For the last two years, I have spent 40 days, sometime in the spring, denying myself of Diet Coke in the name of religion. Yes...I have to admit that the D.C. is what I have given up for Lent...TWICE...and this is what that looks like:
For roughly two weeks before Lent, I'm cranky, because I know what’s coming. During those same two weeks, I try to find some other destructive habit or profound outreach effort that would be a better use of my 40-day sacrifice. But truth be told, Diet Coke really is the one destructive habit without which I must turn to God for strength, (not to mention a healthy dose of perspective, because really?!?! It’s just DIET COKE!!!) It is my one true, spring-in-my-step, vice.
Then Ash Wednesday hits, seemingly earlier every year, I might add, and it’s on. Me against the D.C., friends. And watch out…once Thursday afternoon comes around, I am a different person.
By the weekend, my family wants to denounce our religion for the chance to have their relatively normal, accommodating, fun-loving, mom back. Every request they make is met with a teeth-clenching glare. I am just NOT nice. And I know my reaction is unreasonable, but in my efforts to suppress it, I turn into a crazy lady. And my poor husband. He really can't seem to do anything right! EVERYTHING he does makes me wonder why I have to live with this man who is so clearly out of touch and unsympathetic with my plight! If I didn't have so many little ears milling around (and they are EVERYWHERE), I would give him a piece of my mind! You see, when I give up Diet Coke, I turn into a terrible person!
But the hysteria doesn't last for long. Within about two weeks, I'm more practiced in my sacrifice and I can cope again. First comes the apology - MINE - then comes the forgiveness - THEIRS - and we find normalcy again. I usually focus on some other project for the remaining few weeks and the distraction is GREAT. Only a few more weeks to go and I'm free! I'm not talking about free from my addiction, no. Once I fulfill my Lenten obligation, I'm free to go back to my "dealer" and start using again. That's what it feels like, anyway.
I believe my problem is twofold. Diet Coke is full of chemicals that my body does not recognize and those chemicals have a physical hold on me. Those same chemicals will have a negative impact if I continue to feed my habit for the next ten, twenty, even thirty or more years. And although there are other, chemical-free alternatives that I could choose, I typically don't. I'm not a coffee drinker and I’m an inclement-weather tea drinker, at best,
Diet Coke has an even greater emotional hold on me. I must have it every day! When I take my three shiny quarters to the vending machine at work, I'm giddy. On the days I don't work, my car finds a reason to drive through a D.C. establishment by midday so I can get my fix. (I don't keep it in the house...tooooo dangerous.) Diet Coke, in my hot little hands, with its infusion of pleasure, when I want it, makes me happy. Leading a busy life, with a family who has immediate needs, with a job (albeit part-time) that requires immediate attention, with a book draft that requires immediate editing, I have very few things that are in MY immediate and absolute control. And one of those sweet indulgences that I get, when I want it, is my Diet Coke.
As much as my intake of Diet Coke is a problem, the issue at the heart of my compulsion, is the imbalance in my life that has me grasping for some small semblance of control. It's the avoidance of those annoying to-do's, the overabundance of tasks I've committed to, it's the Super-Mom, Super-Wife, Super-Worker, Super-Writer, Super-Woman standard that I've adopted as my measuring stick, that has lead to my unhealthy need. And that, my friends, is what I need to fix.