My Confection: Odyssey of a Sugar Addict is both a funny and dramatic memoir recounting Lisa Kotin’s journey to free herself from a fierce eating disorder after leaving home for college. Her clear, frank writing and acerbic wit match the ironies she immediately reveals.
Kotin is the youngest of a family of four: three sisters and a brother who becomes a physician. Her dad, a dentist, and her mom raised their family in an upscale northern California community where the siblings attended private schools. But a privileged neighborhood couldn’t extinguish her parents’ childhood ghosts.
Her Brooklyn father’s “response to his poverty-stricken, Depression-era upbringing was to hold back. Don’t spend a dime.” Her mother’s family was “so poor her father only allowed the lights to be on in one room at a time.” Thus, Kotin says of her parents: “she was on a life-long quest to soothe her inner poverty… Nothing was enough for her. Everything was too much for him.”
It is this environment that fuels her struggles to to become everything her mother knew she could be, a particularly vague notion given Kotin’s young talent as a mime. And it is this tension that triggers her epic battle with sugar, a substance that science shows is more powerful than cocaine and is linked to heart disease, hypertension and many forms of cancer.
In her late teens and early twenties, Kotin is tortured with conscious and unconscious anxiety over who she will become, and her addiction memoir is not lessened by the fact that sugar is her numbing drug of choice. As with most dependencies, Kotin runs the gamut of emotions. She suffers relentless guilt, soaring sugar highs and seemingly bottomless sugar blues, while she struggles to define herself through her relationships with her siblings, her parents and their families.
Because she’s smart and talented, she applies and gets accepted into some of the nation’s most prestigious workshops and university programs. She works with therapists and attempts Overeater’s Anonymous. Still, she ricochets from schools, troupes and roommates, looking for love and jobs, all the while trying to fill that donut hole of sugar addiction. But nothing, including several dangerous and traumatic liaisons, seems to quell her sugar hunger.
That is until she finds solace in writing, an interesting shift given her mime background. So she transfers from NYU’s Experimental Theatre program to its Dramatic Writing Program and moves into her own apartment. From here on out, with the help of a Jungian therapist and finally meeting her soul mate, Kotin’s angst-ridden years of sweets, sex and school rotations begin to come to a close. At 27 years old, she graduates from NYU’s School of the Arts and is at last able to corral her toxic addiction.
My Confection is well written—fast-paced like a sugar high, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes heart-breaking, but always intoxicatingly frank.
My Confection: Odyssey of a Sugar Addict
Beacon Press, January 5, 2016
Paperback, 248 pages