In most 12-step programs, the first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem.
OK. Here goes…
My name is Heather, and I’m a Diet Coke addict.
There are people who will dismiss my Diet Coke problem because they don’t believe it’s possible to be “addicted” to a seemingly innocent carbonated beverage. I understand, because I used to feel the same way.
Then I tried to quit.
Since college, I’ve had a serious Diet Coke habit. On a normal day, I’ll drink 3 cans, but on a bad day I might drink as many as 6. Despite my excessive Coke consumption, I never really believed that I was addicted. There were a few times when I half-heartedly tried to quit, but I never took it seriously until I got pregnant. During my pregnancies I gave up caffeine entirely, and I was shocked at what this did to my body. I was head-achy, nauseous, sleepy and irritable. When I felt stressed, I would wander into the kitchen and rummage through the refrigerator, hoping to find one last can stashed way in the back. Without my Diet Coke, I was grumpy, anxious, and miserable.
It was then that I realized the hold that this supposedly innocuous beverage had on me. I tried drinking nutritious substitutes like water, milk, coffee, and fruit juice, but there was simply no substitute for the bubbly, sweet, caramel-colored fizziness of Diet Coke. I truly was happier with a shiny, cold can of Coke in my hand. I was hooked.
Diet soda fulfills sweet cravings, offers a burst of caffeine energy, and has no calories. I absolutely love it, and I’m not alone. Celebrities like Elton John, Victoria Beckham and Bill Clinton admit to Diet Coke addiction, and I recently read an ABC News article about a 29-year-old woman who drinks 12 cans a day. She said,
“It’s my water. It keeps me going. It’s the fluid that keeps me alive. I really think I am addicted. I really think it would be very hard for me to stop.”
During my pregnancies I did stop, because the health of my babies was the perfect motivating factor. After a few weeks of Diet Coke freedom, I noticed some very positive changes. I slept better. I stopped waking up in the morning with dry eyes and a parched throat from being in a near-dehydrated state all the time. I stopped feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Overall, I just felt better.
I also saved money. After doing the math, I realized that I was spending about $25 a month on Diet Coke. That’s $300 a year kids. I don’t know about you, but I can think of much better uses for that money.
The sad thing is, after each of my children were born, I gradually fell back into my Diet Coke habit. Right now, I believe that I’m more addicted than I’ve ever been in my entire life, but I’m also the most determined to quit. I’m angry that I’ve allowed a stupid beverage to control me, and I’ve decided to finally kick the habit once and for all. I’ve had enough.
It’s not going to be easy, but here’s my plan of action:
1) I’m going to gradually cut back. I know from experience that quitting cold turkey simply does. not. work. So, I’m going to slowly reduce my consumption from six cans a day to one, and then to none.
2) I’m going to gradually go caffeine-free. People forget that caffeine is an addictive drug, and it’s part of the reason why soda is such a hard habit to break. I’m going to buy caffeine-free soda, and gradually decrease the number of caffeinated drinks I have each day, as I work toward kicking the soda habit completely.
3) I’m going to stock up on alternatives. For me, the allure of Diet Coke is not just the caffeine – it’s the flavor and bubbles too. As a substitute, I’m going to keep the ingredients on hand for what my husband and I call “fizzy drinks.” Our favorite is 1/4 orange or cranberry juice mixed with 3/4 club soda. This offers just enough flavor and fizz that I won’t miss my soda so much. I hope.
4) I’m going to pray, and lean on God, because He is strong and I am weak. I know that I can’t do it without Him.
My goal is to be Diet Coke-free for good by the end of February. When I do finally succeed in quitting, I know that I can never take another sip. It’s just too easy to fall back into my bad habits, and I don’t want to go down that road again. Enough is enough.
If you too are addicted to diet soda, and you need help quitting, click here to find a support group in your area.
No, I’m not kidding. See, it’s a serious problem!