Allow me to introduce myself. My name is The Writer Of This Blog, and I am an addict.
Not an addict in a cutesy, I really-love-shoes way (though anyone who doesn’t like shoes is officially crazy in my book), but in an actual, chemical, I-need-this-substance-to-feel-normal way.
Yeah, that’s right. I said it. Substance abuse.
Such an ugly term. The mental images it conjures are frightening, and with good reason. Substance abuse is no laughing matter.
Luckily, for me, the substance I’m addicted to is both legal and socially acceptable. It doesn’t affect my cognitive functions, or cause me to have serious lapses in judgment. My addiction doesn’t sever my relationships with other people or affect my ability to live a normal life. I can go days, on rare occasions, weeks, without needing a “fix”.
Doesn’t make it any less of a struggle, though.
In a world where people love to condemn others, the condemning of an alcoholic, a smoker, a sex addict, or people who live an “alternative lifestyle” have become old hat. No, nobody wants to hear those old condemnations anymore, so we have had to move onto something else.
I’m a walking poster child for the new condemnations. I love red meat, salty foods, refined pasta, ungodly amounts of cheese, and…oh you betcha…diet soda.
Gimme, gimme the diet soda.
Okay, those of you who are rolling your eyes and about to click the little X in the top righthand corner of your screen, hear me out. I mean no disrespect to addicts by lumping myself in with them. On the contrary, as someone who has studied addiction extensively and considered a career in substance abuse counseling, I have a deep and abiding respect for the warriors who face their addictions every day.
And, somehow, within the past 24 hours, I think they have gained my respect more than ever.
Rewind to 5 weeks ago.
I really wanted to quit Diet Coke. I could say I wanted to quit it for all the right reasons – my health, the cost, the four zillion cans I could never seem to keep up with recycling. But truthfully, I was just sick of hearing about it. I was sick of the comments from friends/relatives/random-people-in-the-store about how bad diet soda is, sick of the news stories and health articles that constantly proclaimed its evil, sick of the twinges of guilt that came along every time I chose to disregard them.
Diet soda has become the new smoking.
No, I really just wanted to quit so I didn’t have to hear about it anymore. But I’d tried to quit once before, and made it exactly 34 days before I found myself having a fit of body shakes in the soda aisle at Safeway. (I wish I were kidding.) My husband, being the endlessly supportive angel he is, told me to start drinking it again. His reasoning was that if a soda here or there kept me from total meltdown, it was worth the possible health cost. So, Diet Coke and I became besties again, and almost a full year later, I found myself consuming far too much of the stuff.
Finally, I decided it had to stop. It seemed I was incapable of moderation. If I gave myself permission to drink “a can or two a day”, that somehow became “two or three cans at home, several glasses while out to eat, and another can at Mom and Dad’s house”. Some days I didn’t have any, but the days when I did, I drank like a fish.
So I proposed a plan to my hubby. If he’d quit soda, I’d quit too. I knew if there was any cold-turkey partner I could count on, it was him. He once gave up soda for a year, just because he felt like it. And considering he loves it almost (almost, almost) as much as I do, that had to have taken some serious willpower.
The deal was on.
November 8, 2011, we quit cold-turkey. No soda, diet, regular, or otherwise. This also meant no energy drinks, a realization that horrified both of us and made us question “What have we done?!”, but we stuck to our guns. It was for our health.
I’ll be honest. It wasn’t that hard.
For the first few weeks, anyway, I didn’t have so much as as twinge of a craving. When out to eat, we’d share unsweetened iced tea, something we felt comfortable letting our girls drink too, so it was a win-win situation. At home, I’d drink my usual water and tea, or if I needed a particularly big boost, coffee. There wasn’t much of a change at all in my daily routine. I’m a beverage chick by nature – I drink and drink and drink. As long as I always had a beverage in hand, Diet Coke was practically the furthest thing from my mind. I started feeling better; more energetic, peppier.
Fast forward to this week.
The good feelings were gone. In fact, I felt worse than ever. I was bloated. My skin had broken out in monster zits the likes of which I hadn’t seen since high school. I felt as energetic as a slug. And I was cranky. Oh God, was I ever CRANKY!
It didn’t make any sense.
How could I have gone from feeling great to feeling like I’d been hit by a truck? I’d been off of Diet Coke for 5 weeks, without so much as one relapse. I hadn’t even had a craving for it, and as far as I was concerned, DC and I were done for good.
So what the heck?!
It was then that I finally took a good, hard look at how I’d felt those past 5 weeks. I’d had more energy, yes, but at times it was an almost frantic energy. I found myself feeling hungry all the time, so I’d compensate by eating more. Then the sweet/salty stuff kicked in. If I ate something salty, I’d crave something sweet. It would go back and forth. I hadn’t even noticed! I was eating all the time. I was eating more than I was drinking, because I never, ever felt satisfied. My body was searching for something, but I, in my infinite pride, refused to accept that I was craving diet soda. That couldn’t be. I was too strong for that.
It wasn’t until my husband all but begged me to drink a Diet Coke last night, citing my absolutely insane crankiness as the cause of his plea, that I finally accepted the truth.
I am an addict.
I couldn’t tell you if it’s the carbonation, the colored syrups, or the (gasp!) deadly aspartame that my body is physically addicted to. It could be that it’s a 99% psychological addiction, but the signs my body was giving me seem to indicate it’s more serious than that. I wanted to be off Diet Coke. I thought I had done it, was over it! But my brain and my body were not in agreement.
I drove to the store at 10pm last night, resolved and feeling like an utter failure. There was also part of my brain that tried to reason I was just in the dumps thanks to other factors, but I’m never in the dumps this time of year. I’m practically Mrs. Claus. So the sudden change in my skin, my body, everything, showed me the truth.
I bought one Diet Coke. One blissful, beautiful 20 oz bottle.
I drank half of it in the car. I sat there expecting to feel nothing, anticipating a letdown and sure I’d realize that I’d broken my soda ban for no reason.
Then, sparks flew.
There’s no other way to describe it.
I sound like a fucking commercial for this stuff. It even makes me sick.
But there it is, folks. I am an addict. I had one Diet Coke last night, and all day I’ve felt like my old self again. I haven’t had crazy urges to eat a huge piece of pie and wash it down with a handful of potato chips. I haven’t felt the need to soothe my nerves with a piece of a…I mean half of a…I mean a whole Ghiradelli chocolate bar. In fact, I feel just fine!
My husband was right.
If it keeps me from a total physical and mental meltdown, the occasional diet soda is probably better than adding strain to a time in my life that is already rife with stress. I’ll just have to work on the “occasional” part.
So, welcome back, Diet Coke.
P.S. I made it 38 days.
What’s your addiction?