Replacing Alcohol With Sweet Treats

It is said that an obsession never really goes away. It just gets replaced by something else. Jocelyn wasn’t “obsessed,” per se, with alcohol, but she certainly did enjoy drinking as much as she possibly could, night after night. Sometimes day after day, depending on her mood (because everyone knows there’s nothing quite like drinking during the daytime when summer arrives and that inexplicable “let’s get scandalous” sentiment comes to roost). Whatever she could get down her gullet that was alcoholic, she would take it. Whether paid for or not. Because there was no better feeling than not feeling. Or rather, being numb to the emotions that might typically make one inhibited. And Jocelyn was nothing if not inhibited. It was the Mr. Hyde she wanted to unleash at night after spending hours as Dr. Jekyll. Even though she had to admit that she wasn’t immune to taking a nip from the flask she had conveniently stored away in her desk drawer. 

Yes, Jocelyn, you might say, was the classic example of the “high-functioning” alcoholic. Though it was plain to see she wasn’t functioning all that well, it was just fortunate that she lived in a country where people were easily impressed by any modicum of intelligence—it being so scarce and all. The thought of quitting alcohol would never have occurred to her had she not been victim to one of those fateful nights that always starts out with drinking too much. In point of fact, she would constantly hear the same tired platitude from an old man that drank freely on her street corner in front of the bodega: “Everyone loves being an alcoholic until they have the worst night of their lives.” And with that, he would take a huge chug. What he meant by “everyone,” really though, was women. For it was far easier to “get into trouble” with a vagina while drunk than with something else. Unwanted penetration being at the top of the list of that trouble. But, of course, the many cruel ghouls that stalked the streets of New York could come up with far worse. It was just a matter of one’s “luck.” 

Evidently, Jocelyn’s own luck had run out on an ordinary evening in September. It was what some people still dared to call an Indian summer. The heat remained at the same peak as it was in August, and it was making Jocelyn crawl up the walls a little more than usual. Even though her apartment had air conditioning (shared with three other roommates), she still preferred what she could get outside the confines of her four walls: the illusion of not being alone. To grease the wheels of her “super social” propensities, alcohol was constantly needed. Later, after she had “recovered” from her addiction, she would come to understand just how much she relied on it to be comfortable around other people. And that, without it, she was a total misanthrope. In truth, she despised people. That’s why she needed alcohol to make them palatable. Or, as Hemingway said, “I drink to make other people more interesting.” Now that she had crawled out from the bottom of the proverbial bottle, she could understand what he was talking about (even if most of the other things he had written about she could not). 

Alas, to crawl out of that rock bottom she needed to hit it at full-speed ahead on the aforementioned evening in question. It started out the same as so many other blurry summer nights. She would go to the bar near her work and down a few shots before stopping at home (also close by) to change for the night. Her commitment to being a drunk was most manifest in this act. For to actually go home and feel like going out again to drink was saying something about a devotion to getting fucked up. And not just the kind that can so much less humiliatingly occur in the privacy of one’s own apartment. No, it was almost like she wanted to make a spectacle of herself, so as to, for once, actually be seen. No matter how much that “hot mess” version didn’t truly represent who she was. 

And yet, it did. For just beneath everyone’s surface is something raging and violent, waiting to burst forth and show the world who you really are—who we all really are. That is to say, disgusting, foul, beastly. Animals with gaping holes waiting to be filled. Jocelyn supposed that’s all she was trying to do that night, which she can so scarcely remember at present. Maybe that’s in part for her own self-preservation as much as it is a result of her blackout at the time when it happened. She can remember entering and exiting consciousness in the alley of some Lower East Side dive as the gang rape ensued. From what she could tell, it was a group of finance bros of the more middling variety that she had encountered while they were on a “slumming it” safari at Welcome to the Johnsons. She couldn’t remember what time it was or how much she had imbibed. The only reality was a series of diseased dicks penetrating her from all sides. She woke up around five a.m. in that same alley. Not because someone had tried to usher her back to consciousness, but because she heard a homeless person rummaging around relentlessly in the dumpster. He was very much unconcerned with her well-being as he had to focus on his own. Such was the nature of survival, and especially survival in “the big city,” where the philosophy of “me first” reigned supreme. 

After that brutal dawn, Jocelyn was swift in her maneuvers to leave town. Because she did know it was the town. Like a nexus of iniquity and decay (in the spirit of the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks), it possessed her to do things she would not have done somewhere else. So it was that, for her physical and mental health, she fled. Barreling out of the city as quickly as she had tornado’d in. Just another one in an endless stream of hopeful ingenues that was ultimately beaten down by big, bad Gotham. 

As time wore on, she stamped out alcohol altogether, learning that it wasn’t entirely her fault as some people truly are more neurobiologically prone to alcoholism. It’s in the DNA. So sure, she could blame it on the central nucleus of her amygdala and PKCδ-positive nerve cells. Whatever the reason, it didn’t change the fact that she was still going to need a replacement “drug.” In Bridget Jones’ Diary, the eponymous main character walks through the streets past a Jenny Holzer-esque sign that apparently narrates her interior thoughts with the line: “Have replaced food with sex.” For Jocelyn, it would be: “Have replaced alcohol with sweet treats.”

An entire year had gone by since her last drop of alcohol, and she was genuinely proud of herself. Yet a routine checkup at the doctor revealed that her blood sugar levels had risen enough to concern the physician, who asked if she had made any recent lifestyle changes that might be causing this. At first, Jocelyn assumed the test results were residual consequences of her former drinking life. But in a flash, she could see herself at Dairy Queen, Pink Berry, Baskin-Robbins, Cold Stone… Starbucks. All sources where she could get the sugary fix she had lost when she gave up alcohol. Some people replaced drug addiction with an exercise addiction, while she had replaced it with something perhaps equally damaging: sweet treats. 

Leaving the doctor’s office, she decided to stop off at Dairy Queen for a sundae. It was to be her last one, she vowed, as she decided that going back to alcohol wouldn’t be as bad as going back to New York. Concessions had to be made somewhere, after all. And clearly, alcohol couldn’t be driven out entirely from “who she was” if it was still emerging in this other form. Or, as a study on compulsive alcohol use said, “Punishment-resistant alcohol self-administration emerges in a minority of outbred rats.” She was that outbred rat. 

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