Meet the Female Charlie Sheen

diet pepsiYou know your relationship has reached "official" status when your special someone starts being tagged in your Facebook pictures. And there she is. My Diet Pepsi bottle. She's on the floor beside me, still in my pajamas, on Christmas morning. There, in my hand at a kid's birthday party. And there, a giant cup full of the wet devil in front of me at a restaurant outing with the fam.

This week, as I reached for my 2-liter bottle, nestled on the floor right beside my desk so my dog can't knock it over, it hit me. I'm the female Charlie Sheen. I'm 100 percent addicted to something, and I'm not in the least bit sorry about it. In fact, to borrow some phrasing from old Charlie: "I have banged back seven 20-ounce bottles and finished them because that's how I roll."


I wasn't one of those women raised on diet soda as a regular mom-to-daughter/woman-to-woman secret. Soda was forbidden in my childhood home in favor of the more wholesome milks and juices. My childhood obesity was caused by a mess of other factors: complete lack of coordination that kept me out of sports, a household where dessert was served with every meal, a childhood depression that went undiagnosed for many years.

Fast-forward to bulimia. And years of binging. Followed by purging. Followed by binging. And you're getting the picture. I started drinking diet soda about the time I stopped purging for one simple reason: It kept me from binging.

It wasn't about losing weight. It was about a flavor running across my tongue, about something sloshing around in my stomach to give me that feeling of fullness. Today I am about 20 pounds overweight and working to get that back off. But I haven't thrown up in years. I don't throw up for my daughter. But I can keep from throwing up because of the diet soda. The diet soda that has held me back so many times from chewing through a bag of Twizzlers or a pound block of cheese.

These days I start with a 2-liter bottle after my morning visit to the bathroom. One fresh bottle, pulled straight from the fridge. As the bubbly brown mixture washes over my lips, I can feel my shoulders drop, my breath slow. It is at once my caffeine injection (ahem, coffee drinkers) and that bit of sweetness that dulls the bright lights of morning just enough for my night owl habits. It's therapy in a long, slightly unwieldy bottle.

Throughout the morning, I'll draw that same 2-liter bottle to my lips again and again, until finally it's drained completely, and I debate. Is there another one in the fridge? Do I really have to switch to water? On my good days, I make the switch, and it will be the straight-from-the-ground clear stuff for the rest of the day (with maybe a glass of wine around dinnertime ... maybe). Then there are the bad days. The "I can't concentrate without another hit of caffeine to keep my mind fresh" days, the days when I'm so hungry that I could eat through the cabinets in my kitchen. It's time for another 2-liter.

We're not as rare a breed as you might think, the diet soda addicts. According to a recent CNN report, "people who drink diet beverages average more than 26 ounces per day (some drink far more) and that 3 percent of diet-soda drinkers have at least four daily." (Four what, I'm not sure -- four 20-ounce bottles? Four 2-liter bottles? Oh, I've been there.) But that same report warns of all the terrors of diet soda, the horrors that should leave me ashamed, apologetic, fighting to kick the habit, to save myself from my taste for carbonated brown syrup in plastic bottles. But I'm not apologizing.

Maybe I'm worse than Charlie Sheen. He claims he's sober. I'm never kicking the habit. And I'm betting everyone's got their own habit they'll cling to until the day they die. So come on, spill, what's your dirty little addiction?


Image via Marcin Wichary/Flickr

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