Addiction Recovery Story #30, Dahlia: You Want My Blood and I Want Your Cookies

I donated platelets at the Paramus donor center again yesterday, and young Alice came out to play. She can be a Cookie Monster. This is #30 in my flower-titled story series started 1/31/21.

Dahlia stunner from HERE. I have grrown Dahlias from tubers or plants, not seeds. More power to you if you raise up huge beauty from baby seeds.

I wrote on February 28 about #resisting cookies at the “recovery table” in the blood donor center. That was “Addiction Story #18, Marigold: Nabisco in My Rearview Mirror.”

I’ve been donating platelets throughout the pandemic and recently stepped it up to once a month.

But in March, I did not walk away from the treats.

I am honest about my slips. My angel in the recovery program suggested I bring a nice snack in order to sidestep the cookies, so yesterday, I walked in with baby carrots and hummus in my Lilly Pulitzer tote.

I arrived by 10:30 and left by 1:10. It takes at least 90 minutes to donate platelets (vs. whole blood). You also have to build in time for the laptop, to fill in the long screening questionnaire on each visit; the medical check (blood pressure, iron count, temperature, weight); and prep (swabbing the skin, finding a good vein) before the needle is slipped into your arm.

It gets tedious. But I’ll take tedious to save lives. There’s a TV over the lounge chair, as at the dentist or on an airplane, and I distract myself watching “The View” and local News 12.

Here’s the hospitality table info from RedCrossblood.org: Enjoy a Snack. Relax for a few minutes in our refreshment & recovery area — have some cookies or other snacks — you’ve earned it!

I had gone so far. With only about 10 minutes to go — 10 minutes! — I saw a Lorna Doone package, tidy, cute, yellow plaid, patriotic, old-fashioned, in my head. I heard a crafty little voice.

Image from ThatDailyDeal.com.

“Maybe we can have one pack of Lorna Doones?” the cookie-loving girl said. I could visualize the small four-pack. “As long as we don’t get the Oreos, right?” The first Oreo, a true treasure from our childhood — specially embossed chocolate wafers, plus filling — lead us down a path of two six-packs in quick succession.

At.that.exact.moment, I needed to be clear, flat and matter-of-fact with that younger sugar craver. She is no longer me, I am no longer her, we are no longer we.

It has to do, I think, with being assertive. Standing up for myself, setting healthy boundaries, not just going along.

Because young Alice is a part of me, the lines get blurred and it’s harder for me to see that we can go our separate ways.

I had planned in that lounge chair to go next-door to the deli when I left, for an iced coffee with half and half.

Instead, I sat down, resigned to my choice at the fork in the road.

“Cranberry or apple juice?” asked Roy, who had been my person by the lounge chair that day and others. He had set out his lunch from home. My carrots and hummus stayed in the bag at my feet.

“Cranberry, please.”

“Oreos or Lorna Doones?”

“Lorna Doones,” I said.

“Pretzels or chips?”

“Chips.”

He put two cookie packs in front of me. I tore open one, ate the cookies, then opened the second, all the while marveling at the neatly squared, logoed shortbreads. Trim, trusty cookie-cutter squares in a sometimes messy, scary life. No ragged edges.

I popped each in my mouth in one bite (140 calories per pack). I also ate the 1.5-ounce bag of potato chips.

Now, I read about the Lorna legend on Wikipedia:

“Lorna Doone is a golden, square-shaped shortbread cookie produced by Nabisco. Introduced in March 1912, it was possibly named after the main character in R. D. Blackmore’s 1869 novel, Lorna Doone, but no record exists as to the exact motivation behind the name.

The original cookie recipe came from the Malloys, Emily and John, who came from County Clark, Ireland and ran a bakery in Chicago. Emily had created the recipe…”

And: In the novel, set in England, John “falls hopelessly in love with Lorna, a girl he meets by accident.”

I remember that day — that afternoon when a few of us Saint Mary’s School kids were on West Shore Avenue and somehow, sitting in a train car that had separated from one of the freight trains that lurched constantly through our Dumont lives. A classmate, Bob Smith, handed out some blue, single-serving bags of Wise Potato Chips. I got one. I remember the crinkle of opening it, recall the salty treat. Snacks like that felt special.

When I left the donor center, I went to the deli for the iced coffee.

And then, back in my car, I ate a few carrots with hummus. I ate them, just not in the order planned.

I have a plan for next time, and writing this story just helped me devise it.

As I put down the sugar, I have been embracing good coffee. I love it with half and half (maybe even from a local farm, poured from a glass bottle) or organic whole milk.

For my platelet appointment in May, I will fill my tall YETI cup, which keeps cold drinks good and cold for a long time, with ice cubes, coffee brewed from freshly ground local beans and a pour of half and half.

That will be my treat. I will have it next to me in my tote, take it right to the recovery table, sit down, open lid, drink.

Young Alice never liked coffee.

Roy, who took my platelets, has a kind vibe.

When I was stood up to leave, he gave me an extra bag of chips and three more Lorna Doone four-packs.

Did I say “No thank you?”

No, I did not.

I put the snacks in my Lilly tote and went on my way. Roy liked me. I am a good person. I gave platelets.

“Yay, extra cookies!” young Alice said.

My husband, Dan, ate one pack. I had one last night and the last tonight.

It may seem small, but it looms large because tomorrow, after spending time at her paternal grandparents’ home, our Skipper is moving back here. As I’ve said before, that means some young teen treats will move back in, too.

I cannot afford to eat them. They are not meant for me. They are not healthy for me.

As life lopes along, we have to part with people and things we love. We eventually lose our beloved grandparents, our parents. It tears our hearts out. And then — I don’t even want to say it — but one day, we lose our spouses, our siblings, our cousins and our dear friends, if we are one of the lucky last ones standing. We lose our pets.

We put away childhood trappings — the sidewalk chalk, the wood paddle with a red ball on a stretchy string, the candy necklaces.

We shelve the excitement of getting a brand-new pair of sneakers — lacing them up as soon as we get home, seeing how high we can jump now on the black tar street.

Yet I somehow can’t close the book on that childhood yearning for sweets and treats. For some reason, they rose to power, took the throne.

One day at the office, a Good Housekeeping coworker, a mother before I was, told me she gave her boy and girl a single M&M, or sometimes, two. I laughed, not meanly and not at her, but with her. One or two M&Ms seemed like going overboard in moderation. I guess it amused me.

But now I see she was right.

For me, going overboard is eating a whole row, a whole big package of Oreos, a sharing-size sack of M&Ms.

I went to the doctor for a checkup Thursday. She said I’m doing great.

She is a parent, too, and I asked her about managing kid treats in the house. She and her husband don’t buy many sugary snacks for the children. Goldfish crackers, okay; gummy fish (even the fruit juice kind), keep out.

“We give them each two Oreos,” she said, making a peace sign to demonstrate. “So one six-pack will last for three days.”

I think my coffee plan will work. I really think it will.

Back to the Dahlia, and other flowers in Mother Nature’s fertile land. Dahlias are bright and beautiful, as juicy in hue as 5-Flavor Life Savers, soft orange “Circus Peanuts” marshmallows, old-time penny candy. Dinner-plate Dahlias bloom big in lavender, red, yellow, all the colors of the rainbow.

I bow with gratitude to the beautiful Dahlia, which springs from a dry, hard tuber.

I bow with gratitude to young Alice. She had big dreams. She was slim and trim, in yellow sweaters and cropped blue jeans. She served me well, but we both had a lot to learn and navigate. I have outgrown her childish will.

Yet I like holding onto girlhood, holding onto her hand, in some ways — a twinkle in the eye, friendly smile, new shoes, true enthusiasm, pink scarves, loyal friendship, beauty, honesty, pretty earrings, trust, vulnerability, joy over simple things.

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

— “Forever Young,” Bob Dylan, 1974

But when it comes to the cookie jar, young Alice, let’s be clear.

Keep your distance. I am a grown woman, a mother, wife, sister, legal guardian, writer and friend at an unhealthy weight. I do not need you pushing cookies on me. Next time, I want to leave the blood donor center saying:

I came. I gave. I saw. I left without the cookies.

Tonight’s lesson: I can walk away from unhealthy behaviors from my past, from my girlhood. Even if they were a very big part of me, they do not have to remain so.

P.S. I use the “find” tool to make sure I have not repeated words too often in stories and articles. I change them up, for example, so that I don’t have “little” five times. I might change it to small, mini, baby, dainty, etc.

I just searched “good”. The word appears six times in this story. But I’m leaving it. Maybe cookie-eating, for me, also has to do with being a good girl, being rewarded, being sweet.

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 “#31, Wild Rose.” 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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