Trading Alcohol For Something Else
Over the past few months, I’ve been struggling to piece together what in the world is happening with me and soda, in particular, diet sodas. When I got sober in December 2016, I realized that I was consuming way more soda and sugary foods than I had before. I read that it’s normal, that lots of people “switch” to sugar when they stop drinking. Switch?
I’ve been thinking a lot about that word. If I’ve switched, that means I’ve taken one thing and replaced it with another. In this case, that thing is drinking copious amounts of alcohol (not great) with drinking copious amounts of diet soda (also not great). It was my last remaining vice and I desperately wanted it. But it also indicated that I hadn’t done a single thing to heal whatever drove me to drink too much in the first place.
When I first noticed the uptick in soda consumption, it made sense to me. I wasn’t a coffee drinker and I needed a caffeine source because I was taking care of a newborn on very little sleep with Google as my primary resource for understanding why my child would not stop screaming. But once we both got into a groove (and a bit more sleep), I noticed my consumption remained the same. If anything, it was increasing.
When the Replacement Habit Gets Worse
At some point I realized that I was having digestion issues. I had dropped down to 145 pounds shortly after my daughter’s birth (because I never had time to eat), but I was slowly packing those pounds back on. My belly fat was increasing and not just in that new mama kind of way. My teeth started to feel sensitive and lacked their usual luster. Is that the beginning of discoloration, I see? Then there were the digestion issues and feeling, well, more than a little gassy on a daily basis. Obviously I shouldn’t be drinking something that is making me feel bad, but I couldn’t seem to stop.
Before I knew it, I was catching myself drinking 3-5 cans per day knowing full well that it was making me look and feel awful, and yet not being able to stop. I began making plans in my mind to cut back, and stuck to none of them. The time of day when I would first crack open a can would get earlier and earlier. I grabbed a soda if I felt stressed. Tired? Grab a soda. I was tired way more often. Bored? Crack open a fizzy drink.
I didn’t feel in control. Several times a day I would argue with myself (not out loud of course) about my soda consumption. Stop. Don’t stop. Cut back. Why are you drinking this? Before getting sober, I had the exact same arguments with myself about cigarettes and alcohol.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I even did the ceremonial throw aways. You know, when you toss out those remaining bottles and say, “I’m done!” Then a few hours or a few days later, you’re right back at it? How did soda get to me like this? Cleary, I hadn’t changed much at all. I’d merely transferred my alcohol issues onto something slightly more benign and now it was driving me crazy.
I can, and intend to, kick this soda habit, but I know that unless I do some deeper level work, I will just pass it on to something else and this little merry-go-round will stay spinning. It’s like that late 90’s film, Fallen, starring Denzel Washington. In the film, he fights a demon that keeps jumping from one body to the next. Just when he thinks he’s got it beat, it finds another host. Addiction can feel like that too.
Resources To Help Us Through
While researching addiction transference, I’ve started to come across some really good resources, one of which I will share with you now.
Below is a YouTube clip from “This Naked Mind” that I recently watched that really helped give voice and perspective to the struggles I’ve been feeling lately. It’s informative and also comforting on some level to know that other people are experiencing similar issues. She has a podcast as well which I’ve also subscribed to.
The video is 11 minutes long, but I highly recommend watching the entire thing, especially if you find yourself (like me) just bouncing around from one hangup to the next.
Listen. Share. And leave a comment! Have you experienced addiction transference? What did you “transfer” to? What has that been like for you?