Wednesday, July 11, 2012


by Elizabeth

It's a total non-secret that my husband is a complete Diet Coke addict. His family knows it, his friends know it, his coworkers and boss and probably Bill Gates know it. I joke, but I mean it, that his liver is caramel colored. And really, he doesn't care. As addictions go, it's hopefully more or less benign. All rats die of cancer anyway, or so my mother posits.

He didn't just wake up one day addicted, of course. It happened over time, years perhaps, with a couple of notable events fueling the progress. The non-stop drive from New York to California in order to make it home for Father's Day, for instance. My father-in-law loves to recount opening the back door of the car and having dozens of cans spill out. Non-stop drive, did you not hear? No time for trash, just chuck it in the back! Another formative organ brownifier? Early in his career, he had a lot of overnight shifts. Ya gotta fuel that lack of sleep somehow, and what better than Diet Coke to get you through the night? And then there's parenthood. We all need a little something to get us through. We are both teetotalers, just 'cuz we hate the taste of likker, so Diet Coke played savior many a late night with the firstborn, also known as The Colic Kid.

Like I said, it could be worse. Not to be flip, but to be flip, think meth, coke (with a lower case c), copious quantities of Samuel Adams. Yeah, as addictions go, not too bad, really.

And it's not like I don't have addictions of my own. It's a known fact in the family that I cannot eat just one Skinny Cow. Eat one, eat two. And very occasionally, I must ask myself: if I eat three Skinny Cows in one sitting, does that make me skinny? Or does it make me a cow?

But I can go weeks without eating a single one of those delicious little babies. (I've given up ice cream for Lent for the past three or four years, and I'm not even a Catholic.) I like a little Diet Coke myself, too, for that matter, though these days Diet Cherry 7-Up is floating my boat. Yes, that was me with four bottles of it in my cart at the grocery store today, thanks for asking. And I've been known to go on a vegetable beef soup bender once or twice, come to think of it, eating it literally three meals a day for a week at a stretch. Yes, that includes breakfast. Don't judge.

Lately, and by "lately" I mean the past many, many (many) months, it's been Words With Friends. I realized tonight that I've been playing with one stranger for a full year. Another probably a good six months. Strangest of all, my mother-in-law. (I just put that in there to see if she's reading.) I think I have about eight games going at the moment, and when that isn't enough, I sometimes do a pass and play game by my lonesome. Just for the record, I murder myself every time we play.

So my addictions have the benefit of variety, if not dedicated passion. Which might be the problem sometimes.

I've made no secret of the fact that I sometimes struggle with a regular writing schedule. There are times I am at it every day, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel. Other times though? Let's just say my notebooks aren't littering the driveway every familial holiday.

The thing is, writing is a muscle for most of us, not an addiction. The difference is (and I have been a dedicated, if lazy, gym-goer for nearly ten years) that with a muscle, you work it, and it sometimes hurts, but it hurts more if you don't use it, so you keep it up. With an addiction, you kind of have no choice, you do it because you pretty much can't not do it, whether it hurts or not. That's the kind of addiction I'd like: one to writing. All the time, brainlessly at times, and hungry to get back to it when I am not like the biggest caffeine-starved headache seen this side of the Mississippi--or that side, come to think of it. A compulsion to write that colors my innards, that stains my skin with ink, that keeps me going long past reason would suggest it's time to pull over and rest.

For now, it's all about muscle, though. Trudging to the computer, to the notebook, because I know what I want, and what I have to do to get there. Working even harder if a Skinny Cow turns into three, if Words drains an hour. And if I need a little fuel? Good news: in this house, we never run out of caffeine.

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