How I overcame my Coke addiction

Some people are addicted to crack. Me, I’m addicted to Coke. Pepsi, too.

I know it’s bad for me, but I drink it day and night. Sometimes I even find myself staring at my alarm clock thinking that noon, when it’s socially acceptable to drink soda, can’t come fast enough.

It’s awful, I know. And I’ve heard all the warnings.

“That’s gonna rot your teeth out,” my father will say, his words whistling through his very own set of false enamel. Yet I continue to drink the syrupy goodness without pause.

I have very few vices. Alcohol? Sure, I’ll drink it, but I can go weeks without it. Cigarettes? I bought a pack once in junior high school and never again. But put me in a room full of sodas and I become the soft drink version of Nicolas Cage in “Leaving Las Vegas.”

I’d never discriminate against a soda, either. Cherry, grape, root beer, cream, I’m an equal opportunity flavor sipper. (I even drank Crystal Pepsi in ’92 and ’93.)

But something crazy happened this summer. After a couple months of nervous procrastination and inadequate flirting, I finally built up the courage to tell a certain young lady how I felt about her. She soon miraculously agreed to accept me as her lesser half.

We hit it off on a lot of levels, too. We have similar interests and ideals. We have an almost identical sense of humor. And, most importantly, we have a freakish ability to make each other smile.

So what does all that mushy stuff have to do with my love of soft drinks? The lady friend hates soda, and the thought of me drinking it really grosses her out. I could pick my right nostril with my left pinky toe and she wouldn’t bat an eye. But if I downed a shot of Mountain Dew in her presence, she’d go into convulsions and faint.

For the first couple weeks, this wasn’t a problem. I usually don’t start drinking soda in front of a new girlfriend until a couple of months have passed anyway. It’s No. 4 on my Rules of Dating chart, just below “Try to start all new relationships in late August; this way you can get eight months in before the Mets are again playing meaningful baseball games.” (Thank God the Amazins collapsed a little earlier this year.)

The past few weeks have been a struggle, though. The other night a friend poured himself a glass of Pepsi right in front of us. I found myself staring every time he raised the drink to his mouth. Pretending it was Sprite, I sipped my water.

That’s not to say I haven’t been drinking soda at all. For a while I was down to about a glass per day. This past week I indulged only twice. But I never drink it in front of her, which really makes me feel like I’m meeting Dr. Pepper in a seedy motel every time I twist a cap.

My goal is to live soda-free by October.

And that’s not the only lifestyle change this new relationship has brought upon me. I’m actually eating green things on the reg for the first time since I went through a mint chocolate chip ice cream binge in the mid-’90s. I even went to the gym this week. If I keep it up, pretty soon I’ll only have to lower the weights a peg or two when I follow up middle-aged women on the machines.

Sorry if this column makes it seem as though I’m complaining. Truth is, this new Grant’s doing pretty well. The other day, we went grocery shopping. As we made our way up the soda aisle, I ran my hand against a two-liter bottle of Sunkist as she walked ahead. We then went home and I didn’t think about soda again.

Yup, my unhealthy run with high fructose corn syrup is just about over. Instead, I’m spending my time with a great girl and some subpar beverages. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Grant Parpan is the web editor for Times/Review Newsgoup. He can be reached at [email protected] or 631-744-0404, ext. 20.