My friend Gerry used to say, “Everything in moderation … including moderation.” He would say it when I was complaining about my sugar habit. Every time I said, “Why can’t I be more disciplined?” every time I bought the big bag of CVS Twizzlers, would eat half and then in a moment of consciousness throw them out, he would repeat, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
Finally, one day I said, Enough is enough. I’m going to the Mad Russian. When Yefim Shubentsov (the Mad Russian) lived in the Soviet Union, he was invited to take part in a government-conducted scientific experiment with bioenergetics. It turns out he had a natural ability, and helped to treat medical patients. But he was unhappy under the Communist regime, so he came to America in 1980 and opened up a practice in Brookline.
Puff Daddy, as he has been called, because so many thousands of people stopped smoking after they saw him, is a mix of shaman, doctor, and therapist, with no credentials, no plaques on his walls, no degrees from Harvard Medical School. He doesn’t touch or prescribe, but the word on the street is that he has “cured” over 167,000 clients.
I had read about him and watched YouTube videos, and heard testimonial after testimonial from people who said the same thing: “I don’t know what he did, but I haven’t picked up a cigarette in five years,” or “I watched him doing these crazy arm motions and I almost laughed, but I haven’t used drugs since the day I met him.” So armed with all the stories I had heard and my desire to quit candy, I was ready for whatever was in store for me.
There were 30 of us tentatively gathering in a huge room where we took our seats in a large semicircle.
I sat and watched as he went from person to person asking in his thick Russian accent the same questions. “Do you have pain? Where? How long pain? And what do you want to stop today?” The first guy said, Yes, he has pain in his knees and has had for 14 years, and wants to stop smoking. The next guy said, Yes, he has pain in his right shoulder and has had it forever, and wants to give up booze. The woman next to him said her back has been out since as long as she can remember, and she wants to give up heroin. I’m sitting there thinking, I’m in the wrong group. When he gets to me, am I really going to say, I want to give up Twizzlers? Most of these people have real problems, and all I have is a socially acceptable addiction.
As he went around the room I kept rehearsing what I was going to say, and when it was finally my turn, I kind of whispered, “Candy. I’d like to give up candy.” He didn’t do anything physical, but when I had my two minutes in private with him he said, “Every morning when you get up, you say, ‘I luff kendy. I luff kendy.’ When you want to eat kendy, say ‘Eeeegnore, eeeegnore.’” And that was that. I paid my $65 and off I went.
Interestingly, I had an errand to do at CVS. The Twizzlers aisle has always been my go-to, so it was the perfect time to test the Mad Russian’s mettle. I went and stood in front of those extra-massive large plastic bags, and instead of grabbing one or even just salivating, my husband, two aisles away, said he heard me loud and clear saying, “Eeegnore, eeegnore.” I didn’t even care that I sounded like an insane person talking to myself in a thick Russian accent.
I wasn’t even tempted. We left the store, and I was blown away. How could this have happened? What magic did that man do!
There have been countless studies done about addiction. I know now that a part of my brain had been hijacked, and with his help I was able to rein it back in.
But the Buddhists are right; everything is temporary.
A few years ago I was invited to a clambake, and they had s’mores. I hadn’t touched fructose or sucrose or ordinary turbinado sugar in ages. When it comes to s’mores, I’m one of the few who doesn’t really care about chocolate, and I don’t really care about the graham crackers either, but I love marshmallows. The texture, the melt in your mouth, bubblegum-like swallow going down.
Everyone knows where they were when JFK got shot, and everyone knows where they were at 9/11. This is hardly a comparison, but I know exactly where I was sitting on that beach in Aquinnah when without thinking, I had my first taste of cocaine — I mean sugar — in more than three years.
Before I beat myself up for falling off the wagon onto this soft puffy white bed of spun sweet substance, I must remind myself as I was downing my eighth ’smellow, I had been living a rigid life. And I am not a rigid person. How could I have forgotten my friend Gerry’s mantra? Everything in moderation, including moderation.
I felt saved.
So now I’m back to keeping a bag of Jet-Puffed Marshmallows on top of the fridge (nestled right next to my Twizzlers), and a roasting stick next to my fireplace, ready to go.
It’s a good thing I installed that large neon sign that blinks intermittently (for moderation’s sake) with just the two healing words: Eeegnore, eegnore.
And most of the time I pay attention to it.
Except during AND SHORTLY AFTER THE HOLIDAYS.