As Kevin was transitioning out of the hospital after his hip surgery, the doctor and nurses were adamant in their advice about his medicines. “Don’t be a hero,” they warned. “Trust me, you want to stay ahead of the pain. Keep taking your pills.” Apparently, it is easy to keep misery at bay, but very difficult to reign the big raging bull of suffering back into the pen if it gets out of control. Sure enough, Kev stayed on the pills until he was out of the danger zone, and was able to stop the meds without consequence.
I suspect that I may have to do something similar as I enter into my 11th attempt to terminate my 34-year relationship with Diet Coke. For those never hooked on this drug, you need to know that calling it a beverage is truly inappropriate. When I am on good terms with the substance, I call it the “Nectar of the gods”. When we are struggling, it is the “Devil’s nectar”. Either way, I’ve known for years that it is beyond bad for me, and that one day my addiction would have to be faced. Researching this struggle on the internet only makes my impending journey that much more daunting.
Dr. Edward Group explains in his 2015 article Why is Diet Soda Addictive , he labels my nectar a “toxic cocktail of chemicals” that tricks the reward centers of the brain into thinking it is going to get something awesome, then denies it that pleasure, which compounds the cravings. As if that weren’t cruel enough, diet sodas have been associated with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy and brain lesions. It makes you gain weight, causes emotional disorders and puts you at risk for more than 92 side effects that the FDA knows about.
All of these negative consequences are spit in the wind, though, for those of us who ache for the carbonated poison. I read a blog about a woman who carried cans of it in her purse, in the event that it was not available where ever she may be going. I could easily relate to this and can admit to doing the same. As I caved into my yearning during the other times I attempted to quit, I rationalized my actions with thoughts like, “well, it may hurt my health but it makes life so much better!” or “Diet Coke= Happiness” or “I work hard, I deserve this boost to my day.” Really any thought just this side of “life just isn’t worth living without it” has likely contributed to my process of justification.
For those not addicted to it, or who have never been addicted to anything, cannot understand that it is more difficult than just setting down the bottle. Besides the stimulation to the reward center of the brain, there are the crippling side effects of detoxifying the body, including migraines that hurt so much you will want to strap on some lead weights and go out for a swim. I read one blogger’s experience, Elisa Zied, who said she even misses “the companionship with Diet Coke,” admitting that it “sounds silly”, but it became that much a part of her life. She associated the soda with the joy she experienced while drinking it with certain favorite foods or how it helped during stressful moments in her workday.
I guess that about brings us up to speed with my personal plight, one that I calculate has cost me $37, 230 as a conservative estimate over the past few decades. The last significant amount of product I consumed was 24 hours ago. I’ve been nursing this 12-ounce bottle today like it contains arsenic (which it might as well). I feel like someone who has been told they are about to be hit by a bus, but who does not know when it will strike. I am waiting for the pain to creep up on me, stealthy and powerful, conjuring up memories of past arduous attempts to forego the juice. I’d like to tell you that I will report to you what it feels like, as that is my intention. But either I will be able to follow the advice of Kevin’s doctors and “stay ahead of the pain”, or I will be in too much agony to articulate the experience.
I will circle back in another post to explain why I am doing this, why I am so certain of my victory, and the carrot I receive at the end of the race. In the meantime, please pray for me. I announced my intentions on Facebook and it looks like I have some supporters and encouragers out there. I have a co-worker who is going to quit with me, and she has agreed to be my “battle buddy”. Success for this divorce will take a village, and I fear that Kevin and my co-workers may suffer the most. I forgot to mention that other withdrawal symptoms include “raging temper, anxiety and extreme fatigue.” Let the games begin.