I’m a Diet Cocaholic. I make no bones about it: Diet Coke will rust my bones. Until then, I move much more rapidly than I otherwise would, when I move at all.

Nevertheless, I’m trying my best to begin Diet Coke recovery, fully aware that I’ll fail. Thanks to my Higher Power, I’ve:

  • Admitted I am powerless over my general lethargy and that my life had become unmanageable or at least lacked anything to manage in the first place.
  • Come to believe that a Higher Power can restore me to sanity, and that Higher Power is caffeine.
  • Made a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of caffeine as I understand caffeine, and there’s not much to understand.
  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself, which took approximately thirteen seconds due to my amorality.
  • Become entirely ready to have caffeine remove all my defects of character, which is asking a lot of a soft drink, even one that serves as my Higher Power.
  • Humbly asked caffeine to remove my shortcomings, though it doesn’t affect my longcomings.
  • Made a list of all the persons I’ve harmed, but that list was much shorter than the list of people who’ve harmed me, so to hell with it.
  • Continued to take a personal inventory of my refrigerator and, when I realized I wrongly calculated the amount of Diet Coke required for the week, promptly admitted it.
  • Sought to improve my conscious contact with caffeine as I understood caffeine and my knowledge of caffeine’s will for me and the power to carry that will out to the point of absolute mania.
  • Experienced awakening at all as a result of these steps, and carry this message to other addicts, so that they might drink caffeine prior to and after all their affairs, sexual and otherwise.

Twelve bullets for twelve ounces. Now, let’s list a few of the slogans Diet Coke has provided us, along with questions that the Coca-Cola Company might wish to answer:

  • The one of a kind. (Aren’t you forgetting Diet Coke Black Cherry, Diet Coke Vanilla, Diet Coke Light Citra, Diet Coke Plus, Diet Coke Sweetened with Splenda, Diet Coke Light with Lemon, Diet Coke Light with Lime, Diet Coke with Raspberry, and Diet Vanilla Coke?)
  • Taste it all. (Including the backwash?)
  • You are what you drink. (Then why don’t I weigh 12 ounces instead of 200 pounds?)
  • Get the taste of it. (What’s to get?)
  • Live Your Life. (You mean, I have a choice?)
  • Do what feels good. (So you know all Diet Coke drinkers are nihilists?)
  • It’s a Diet Coke thing. (You mean, the plastic bottle? Isn’t that kind of a Pepsi thing, too?)
  • Life is how you take it. (And I take it altered; can you put the cocaine back in?)
  • Light it up! (You think I don’t know that you know that crap makes me paranoid?)
  • What life should be like. (True; can you investigate caffeine gene therapy to eliminate the urination problem?)

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PAUL A. TOTH's Airplane Novel, already a Midwest Book Review Reviewer's Choice and the 9/11 novel, is available now. His other novels include Finale, Fishnet and Fizz. Click here to visit his sites.

17 responses to “Diet Coke: The Really Poor Man’s Crack”

  1. Simon Smithson says:

    One of my favourite (and unfortunately, totally mythological) language barrier stories is the one about the introduction of Coke’s ‘Coke adds life!’ marketing campaign into mainland China. The way the legend goes, it was translated as ‘Coke returns ancestors from the grave!’

    Now that’s a soda I could get behind.

  2. Paul A. Toth says:

    Now we need a New and Improved Diet Coke with the slogan “Coke adds a LOT of life” plus the Chinese spin: “Coke returns YOU from the grave!” In that case, I’m all for boring a hole into the ground, through my coffin, and into what remains of my mouth, so that Diet Coke can be poured down my skeletal throat and return me to a slightly-better world!

  3. Paul A. Toth says:

    No bones but lots of money…from me! There’s nothing like the shame of going to the cash register with eight two-liters of Diet Coke. And I’m in too much of a state of denial to admit how many days that lasts.

  4. Greg Olear says:

    I’m also addicted to DC. And I should add here that Diet Pepsi is ass.

    I stopped buying it at home. That’s the rule now. Can only drink it when I’m out. Seltzer with a tiny bit of cheap red wine also helps numb the pain somewhat…

  5. Paul A. Toth says:

    I will admit to buying ass when it’s cheap enough. On the other hand, my Diet Coke habit isn’t much cheaper than an alcohol habit. I’d mainline it, but I don’t think my veins would appreciate carbonated blood. I am considering installing a urinal in my office, preferably near enough the PC so that I can continue multitasking.

  6. Irene Zion says:

    I can’t bear it, Paul, when I run out of Coke Zero Cherry.
    I probably drink a case a day.
    We need each other.

  7. Irene Zion says:

    That could have been misinterpreted.
    Diet Coke Zero Cherry and I need each other.
    Not you.
    Wasn’t talking about you.

  8. Paul A. Toth says:

    A case a day, Irene? I think we’re on par. We’re definitely on the same golf course! We need a screening checklist. I should have included it in my post.

    So here it is, the SAP Diet Coke abuse screening test:

    Do you SPEND more than twenty dollars a week on Diet Coke?
    Do you drink more Diet Coke than you know will ALLOW you to sleep?
    Do you ever think you have a PROBLEM with Diet Coke?

  9. That Diet Dr. Pepper gives DC a run for his (um, her?) money, though, no?

    Very cool little piece. I’ve always tried to parse the complex flavor of Diet Coke. It’s so strange.


  10. Paul A. Toth says:

    Diet Coke does indeed have a “flavor” that’s hard to describe. It’s that oddity that separates it from the far-inferior Diet Pepsi. My best description would be that it’s very near the taste of water with a weird little bite that’s not exactly sweet but also not completely lacking taste. Or something.

    I’ll drink Dr. Pepper if it’s on sale, but it’s not quite my bag. Still, caffeine is, I’m sure, what we all share in our reprehensible abuse of diet soft drinks, for which we must ask one god or another to remove our personal defects, if only any such god weren’t far too busy with the earthquakes.

  11. I love Diet Coke – soooo – much.
    Yes, we had to ban it from the house – since we both work alot from home – it was getting out of control.

    I always say it cuts right through the badness. I get that bite you’re referring to.
    Diet Coke – it cuts right through. Like a knife. Diet Knife.
    I remember fondly the 80’s slogan – Just For the Taste Of It. DIET COKE!
    I think they were trying to prove that a diet soda could taste as good as regular – well, duh people!

    Also Diet Dr. Pepper, I have figured out, tastes like raisins.

  12. Paul A. Toth says:


    I work at home, too. Weirdly enough, though, my “addiction” has converted into more night-time than day-time drinking. However, there’s nothing like that first drink of Diet Coke in the morning. I could never drink the disgusting product known as coffee. A hot drink in the morning? No thanks. I need something cold; it’s a cold shower for the taste buds! There’s a slogan.

    Also, I regret that I tastelessly entitled this essay, “Diet Coke: The Really Poor Man’s Crack.” Actually, I believe that crack may be less expensive.

  13. Here’s a question for you, Paul.

    What’s your favorite form of Diet Coke?
    There’s something really satisfying about opening a can of DC.
    But, I think my favorite all-time way I like to experience DC is fountain DC.
    Bottles don’t do it – I need the metal can or the extra added fountainey goodness.
    And speaking of fountainey goodness, have you been to the Coca Cola Museum in Atlanta?
    At the end the end of the tour, you get to have as much soda as you want – there is a fountain
    room – I was so jacked up afterward – talk about crack.

  14. Paul A. Toth says:

    I like my Diet Coke like I like my spine: straight. I was going to say “women,” but that would be offensive, so I had better not even mention it.

    I’m personally a fan of plastic’s taste, so I prefer the two-liter “40 ouncer of Diet Cokes,” as I call it. I can always be found at home with a two-liter nearby. It’s a time management thing.

    As to the museum, if I ever go to Atlanta, I may visit. In the meantime, I suggest they convert the museum into a shrine, as our higher power deserves one!

  15. Marni Grossman says:

    I’m a person who goes into a bar and orders a Diet Coke. I feel like an asshole, but I’m not being cheap. I just really really like the taste.

  16. Paul A. Toth says:

    To Marni:

    Better to feel like an asshole drinking a Diet Coke than to turn into an asshole drinking something stronger!

    ~ Paul

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