For many decades (“many” is a relative term, I’m only 42), I avoided any vice I perceived as potentially addictive because 3 out of 4 of my grandparents were alcoholics. In my early twenties, I decided that I would never marry a man that drank alcohol regularly because addictions scared me to death! Now, I face my own addiction to soda. Fourteen years ago, I began my daily ritual of buckling my three kids (ages 8, 1, and a baby) in the car and going to a drive-thru to grab a coke. My 8-year-old most likely had ADHD and was having a challenging time transitioning from daycare/private school to public school. I had given birth to twins the year before and one had died. The remaining twin was certainly high needs and, as my husband recollects, “When I left for work in the morning, Patrick was screaming. When I got home at night, Patrick was screaming. Did he ever stop crying?” No, Patrick didn’t. The receptors in his skin were premature and very sensitive, and he had lost his womb buddy (or, as my husband calls it, his “battle buddy”) three days after birth. Patrick was distraught emotionally and physically and wasn’t easily consoled due to his skin sensitivity. When we touched him, it hurt. Holding him usually took his cries up a notch, which left me feeling inadequate as I sat beside his playpen, helpless, watching him cry it out. I was pregnant with my rainbow baby, Brook Lynne, by the time grieving Patrick was 3 months old. Morning sickness made life feel even tougher. I have many memories of laying on the couch, nauseous, with fussy Patrick crying on my chest.
By the time Brook Lynne was born, we had moved to the country, desperately trying to find a school Bryan flourished at. I enrolled him in the local public school 20 minutes away. That is when I first remember driving through the Beverage Barn (the local drive through convenience store) and “grabbing a coke”. Oh, how I cherished those few peaceful moments, all the kids strapped safely into their carseats, a movie on the dvd player in the suburban, and I, “alone” with my thoughts.
As Patrick grew he finally quit crying, although “spitting up” stuck with him. I can recall one instance when he was 4 years old and my mom asked me, “Does Patrick still throw up a lot?” Just then, I looked into her kitchen and Patrick threw up cake with green icing. I chuckled, “Yes,” and got up to clean up the mess. I was most likely counting the moments until the visit was finished and I could get my now 4 children back in their carseats where they could do no damage and I could drive through the Beverage Barn on my way home.
“Grabbing a coke” became a cathartic experience, cleansing me from the toxic emotions that I stuffed and stacked up during the day. That first, soothing drink of bubbling cola opened the flood gates. With each subsequent fizzy sip, the tension slowly dissipated, one bubble at a time.
Fast forward 14 years, and I still look forward to loading the kids up and grabbing a coke as we run around accomplishing our daily errands. I successfully kicked the soda habit for 6 months during my last pregnancy, but picked it right back up when Silas proved to be high needs. I kicked sugar and caffeine again later and lasted for 6 weeks, then picked it back up again on a particularly stressful day. I realize now that the battle really isn’t against the evil sweeteners and scientifically conjured chemicals that make up my favorite drink. The battle is with myself. Drinking a soda is how I console myself. I have tried drinking sweet tea; I kept Bill Millers in business during my pregnancy with Silas. Several years ago I switched to ordering my sweet tea “half and half” (half sweet and half unsweet), but that, too, was short lived. Recently, I tried drinking Bai drinks (they are yummy!), but that didn’t work long-term either.
The battle rages on. The act of drinking a cold fountain drink erases my irritation with the truck that just cut me off, forgives my stubborn teenager that has spent the last hour arguing with me, and encourages me to keep on keepin’ on with that college assignment that I have already spent 12 hours on in that day alone. This fall, I enrolled the kids in our local homeschool co op and we joined 4-H Shooting Sports. Patrick (15 years old) started working at a friend’s corn maze and Brook Lynne (14 years old) works as a mother’s helper for a friend with 2 kids 2 and under (read: babysitter so that their mom can get things done at home). We did none of this last year, which has led to a tremendous learning curve! My personal flaws have been illuminated in all of this, for which I am thankful. And God has shown His Presence over and over again. For now, a fountain drink a day remains a staple in my diet. I am putting off tackling my soda addiction until a later time. First, I need to deal with me and the emotions behind my habit.
Then, soda, we will meet again.