I am all too familiar with addiction. I have not tried to hide the fact that this is an area in which I struggle. Twenty years ago I was addicted to alcohol. I would usually have my first drink by 10:00 AM. My mindset was that if I was going to drink some alcohol, I might as well drink all the alcohol. So, a bottle of vodka wasn’t something I would recap and store to use another day. No. If I had a vodka infused drink, you can be sure by the end of the day, sometimes earlier, the entire bottle of vodka would be gone. There were days I managed to have just a few drinks–usually something other than a vodka mix–only because I was needing to hide the fact that I had been drinking. I remember one time being so desperate for a shot of alcohol, I poured some into my bottle of diet Pepsi so no one would know. I also vividly remember coming to the realization that I had a problem and that problem would destroy my then young children if I did not get some help. Thus began several years of battling a very powerful foe. I also remember quite clearly being given a prescription for a drug that would make my body violently sick if it ingested any alcohol at all–that included alcohol through the skin. Shampoo, deodorant, soaps, lotions, etc. all had to be completely free of alcohol. More than once I slipped somewhere, whether it was in one of the above products that I missed or the overwhelming desire for just a small drink. The prescription drug did its job on those occasions as I found myself wishing I could die rather than suffer the effects of the battle between the drug and the alcohol. If I wasn’t sick from the prescription, I was sick from the withdrawal of the one substance that helped me get through my days. My hands trembled. In fact, my entire body trembled when it didn’t get what it craved so badly. My mind could only think of one thing and the deprivation of it was too much on more than one occasion. It was a long road of battling, a road that was far from easy. It has been fifteen years since I have had hard liquor. In fact, with the exception of a glass of wine five, maybe six, times in those years, I haven’t had any alcohol at all. I don’t keep it in the house for I know it is a weakness. I have come across many recipes and watched countless cooking shows where alcohol is used in food preparation. I would love to use some of those recipes, but I will not take a chance and have a bottle of wine or bourbon in the house.
The problem with an addictive personality, though, is there is always something that wants to be in control. After detoxing from alcohol, I turned to other behaviors that could hopefully satisfy the craving my mind had to have something control it. If you’ve never experienced addiction,you may not understand that statement. A person who struggles with an addiction in one area will most likely struggle in other areas as well. For me, after working through some other unhealthy behaviors (not quite ready to write about those yet), I settled on diet soda to feed the addiction craving of my mind. I’ve always loved pop anyway. My dad owned a gas station where I could have all I wanted when I visited him at work and eventually worked there as well. As a child, my mom seemed to always be starting a new diet, so diet pop was abundant in our house. I would grab a can several times a day. Given my age now, that means I have been drinking diet pop for over forty years. My daily intake increased with time and age. For at least the last ten years, I consumed roughly 120 ounces of diet pop a day. Yes. a DAY. Some days I’m sure I drank more than that and some days maybe a little less. I can say that it was all I drank. I was not a fan of water or lemonade or any other beverage. My mind justified this consumption with the fact that at least I wasn’t drinking alcohol. I knew the harm in consuming that much aspartame. I watched the videos proclaiming the ill effects of aspartame. I knew all of that, but I needed to have it.
A few months ago, something inside me–maybe the Holy Spirit–began to entertain the idea that perhaps my depression is made worse by the aspartame in my beloved diet pop. I toyed with the idea of giving up diet pop.I even attempted it a time or two. But, I would always return to it when the headache hit or we were out doing something and a fountain drink from Holiday was much more convenient and cheaper than water. Or we would go to a restaurant that I knew had an awesome mix of diet pop–the perfect ratio of syrup to water. Applebees is one of those places. So is McDonalds. My mouth is watering just typing this!
But back to my story…
As I thought about the hold that diet pop had on me, the cost of the multiple cases we bought each week, and my declining health, especially depression, I knew something had to change. A few women at church had tried a nutritional program that showed wonderful results on them. They had lost weight, they had more energy, and they simply looked wonderful. Yes. I was jealous. I wanted to lose weight–something that is definitely harder once a woman enters those menopause years. But, in addition to that, I anted to feel better. I know my MS plays a big part in how I feel from day to day. Despite the MS, though, I wondered if better nutrition could ease even some of the depression that gripped me so tightly. For months my husband and I talked about the program. It was NOT cheap. I came up with every excuse possible:
We could never afford it.
The results won’t last.
I’ll just eat healthier and get the same results.
I justified all my excuses until, one night at small group, while watching our study video, James MacDonald said something that rocked my world. His words were,
“Nothing will change until the discomfort of being where you are is more than the pleasure you get from staying there.”
Wow. I knew I had reached that point in my life. I contacted my friend from church who had amazing success with this nutritional program and asked how to get signed up. I knew that meant quitting diet pop. I also knew the pain withdrawal would cause–intense physical and emotional pain awaited me as I began this journey.
That was nineteen days ago. It has been 19 days since I have had any diet pop. I still get daily headaches from the withdrawal, although thankfully they are now only at night instead of all day. I still crave a Diet Coke every time I pass a McDonalds. We’ve been to Applebees and I’ve ordered water to drink even though everything in me screamed for a Diet Pepsi. And yes, I’ve cried. I’ve cried over not being able to have what I want. I’ve cried as the headaches at times were almost unbearable. I’ve cried as my body has released toxins after throwing up for an hour. (TMI–I know) I remember the withdrawal from alcohol being very similar, only this time I do not have a prescription drug to keep me accountable and clean. I have found in those 19 days, I have relied heavily on Jesus. When I’m home alone all day and I know that a drive to McDonalds is a minute away and no one would know, I remember that this body is a gift from God and a temple of the Holy Spirit. Feeding it garbage is like offering garbage to God–something I never thought of before and don’t want to do anymore. In those 19 days, I have lost ten pounds. I have lost 12 inches of body fat. I can’t say yet that I have a ton of energy or that my sleep is blissfully sweet–but I need to remember that MS is still a part of my life and most likely is the culprit behind those things. What I can say is that somehow, in a way that I can’t quite put into words, (shocker–I know) I feel different. There is a brewing confidence that has never been there before. It is small right now. Minuscule in fact. I’m sure it doesn’t yet show itself to others. That’s okay. Even small progress that only I can sense right now is enough to keep me going. If I can go fifteen years without a glass of vodka and whatever I could find to mix with it, without the help of a great God, then I can certainly stay on the road of being diet pop free with the help of a God who sees and knows my weakness and is ready to help and give me His strength.
Addictions are a powerful thing. They wrap around you and hold you so tight, it seems a losing battle to try to fight it.
BUT, God is more powerful than any earthly addiction. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. It isn’t a road I can walk alone. I know God is walking with me, but I also know others who are fully aware of where I am on this road and pray for me. Some days I’m pretty sure it is those prayers that have sustained me…in my pain, in my depression, in my breaking free.