Carbonational Anthem

It’s been 87 days and counting. The counting is done, however, through muffled speech and several-second delays as a result of my fuzzy mind trying to determine just what exactly comes after the number 79. It has been 87 days in which I have willfully abstained from consuming carbonated beverages. I took a swig from the bottle of sparkling apple cider, as an alcoholic might from a bottle of hard apple cider, just before Dick Clark slurred his way through New Year’s 2009. In a panic, I realized that my last drink should have been something with more caffeine than is allowed by the FDA, but it was too late. The shining ball dropped amongst the screaming masses of caffeinated New Yorkers just as my pinkish eyelids drooped amidst the screaming cries of my awakening newborn.

I would like to think that this decision that I made was a result of some real forward, health-conscious thinking on my part. I would like to say that I involved myself in thorough study of the subject matter and determined to eliminate carbonation from my diet. Unfortunately, I don’t know how I came about the decision. It came as a passing thought of something that I could make a New Year’s resolution to do. And so I did, with the comforting memory in the back of my mind of many-a-resolution past coming to an end sometime before the holiday of gluttony and indulgence that is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Unfortunately, I had a strange sensation of commitment that I have never had with any previous commitments. Of course, I noticed the immediate health benefits. I lost six pounds, felt less bloated throughout the day, and was remarkably able to endure the horrific withdrawal headaches. Much like with heroin and cocaine, giving up caffeine cold-turkey can result in a feeling of birthing some type of rodent from your cerebral cortex and having legions of spiders crawl just below the surface of your skin. It can also result in being caught stealing money from your parents to get your next hit of “Dew”.

Of course, my parents were enablers in my lifetime addiction. From my earliest memories of childhood, I can remember activities with my father: going fishing, throwing around a football in the backyard, swimming in the hotel pool on vacation. All of these were accomplished with my father firmly holding a 44 ouncer of Dr. Pepper. “D.P.” or simply “The Pepper” was the beverage of choice in the Smith household growing up. In a pinch, we would use it instead of milk in our Frosted Flakes. I came to love the taste of the lukewarm Dr. Pepper, watered down from the melted ice, as I pilfered it from my father’s long-abandoned gas station cup. I also loved the energy boost it gave me to complete my transcription of the Encyclopedia Britannica, M volume, onto college-ruled paper at 3:00 in the morning. I could never find the time to do that during the day.

As I grew older, I came to differentiate the taste of different brews from location to location. Like a wine taster, I stood in front of the fountain at the Circle K and swirled, sniffed, sipped, and swished the beverage in my mouth before spitting it in the slowly draining catch-all, then walking out while giving the cashier an air of indignity. My dependence on caffeinated beverages grew and grew until my college years where I would smuggle cases of the stuff onto my prohibitive campus. My dorm room turned into a makeshift speakeasy as several academics swarmed to my mini-refrigerator to get the sweet stuff they had been craving all week. Occasionally, there was cabaret.

It was in college that I had two scary experiences that nearly prevented me from continuing on with my addiction. The first was during finals week where I was writing a 20-page paper for Art History concerning the repressed sexuality in Georgia O‘Keefe‘s paintings of “flowers”. To get me past the first line which read “Those aren’t flowers,” I made the decision to couple a liter of Mountain Dew with three Excedrin and a king-sized Snickers. The paper turned out awesome, but the mild heart-palpitations that I incurred when I finally attempted sleep at 4 in the morning were less awesome. I would not recommend that experiment. The second incident occurred when my future wife issued a challenge to me. She would stop listening to country music for a month if I stopped drinking carbonation for a month; evil for evil, vice for vice. We each had a free day and I used mine to imbibe, from sun up to sun down, 26 individual cans of “The Pepper”. Again, it helped me get through finals, however, the ensuing vomit and later withdrawal pains provided justifiable grounds to sue this “Doctor” Pepper for malpractice. That is not what the doctor ordered.

In my later sterling career choices of Bread Delivery Dude and Dirty Uniform Guy, the early working hours required an extra un-natural boost. I ventured from the gateway caffeine products to the more hardcore taurine/guarana products. I found myself downing bottle after bottle of sugary goodness just to make it through the day. In fact, I would occasionally sip some at night to help me sleep. My dependency was complete, and I was mildly satisfied with it until, on New Year’s Eve, I made the stupidest resolution possible. Now, everything is tempting me to once again indulge myself at the teat of the Goddess Pepsi. My level of stress is rising, my infant child prefers incessant crying to normal, human sleep patterns, and when I turn on the television, the advertisers have tapped into the energy drought of my brain.

I recently witnessed a commercial where Coke, in another bid to unify the world through the peace and goodness of their beverage, had a commercial about recycling your Coke bottles and going green. I’m all for going green, but what irked me about this was the song that they used as background music to hock their leftist propaganda. It was a song that I loved from a band that I recently discovered. Because I had discovered it, it belongs to me and me alone. You may have heard it, but I heard it first. Coke knew that. They knew it years ago when they had a cute blonde girl roller skating around the bubbles emerging from her bottle of Diet Coke to the tune of my then recent discovery of Paul Oakenfold. I am offended that they have corrupted the music that I discovered, and yet, I feel noticeably parched whenever the songs come up on my iTunes.

I am confident that one day, scientists will find that carbonated caffeine products are not only a stimulant, but that they are also the medium for proliferating mind control across a mass population of drinkers. It lives in our music, our social events, our pre-feature movie theater word scrambles. Where will it end? After 87 days, I feel it has just about ended for me, in that I will submit myself into their sweet, caloric embrace. It may be time, once again, to savor the full-bodied suppleness of the 10% syrup count at the Top Stop over the bland and overly fruity offering from the pedestrian 7-11. Tonight, I dine with Mr. Pibb.


Kara Thacker said...

Hey! I would take that challenge if I hadn't just bought a 2 liter of diet dr pepper all but a few minutes ago, because...well. I don't know. I am a strong believer in no carbonation, but the cupon for free one enticed me.

Marsha said...

NOOOOO, Cameron. Be strong. If you've made it for 87 days, surely you are past the craving stage! Remember -- this is a habit acquired from your father, NOT my side of the family. And how about a retraction on the DP/cereal comment. In the first place, you were never allowed to have Frosted Flakes as they made you bounce off the walls from the sugar content, let alone coupleing that with DP! It was more like generic cheerios and powdered milk! HA!

Sean and Andrea Gumm said...

Good post!

mh said...

I believe in you Cameron!

Brian R said...

Why not drink tea?! It has much less caffeine than soda, no calories, and lots of antioxidants. White tea especially. I also find that for some reason I don't grind my teeth and clench my jaw as much as when I drink a ton of coffee :-)

Also, Guarana is just yet another caffeine containing plant. As a fascinating side note, caffeine's apparent function in a plant (much like nicotine) is that of a toxin to ward off hungry bugs!

Tim Haran said...

Is it bad that I downed a Big Gulp's worth of Diet Coke before I finished reading your story? Sorry, is "story" the right word? I'm not into the whole blog lingo. Don't tell anyone.

Anyway, nice work on 87 days. I hope no permanent damage was done. Nothing a good Rev3 won't cure, I'm sure.

Camille said...

Okay, so it's taken me three weeks to read your post. But first, kudos for kicking the habit! If you have any pointers for quittin' the sweet stuff, pass 'em on! I made a pact with my hairdresser, oddly, that we would be soda-free by my next appointment. (Although, she insisted that she "call me" to make my next appointment and I haven't heard from her since. Coincidence? I think not.) As soon as I can have coffee again (you and your Rev3 challenge--what was I thinking?), it's adios to the sugary soda.