I wake up thirsty three or four times throughout the night. My mouth is so dry I can hardly move my tongue. It feels as if it is turning to stone. I cannot wait until I get up so I can taste it. The moment my eyes open and the morning light forces its way through the tiny openings of my striped curtains, I need it- the drink. My husband is already gone, so I let the dog outside and walk straight to the refrigerator. My sweet tea- It awakens me like nothing else. The cold, smooth sweetness flows through my hot, bitter mouth and gives me the happiness that should not come from a beverage. I imagine this is what a desert would feel like if an ocean flooded it. Sometimes I swear I saw steam rise from my face when I lowered my glass.
I realize an addiction to sugar seems improbable, but it is real. Most addiction is to drugs or alcohol, however, mine is an unusual struggle. Sugar is my drug of choice. When I don’t have it, I suffer withdrawal-like symptoms. They are not nearly as serious as drugs, but similar. I feel weak and begin to sweat. My hands shake, and I become irritable. I get a horrible headache that will last about two days or until I find a soda. I have been through this many times. After these days, I always consider not drinking tea or sodas again so I can be rid of them. But I always come back. Why would I quit? Sweet drinks are my favorite thing in the world. They take the pressure off anything wrong in my life.
I didn’t have much sugar as a kid; it was a treat as sugar should be. I did have cereal for breakfast every morning. On Saturdays, my mother and I would go shopping in our small town in Nebraska, and we would always stop at the big Exxon station in town for a fountain Coke. It was such an exciting event- going somewhere simply to enjoy such an intense, perfect drink. They always taste best on ice.
As a lot of couples do, when my husband and I were married, we had sodas at every meal along with a large portion of unhealthy foods. We began crash dieting occasionally to counteract the sugar and fat that was overtaking us. After our daughters was born, my husband decided we should get serious about our health. He started going to the gym and cutting carbs and fat; he always encouraged me to do the same. However, I held extra pregnancy pounds from three children that made this concept seem hopeless. At two-hundred and sixty pounds, I couldn’t imagine being able to stay away from sweets long enough to make a difference.
“I want to live long enough to see our grandchildren grow up,” he would say. I sincerely agreed, but it was so hard, and I kept slipping.
After my morning tea, I head to work. During lunch, I grab a small lunch with a large Dr. Pepper. On my way to pick up my kids from school, my mouth has that dry, bitter taste again that I must satisfy. I know I am about to pass 7-11 which has the best Dr. Peppers on fountain. The day is most chaotic when I get home. There is dinner, cleaning, homework, baths, and a lot of noise. I find a hidden place to stash my empty cups and wrappers before my husband comes home. After dinner, I need something sweet. I grab a soda and a big piece of chocolate fudge cake while the kids are doing their homework.
I usually eat in the bathroom, so no one sees. I leave the bathroom with an empty cup and a chocolate-smeared plate to see my husband waiting for me. I know it’s coming when he gives me that same disappointed look. He is sitting in his chair with his slim, perfect body that has not licked a cookie in months. He explains what it is doing to my body and how he wants us to grow old together instead of my dying before we can retire together. I know all this.
“One day, the kids will be gone, and I hope we can grow old together, “he says.
I say, “I want that too,” and I genuinely mean it.
He reminds me, “look at the example you’re setting for them.” I look over at our beautiful, healthy girls who are drinking some of my tea, and I know it’s my fault for having it in the house. I sincerely hate myself when I see them pick up a sweet that I bought or introduced to them.
With tears in my eyes, I say that I’m going to really try. I think about cutting down gradually, so it won’t be so bad. Maybe for a few days, I do it, but before going to bed, I open the refrigerator door. I must make sure I have enough tea for tomorrow morning.
About the author
I am originally from Louisiana. I currently live in Oklahoma with my husband and son. I am a senior at the University of Oklahoma. I love grammar and proofreading, and I'd like to pursue that as well as professional writing.