Monday, June 27, 2011

The Sick Skiers Incident

I am addicted to caffeine.

I get worse headaches around 5pm from a day without caffeine than a night of drinking. I get more irritable and weepy without caffeine than PMS in high school. I get more homicidal rage without caffeine coursing through my veins than Hannibal Lec- okay, you get the picture.

I drink maybe two of three sodas a day. Or starbucks in the morning and two or three sodas later. The folks at my corner starbucks not only know my name, but my drink preferences depending on the weather and how tired I look, and major life events. I went there religiously first semester at 7:30am before my movement class, spending ungodly amounts on flavored, sugared, chocolatey espresso concoctions. I think they liked me because I was never like "soy, skim, no sugar, extra crushed iced, pretentious blah blah blah" but usually "can I get extra whipped cream? Of course I want WHOLE milk." They took pity on my at Starbucks because it was 1) always ungodly early and 2) after a bad breakup, and expensive coffee was one of my few comforts. Which the baristas heard about. In detail.

Anyways, free Sbux publicity aside, I know how bad caffeine is for you, being Dr. Dad's kid. I know caffeine addiction is a hop, skip and jump away from being a dope fiend. Yesterday I'm asking my friends in the drama department for an extra quarter so I can get a soda before rehearsal; next week I'm Marion from Requiem for a Dream doing ungodly things on a coffee table for more heroin. It's a vicious cycle.

I tried to quit, once. I really did. This is my harrowing story of recovery and descent back into madness.

New Year's Eve my sophomore year of high school: I decided to give up caffeine. Namely, soda and coffee.  At this point I drank maybe four or five cans a day, and it was seriously messing with my sleep and bladder. at 11:59pm, I ruefully drank the last few gulps of orange soda in my can. I wished the flavor would linger forever.

The first couple weeks were brutal. The irritability, the mood swings - I was going through actual WITHDRAW. The headaches were the worse - not completely debilitating like a migraine, where you know if you just pop some excedrin you can sleep it off. These headaches lingered, gnawing at the back of brain. It would be so simple to cure them, I thought... just a couple sips of soda. No one would know. But I held firm. In my weakest moments I - dare I say it - allowed my mom to brew me black, black tea. It didn't really count, I thought, sipping it greedily like a strung-out junkie at a methadone clinic.

I also developed the attitude often seen in recovering addicts or, more similarly, people who have picked up a new dieting craze. OH! The health benefits! I feel like a new person! The world is my oyster! Everything that was wrong in my life was because of soda! Why isn't everyone giving up soda! They must be weak - I must spread the word! I am so much better than all these poor saps still fettered to the yoke of caffeine addiction!

This exultations would usually bring on another withdraw headache, and I'd curl up in a ball on the couch for two hours.

Then came the youth group ski trip. We were going to the mountains of west virginia to go skiing. We got to ride in a big van (I hoped I'd sit next to a cute boy) for hours. It was going to be just the best thing ever.

After some really spicy Bojangles for dinner, we continued our drive north. I finished my water in two minutes and thirstily opened the cooler to grab -

The cooler was entirely stocked with soda.

Not a water bottle or juice box to be found.

I couldn't  just grab a soda. I would be a HYPOCRITE. In front of church friends! Church friends were always doing something naughty, like getting to second base, but never in front of everyone (eww). They would judge me.

"Well," I said smugly, trying to hide the fact that my mouth felt like sandpaper and the can of soda felt so sleek and sinful in my hand."I guess I'll just have to wait until the next stop to get some water. I have given up soda for New Years' and I am going to STICK WITH IT." Cue appreciative gasps from the rest of the kids (and probably eye rolls from the adult supervisors).

Two things happened in quick succession. One of the guys offered to share his water bottle, and a couple of my friends also declared they wanted to give up sodas too. Right then. We could keep each other accountable. Christian friends are all about accountability. It makes you feel superior when someone else screws up. It helps you stick with your goal. Also we got to share a water bottle with a boy.

"Oh ha," we laughed. "Hope none of us get sick! Otherwise we'd all be in trouble."

Cue the owner of the water bottle violently vomiting the entire next day.

Those of us who rode in the van, in such close proximity, looked at each other in horror after the full day of skiing. We had breathed the same air. Touched the same stuff. And for half of us - drank the same water. I might as well have been a 14th-century Snow White and accidentally called a sea of rats to clean my cottage. Sure, things would looks pristine and I would still have my dignity... as I died a vicious death from bubonic plague. We enjoyed our last few hours of life on the way back. I think one of the trip leaders even lead a prayer about how we knew we were going to get sick, but at least make it quick and as painless as possible. Two people in a different van fell out on the way home. Frequent stops.

I thankfully lasted another couple hours, but when I woke up in the middle of Sunday night, I knew I was a goner.

Between vomiting, I shooed away my Lady Mother's offering of soda to settle my stomach with carbonation and help balance my electrolytes (my parents are all about some electrolytes whenever me or Little Watz gets sick).

"Drink this! Ginger ale is good for you. It doesn't count as soda because you're so sick. You need it to restore your electrolytes."
"WOMAN," I shouted as I clung to the toilet. "I cannot give up now just because I'm sick. This is just a test. I can get through this. Get me gatorade. Or ice chips. Soda will not touch my lips. TRIAL BY FIRE (1 Peter 1:7 reference. 1000 good Christian girl points)." I alternate between really mean and really pathetic when I'm sick. "What does it matter? I'm probably going to die... sniff, sniff, at least I'll have remained resolute to my resolution until the bitter end."

I managed to overcome my sickness without a drop of soda. Those of us who drank from the bottle were hit the hardest. One of my friends called me the next day, equally sick and miserable, to admit she had drank some coca-cola to settle her stomach. I felt a little better. Morally. Physically, I think I threw up again.

I kept to my goal until summer came around. It was hot. I was bored. No one really cared that I wasn't drinking soda anymore. I think the first thing I drank was a Pepsi. Nothing significant happened. So I drank another. And another. (Though to be fair, only half the cans. I rarely drink a whole can. I tend to leave them around the house, half drunk, a testament to my presence. One day Lady Mother went around and stuck sticky notes to all of the cans, saying "EXHIBIT A" and so forth. I was not amused.)

I asked Lady Mother to hide the sodas, to maybe deter my cravings. I found them later that day, not so creatively hidden under my parents' bed. Really? What a lame hiding place.

With the challenge and my scruples gone, I returned to my caffeine-imbibing ways without much fanfare. Every now and then, usually on a weekend when I'm off my schedule, a certain gray headache will reach its bitter talons around my frontal and temporal lobes.

"Remember me?" It will ask with its fizzy, effervescent sweetness. And I will oblige.

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