Take a minute and imagine the thing you love the most. Imagine being with that thing everyday and how you would feel. Now, imagine that the one thing you love the most is taken away from you and becomes forbidden. This is exactly what happened to me when I found out I was lactose intolerant.
For me, dairy was not just a part of life, it was a way of life. I would wake up in the morning and put milk in my coffee and cheese in my eggs. In the afternoon, I would eat a delicious lunch of mac and cheese or a grilled cheese or if I was feeling really daring, a mac and cheese grilled cheese. I would have a glass of milk with my pasta or chicken dinner and then finish the day off with nachos as a midnight snack.
So, you can imagine my agony when all of a sudden the one thing that shaped my life was stripped away from me, and I was left dairy-free. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad. There are some great milk alternatives, such as almond milk and oat milk and almond creamer for my coffee. I was starting to think that this dairy-free life was going to be okay, but then the real tragedy struck when I realized I was no longer able to eat cheese.
To me, cheese is a drug that I am addicted to. I love every type of cheese, from American to Cheddar to Mozzarella to Munster to Gruyere. Since my favorite cheese is Brie, I would always make sure there was a wheel of it in the house for every time I was in need of a little snack. My love for Brie is so strong that I wanted to share it with the world and have turned several of my friends into Brie addicts as well, but it goes farther than Brie. Nachos, quesadillas, pizza--oh the pizza. Before my lactose intolerance, I didn't even like pizza that much. I would eat it on occasion, but I never found myself craving pizza. Now that I can't eat it, every time I see or smell a slice of fresh pizza with delicious toppings, I am overcome with envy towards the person eating it.
But of course, like many other addicts, I couldn't stay away. Not only do I just genuinely love cheese, I'm Italian as well. An Italian without cheese is like a tennis player without a racket: It just doesn't make sense. I continued to refrain from milk and cream, but when it came to cheese, I was relentless. I continued to eat cheese as I always had and suffered through the consequences because I knew it was always worth it in the end.
But as I continued to eat cheese, my symptoms got progressively worse, so I went to BJ's and bought a giant store brand package of Lactaid. They were working really well for the first couple weeks, and I was finally able to eat cheese like a free woman again, but then they started becoming less and less effective until I started to have worse symptoms if I ate cheese with the Lactaid rather than without.
So, I gave up on the Lactaid and lessened my cheese intake. As much as it pained me, I had to avoid certain foods like mac and cheese and other creamy pasta dishes. I ate cheese more in moderation and focused on the good stuff, like Brie obviously. The symptoms were minor and manageable and for a second, it looked like my dairy struggles were coming to a close, until the dairy struck back again with a vengeance. With one piece of cheese, I would get the same old symptoms plus an allergic reaction where my throat would tighten, and I would get a rash on my neck.
It doesn't seem like I'll ever catch a dairy break, but even with an allergic reaction, I am not giving up on cheese. I now eat it in small amounts and very rarely, mostly on special occasions or when the cheese craving really hits hard. Sometimes, it seems like the end of the world, especially when I'm sitting around a table watching all my friends eat every type of dairy, but nothing will stop me from indulging in cheese every once in a while...or maybe a little more frequently than that.