My friends and family have grown greatly troubled. They see the hold this stuff has on me. They've heard my cries of denial. They've witnessed my half-hearted attempts to quit.
They tell me addiction is its own form of hell. But they don't understand.
Because my Diet Coke--oh, it's such a lovely little taste of heaven.
How bad is my habit? Some questions a lady prefers not to answer. If pressed, I'll admit to a few cans a day. Maybe a six-pack. Possibly more. OK, damn it, I mainline the shit.
I started young. "Tab" was my gateway drug. Through the years I experimented with Diet Pepsi (subtle hints of bug repellent) and Diet Mountain Dew (undertones of bumblebee pee). None offered the not-too-bitter, not-too-sweet taste of my long-standing drug of choice. And DietRite, with zero caffeine? Clearly a marketing practical joke, much like the Snuggie.
I lived blissfully for years within my Diet Coke-cloaked little world. But then, scientific researchers and the always buzz-killing media reared their ugly heads.
My children and co-workers began emailing me horrific stories about the health risks. I sneered at these. Weight gain? As if switching to sugar-infused drinks might reduce me to a size two? Hardly. Headaches? No better over-the-counter headache meds than a couple tall glasses of Diet Coke. Hypertension? I wouldn't have a freaking pulse if it weren't for my daily Diet Coke intake.
Yet the warnings kept rolling in: Alzheimer's, cancer, depression, stroke, bone loss, tooth enamel loss, ulcers and PMS.
I'm awaiting the rest of the research results, which are sure to include random chin hairs. And garden slugs. And writing rejections.
But I jest. (Health risk #4,327: pitiful attempts at humor.) The growing barrage of health hazards finally prompted me to reflect on my addiction. Son #2, who runs and rows and hasn't sipped a soda pop in seven years, capitalized on my recent weak moment of admission. He began pushing me to simply replace my Diet Coke--with water.
Oh, my sweet naive son. Water? Really? How could pure water win over Diet Coke's irresistible formula of aspartame, caramel coloring, citric acid, formeldehyde and cocaine? (What? Cocaine's been omitted from the ingredients? I don't think so.) Beside, water lacks that one essential attribute: caffeine.
I would not make it through my first waking hour without copious quantities of caffeine. My colleagues would find me flat-lined on my office floor by 9 a.m.
Surely you coffee drinkers understand this dilemma. (Most of you need your own intervention. And I'm taking names.)
My concerned offspring's answer to this issue? Caffeinated water. This, just as it sounds, is pure water tainted only by a shot of caffeine. Believing this to be the methadone for my heroin, my son bought me a package. And in the name of family harmony, I gave it a try. The necessary kick? Maybe. But the taste? *Sigh* This stuff tasted like... water.
Yet I promised him I wouldn't give up. I'd beat this addiction somehow. Plus, I'd remind him that as his mother, it's my role to be the nag in the family.
Weeks later, I spied an iced tea maker on a store shelf. Tea? Hmm. A bit of taste--check. A healthy dose of caffeine--check. A (mostly) lack of debilitating and deadly chemicals--check.
I tossed the machine into my shopping cart (on top of the two cases of Diet Coke). The very next day, I carried it into my workplace, nodding to my coworkers as I strutted toward my office. I immediately called my son to proclaim my Diet Coke Cure lay only inches away, on top of my filing cabinet.
And there the contraption sits, and dreams of glory. Unused. Four months later. After the sixteen cases of Diet Coke I've since consumed.
Perhaps I am a hopeless addict. Maybe I need a twelve-step program. Or intensive inpatient treatment.
It's bad, my addiction, and I do plan to beat it. Unless that means truly giving it up.
Because that would be hell. And I do love me a little taste of heaven.
It's well worth an ulcer.
And the occasional chin hair or two.
Coffee, tea or Diet Coke? Do you justify your addictions? Who's been nagging you, and about what?