“Caffeine Will Kill Ya!”

“Caffeine Will Kill Ya!” I love that line. It’s taken from Jim Carey when he played the Riddler in a Batman and Robin movie many years ago. Watching him throw a coffee pot at Batman while saying that line brought on a chuckle for me back then. My viewpoint on caffeine has changed dramatically today where ironically, I feel that same way.

When I was growing up my mother generally bought caffeine free sodas. I never drank coffee as I thought the taste was awful. And other than around Halloween, I wasn’t allowed to have tons of chocolate. In college, I was too busy drinking alcohol each night so my body craved a lot of water during the days to make up for the dehydration I brought onto myself. Everything changed when I graduated from college and found sobriety.

I’m not sure whether it was the need to have something in my hand after quitting alcohol or the long hours at boring corporate jobs I was working at that drove me to drink coffee and consume so much caffeine. Either way, I quickly became addicted to it. According to research I did on the internet, 90 percent of the world’s population consumes some form of caffeinated beverages daily. What’s even more interesting, caffeine is considered the number one addiction in the world.

Those who can be classified as caffeine addicts often feel that without caffeine, they can’t get through the day or they find it hard to concentrate. Caffeine is considered a stimulant and regular consumption of it can lead to dizziness, headaches, high blood pressure, increased respiration rates and insomnia to name just a few symptoms.

For years, I consumed highly caffeinated coffees, energy drinks, large quantities of regular and dark chocolate, and teas. It’s been almost a year now that I have been free from caffeine consumption. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until recently when I went out for breakfast with my partner. I ordered a decaf coffee as I’ve found the percentage of caffeine to be infinitesimal and not affect me. Usually I make sure when the decaf coffee is brought to the table that it truly is decaf. So many times I’ve ordered it and the servers have to go back and get me the right beverage as they’ve made a mistake. That morning I forgot to ask. By the time I finished my cup, I was talking much faster like Speedy Gonzalez. I suddenly felt like I was a in a better mood quite different from the one I had begun my breakfast with. And then, I was having all these ideas of things I wanted to do for the day begin to spin around in my head. When she returned with the pitcher asking if I wanted a refill and I said “Decaf?” She responded, “Oh, I didn’t hear that, I’m so sorry, the first cup was regular.” And then it all began to make sense.

I am quite sensitive to many things that I consume, especially caffeine. When I used to drink it often, the affects were dulled down because of my regular consumption. In the case of breakfast that morning, it had been more than 10 months since the last time I had consumed any. I tried not to get angry and started drinking a lot of water. For about 3 or 4 hours I felt like I had a ton of energy and much of the pain levels that I endure everyday with the toxic clearing process I’m going through had diminished quite a bit. And then, like it always does, the “buzz” wore off, and a brick landed on me. I say a brick because it felt like that. All I wanted to do was sleep. In the past, I would have consumed another caffeinated beverage to keep the “buzz” going. For a long time in my life, that’s how I got through the day. The worst part about caffeine consumption is the withdrawal from it which usually hits me between 24 and 36 hours after my last consumption. And like clockwork, around that time frame, my head started to pound and for about 5 to 6 hours I have a massive headache that prevented me from even thinking or sleeping. Thankfully, this accidental ingestion didn’t drive me back into my caffeine addiction as the side effects and withdrawal were enough of reminders of how much I didn’t miss it.

There’s a funny story I’d like to share about how bad my caffeine addiction got at its peak. One night I went to my home group in AA which was then on a Friday night in West Bridgewater, MA. A group of us had planned on going out dancing later that night and I had spent most of the day drinking several Pepsi Max’s which had double the caffeine. I had wanted to keep myself going. During the meeting, I was eyeing the coffee pot like someone I was attracted to and making frequent trips to it, going from single fisting to double fisting so that I could continue to get my fix throughout the evening. Upon the meeting’s end, I announced that we needed to make a Dunkin Donuts run and get coffees for the hour drive down to Providence, RI where we were heading to go dancing. Of course I got the largest one possible. I forgot to mention that high caffeine consumption also correlates to high bathroom trips and that had already started back during the meeting and continued for the drive down there. When we got down to the club and realized it was too early, guess what I announced then? “I know of a great place to hang out and get some dessert!” What I really wanted there though was the dessert coffees. And I did just that. I got a coffee beverage named something like the “chocolate zombie” and proceeded to down it like it was a hot day drinking cold water. And that’s when it really began to hit me. I felt nauseous. I thought I was hyperventilating. My heart was racing too fast. I could have sworn I was seeing trails like I had been tripping on acid. And my anxiety was going through the roof. When we arrived at the club, while my friends all were able to enjoy the dance floor and have fun with each other, my evening was spent on the top floor of the club drinking water and listening to a guy play the piano while I battled nauseousness and frequent trips to the bathroom.

Do I miss that at all? Not a bit. Having that mix up at breakfast the other day was enough of a reminder that I don’t want to go back to it … EVER…

Most people don’t realize how dependent they are on caffeine. And if they do, I’m not sure if most people care. Many say they need it to get through the day. Some say it gives them that extra edge they need. What I say is why does one need any type of stimulant to function at all?

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson