Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It's the Real Thing

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?


  1. If you ever need a fix, I'm always next door. If you pull my chin hairs, I'll pull yours. Ewwwwww!

  2. Coffee, tea and DC - all of the above. But I'm cutting down . . . soon.

  3. Except for your unconscionable attack on the nirvana-like taste of diet Pepsi (it's not bug repellant, it's battery acid, and that's why it works), I'm with you all the way.

    I've been thinking about reducing my carbonation footprint for the better part of a year now, but nothing cuts through brain fog and morning throat like those tingly, acrid bubbles . . .

  4. I have an aversion to the diet stuff and don't drink much soda, but every now and again it's straight-up Coca-Cola. Bring on the corn syrup, baby.
    The coffee addiction is an entirely different matter. I use enough sugar to have it classified as ice cream and skim milk, because yeah, sure, that's going a difference.

  5. It must be second child urgings - hmmmm. Because of Paul I no longer buy the cases of Diet Coke. I now only buy singles at the checkout and order the juice from restaurants. Clever way to get free fill-ups for hours. Occasionally I'll swerve through a drive-thru for a quick fix. So, I'm kind of sort of trying to get clean. Toni

  6. Oh Sherry, I'm one of those names. I quit smoking YEARS ago and ever since have assured myself (some might even use the word "kidded") that it entitles me to go crazy on most anything else remotely resembling a vice, ie anything with sugar in it. I never got into sodas but that's only because I was too busy getting into most everything else containing sugar. So yes, I absolutely hear you on this.

  7. Coffee addict here but during the hurricane, when our power went out, I drank a DC with my breakfast. It reminded me of college.

    My beloved is a committed DC addict so we always have a well stocked fridge. Occasionally I drift toward them but I try very hard not to engage a can. After all, how can I tell my kids not to drink it if they see me gulping them down? Hubby doesn't care. His addiction overpowers his reason.

  8. AG: If you hear a noise downstairs in the middle of the night, that will be me desperately rummaging through your refrigerator. I may have to pass on your other offer. Thanks though.

    Downith: I'll cut down when you cut down. Just not this week. Or next week either.

    Sarah: "Carbonation footprint." Ha! At least we're leaving our mark on the world, one sip at a time.

  9. Lyra: I don't drink much coffee, but when I do, I go for the mocha: heavy on the chocolate and preferably with a whipped cream swirl. Made with skim, of course, which basically makes it a health drink, right?

    Toni: What's with these conscientious kids? Maybe we should appease them by giving up the Diet Coke for good. And switching to beer.

    Erika: As a founding member of the Church of the Justification, I believe anyone who is able to quit smoking deserves all the sugar they can ingest. Carry on, my friend.

    MSB: Sure. That's the way it starts. Just one little sip, during an emergency. Next thing you know, you'll be sneaking a can in the bathroom while the kids are pounding on the door.

  10. I drink hot green tea all day at work, and I love it. I try to stay away from soda (or pop, I should say, now that I live in Ohio) as much as possible, which sometimes seems silly considering how much sugar I tend to eat overall. (I am about to get up and eat some cinnamon-sugar toast right now.) But I have never, ever gotten into the diet stuff. Mostly because I think it all tastes bad, even Diet Coke, but also because those chemicals scare the crap out of me.

    Dr Pepper in the can has always been my favorite. Regular, not diet! In high school, I think I averaged at least 4 cans a day, which terrifies me. Now it's a special treat. OH GOD NOW I WANT A COLD DELICIOUS CAN OF DR PEPPER.

  11. I am deeply suspicious any anyone without a vice; it makes me wonder whether that deviant streak is showing up elsewhere. I bet Larry Craig has claimed to be vice-free, and we see what sort of doings he got up to.

    Coffee, for me. One packet of stevia sweetener, a dollop of half-and-half. Write, and repeat.

  12. Laura: I haven't totally given up on the tea idea, although green tea may be too healthy a stretch. Do you add sugar? And go ahead and have that Dr. Pepper. Just one won't hurt. And then you'll quit again tomorrow. Or the next day...

    Averil: Good point. If we flaunt one or two mid-list faults, maybe people won't go digging for the cringe-worthy stuff. My new plan of action--thanks!

  13. I've been drinking diet coke since college... I always figured, who needs the extra 200 calories per soda? And now, if I were to drink a full-powered Coke? Instant sugar-coma.

    For a long time, I was hitting about 4 DC's a day... one for breakfast, one when I got to work, one for lunch and one for dinner. But over the past couple years, I've eliminated all but the one for breakfast. Now it's water instead. We have a filtered water machine at work, so I can keep my big insulated mug filled at all times. And at home, I keep filling a pitcher with tap water and putting it in the fridge. (I will NEVER buy bottled water, unless it's to lay in emergency supplies.)

    Still, you can't replace that powerful fizz, first thing in the morning.

  14. Bluz: No doubt--that first one of the day is a spiritual experience. So you drink one DC and no other caffeine at all? Teach me your ways, Master.

    Lisa: So what happened to that new Splenda lady come to call? You sent her packing?

  15. That broad decided that it's easier to be sugar's bitch and run five to ten miles a day.

  16. I justify my addictions by maintaining "it could be worse." With the family I grew up in, that I'm not a drug addict or alcoholic makes me pretty much virginal. That's my story and I'm never, never giving it up.

    That said. If you try and get between me and my pot of Peet's French Roast in the morning, I'll show my sharpest eye teeth and make scary noises. If I'm starving and driving alone and there's a Taco Bell nearby, watch out --- a Double Decker Supreme and 2 Meximelts makes me feel like it's Christmas all year long.

    This summer I found a great Sauvignon Blanc for $11 a bottle and I have a glass or 2 almost everyday around 5:00, though I see the end of this coming as cooler weather blows in. OKAY, I have 3 glasses if it's an evening when I have to call my mother-in-law. It's the best I can do for those 90 minutes of her talking and me with nothing to do but sip and listen and hope she pauses long enough for me to say, "Uh huh" and "Really."

    And cheese. Don't even get me started on cheese.

  17. As for as addictions go, Diet Coke isn't so bad. I remember reading an article about the Okinawans, who are legendary for their number of of the women interviewed (I think she was 105) said her secret was eating lots of pork fat and drinking Coke. Drink away!

  18. For me it's Agrum, a citrus-y soda here in France which is sooo easy to justify because it has half a pound of sugar but some sort of juice as well. Oh and dark chocolate. I eat half a family sized bar every night. At least I'm off cigars, seriously I used to love cigars. As for wine that doesn't count over here, that's the same as juice. As for nagging, I'd love to see him try it...

  19. Teri: Since a glass of wine a day is reportedly good for you, drinking three glasses is surely three times as healthy. And since when is wine only a summer drink? How do you cope when your mother-in-law calls in January?

    Margo: Oh, such sweet justification! And is it too much to hope these centenarians also indulge in liberal amounts of alcohol and eschew all forms of exercise?

    Bobbi: I'm off to France to kick my Diet Coke habit! We can sit on the veranda, drinking wine and smoking cigars. (Sorry, but you'll have to fall off the cigar wagon.) I'm thinking dark chocolate and Agrum for breakfast. Will call when I land.

  20. Sherry, that's what vodka is for!

    When we lived in Seattle, I had a Coke (the real sugar kind) addiction. I had to have one everyday at 3:00. If it was 2:57 and I was nowhere close to getting my Coke, I became like Rainman with his Judge Wapner. IT'S 3:00!! IT'S 3:00!!

  21. Teri: Ha! I'm the exact same way! I need my Diet Coke at exactly 3:00! And at 4, and at 5...

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