I have trouble finding my footing on the middle ground.
It's the same when it comes to my relationship with food. I could lick the vanilla icing off a whole birthday cake but you can have the chocolate; I can polish off a bag of gummy fish or caramels but M&M's leave me cold; I can dive into a tub of cottage cheese and not come up for air until I've cleaned out the whole tub, but the Greek yogurt, unless somebody else eats it, sits in my fridge until it's outdated.
And I don't drink alcohol but for the last 30 years I had been drinking 'way too much diet cola. 'Way too much.
Granted, I mostly drank the caffeine-free stuff, but I drank it all day long. Not even a can at a time, but a sip at a time.
Every morning, some time between breakfast and lunch (or sometimes even before breakfast) I'd open the fridge and grab the previous night's unfinished can or else I'd crack open a new can for my first sip of the day. Then I'd return the can to the spot on the refrigerator door shelf reserved specifically for my soda cans, where it would sit for a brief spell until I needed another sip, which would be fairly soon. Then I'd open the fridge again, grab the can, take another sip, return the can, close the fridge. This protocol, the opening, sipping and closing, would continue all morning until lunch time, by which time I'd usually have polished off at least one can. Then I'd drink another can with lunch. Maybe a can and a half.
I'd sip away the afternoon until it was time to leave to teach my piano lessons in my students' homes. I knew the location of every CVS along my travel route, welcome oases where I could pop in for a bottle of caffeine-free diet Coke and a bag of Combos, which I systematically sipped at and munched on all evening long between lessons. I've consumed manys the Coke-and-Combos dinners on the road.
Then when I got home in the evening I'd pick up where I left off with the opening, sipping, and closing. I usually polished of three or more cans a day at home, not counting what I drank on the road or in restaurants, where I generally guzzled down two more refills of my original diet soda.
My basement was always stocked with cases of caffeine-free diet cola, I didn't care what brand, the cheapest store brand would do for me. I just needed my fix.
Sometimes before starting my grocery shopping I'd stop by the cooler next to the check-out counter to buy a bottle of diet soda to sip while I pushed my cart up and down the aisles.
If I was invited to a friend's house for the evening I'd graciously bring along a six-pack of caffeine-free diet Pepsi which nobody but me was ever interested in.
My son Tommy and my nephew Randy kept cans of caffeine-free diet Coke in their fridge for me in case I stopped over. My three daughters who live out of town always prepared for my visits by stock-piling my drink of choice. My mother-in-law who lives out of town disapproved of soda altogether so when we went for visits I brought along cans that I kept hidden in a cooler in the car so that I could keep sneaking out on some pretext or another for my sips.
If I was someplace where caffeine-free diet cola wasn't available I'd settle for caffeinated. If I couldn't get either I couldn't stand it. But it was rare that I couldn't get either. Even when I spent 6 weeks hiking through the mountains of Spain last year I discovered that the 15' X 20' grocery store in the smallest village carried cold cans or bottles of "Coca-lite". So even hiking in Spain, though I couldn't sip all day long, I could always put away a can or two.
Thus it went for 30 years. Did I ever consider quitting ? No. What for? What harm was it doing? I felt fine. But the truth was, I knew I couldn't quit. I was addicted. To diet soda, of all things. Or maybe I was just addicted to sipping all day long.
So why, one night 5 weeks ago while sitting in a booth in a Panera across from my son Tommy did I announce to him that I was giving up diet soda?
In truth, I guess, to see if I could; or to find out if my life was really so controlled by this fizzy brown, chemical-laden, artificially sweetened stuff that I couldn't live happily without it. And also because, based on some recent studies I'd read or heard, I was starting to believe that all this non-stop drinking of all that fizzy, brown, chemical-laden, artificially sweetened stuff really wasn't good for me. And I'm getting a little, you know, old, so...maybe I'd better start taking better care business?
Anyway, I made a promise to myself, with Tommy as my witness, to go cold turkey on the diet soda. Tommy offered to be my sponsor, to text me regularly to cheer me on and check on how I was holding out. I could also call or text him if I felt too sorely tempted.
That was Wednesday, May 7. Have I been caramel-color-free ever since? Tomorrow I'll share how it's been going down. Frankly it hasn't been all that easy.