I get addicted to things easily. It is a hard fact that I have recently come to terms with. It sucks. I am a creature of habit and I love routine. So when I really like something, even if it is bad for me, I want it in my day (and in my mouth) all the time, anytime. Not good.
As a very little girl, I can tell you that my first vice was apple juice. I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming for it. My want was so strong that sometimes I would have drunk the last bit at dinner time, so my Dad would actually go out at midnight to buy more for me. At a place really far away because this was 1985 and things weren't open around the clock like they are now.
As I grew older, I liked many things: ice cream, chocolate, bagels and cream cheese, pizza, my still same indulgences, but the next thing that really hooked me was nicotine. I tried my first cigarette when I was thirteen and became a pretty regular smoker by age fifteen (there was one local gas station by my high school that didn't card for cigarettes). At this time, I also became a very regular diet soda drinker.
I see now that I was using cigarettes and diet soda as an appetite suppressant. I was always searching for thin, so smoking and drinking zero calorie chemicals filled me with something to do with my hands and mouth instead of eating actual food. And because I was young and therefore an idiot, it also made me feel very glamorous. Celebrities smoked and drank diet soda, models did, too. Even grungy rockers indulged in smokes and Diet Cokes, it felt so rebellious and grownup.
As the years passed, diet soda and Parliament Lights became a staple. Sometimes it was all I sustained on until dinner time. Smoking became less enticing as the years passed because I could no longer stand the smell and because a smoking ban in bars and restaurants was put into action in Chicago. Besides being a diet aid, smoking was also a way for me to deal with my social anxiety in public. I chained smoked whenever I went out for a night on the town. Hard fact, but going out was actually a bit less fun for me when I couldn't smoke. I finally kicked the smoking habit for good about seven years ago and it actually wasn't that hard, which surprised me. I am pretty good at doing things when I put my mind to it, I just have to be ready to make a major change. I was way ready to no longer smoke.
As my vices peeled away: alcohol, ADHD medicine, pot; food became my new drug. It makes sense because I had never dealt with the beginnings of my eating issues. The ones that started popping up in puberty and were quelled with diet soda and cigarettes before I ever realized that my feelings and actions around food were disordered and extremely unhealthy.
Just recently, after all of these years, I decided to give up my oldest remaining vice, diet soda.
I love diet soda. My top picks are Diet Dr Pepper and Diet Coke. When it gets bad, I can easily drink 5-6 cans a day. Diet soda has always been with me. Through hangovers, all-nighters, finals, 18 hour work days, long drives in the car. I was always drinking one, thinking about drinking one, or on my way to get one.
Over the last year, I have given up most of my empty calories. I eat whole foods and avoid my binging triggers when I can. But, with my clean salads, I was still slugging back the diet soda. It hit me a few weeks ago as I admired my grocery cart in the checkout line. As I unloaded my beautiful produce and lean cuts of meat onto the conveyer belt, the Diet Coke 12-pack wasn't really making sense to me anymore. Yes, that first sip out of a newly opened ice cold can from the fridge is intoxicating, but I actually started to not even really like it all that much. Diet soda had started to leave me feeling polluted and my only real major sugar cravings appeared after I drank a few of them. Sometimes after a few cans or a large fountain cup (ahhh, the best, especially from McDonalds) I would start fixating on a doughnut or cupcake, treats I am not even really a fan of (ice cream YES, baked goods, not so much). And it is worth mentioning, that diet soda has changed the quality of my teeth. All that acid has broken down my enamel and vanity usually wins for me in the end.
I have now been ten days without a diet soda. The first few days were actually brutal. I had horrible migraines, outbursts and cravings for every diet soda I ever tried, including Fresca. I REALLY wanted a Fresca. But within about five days, I was fine. Just like when I gave up smoking. It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be once I got past the initial discomfort and break of a long-term routine. I still drink coffee (never giving that up) and I bought lots of fancy bubbly waters and seltzers. I am quenching my thirst just fine. And popping open a little can of Perrier gives me the same satisfaction of having a diet soda in my hand (or cup holder) 24/7.
I am excited. Another vice smashed and hopefully gone forever. It feels incredible to take control over all the things I allowed to get so out of control as major or minor as they may be. Once in a while, I plan to enjoy a cold regular Coca Cola as a special treat and I promise that I will savor every sip of it.