I woke up this morning on five hours of sleep. The alarm ringtone, “Sea and Sand,” was chosen to provide soothing wakefulness but produced neither. I timed myself to allow for one snooze – ten minutes for a biochemical realization that sleep time was over. I hit the snooze again – that was unplanned.
Turning on the lights and rubbing my eyes, I see their burning redness in the mirror. Three rounds of eyedrops later, the whites of my eyes are finally white. Putting on clothes is like assembling a logic puzzle and walking up the stairs is like ascending a mountain. My body has begun supressing exhaustion, but it will need a little help.
As I approach the starbucks my pace quickens, and the atmosphere of the place would be enough to give me a smile, if smiling were possible at this moment. I buy a grande coffee and race to the subway – it’s black but I am unfazed, and it’s too late to go back and change that.
As I sit on the subway car guzzling my coffee, the knot in the pit of my stomach begins to fade. I feel a warmth through my body and superflous movements are now possible. Slowly I feel human again. Then, 40 minutes into my trip, a broad smile is painted on my face. What a wonderful world this is, I know instinctively. And I am high.
It’s time to admit something: I am a caffeine addict, and you might be too.
This current addiction started when I moved to New York. Living out of a suitcase and on a couch, having meetings all over the city, and needing an office, Starbucks called out to me. With her free wireless Internet (just buy a coffee!), contrnplative atmosphere, and multiple locations per city block, I was seduced. A daily coffee became routine and long hours cemented the habit. I’ve become addicted before, and when it happens it takes a good amount of concerted mental energy, and about three full weeks, until I am feeling 100%. But it’s worth the pain, and natural energy feels so much more real and enjoyable.
Today was an extreme case as I am normailly not this sleep deprived and dependant on caffeine. The cup doesn’t always start the day, but it comes at some point. And as much as we don’t like to admit this, if we drink a cup a day then we are addicted.
There is research that suggests (link) that caffeine has health benefits, but I say it has major health and lifestyle consequences. One danger of the drug is it’s powerul effect on mood. When I am addicted to caffeine, my happiness is affected by the drug. A caffeine need makes me upset and irritable, and a caffeine high makes me calm and pleasant. How is it possible to better know myself and grow emotionally when I have access to such a powerful mood altering drug? It is quite difficult, and I dislike that it interferes with the natural expression of emotion.
The second danger is that it allows us to overextend our body’s abilites. Like a painkiller that allows us to use a sprained ankle, a drug that tricks us into thinking we are rested when our body needs sleep is a harmful substance. The knowledge that we can use the drug tomorrow brings bad decisions and poor planning. When I am addicted, I inevitably sleep less.
The third danger is the fact of being addicted. The proliferation of Starbuckses, energy drinks, sodas and even “waters” with caffeine rests on millions of people who must have their next fix. Quitting is difficult and the effects of withdrawal are compounded by the monstrous sleep deficit that comes with it.
So quit. I’m doing it!
Enough is enough. It’s time to end this dependence. I will stop cold-turkey, having a cup of tea if needed to ease withdrawal symptoms; the main ingredient in feeling better is sleep. It usually takes me a few weeks before my energy is fully restored, and when it is, I feel better than even on the greatest caffeine high.
I know my relationship with caffeine is more intense than most peoples’ because I have a rather addictive personality. What has been your experience with coffee?
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