I Quit Drinking Alcohol Years Ago, but Why Can’t I Stop Drinking Soda?


It’s been almost two months since I drank. I think about relapsing every single day. I want the chill in my hand. I want to hear the kshhh sound when you pull the tab, and then the fizz when you pour it over a frosty glass of ice. I want to taste the icy sweetness with the crisp twist.


Back in 2004, I would have been talking about my beloved Corona.

But now, in 2017, it’s soda. Any soda. All sodas. It’s fancy ginger beer and bodega pineapple. It’s Sprite. Mountain Dew. Coke. Sodas that have no other title except Red, Orange or Blue.

My name is Aliya. And I’m a sodaholic.

How did I get here? I’m not sure. Like many addictions, it seems like it crept up on me. You can ask anyone who knows me well—soda has never been my thing.

In 2004, I realized I needed to leave alcohol alone. Like, forever. And by default, I didn’t drink much soda, either. For 20 years, all my entire adult life, I never had soda in my household if it wasn’t left over from an event.

Like, never. It was just unheard of for me to be at the grocery store and say, Oh that’s right, we need a 2-liter of Pepsi. Good thing it’s on sale (no judgment—the amount of cookie dough in my cart was just as unhealthy).


I think my issue with soda started around the time I began taking a nonnegotiable medication that’s known to have extreme thirst as a side effect. And for some reason, over time, water wasn’t cutting it anymore. I felt the need for something sweet, icy and fizzy.

Within months, I was drinking soda almost every day. And because my 10-year-old daughter would see it in the fridge, she started to drink it, too. I had to shut her down. Which meant I had to figure out how to drink my sweet, icy, fizzy nectar on the low.


And that’s how I found myself drinking soda the same way I once drank alcohol.

I was double-fisting sodas while out on a date with New Bae so he didn’t know I had more than one—or two. I would drink a soda in the kitchen while talking to a friend. And then have a soda outside while talking to him.


I started keeping bags of chips on hand. Because no one ever questions why you’re drinking soda if you’re eating chips. But if you’re eating oatmeal, it raises an eyebrow. If I ordered takeout, I based my decision on what soda choices the place offered.

Soon I was up to two sodas every single day. One with lunch or dinner and one late night. If my daughter was home, I had one when she was at school and one after she went to bed. I was sure to toss any evidence before the next morning.


And then something happened, and I realized it was time to make some changes.

One morning I woke up, stretched and headed to the fridge. I saw a half-empty orange Fanta. I picked it up, shrugged and guzzled it down. Sweet. Icy. Fizzy.


But wait. Was I really drinking half-flat orange soda at 6 in the morning? Really? For as long as I can remember, morning was for water and milk and maybe orange juice. And lots of coffee. I’ve always loved lemonade and sweet tea, so I’m not anti-sugar. But something about straight-up soda first thing in the morning seemed like I was going too far.

I decided it was time for the soda to go. I tossed all the empty cans and bottles (just as I had with my beloved Coronas way back when). I told myself it was over—back to water, juice, milk and coffee.


I had a soda that same day. Sweet. Icy. Fizzy.

What the hell?

Every day that week, I said soda was done. And then I had one anyway.

Now, I quit alcohol cold turkey. I simply said I’m done. And that was THAT. I wasn’t tempted at bars. I didn’t look at alcohol lovingly. It was just over. I don’t drink alcohol anymore. Got any juice?


Giving up soda has been more difficult than giving up alcohol. And to all my good folks back home in Drinkytown, I know it may seem sacrilegious to say that. I can only speak my truth.

If there was a rehab for sodaholics, I would go.

Here we are, two months later. I’m soda-free. It’s so hard, y’all. I want a soda. Still. I thought about having a Diet Coke the other day. That’s not soda, right? What about those drinks that are mostly fruit flavor mixed with sparkling water? Sigh. Might as well be soda. I know better. They’re a gateway drug.


Things got better when I rediscovered Pellegrino. IT IS EVERYTHING AND IT IS NOT SODA (if you get in the comments and tell me anything different, I’ll get you blocked).

It’s icy. It’s fizzy. It’s soda-strong but has no sugar. I’m sure the fizz eats off my tooth enamel and burns out my stomach lining—but I know it’s better than soda.


A few months ago, I thought about posting about my soda struggles on Facebook. But before I could, an interesting thing happened.

There was an uproar regarding … I honestly can’t remember. But people started boycotting one of the major soda companies. And folks were commenting stuff like, “Well, this boycott will be easy. Who drinks soda these days?” And then more folks would chime in with, “I haven’t had soda since 1989 and that was in a root beer float,” or stuff like, “Soda? I don’t think I’ve ever tasted it.”


I’m not sure why, but soda is the gravest of sins. Hennessy? Completely socially acceptable. Weed? If that’s your thing, do you. It’s legal in plenty of places. Tell someone you indulge in ice cream sundaes, wine, chocolate bars, Twinkies—people shrug and say everything in moderation.

Soda to excess? In my circles, it’s a clutch-the-pearls no.

I think folks are lying. First of all, people who have mixed drinks at the bar probably drink as much soda as I did in an average weekend. I think my people drink way more soda then they admit—even my granola-vegan peoples. They know as well as I do. Orange soda goes pretty good even with tofu and kale scrambles.


I’m determined to keep soda banned from my life. The problem is that I’ve now become a huge fan of strawberry lemonade and sweet tea. I know, I know—ultimately, I need to give up sugar. Is there a rehab for that? Actually, don’t answer. I don’t want to know.

Aliya S. King, a native of East Orange, N.J., is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books. She has written professionally since 1998.


I swapped out some soda for sparkling water.