Around 30 years ago, when I was in my early- to mid-twenties and working in a machine shop, I used smokeless tobacco. Everybody did, because smoking wasn’t allowed in the building. And the extremely high nicotine content had quite a kick, helpful when working in such a mundane type of job. After lunch, I’d fix a big mug of coffee, and “Skoal up” (I know, I know, how gross, right? I thought so too, so I used Skoal bandits, in the little pouches, which kept the tobacco from turning into a mess in my mouth. I just enjoyed the juice, like a tiny tea bag).

I used it for maybe a year or two, then decided to quit. It was hard, the nicotine withdrawal was intense. Took me about a year of steadily cutting back before I was able to quit entirely.

Then, around 25 years ago, when I was in my late twenties going on thirty, I decided to quit smoking. All my friends smoked, and I never really did, never really liked it, but got dragged into it in my early twenties, going out with my friends to parties or clubs. When we were drinking, everyone around me was smoking, so I’d bum a cigarette and join in. Over time my use increased, until I finally started buying my own (Merit), and then I smoked regularly for several years.

But I used to see people—roommates, friends—light up a cigarette first thing upon getting out of bed in the morning, and I promised myself if I ever got to that point, I would quit.

Well, eventually, I did. So I did.

Took me six months. Cutting back, cutting back. The company where I worked at the time was out in the suburbs, and I had a 20-minute highway drive home, and usually would stay late at work until 10 PM, 11 PM, midnight (that was when I was teaching myself graphic design on the company computer/software from 5 or 6 PM until late into the evening).

So that drive home, late at night, was my weakest time. I pretty much had to have a smoke. So what I did was this: there was a gas station right before the ramp onto the highway. I would stop, buy a pack of cigarettes, then hit the highway. Once on the highway, I’d take two out, and throw the entire pack out the window. Those two cigarettes would get me home.

Eventually, I got sick and tired of spending that much money on two cigarettes, and one night on my way home, I shrugged my shoulders, passed the gas station and just drove home.

I’ve not smoked since.

The point is, it took me six months to quit smoking, and it took me a year to quit smokeless tobacco—but it took me TWO YEARS to even come close to quitting diet soda!

Again, when I was around 30, and working a desk job instead of on my feet in the shop all day, I started gaining a little weight. So what I did then was cut all the sugar from my diet. I switched to diet soda, and used equal in my coffee. Plus, I started exercising more regularly. It worked. By the end of the year, I’d lost all the excess weight.

But now, it’s common knowledge that artificial sweeteners are toxic, and we need to quit them. There are even some studies showing that they actually cause weight gain!

So for the past two years, I’ve been trying to quit drinking diet soda, and just couldn’t do it. Part of the reason for this is I hate the taste of plain water. I know it sounds odd, and it’s unusual, but I’ve met others who also hate water, and my mother hated water, so maybe it’s inherited. To me, it’s like eating some kind of tasteless food. How gross is that, when you eat something that has no flavor to it? Just tasteless mush in your mouth? For me, that’s how plain water is. Yuck.

I tried, and I tried. I managed to almost quit drinking Diet Coke, since dark sodas are even more toxic than, say Diet Mountain Dew, which I still drank. And in my second year of scaling back, I was even cutting the Dew 50/50 with water. Tasted a bit like Gatorade, a very mild flavor, but without the sugar of Gatorade, and more drinkable than plain old water (at least to me).

Well, when I joined a health club earlier this year, come to find out one of the trainers I consulted with also hates water (interestingly, she was raised on well water in Detroit, which she hated, and never could stand water after that, and I was also raised on well water in Indianapolis, which was nasty…so maybe that’s part of it). So she turned me on to Crystal Light. She said “If I’m drinking water, it’s got Crystal Light in it.”

I tried it, and it was wonderful! I began using the brand name, as well as generic brands which had other flavors available. Problem is, they all have either sugar, or Sucralose, or aspartame in them—but at least they contain far fewer of the other chemicals than soda does. And additionally, I dilute the powder in quite a bit more water than they’re intended, so there’s even less chemicals per bottle.

So, a step in the right direction…

But then, I was consulting with the nutritionist at the club, and mentioned my switch to Crystal Light, and she recommended True Citrus, because it’s sweetened with stevia. Bingo!

Now, you have to be careful, because they make some flavors that also have sugar in them, but there’s two I’ve found that are stevia only: Raspberry Lemonade and Blackberry Limeade (there may be others available online, but these are the only two stevia-only flavors I’ve found locally).

And get this: though each package is supposed to be mixed into 16 oz. water, I started out adding it to a full liter (approximately 34 oz, or over twice the recommended amount of water), and it was still too sweet for me! So now, I’m splitting one pack between two 1-liter bottles of water (filtered water, not tap water). So at approximately 25¢ per pack ($2.48 per 10-pack), I’m making an entire 1-liter beverage, healthy and flavorful, for around 12.5¢! Can’t beat it from a cost standpoint!

Bottom line: I’ve now been soda-free for weeks at a time. I still drink the occasional diet soda, but probably drink over the course of a week what I used to drink in a day. On a daily basis, it’s True Citrus!

Anyway, it was such a long, arduous struggle for me to get off the diet soda, and find something I can stand to drink to replace it with—and preferably something healthy as well—I wanted to share my discovery of these powdered drink mixes by the True Citrus Company. Seems to have finally solved the problem!