I’ve been sitting in front of this blank computer screen, trying to decide on what to write about this week. I’m taking inventory in my mind of what I’ve done since last Sunday but it has been a rather uneventful week around here—which is a good thing usually, don’t you think? The one exciting thing that happened was our Gabi’s 16th birthday, but since she is down in Ecuador, Grandma and Grandpa missed out on any of the hoopla surrounding it. Robbie’s adventures in eating continue to be a very happy thing, but since I wrote about that last week, I won’t elaborate on it further today…
A sad thing? I must have watched at least a dozen programs pertaining to September 11, 2001 this week. Over and over I was reminded of the horror of that day from every perspective imaginable. “Never forget” was the theme running through them. I doubt any adult who witnessed the terrorist attacks of that day could forget.
A lot of my time this week has been taken with surfing the internet, looking for information about health insurance, artificial sweeteners and quantities for cooking for 300. I’m helping my friend Debby plan another banquet so I’ve been shopping on the internet for large boxes, gift wrap and ribbons and bows, and party supplies, as well. Nothing much of interest there to write about…
Wait a minute. We did have a little flap around here about artificial sweeteners—aspartame, in particular. Bob found an article on my Facebook page that warned of the evils of diet soda, especially those sweetened by aspartame. He was on the warpath. “No more diet soda!!!” he laid down the law.
Diet soda??? Hey, you’re treading on dangerous ground now! Don’t try to take away my diet soda! I was truly upset. Being diabetic, I try to avoid sweets and desserts, and for the last year or so I had cut way down on other carbohydrates as well, like chips and breads, by substituting drinking diet soda rather than eating snacks. I had lost sixty pounds in that way. Now he wanted me to give up my diet soda, too??? What could I have? It wasn’t fair! Like a little child, I was arguing and pouting on the outside, and having a real temper tantrum on the inside.
I was also thinking (although I wouldn’t admit it to Bob.) Many people who had been misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus, the article claimed, were cured of their symptoms when they gave up diet soda with aspartame. “We’ve seen many cases where vision loss returned and hearing loss improved markedly,” the article went on. ‘If you are using ASPARTAME (Nutra Sweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc) and you suffer from fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, unexplainable depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, or memory loss you probably have ASPARTAME poisoning!’
I had accused Bob of falling for everything he read on the internet. After all, the “experts” seemed to change their minds about these things every other year. One group said one thing, while others said the opposite. Who to believe? What was the truth? Another article I read said:
“People have safely consumed products containing aspartame for over thirty years. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organization, and regulatory agencies in more than 100 countries have reviewed aspartame and found it safe for use. The American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the American Diabetes Association recognize aspartame as safe.
The sweetener has been tested continuously since its introduction and its safety has been consistently re-affirmed. A study conducted by government researchers at the National Cancer Institute involved over 500,000 people, including those who drank the equivalent of three or more diet soft drinks every day for almost a decade. It found that there was no increased risk of any type of cancer even among those who consumed the most aspartame. In fact, since aspartame was first introduced, no scientific evidence has been found linking it to any disease in humans.”
As I thought about Bob’s concerns, I realized that he was only being protective of me and not trying to deprive me of anything. I also had to admit that I could tick off several of the “symptoms” the first article had listed in my own life and attributed them as part of simply growing older. What would it hurt, I wondered, to give up the aspartame for a few weeks and see if there was any change in those areas?
It was my conversation later that night with my daughter that clinched it for me. I told her about the squabble I had had earlier with her dad and said, “I was really, really upset! Every sugar-free product has aspartame in it—especially diet soda! What can I have?”
She sympathized with me for a moment (which of course, is what I was looking for) and then I said, “I admit, the last few months I’ve been a “chain pop drinker”—finish one and pour another!”
“Oh, so you’re a soda pop addict!” she accused in fun.
“Yes! Don’t take my addiction away from me!” I laughed. Suddenly, with the word addiction ringing in my ears, I stopped dead in my tracks.
In all seriousness, is that what I had become? I, who as a Christian, would never allow alcohol or tobacco to become an addiction? I, who struggled with my weight and allowing food to become an idol in my life? Why else would I have become so upset at the mere suggestion of giving it up? Why must I always have a diet soda close at hand? I was an addict—and I hated the sound of that admission!
I enjoy writing Sundays with Cindy and sharing what God has done in my life and the lives of my loved ones—and what He has to teach us through these things. It is weeks like this, however, that I don’t enjoy so much—weeks when I must confess my failures and admit that I am not perfect (Surprise!) on the internet for all to see. God sees my heart. I know how far I fall short. Why must you all know it, too? [Sad smile] The Lord won’t let me go when He lays it upon my heart to confess. His way of keeping me humble, I suspect. (After all, He told the good and the bad about the great men and women of the faith in the Bible. Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Peter, Paul—wonder how they like having their failures in black and white for all these centuries?) We learn from our failures—and others learn, too.
Okay, an addiction to soda pop or chocolate is not like an addition to alcohol—right? The Bible warns against being addicted or “given to much wine” in Titus 1:7; 2:3, “drunkards” in 1 Timothy 3:3 or “heavy drinkers” in 1 Timothy 3:8, as well as throughout the book of Proverbs. One of the definitions of addiction is “to cause to become physiologically or psychologically dependent on a habit-forming substance.” It is clear that believers must not be dependent upon alcohol, and it stands to reason that this would also apply to addiction to any other substance, such as tobacco, drugs, gluttony, pornography, gambling.. When someone wants to take away my diet soda or chocolate, though, and I have a hissy fit—hmm, what does that say?
There is another definition of addiction: “To occupy (oneself) with or involve (oneself) in something habitually or compulsively.” This speaks of an obsession with anything other than God: sports, exercise, work, shopping—even family or children when we put them before the Lord. We are to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) which is, according to Jesus, the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38.) An addiction to anything other than God Himself, then is idolatry and therefore, wrong. God is the only thing we can (and should) occupy ourselves with habitually. To do so with anything else draws us away from Him and displeases Him. He alone is worthy of our complete love and service. Isn’t “addiction” then, just another word for idolatry?
Everything in moderation. That is something I have struggled with most of my life. When I enjoy something or some activity I tend to go gung ho. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these innocent things, whether they are sports or work, soda, golf, coffee, fishing, chocolate, shopping, exercise… It is when we become obsessive about them and can’t let go that we become an addict—and yes, Christians can become addicts. We must ask forgiveness for that.
Let’s put Christ first in our lives in ALL things!