Alcohol is sugar. The fermentation process which creates alcohol includes sugar. After going through the initial detox period and being completely clean of alcohol, many are surprised to find that more strongly than their cravings for alcohol is a craving for sugar. Ice cream, candy, soda, pastries, sugary coffee drinks- anything soothes the soul for cravings for alcohol.
Candy and treats are commonplace in recovery. Attend any twelve step meeting like Alcoholics Anonymous and you are likely to find doughnuts, cookies, candies, or other treats, in addition to coffee, creamer, and copious packets of sugar. During the early months of recovery, sugar is a welcome craving. Detox from alcohol often includes obsessive, intrusive thoughts about consuming alcohol. Physical cravings can feel like fighting the deepest natural urges, like needing to drink water to survive. Having a bit of sugar to fend off such cravings is an understandable and acceptable practice for early recovery. Doughnuts are certainly better than taking a drink.
However, consuming too much sugar too regularly can cause problems for the future. Food addiction is sometimes an “addiction swap” people face in recovery when their brain becomes as attracted to addictive foods, like sugar, and the process of eating, like eating sugar to cope with cravings. The chemical connection between sugary food, the pleasure it creates, and the reward that is experienced from consuming pleasurable food becomes compulsive. To cope with stress, emotions, life changes, or even to cope with recovering from addiction, the brain turns to food- especially sugary food.
Addiction swapping for sugary food is only one problem on a list. Other potential problems of consuming too much sugar in recovery from addiction and mental health can include:
Experiencing unnecessary mood swings: Sugar creates spikes of energy followed by crashes of energy. The mood swings created by sugar can exacerbate the already volatile emotional experience of early recovery. During the rest of life in recovery, if there is a dual diagnosis present, like a mood disorder, a high sugar diet can worsen the symptoms
Creating physical health problems: Sugar is considered a toxic food, causing damaging effect to the brain and many parts of the body. The body is only meant to regulate a small amount of sugar. High sugar diets can cause inflammation, which contributes to a wealth of other disorders and diseases.
Catching a buzz: There is a reason it is called getting sugar “high”. Sugar can create an altered state of mind, which men and women in recovery are learning to live without. The “high” of a sugar “high” can contribute to a sugar “addiction”. In treatment, eating sugar could deter from the treatment and therapy process, inhibiting progress in recovery.