Diet Coke Addict Was Drinking 14 Two-Liter Bottles Every Week

Illustration for article titled Diet Coke Addict Was Drinking 14 Two-Liter Bottles Every Week

"I didn't think of it as an addiction. It was an everyday thing," explains 36-year-old Claire Ayton. "I was always thirsty."

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I can still clearly remember when I hit rock-bottom, personally.

I woke up in a dirty, disheveled house on the south side of town. The previous owners had died more than a year ago and a group of squatters had moved in and installed a soda fountain.

Each day, a motley assortment of addicts would wander in off the street, some following directions from friends or friends-of-friends, some simply following their noses which had become highly attuned to sniffing out the distinctive smell of caramel coloring and potassium benzoate mixing together. Some of these addicts would pay in wads of bills, soaked with palm sweat (and maybe tears of desperation); others would pay with change collected at freeway off-ramps and shopping mall parking lots; still others would swap sexual favors for their next fix of what was colloquially referred to as "the brown bubbly".

My head was throbbing and the dull ache in my left arm had steadily gotten worse over the past few weeks. I reached for one of the dozens of nearly-empty cans surrounding my motionless body. I knew I couldn't even open my eyes until I had at least a little of my "medicine" inside me. I swallowed down a massive gulp of tepid, flat (and probably half-backwashed) junk and steeled myself to finish waking up.

Laying next to me was a wanted murderer from Trinidad who had spent the previous evening attempting to flirt with me at 1,000 words per minute as he flitted around the filthy confines of the room we were in like a discombobulated hummingbird. He was wearing only his pants, which were unbuckled, revealing a dried, brown spot on the lower part of his stomach. I found out later that, in my altered state, he had convinced me to do DC shots out of his bellybutton- an event I had absolutely no recollection of.

I stumbled out of this Coke House, winced at the bright afternoon sun before donning my sunglasses and walking down to the pay phone outside the local drugstore where we often purchased our straws and, on particularly wild nights, our vanilla extract. I picked up the handset and dialed the number I had not dialed in years, but still knew by heart.

After two rings, I heard, "Hello?"

"Daddy?" I said like the penitent child I was, "I'm ready to come home. I don't wanna do this anymore."