Saturday, February 26, 2011
The Long Road to Soda Addiction Recovery
Since around age 13 I’ve been a three Diet Pepsi a day gal, drinking as many as six on occasions of low impulse control, full moons and Giants/ Dodgers match ups. I’m now almost 37, which means that my kidneys look like owl pellets riddled with buck shot. Diet Pepsi has been my constant liquid companion for over half my life. Heck, I was holding a Diet Pepsi in my wedding pictures, at my high school and college graduations, when my kids were born and during all three of my probation hearings.
If you’d asked me on Tuesday at 4 p.m. if I ever planned to kick my soda habit, I’d have thrown my head back, given a hearty, British, “have you gone MAD” sort of laugh… and then taken a long aspartame laden swig. But it’s amazing how life can be turned upside down by out of control stubbornness.
See, it all started when I went to meet my friend Grant to plan a St. Patrick’s Day event called the Shamrock Shindig. (Yes, I know that’s a really bad name for a party.) Grant is one of those people who can turn a simple half-hour snooze of a business meeting into an animated debate about the fall of the white male in modern society or the myriad of uses for lime Jello. Grant has a talent for speaking his mind even if it might get him executed. If he were to ever visit a Middle Eastern country, he’d totally end up in front of a firing squad by sundown.
That day, the party planning was replaced by an intervention because I happened to be holding a Diet Pepsi when I showed up at his studio.
“What’s THAT?” Grant wailed, almost spilling his Perrier in alarm, as if I’d arrived wearing a combative black mamba around my neck.
I laughed, “How long have we been friends and you didn’t know I’m like, ’addicted’ to these things?”
“Oh, ANGELA! Now I understand why your waistline looks bloated and your skin has that sort of grayish tint. Every time you drink one of those pollutants, you poison your body! Don’t you know that?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. Was he really saying this to me? I was too stunned to even reach for the mace on my keychain. So I just stood there listening.
“You’re putting foreign substances in your body and it has no idea what to do with them. So your body stores these substances as fat cells. Fat cells!” Grant whispered again for dramatic emphasis.
My ears weren’t betraying me. “YOU’RE ACTUALLY CALLING ME FAT!!! Not even my husband gets away with calling me fat” I blurted, unable to contain my skyrocketing incredulity.
“No, not you. Just the cells that make up your body. They’ve stored all those years’ worth of artificial sweetener as gelatinous lard that’s just sitting there inside you,” Grant explained, while not even attempting to hide his appraising inspection of my midsection.“
“Oh, what a relief! You’re not calling me fat, just the 75 trillion cells that comprise my body” I said sarcastically, eyeing my three-quarters-full Diet Pepsi with its condensation seductively running down the can.“
“Don’t do it, Angela,” Grant warned, obviously reading my mind.
I half expected a screen to drop down from the ceiling, starting a video, narrated by Dr. Mehmet Oz demonstrating how human cells store fat and how diet soda companies are lying to us with their 'diet' labels.
“Ya know, Grant, you don’t have a single weight loss or nutrition book on the New York Times Bestseller List and you can’t run across the room without stopping for a break. Why should I listen to you?”
“You’re taking the focus off yourself by attacking me now…. You can’t quit drinking them! Can you, Angela? …You said yourself, that you’re ADDICTED.” challenged Grant, turning my own words against me as if he were Dr. Phil in front of a studio audience.
“I could quit ANYTIME. I just choose not to. Plus it’s not like it’s heroin or meth. It’s soda! Who gets addicted to that?” I countered.
As the words came out, I flashed back to an old house divided into apartments. My college roommate Meredith and I shared a common wall with Jake, Brandon and Chris, who smoked themselves retarded by noon everyday on their rust-colored velour sofa.
“You see, Angela, pot is perfectly safe. It’s all natural, so there’s no way for it to be addictive, because addictive substances are man-made,” explained Brandon, like a middle school health teacher, occasionally choking on a bong hit.
I remember thinking that Brandon was an undiscovered genius. It was unfortunate that he couldn’t hold down a job, dropped out of school and was always behind on his rent. Some people were just unlucky that way.
I also thought of my cousin Mary Sue, the only person who drinks more Diet Pepsi than I do. She's always on a diet, but looks like she swallowed a tire tube from a dump truck.
“Alright, Grant! I’ll quit!... just to PROVE to you that I’m not addicted!” I blurted like a kid just challenged to a Double Dog Dare. “You won’t win this one, Mr. Self- Righteous-Know-it-All-Health-Expert!”
That was four whole days ago. I’m starting to get used to drinking water. This morning I noticed that buttoning my jeans required a little less physical strength and breath holding. Maybe my waistline is starting to shrink. Maybe, just maybe….Grant was right.
Nah, probably just a coincidence.