I'm just back from my annual 4th of July writing retreat on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle. Typically, once I arrive, I just stay at the retreat center. I do have a couple of friends on the island and I try to see them before the retreat begins. This year it worked best to see my friend Barbara Joy on Sunday, mid-retreat, and so I left the property and met her for a great Thai lunch. Then I went into town and shopped. Several retreat participants needed things (toothpaste, bananas, eggs) and I was glad to do it.
Next to the grocery store is a wonderful drugstore/emporium where I often find nice gifts and journals. It is also a depot/warehouse/repository of dozens of kinds of gourmet chocolate bars.
I need to own up here to the fact that I started thinking about getting a chocolate bar while I was still having lunch with Barbara Joy. What's more, I didn't mention it to her, which would have been the healthy thing to do. Own my craving, dissipate it. Instead I nurtured it.
Thinking about chocolate isn't really common for me any more. If I were going to break my abstinence from sweet treats, that wouldn't be my first choice. And when I went abstinent two and a half years ago, I thought I would really miss chocolate but I haven't, not in the way I miss ice cream or pie or almost anything with whipped cream.
But Sunday I fell into really wanting and scheming and deciding about having a big chocolate bar. I thought about it in the five-minute drive to the stores. I thought about it while I grocery shopped. I thought about it while I was in the drugstore.
There is a quality to such intense desire and planning that is so different from a fleeting thought like "Would love a chocolate bar. Too bad. Don't do that anymore." I even went so far as to wonder if sugar was really a problem for me. And that's when I came to my senses. Yes, sugar is a real problem for me. I can go ahead and get the chocolate bar, but I can't pretend it isn't a relapse.
And so I bought a gift for a friend and a new wonderful tablecloth for my dining table and walked right on by the chocolate bars. By the time I got back to the retreat, the craving was gone and hasn't returned. But it was close encounter, and that intensity reminds me my relationship with sugar isn't casual.