The hardest bad habit I ever kicked was my 6 Diet Cokes a day one. This was about 4 years ago, and it took about 3 months. I learned what aspartame does to my body and I didn’t want any part of it anymore. The first time I quit I learned that I am emotionally attached to diet sodas. Growing up diabetic, where every last crumb of food is portioned and counted, diet soda was the one thing I could have as much as I wanted of. So my one free range treat was hurting me.
Diet sodas betrayed me in a big way.
But, like every woman who falls for the bad boy (or girl) who treats them like dirt and they go right back to them, I started drinking diet sodas again this year. Then I quit again. Then I went crawling back to let it break my heart all over again.
Last week, I went to my first appointment with a new diabetes doctor. My diabetes educator and I were going over my normal meal plans and habits and favorite foods. I told her I like sweets, so she asked if I like diet soda or sugar free pudding cups. I told her that I gave up aspartame. She suggested foods sweetened with Splenda. I said I gave up all artificial sweeteners. She said, “Okay, that’s fine. I just want you to know that it’s okay with me if you have that stuff.”
At the time I thought, “Gah, another medical professional recommending harmful substances that are legal but shouldn’t be!” and congratulated myself on remaining strong and undeterred. The next day at work I was super busy and a little stressed, and I thought, “I would love a Diet Dr Pepper right now.” So I had one. It would be my one-time treat to get through a stressful day.
The next day was finally Friday, and I wanted another Diet Dr Pepper to celebrate! So I bought one from work and drank it. I hadn’t drank them daily in years, I could afford to cheat a little.
Saturday is my regular weekly cheat day, so of course I had a large cherry Diet Dr Pepper from Sonic (and also a donut). It was delicious and totally worth the cheat.
(Can you see where this is going?)
On Sunday I had a Diet Cherry Dr Pepper because it was still the weekend, and close enough to Saturday cheat day.
Sunday night I couldn’t sleep.
On Monday I drank another one, not because I wanted to cheat, but because my diabetes educator said it was okay. She practically tried to talk me out of avoiding them, right? Why did I ever give them up in the first place?! Why don’t I have 3!
I gulped the final swallow of the 20oz bottle, and then I saw my pile of Diet Dr Pepper plastic bottles all lined up, as if to perform an intervention. There were more empty bottles from the past 5 days than I have seen in the past 2 months combined.
I had thrown myself at the “bad boy” (read: neurotoxin) who wants nothing more than to break my heart (read: attach itself to my DNA and become formaldehyde). I heard someone tell me it was okay, which is what I want to hear more than anything else, other than “Your pancreas will start working again if you just take this pill one time…and it’s $15.” I was so happy to hear that diet sodas were okay that I was willing to believe that my free range treat hadn’t betrayed me after all. But it was a beautiful lie.
I mean sure, soda is not heroin or crack. And it’s not like I realized that the TWILIGHT saga is actually very deep and profound and meaningful to my life. It’s not even like I decided to give up vegetables in favor of M&Ms. There are much more harmful things to become addicted to. But 4 years ago, I worked so hard for those three months that I spent cutting the cord from my unhealthy habit, and it meant something to me to break myself of it. Those three months I had headaches, I cried a lot, I couldn’t sleep, I fought cravings, I took vitamins to support my nervous system until one day I woke up and didn’t need it anymore. Why would I go through all of that if it wasn’t important?
So as of today I am going back to one diet soda every week on Saturdays. I can get back on the wagon, I still believe that it is harmful to my body. And my body has a higher purpose.
If I’m having a bad day and my choices are: drink a fuckin diet soda or strangle the person nearest to me, I’m going to drink the fuckin diet soda. I can still do that from the side of the wagon without getting off.