Tag Archives: Addiction

This Is My Brain On Cheese

It started Friday evening with a grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat and ended last night with a Twix bar in bed watching The Good Wife. Yup. I fell off the no-dairy wagon. I fell mightily.

I’d been off of dairy and eggs for a little over 2 months. The first few weeks were rough, I hadn’t been “clean” in a while, but after that it wasn’t bad. I bought a new cookbook and experimented with a few new things like seitan (pronounced like Paula Dean might say Satan). I was feeling pretty good, getting in the groove, and then about a week ago I started craving cheese. Mainly pizza, but other forms too. So Friday night, after everyone else in the house had a grilled cheese sandwich, I broke down and made myself one–with real cheese.

It went from bad to worse. I wound up sitting at a Panera Bread¬†for a 4 hour stretch on Saturday (long story). During this time I wrote, read, surfed the web, eavesdropped and had a large helping of their macaroni and cheese. I swear they put crack in that shit. It is friggin’ amazing. My taste buds went insane. I wanted more. I pictured myself selling everything I had on me, my netbook, my cell phone, my 16-year-old’s paperback copy of The Language of Flowers, my BJ’s membership card, my Lamy fountain pen, my wedding ring, my contact lens solution. I might have written the term paper for the college kid I was near or let the creepy guy spilling coffee and talking to himself sit next to me and cop a feel. I’d wind up sitting in the middle of the mall, mac and cheese smeared across my face, empty Panera containers piled around me like bedding, eyes glazed, hands shaking, saying things like, please Dude, and com’ on Man.

Once you’ve had cheese, why not other things with milk? That’s right, like Halloween candy. Now there’s a bottomless pit of an addiction if ever there was one. A few Lindt balls here, a Kit Kat there. Oh yeah. Mama’s back.

They say if you do something for 21 days it’s a habit and you won’t want to break it. That’s what this guy says anyway–and he teaches at Harvard so he must know what he’s talking about. His name is Shawn Anchor and I saw him on PBS in the midst of my setback. I think he had some really interesting things to say and I am secretly (actually not so secretly) fascinated by neuropsychology. After listening to him I can say with certainty that he’s never had to battle a cheese craving. However, he talked about seven little tricks he’s devised through his research to get you to happy. I liked the one that encourages you to take 2 minutes every day and write a few sentences to someone in your social network. You do this for 21 days (of course) and it helps you feel more connected and I suppose ultimately, more happy. You can’t just do a Facebook post about visiting a pet store or drinking martinis with your ex. You have to make it personal, to someone you care about. You have to individualize it, let it take you back to that place that connects you and this friend in the first place.

I miss a lot of friends. I wish we could have tea together, take a walk, listen to street musicians in Harvard Square, watch an old movie, gossip, grab a bite at Flour or La Paloma or Nick’s, solve the world’s problems, talk about writing and books, laugh until it hurts.

I’m one day dairy free. I’m working on connection. I’m blogging because I need to. Maybe it will keep me out of the mall. ¬†Maybe it will get a few neurons firing in the direction of my novel. Maybe it will connect me to some new friends. Maybe it’ll make somebody smile, which this guy Shawn says, eventually, will make somebody happy.



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Who Moved My Cheese?

It’s embarrassing really. I’m addicted to cheese.

Why couldn’t I have a cool addiction, like chocolate or heroin?

No, instead I drool over St. Andre–an extraordinary soft and creamy cheese that’s 70% butterfat (yes, you read that right–70% of fat, from butter!). Or Cotswold–an incredible variation of double glouster cheddar spiked with bits of chives. I pine for pizza in all its glorious forms, or for the humble grilled cheese sandwich. Even cheese balls–that crunchy form of cheese that turns your fingers orange and your teeth numb but oh, what a way to go.

For two weeks this January I gave up dairy, trying to go back to my vegan ways. But then, a fated trip to Whole Foods and I fell off the wagon. And I can’t get up. I have been eating cheese on and off for about a week now. My hands are a swollen pair of latex medical glove blown up like balloons. My arteries are squealing like animals run over on the side of a highway. My fibromyalgia is flaring up like a homecoming bonfire. And still I keep eating it.

Did you know the number one stolen food in the world is cheese?! Forget the loaf of bread Victor, we all know what Jean Valjean was really reaching for.

I need a group for this. Hello, my name is M. and I’m a cheeseaholic. Forget a day at a time, for me it’s more like an hour at a time. But so far today, no cheese. Thank you higher power.

I fool myself into think that writing helps sometimes–takes the focus off my habit. But usually I get so high-strung from writing that I use cheese to clam me down. Because writing has that effect–it’s scary, exciting, dangerous, nerve-wracking. And stress brings out the addict in me.

This weekend I am taking a writing workshop called The First Five Pages. And surprise surprise, participants have to submit the first 5 pages of their novel along with a query letter. I have written several chapters of the novel, but the first 5 pages are new. No one has read them yet so I am left to the critic in my head–surely these 5 pages suck. And I’ve never written a query letter because I’ve been too chicken to ever submit anything. So what was I thinking? Why am I subjecting myself to so much angst and potential humiliation? This is nothing more than a huge set up for a cheese relapse.

But I’m going through with it. I’m forcing myself to be a writer. My dear friend S. helped me with the query letter. My partner let me hide in the basement this weekend to make final edits and wring my hands. And the critic in my head gave up long enough for me to hit the send button.

Now I have to get through the week. I have to assuage the dread. I have to keep writing. I have to stay away from all things cheese.

Steven Pressfield has a fabulous blog post on addiction, resistance and writers. I may have mentioned it before but I can’t remember. My brain is clogged with cheese. If you read it and find yourself in there, you are not alone. Chances are if you write you have some sort of addiction.

What’s yours? If it’s cheese, I’ll be your sponsor. I’ve been cheese-free for 22 hours.



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