after our Sunday holiday meal— a normal entree, with a big salad and steamed fresh asparagus. So what happened at 1:30 a.m. in the kitchen, three mornings later? I promised to write about my sugar/overeating addiction recovery journey in real time, as I rise and as I stumble, so here goes.

“Cloud Hugging” — a photograph of Pink Magnolias by Jerry LoFaro, from Fine Art America, an online art forum. (Hint: You can buy a print there.)

ears ago, I pitched a magazine story and my editors especially loved this sentence: I would rather wear a stylish lemon-yellow sweater than a homemade lemon bar.

What brings the beauty —fake, puffy pink Peeps or gorgeous, elusive Pink Magnolias?

ince I pledged to write in real time about my sugar/overeating recovery, I can’t move on to my other writing projects today (and I really need to, time is ticking) until I keep my word and write this. Integrity. Keep your word. Be true to yourself, and to others.

This flight to sane living is sometimes bumpy. The runway can get rocky.

Being honest with myself, and with you, should help us both. Being truthful with my angel in the 12-step recovery program is paramount, too. Secrets are not healthy or helpful, as juicy and alluring as they can be to keep or pass along.

ere is the sequence of events yesterday/last night.

I didn’t shower and get dressed in my floral skirt and V-neck, bracelet-sleeve black top until 6:30 p.m. I wrote all day on the green couch in my sleepwear. That’s not a good way to have healthy fences in place, and for a compulsive overeater, fences are key. Meals should have a clear beginning and end, as my angel in the supportive program says.

With Skipper spending time at her grandparents’, I sometimes just sink into writing without getting ready first. Easy for me to do with no child to keep on schedule. (Except me — I act like a child. Why can’t I see that? I drag my feet rather than shower, brush my teeth, get dressed — never mind apply moisturizer and makeup and accessorize. I’m a grown woman. I should be beyond that.)

Strike one.

husband, Dan, left about 4 p.m. to get new sneakers at Fleet Feet, then go for a run. I asked him to please stop at the pizza parlor on his way back to get three slices (two for him, one plain or veggie-topped for me). He does this about once a week. I don’t trust myself anymore with a whole pie in a house with two people. One slice on a plate half full of roasted red peppers and/or salad is satisfying. It works.

“Are you making dinner, honey?” he asked when he got back about 7 p.m.

“No, you were supposed to stop and get three slices of pizza, remember?”

He had forgotten. He’s human, too.

“I thought we were going to make the frozen pizza,” he said.

A. That’s a whole thick-crust pie. B. A lot of tempting leftovers.

Strike two.

Again, I am a grown woman. I can, and did, go get the slices myself and also, salad greens to fill up our plates.

an and I grew up in New Jersey with parents who did not waste money. Yet I have a bit of a spending problem, especially around fashion, beauty/fragrance, books, coffee and fine foods. But since January, we have a new shopping budget in place, with the help of a parent coach. It has made a big difference. Clear boundaries, healthy fences, better results.

When the pandemic took hold in March 2020, I began ordering groceries on Instacart to get exactly what we needed delivered to our doorstep without risking my health in a crowded supermarket. But our bills added up. Then, in December, I added Imperfect Foods membership (after writing about it for for discounted almonds, surplus coffee, misshapen potatoes, shallots, oranges, etc. — the business model saves money and prevents grocery waste.

Dan wanted to mask up and go to cost-conscious ShopRite, the supermarket chain my parents favored — Sis likes it, too. Our coach said I should plan meals and give Dan a detailed list (ingredients for spaghetti and meatballs, for example, and other dinners) and we agreed I would quit Instacart and Imperfect Foods (ouch) and limit Whole Foods — when I eventually went back in person — to two $100 trips per month. I know that‘s still a lot, but there are really good finds there. In my defense, some months I only go once.

Last night, Dan gave me his debit card — for our joint family expenses account — and I stopped at upscale Kings on my way home with the pizza. I ended up spending $69 and did not like that Dan balked when I (very honestly) told him. I had gotten white and yellow taper candles, which were expensive but which he has not been bringing home from ShopRite runs, and which we both love burning on our mantel during Sofa Cinema nights, like last night. I also got a giant cantaloupe, frozen pizza, organic baby lettuce, chipotle ranch dressing, half and half, a loaf of Bread Alone Whole Wheat Catskill, Breakstone’s butter (buy one pound, get one pound free) and four large, fresh turkey-spinach burgers.

I felt ashamed and guilty when he balked — even though he apologized.

Strike three.

I’m out.

As my mentor says, we addicts can’t afford fear — or shame, or guilt.

his doesn’t even touch on the frightening tentacles that reached for my heart a day earlier, when I learned a few concerning things about someone’s teenage angst.

Yet here I sit, reporting to you (after coming clean with my angel in the recovery program). Telling you that at 1:30 a.m., when I could not sink into sleep, I walked down the pine stairs into the kitchen. I ate a piece of whole wheat sourdough toast with PB & J. A couple slices of fresh mozzarella, some walnuts. But then, the addict in me emerged. I got out the small, pretty turquoise tin of Parisian hot chocolate mix (which I bought for Skip in December — she loves it). I slid open the utensil drawer for a spoon. You know what happened next. The mix contains pieces of solid chocolate, so I ate it by the spoonful.

I went back to bed remorseful, regretful, defeated and too lazy to rebrush my teeth, so they were coated in sugar. Not good. I had not made a good choice.

I went back to bed under a heavy blanket — my attempt to bury uneasy, uncomfortable feelings with food.

Spooning into hot chocolate mix brings back memories of Clare, a Saint Mary’s School friend who said vanilla extract contains alcohol, so alcoholics should not drink it. Like a desperate drunk who turns to the vanilla in the baking cupboard, I reached for the closest thing I could find to candy and cake.

he hue of Pink Magnolias changes from year to year, depending on day and night air temperatures prior to and during flowering.*

So. I can still be a beautiful Pink Magnolia bloom. I can still bring the beauty. I can still be in recovery. My color can change from day to day and yes, the night air might affect me now and again, especially if I try to deny/ignore fears, resentments, guilt and hurt feelings — and if I don’t take care of myself, don’t shower and dress to face the day.

But I am still a flower, still growing and reaching for the truth — for the sun, the sky and for my true self.

Today’s lesson: You are human. You fall to the ground sometimes, like a Pink Magnolia bud knocked off by the wind or rain. In the dark of night, especially, when the sun is not shining into the corners of the house, or the depths of the garden, you might fall. But you still hold abundant beauty on the rest of the tree, and you can still bring it forth. “Hope springs eternal,” poet Alexander Pope wrote in 1732.

*Source: Wikipedia.

I published my first story about sugar addiction/recovery, “#1, Buttercup: I Know an Addict When I See One,” on January 31, 2021. My next will be “#28, Sunflower.” I’m giving the stories flower names, from the tiniest bright yellow bloom I saw as a girl on a summer night in Bedford Park to big, wide-open garden varieties, which I hope will signify my journey to self-knowledge on this sweet and sour road.

Alice Garbarini Hurley lives in Montclair, New Jersey. She worked at Seventeen, Good Housekeeping and Sesame Street Parents magazines, and freelanced as a fact checker at Cigar Aficionado. She has blogged daily at her website, Truth and Beauty, since 2010. Alice is in a recovery program.

Magazine maven, craft coffee lover, legal guardian. Passionate about fashion and lipstick — though it may not look that way when I dash to the supermarket.

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