Confession: I Started Drinking Diet Coke Again



I am the single most judgmental person out there when it comes to soda consumption. So judgmental, in fact, that I had to make a New Year’s resolution to stop judging people based on how they choose to absorb their liquids at the start of the Jewish New Year.

Examples: One time, my friend Rosie ordered a DC at lunch and I looked at her as if she were a child murderer, which in my mind, she essentially was because she was pregnant and I was so utterly certain that she was slowly and softly contaminating the baby with poisonous syrup water. This is now referred to, between us, as “The Incident.”

Two years before this fiasco took place, I noticed that a writer at Man Repeller brought in a can every morning. She explained that she hated coffee. I explained that she was electively giving herself cancer on at least four separate occasions — an incredibly crass comment to make, frankly — but she continued on. (Good for her, you know?)

I have never respected my in-laws as implicitly as I should (they are such wonderful people, I mean it!) simply because of how frequently they drink Diet Coke.

And yet, two weeks ago, when I was parched in spite of how much water I had been drinking, I metaphorically blindfolded myself, sauntered into a deli, went to the refrigerator, picked out a Diet Coke and proceeded to purchase it. MY WHOLE WORLD WAS FLIPPED UPSIDE DOWN. I opened the can and started drinking and I swear in that moment I could hear birds chirping and feel rose petals falling in the most gentle, swift motion across my face like feathers manufactured in a silk mill near Japan. The carbonated syrup slid down my throat as if a bubbly (pun intended) toddler on a water slide, and I swear I lost like three wrinkles from inside my furrowed brow because it was the exact quench I was looking for. Ice cold. Refreshing. Sweet. It was game over following that moment. Because like any good drug, Diet Coke keeps you coming back for more. One can is never enough. See but the thing with a legal drug that is accessible practically everywhere, including hardware stores and pharmacies where you are supposed to pick up medication that will ostensibly make you less sick, is that you can always find it, and thus drink it on demand. When you’re not thirsty, or tired. When you’re not even craving it. So, of course, I’ve been doing that, which really makes me wonder: does criticizing people that I care about for smoking cigarettes — puncturing holes and black spots in their lungs — hold any salt when I’m slowly slurping away at my own death?

Am I slurping away at my own death? I’m at such a crossroads, people. Here I’ve been trying to talk myself down the cola spiral by using the information available to me thanks to the Internet. So far its done a tremendous job reminding me of how terrible this substance is for my health. I am like 36% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and my risk of heart attack is considerably greater than that of former me, who only drank water and coffee (and wine). I’m gonna get migraines, might become depressed (need I remind you of what happened when I took Lupron?) and apparently, according to, my teeth might look like a meth user’s if I drink it enough. Says the website, “Research compared the mouths of a cocaine-user, a methamphetamine-user and a habitual diet-soda drinker, and found the same level of tooth erosion in each of them.”

But I don’t care. How fucked up is that? I’m trying not to be so hard on myself these days. And part of doing that requires letting myself go. Indulging. Consuming. Developing a new point to socialize upon so that I can empathize with fellow Diet Coke drinkers. Now we have common ground! A thread to hold us together. And if we all fall down? At least we fall together.

Update: I just opened a can. Heart beating very fast, headache setting in.

Now what?

Ready to quit again? Here’s our guide.

Photo by Krista Anna Lewis.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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