My Coke Zero Methadone

People have been asking me how I’m dealing with my Lent-esque commitment to keep from drinking Coke Zero through Easter. The answer is that it’s been going pretty well. The commitment was to stop drinking Coke Zero, but I took it as an opportunity to also scale back the amount of caffeine I was drinking. This had the effect of me not being able just to switch over to, say, Mountain Dew or Doctor Pepper. I could have and been in the letter of the law of the agreement with my daughter, but it would have felt like violating the spirit of the agreement.

So Coke Zero intake is zero (heh), and the caffeine intake is way down. Not absent completely — I had vending machine flavored coffee today (white chocolate caramel English toffee) which I suspect had just a touch — but nowhere near as much as I have habitually had in my system day in and day out.

I had also planned to scale back the amount of soda I drank in general, but that was meeting with somewhat more qualified success. It turns out that staying hydrated is a fine way to avoid feeling hungry, and without soda I was doing a not particularly great job at remaining hydrated; we have well water here and even the best filters don’t quite get the well out of the water. As a result I started jamming food into my face. After gaining about three pounds in a week, I decided the goal of totally avoiding soda could wait for another time.

So the above are my compromise: zero-calorie, zero-caffeine fruit-flavored sparkling water, which is to say, soda, only not marketed as such to allow people like me to feel slightly more virtuous about drinking them. These are a Wal-Mart store brand equivalent of Clearly Canadian, which I remember fondly from the late 80s-early 90s, and for the purposes of keeping me drinking something rather than eating my way through the pantry, they do the trick. Don’t worry, I won’t drink all of these today. There’s a dozen one-liter bottles here (each a different flavor — welcome to my OCD!) and that should get me through the week. And yes, we’re recycling the bottles.

So that’s the Coke Zero Pseudo-Lent Experiment update for this week. Only four more weeks to go. Whee!

57 Comments on “My Coke Zero Methadone”

  1. ” … fruit-flavored sparkling water, which is to say, soda …”

    Seems sorta like saying “orange juice, which is to say, Tang”. Or “champagne, which is to say, Manischewitz”.

    I can’t tell exactly what you’re referring to because the labels aren’t visible enough, but the fruit-flavored sparkling water I drink definitely isn’t soda, despite a certain vague resemblance involving water and carbonation.

  2. Just check to make sure they haven’t shoved their “healthy” water full of sugar. I fell for that once, even though it was marketed as “pure” and “good for you” it turned out not to be pure, and I’m certain something with more sugar than ginger beer cannot be terribly good for you. I always check my flavoured waters now like a hawk just to be careful.

  3. If you end up making a habit of fizzy water (flavored or otherwise), some friends of mine have one of those fizz-it-yourself machines and love it to the point of shamelesss evangelism. And I will attest that the results are (a) fizzy and (b) tasty.

  4. As Andrew said, if you’re going to fizzy water look at something like the Sodastream. It’s a lot easier than lugging all those bottles of water home, and you can make whatever you’re in the mood for.

  5. I presume, John, that you don’t have issues with aspertame. I question its safety, and really just can’t stand the taste.
    I’ve resorted to sparkling mineral water with half a lemon or lime squeezed into it.
    Ha. Now my dentist is telling me that the acid is eroding my tooth enamel. Can’t win.

  6. You mention you have well water. Do you, by any chance, have three wells, dug next to each other?

    Because I suspect that you are the kind of man that would enjoy going out to them, looking around, and saying, “Well, well, well, what do we have here.” I know I am.

  7. Wow, nostalgia. When I was a kid I drank the hell out of some Wal-Mart soda water. Thanks for the memories; guess I didn’t know they still even sold that stuff.

  8. I have a friend that had a similar problem – he stopped drinking so much soda finally when he got himself an ice tea maker. Now he drinks gallons of ice tea everyday instead of gallons of soda.

  9. If that’s the stuff with aspartame, don’t do what I did and take a swig from a bottle that had been in a 40 degree C room for a few hours. The decay products under those conditions are unpleasant; even as I was swallowing my body was sending out signals that I had made a terrible, terrible mistake.

  10. Hey I remember Clearly Canadian! I’ll have to check our nearby supermarket (upstate NY area), because as you mention it’s been years since I have bought some. Nostalgia time….

  11. The wife and I really like LaCroix sparkling water, particularly the grapefruit and the lime varieties. Not sweetened at all, so no aspartame.

  12. I always liked the well water in the corner of Ohio where I grew up. It had just a faint tang of iron. Even up closer to the middle of the state it was good, just not flavored the same way. It was pretty hard though. I used to have to replace heating elements in my water heater every year.

    You know, if you want fizzy water without artificial sweeteners or caffeine, you could try making beer. That’s been an accepted way of making questionable water potable for a long, long time.

  13. The caffeine is going to hit you like a ton of bricks when you get back on the stuff. :-) I stopped drinking caffeinated beverages, because I found caffeine made me nervous and edgy. Now, if I forget and have a coke with my lunch or something, I am up until 2 AM. Whee! Unfortunately, I seem to learn slowly.

  14. I remember Clearly Canadian, too… haven’t seen it in forever. They still appear to exist, though – i.e., there is a website and apparently some is distributed somewhere. None anywhere near me, though. Pity.

  15. I went off caffeine on the first. I had a serious habit, and would easily go through three large coffees and four diet cokes in a day. (Cursed company does not offer Coke Zero at the workplace.) The caffeine was doing very bad things. I switched to decaf and mineral water. The mineral water took some getting useful because of the lack of sweetness, but now I am completely habituated and have essentially cut out both the caffeine and the aspartame.

    I feel a lot better. My former migraine issue is mostly gone and I am sleeping lots better. Paradoxically, I find it easier to wake up early when I need to.

  16. For what it’s worth, Coke Zero has aspartame, too. It might be worth it to look at getting bottled water for drinking. A gallon bottle of “spring” water costs probably the same as the liter bottle of “sparkling flavored water”.

  17. Since you’re into Canadian-made drinks without caffeine, you could get Canadian Mountain Dew.

  18. I’ve taken to making big pitchers of splenda sweetened caffeine free iced tea. Pretty good. And using the crystal light single packs, just at 2 – 3x diluted so they aren’t so strong. Is good. And both I can do in my water bottle.

  19. Try these water filters – my neighbour just got one and they are in LOOOVe with it

    Or try adding a squeeze of lemon to your water – tastes great and has no fizz, no sugar, doesn’t come in bottles and doesn’t add to landfill waste.

    Keep up the good work – you are on your way!

  20. John,

    If you haven’t tried a reverse osmosis filter, give one a look. They are pricey, but we love ours.

    The water from my well is hard as nails (like, 30 grains,) and tastes like a nosebleed at times, but what comes out of the RO filter tastes as good as any bottled water.

  21. What does vending machine flavor taste like?

    Like steel and plexiglass, with overtones of greasy pocket change.

  22. I second La Croix sparkling water, aka “designer water.” Yeah, it’s water, but it also comes in an aluminum can that makes you think you’re getting more soda than you really are. It comes in flavored and unflavored versions. Alas, it may not be available in Ohio — it certainly isn’t in anywhere in Champaign County, not even the gigantic Kroger’s.

  23. John,

    I grew up in NorthEast Ohio, and I know what you mean about the taste of well water. It turns out that iced tea will pretty much disguise the sulfurous or iron-oxide taste; if you drink unsweetened tea, you’re not getting much in the way of calories AND if you make sun-tea, I suspect you aren’t even getting that much of a caffeine buzz either…

  24. When I was visiting Australia lo these many years ago, they had fizzy lemonade. I got very fond of one called Taurine Spa; it wasn’t as sweet as the others, and you could taste the mineral component of the water they used, which I really liked. RE: being cautious about adding lemon or lime to your carbonated water (OMG! You’ll like, completely dissolve your teeth!), maybe use the essential flavorings from the baking aisle? No sugar or acids, just a few drops of lemon extract. Of course, the Safeway Select house brand fizzy flavored water is nigh as cheap as straight club soda, so YMMV.

  25. If you are determined to punish yourself why would you take away such a wonderful treat. Give up beer, prime rib or fried foods.

  26. I essentially gave up caffeine about a decade or so ago because I was having some cardiac issues (resolved now). I guess I was never that “addicted” to it, because I gave it up “cold turkey” with no ill effects. At this point I drink caffeinated beverages mainly when we go out someplace. Now that I’ve been off (except for going out, as I said) caffeine for so long, for whatever reason caffeinated beverages taste sickeningly sweet to me now. I’ve been trying really hard to just avoid soda, but I love Vernor’s ginger ale, and it’s hard to give up even the diet caffeine free cola I like to drink. I may not have a choice in the near future–my GP thinks I might be diabetic.

    I haven’t seen Clearly Canadian in forever…I used to drink the peach flavor like it was going outta style (maybe it did, which is why I haven’t seen it in so long?). I like the Walmart brand of sparkling water, but I think they quit making the Tropical flavor, which is the one I really liked, so I haven’t had any for a while.

  27. I kicked Diet Coke last year (tired of the cost, the occasional caffeine shakiness) and ended up finding a good way to keep hydrated. Picked up A KOR water bottle (which looks and feels like “teh futurez”) and started stocking it Crystal Light and a bits of fresh fruit juice (a table spoon of lime, lemon, POM, whatever complimented) and found it to be wonderful and much tastier. The upside of the KOR bottle was I could make enough for hours on the go. The added “prep time” was maybe 2 minutes a bottle. Totally worth it.

  28. My family refers to that stuff as “crack water,” because my mom is so addicted to it. Her dentist eventually made her cut back because it’s apparently hell on teeth.

    I do have to give the various marketers props for managing to convince a bunch of people that pop becomes water when you remove the food dye. But then, as you say, Starbucks has managed to convince us all that milkshakes are actually coffee if there’s a drop of espresso in there somewhere, so.

  29. …I had vending machine flavored coffee today (white chocolate caramel English toffee) …

    That concoction was not coffee. It was instant cocoa that wandered down a dark alley and got jacked of all its money, credit cards, and identification. Then it was stabbed twice and left to bleed out on the pavement. Its life was saved by a passing coffee wagon, but due to its significant injuries it could not remember that it was simply cocoa. A new identity was fashioned for it, possibly out of sympathy from the team of beverologists in attendance at the local hospital: Dr. Starbucks and Dr. Coke Zero.

  30. Your mention of Clearly Canadian has me nostalgic for Birch Beer, which was a favorite of mine as a child…. ever had it?

  31. “I had vending machine flavored coffee today”

    Which, of course, I parsed as ‘the coffee was flavored, such as to taste like a vending machine.’ Which, given moments of caffeine-deprived necessity (or should that be caffeine-depraved?), I have had occasion to confirm that yes, vending machine flavored coffee does indeed taste like a vending machine.

  32. I drink a lot of the Italian or French carbonated mineral waters. It’s just like a soft drink (what we call soda or pop in Oz) but it is just water. No sugar. They do have a flavour though. I liken it to drinking Dispirin (acetylsalicylic acid) dissolved in water. Badoit is my fave French and Ferrarelle or Santa Vittoria the Italian.
    Rarely ever drink Coke, the drug of choice beforehand, any more.

  33. “each a different flavor — welcome to my OCD!”

    What order are the bottles in? It’s not color. It doesn’t appear to be alphabetical, though it is hard to tell. Could it be by temperature? Because I could really respect that.

  34. I’m unsure if telling you this is going to be systematically destructive and launch you into a pop-rage like telling Bruce Banner a Yo Mamma joke, but 7up is a caffeine free drink if you’re willing to go to the blue-side and purchase Pepsi products.

  35. A hopefully interesting anecdote:

    Most of the heroin addicts of my acquaintance (More than twenty, less than a hundred) claim getting off methadone is harder than quitting heroin, the withdrawal is so harsh.

  36. Back when I was a healthy, active critter instead of the Jabba-like writer thing I currently am, I drank a lot of plain or lime-flavored sparkling water (without any sweetner). It made a huge difference in my ability to keep my weight down and remain hydrated, which I think also made my brain much happier. I quickly discovered that a squeeze of fresh lime juice or lemon in a really carbonated water tastes remarkably sweet. But I still need my tea or coffee once in a while.

  37. Just sort of echoing a lot of this — my wife discovered a couple of years ago that it wasn’t so much the flavor or sugar or caffeine of colas that she missed when trying to avoid them, but the carbonation. So, she started buying plain unflavored seltzer water ($0.89 for a 2-liter, much cheaper than the “fancy” carbonated waters with flavors and such) and adding a bit of grapefruit juice or something along those lines to it.

    Me, I can’t stand the taste or fizz of carbonation, personally.

  38. I switched to carbonated water several years ago when I realized that I just wasn’t drinking enough H2O in spite of my efforts in that direction. There is just enough of a difference to keep my palate (such as it is!) interested without a lot of the other stuff that comes with the variety of flavors.

    Who knows, you may go from a Coke Zero addiction to a carbonated water (flavored or otherwise) addiction :)

  39. Clearly a solar still would complete your need for submission to the green overlords.

  40. I’m a little curious how your daughter’s side of the agreement is holding up. Maybe she could write a guest post on the blog talking about it.

    3 … 2 … 1 … and here come people pointing out the flaw in that suggestion :) I maintain that if she wanted to do so then writing out the message (with pencil and paper) and asking you to post it would be within the letter and spirit of the agreement. Waiting until after Lent to give a summary would work as well.

  41. I have been drinking the Wal-Mart flavored seltzer for years…I really like it…not all of the flavors, but in general I find it much better than the name brands.

  42. Try switching to sparkling mineral water. Perrier, Pellegrino or the store bought equivalent. They have flavored varieties or just add a squeeze of lime or lemon.

    My wife and I made the switch from soda about two years ago. It’s not sweet (no sugar or sweetners added.) but it is carbonated. For us it had nothing to do with caffeine (I know I drink enough coffee/espresso to give an elephant insomnia.) but with how bad soda is for you in general.

    It really seems here in America we are addicted to sugary sweet foods and drinks and soda, even sugar free ones, is a symptom of this. It gets to the point where we crave these overly sweet flavors.

    At first it was a bit of a challenge but once my palette adjusted I can honestly say I’d never want to go back. I now find most sodas too sweet and only drink them when there aren’t any other options.

  43. Polar Seltzer is quite good, comes in a variety of flavors, and is pretty cheap in the big box stores. Carbonated water + flavoring; no sugar or anything else.

  44. I have one of these bad boys: Though I don’t buy their syrups. Sometimes I’ll make my own, but mostly I just mix seltzer with a spot of juice (orange juice is best). The seltzer brings out the sweetness of the juice, so you don’t end up drinking too much sugar, and you get hydrated, plus you can make it as bubbly as you want it. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

  45. Several years ago, I made the switch to iced tea- unsweetened. I still ccasionally drink a ‘real’ soft drink- usually when I’m craving something like root beer.

  46. Clearly Canadian was replaced in Wal-mart stores with Clear American – at about the time they began their first big “Made in the USA” push. In fact, the waters that John has posted are Clear American brand. For all we know, they’re made by the same company, just with a more ‘murican name.

    The raspberry apple and the tangerine lime are my family’s favorites, by the way. Kmart also has a store brand of flavored waters that has a blueberry – not blueberry pomegranate, just blueberry – that is a nicely different flavor for this sort of product.

    If i remember correctly, I believe the Wal-mart brand uses Ace-K as well as aspartame, which reduces the amount of aspartame for those people concerned about its use.

    I do realize that this is diet soda by another name, but I like the carbonation and the fruit flavors – some are far too sweet, but not all.

    I do strongly recommend using tea to replace at least some of the soda. I use my coffee maker to make a gallon of tea at a time and keep it in the fridge as iced tea. herbal teas work really well if you don’t want the caffeine.

    and forget Clearly Canadian, who remembers New York Seltzer? that was my first introduction to non-colored flavored soda water. Those disappeared very quickly once Clearly Canadian came on the scene in the late 80s.

  47. Please note: There is no such thing as Doctor Pepper. It is Dr Pepper (notice no period). Living and growing up in Texas not overly far from where it was created must have added this to one of my many many pet peeves.

  48. Never mind the fizzy pop, that coffee! What the hell is English toffee? Is it different to the rest of the world’s toffee?

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