My name is David Learn, and I am an addict.
It's taken me some time to admit that I have a problem, but the symptoms are there. Spending money I can't afford to fuel my habit, I make one excuse after another to indulge. I'm facing the middle-of-the-day hump, and it'll give me the boost I need to get through; I'm tired, and this will give me the energy to get by. I lie to myself about my addiction, and I try to cover up from my wife just how bad it is. It's just one more, that's all. No one will notice.
I promise myself regularly that I'm going to stop soon, but soon never comes. There's always another hump to climb over, another spell of fatigue to overcome, another excuse to justify what has become an increasingly expensive and destructive habit to indulge.
I'm an addict. The evidence is insurmountable: the recycling bin full of plastic bottles and aluminum cans, the tooth decay, the weight problem, the cans that rattle around the floor of the car, the brown tongue, the increased urination. I'm addicted to Coke.
This past Monday, I faced up to my problem, and I called it quits. The effect was noticeable almost immediately. As I began filtering the caffeine out from my system, I bottomed out especially low around three o'clock. Those first few days marked the return of Mr. Grumpy Pants to my home. My children have been relieved, I think, to see him showing up less as the day has gone on.
How much sleep has drinking Coke kept me from getting the full benefit of? I don't know, but I've been making up for it the past few days. I've been turning in by 11 o'clock and struggling to get up at 8 or 9. Taking a meal in the early evening today nearly flattened me, as my systemic nervous system diverts energy to my digestive system.
I've already lost one molar to my addiction, and I'm determined to stay stopped now, before any other teeth join it. The high levels of sugar in Coke make a tremendous meal for the bacteria behind tooth decay, and as their digestive juices get flowing, the tooth enamel starts flying apart. My wife, in her typically picturesque vocabulary, describes it as "teeth rotting in your head."
And I admit, I'm concerned about the effect all this Coke has had on my pancreas. More than twenty years ago, the Coca-Cola Co. made its signature drink with real sugar. It was high in calories, and it was still bad for your teeth, but it was a natural sugar and it was something the body could process naturally, with no ill effects beyond hyperactivity and the potential for tooth decay.
As lobbyists worked their weal upon the federal government, though, corn prices dropped low, and stayed there: low enough that corn syrup became cheaper to feed cattle than cattle feed, and a cheaper sweetener than sugar. The result has been cattle that are unable to digest their food properly, and people who are unable to process the non-natural sweeteners in more and more of their foods and beverages.
As people consume greater quantities of high fructose corn syrup -- and we consume it in record amounts, in the United States -- it plays cruel games with our blood sugar levels. Keep it up long enough, and the pancreas -- the organ designed to regulate levels of blood sugar -- burns out and becomes incapable of regulating blood sugar at all. If you want to find a reason for the epidemic of diabetes and obesity in the United States, you don't need to look much further than corn syrup and those subsidies for agribusiness.
I don't have any of the common symptoms of diabetes -- I'm not incessantly thirsty, my blood pressure is fine, I heal at a normal rate, and my vision hasn't begun to blur -- but I know better than to push my luck. I've sworn off Coke, and I hope to stay clean.
Trouble is, this isn't my first time quitting. I've realized before that I was drinking too much of the stuff, and I kicked the habit cold-turkey, for a week, two weeks, or even more than a month at one point. But the stuff is so ubiquitous, especially in the summer. Go to a barbecue, attend a party, or visit a relative, and chances are good there's going to be a Coke handy, ready to drink, just waiting.
After all, there's nothing wrong with just one, right? Moderation is everything.
Maybe for others, but not for me. My name is David Learn, and I am an addict.