Did you know that for most of his childhood, the writer and actor Stephen Fry suffered from sugar addiction? He describes this in vivid detail in his autobiography The Fry Chronicles. It led to lying, stealing and repeated expulsion from various schools.
Stephen Fry? But he’s a national treasure.
And that’s the point. He is more than just a good example of someone who – in spite of having an extremely addictive personality – has managed to be a success and help others (he has used his bipolar disorder to raise a lot of awareness about mental illness). He is a role model for everyone who has a dependency, showing us the importance of facing the low self-esteem and self-destructive tendencies that accompany addiction.
Part of dismantling the hold that sugar has over your life involves accepting responsibility for the behaviour that this addictive substance triggers. Accepting responsibility for your self-loathing. To lay the blame at the door of what are, after all, inanimate white granules prevents you from taking control.
Have you ever heard the saying that with great power comes great responsibility? This is usually only applied to the political arena. It is repeated so often this is has become a cliche. However, something very interesting happens when you reverse the logic of this statement:
With great responsibility comes great power
Taking responsibility for the damage you have done yourself via the tool of your addiction is indeed a very difficult thing to do. The upside is that it grants you the power to transform your life – an empowered life that is liberating beyond description.
Facing up to the person you have become is likely to unleash intensely uncomfortable feelings as the denial you have been living in subsides. You may interpret this as self-loathing – but the strange irony is that it can actually allow you to start liking yourself – as much as you would like Fry if you met him.
This is the Stephen Fry paradox: coming out of denial can feel like bathing yourself in self-hatred, when in actual fact you are opening the door to accepting and liking yourself.
If you read The Fry Chronicles, it’s initially quite shocking to hear the author talk of his self-disgust, so likable is he. After a while, we assimilate this new information into our view of him, and admire him all the more for his honesty and awareness raising.
The reason that it’s so hard for addicts to extend the same understanding to themselves is that they have yet to exit the state of denial, that I-blame-my-addiction-I-can’t-help-myself attitude.
Letting go of the crutch of denial is not remotely easy. Many people are aware that they live in denial, but fear that taking responsibility for their addiction is just too hard. However, a more important and useful questions ask is this:
Has your life living with a sugar addiction been easy?
The constant cravings. The behavior that you know is below your standards. Being unable to focus on a conversation at parties, because you can’t stop thinking about food there. The casual theft of other people’s food.
There is a way out. And it’s open to all sugar addicts, not just national treasures.