If the first step is admitting you have a problem, I took the first step about 15 years ago. I haven’t made much progress since.
I know the Diet Coke addiction isn’t a novel one: I share it with plenty of co-workers, my husband and, I’m sure, hundreds of thousands of PWDs. What I don’t know is what to do about it.
We go way back, Diet Coke and I. I’ve found pictures of myself at 5 or 6, wearing a swimming suit and a big yellow life jacket, clutching a koozie-d diet soda in my tiny hands. I’m on the bow of our family boat, the sun is shining, and life is good. During the diabetes camp years, I can remember waiting anxiously for my parents to pick me up; it wasn’t that I wanted to leave camp, it was that camp was a water-and-Kool-Aid kind of place, and I knew my Mom and Dad would have a Diet Coke in the car. When I trudged to my college classes through the arctic landscapes of Northeast Missouri, it wasn’t coffee I carried in my hand — it was a can of Diet Coke.
As diabetics, we’re constantly being reminded of what we shouldn’t have or do. Everything comes with a consequence: that muffin will make your blood sugar spike; too much insulin will make it hard to lose weight; the cute sandals you bought last week will cut into your foot and give you a wound that won’t heal, ultimately leading to amputation. Even if they’re not credible threats, they’re always in the back of our minds.
For so long, Diet Coke was the exception. Diet Coke doesn’t ask for a bolus. Diet Coke doesn’t surprise you with a high blood sugar 4 hours after you’ve consumed it. No one will walk up to a Diet Coke-drinking PWD and insist, “You shouldn’t be drinking that.” Diet Coke is always there when you’re tired, or sad, or really thirsty, or hungover. As far as vices go, one could do a lot worse.
But I found myself drinking so much Diet Coke that I was jittery and anxious by the end of the work day. Instead of keeping me going, that mix of caffeine and bubbles and phenylalaline was getting me so jacked up that I couldn’t even focus on a single task. And the more I paid attention, the more it seemed like that steady stream of D.C. was actually keeping my blood sugar levels slightly elevated. If I followed up a bolus with a tall glass of water, I’d see a satisfying drop in my blood sugar. If I did the same with a can of Diet Coke, the high blood sugar would usually stick.
So, I’m trying — again — to stop cut down on my Diet Coke consumption. So far, I’ve relied on caffeine-free substitutes to make the transition a little easier. Fresca, Sprite Zero and Diet Barq’s are my favorite stand-ins.
In a perfect world, I’d spend my days sipping on water and fancy pants varieties of hot tea throughout the day. But for now, I feel like I’ll always be a little bit chained to the Coke machine in the office kitchen, the convenience store on the corner, and the 12-pack in the fridge.
Has anyone else successfully — and completely — kicked the habit?