I gave up alcohol -- but now I've discovered ice cream!

Meetings helped me cork the bottle -- can they help me close the carton of Rocky Road?

By Cary Tennis
Published June 13, 2005 7:22PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I realized I had a "minor" drinking problem. I went to AA and it was a great experience for me. I have been sober for eight years and it's gone very well. I have rarely had the urge to drink and have overcome it when I did.

I stopped going to meetings in 2000-01. At some point during 2001 I found myself looking forward to a dish of ice cream in the evenings. Now it has become a compulsion. I decided, OK, I have to stop all this, went on the South Beach Diet with no problem for the last two weeks. I was easily able to give up wheat, starches, even fruit, all through my workday, before and after. But I can't, can't, can't stop the 3 a.m. ice cream runs to the convenience store for a pint (I'm now up to a whole pint most nights). Which of course completely undoes the benefit of the South Beach Diet. I've tried other diets (plus attempts at moderation, "counting calories" generally, etc.), but nothing works with this compulsion. My doctor says my blood sugar is getting dangerously close to diabetic (type II) levels, I am exhausted all the time ("too tired" to exercise) and am getting more and more desperate.

Do you think going back to AA would help (I feel comfortable with the program and my former home group) or do I need to go to Overeaters Anonymous? I went to one meeting but it was full of fat people, unlike AA, which had not only beginners but also people successfully sober for many years who were doing great. Everyone in OA was defiantly saying things like, "I don't weigh myself anymore," etc., which didn't seem very helpful. I know it's a complex issue -- one can stop drinking but not eating, as the saying goes -- but I'm more comfortable in my AA group.

I know I need to just do something and that I'm just "moving the addiction around" at this point (I also spend a little too much time on eBay), but I feel like such an outcast and am really beginning to hate myself for A) being fat and B) being absolutely unable to overcome this compulsion to, ridiculous as it sounds, eat ice cream in the middle of the night.

Thanks, most heartfelt, for any advice you can offer.

Rocky Road at Midnight

Dear Rocky Road,

You know, each group is different, and people honestly differ from group to group about what kind of topics are most welcome. So I wouldn't get too stressed out about whether it's OK to talk about something or not. If it's a problem for you, my inclination is to bring it up.

What I've found in general is that as people get sober, they do better in life and so they get more interesting problems. Some of those problems are directly related to their drinking and some are more tangentially related. Some problems take the form of addiction but with a different substance. Some problems are not about addiction per se, but arise because of certain behaviors we didn't learn while we were busy being addicted -- like how to ask for a raise, or how to buy a suit -- things the addict on the street didn't need to learn. You may have heard the term "luxury problems" to describe these concerns. They're problems that we can be rightly grateful for.

My suggestion is that you go to your home group and talk to some members about your ice-cream problem. Either talk to them privately or just raise your hand in the meeting, start talking about your ice-cream problem and see what happens. You might mention that you're not sure if it's the right topic, but say that you're interested in talking to anyone else with the same problem, as perhaps you could help each other.

What I've found is that the general theme of admitting you have a problem, talking about the problem and asking for help is useful in a wide range of situations, no matter where you do it. In fact, just sitting down and writing a letter about what's going on may already have been helpful to some degree.

The worst that could happen is that you just don't get anything useful out of the experience.

So I would definitely put it out there.

I mean, why not?

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