A Recovering Caf-Fiend:
Healing from an Unsuspecting Addiction
This may fall completely on deaf ears and blind eyes since coffee and caffeine consumption in general are as part of the wallpaper of many peoples' lives as going to work and watching TV. The only reason I bring it up is because I have found myself experiencing many negative effects from consuming caffeine, the most notable being my seeming inability to stop "cold turkey."
When I don't have a cup of coffee at least at some point in my day, I tend to experience headaches, irritability, a lack of concentration, and an almost irresistible craving to slither to the nearest corner store or coffee shop to get my fill of the bitter-black swill; for a cup right now I'd almost kill.
In all seriousness though, I want to weigh in on a substance that can easily slip under the radar given how ubiquitous and socially acceptable it is, as well as how we justify our use of it in the name of workplace productivity.
I don't particularly like to quote statistics and findings relating to others' experiences but rather to use myself as an example. I'm curious to see if anyone resonates or relates to what I share and see if I can help them further from there.
Before I started drinking coffee, I certainly didn't miss its absence. I saw my parents sipping it in the morning and they seemed to relish in its consumption more than when they had a beer or glass of wine after dinner. It seemed like a prerequisite for them to get started in the day, and they told me as much when I asked them about it.
Ironically, I didn't really start drinking coffee myself until I began going to 12-Step meetings in my late teens to help me with my substance abuse problem. Anyone who has attended AA meetings will realize how easy it is to substitute one substance with another, albeit a much less destructive one all things considered.
But I digress, what I am trying to flesh out is a sort of cost-benefit analysis of my present day consumption of caffeine in general. As I am writing this sentence, I am literally planning on walking to the convenience store near my house to get my morning cuppa. I'll be right back.
Thanks for waiting. Oh man, that hits the spot. So benefit one: that first sip in the morning. The cost being feeling like I literally couldn't finish writing a sentence without having it, as well as $1.25 Canadian for the actual bevvy. The costs associated with coffee production in general can be extremely far reaching and include a lot of environmental damage and exploitation of cheap labor in developing countries. This is something that can easily slip our minds as we fiend for that first morning pick-me-up.
A benefit can involve the social aspects that coffee especially seems to bring in many cultures. As it is a stimulant, it seems to promote conversation and excited dialogue, perhaps used in business meetings to create a cascade of brainstorming and creative output. However as we all know, what goes up must come down and any caffeine user can identify with the "crash" that comes later on.
This up-and-down cycle itself is really at the heart of the reason that I am writing this article to begin with. It is a way for me to come to terms with my own struggle with this substance and the vicious circle it has created in my life. I have quit drinking alcohol, stopped all other drug use including cannabis and stopped smoking but I cannot for the life of me seem to kick the caffeine habit.
As an addiction and mental health counselor I find this both a humbling and frustrating reality about myself, and yet I can empathize with virtually everyone I talk to. It seems like we all struggle with something that is not really good for us, but seems to offer at least some benefit.
If I'm really honest though, the only "benefit" I get out of my daily coffee consumption is the absence of withdrawal symptoms. Thus the addictive pattern is complete; the only reason to keep doing it is to avoid feeling worse for not doing it. I have just finished my morning cup, and I feel just as tired as before, over a dollar poorer, and I am thinking of the people less fortunate than myself who were involved in producing the beverage I take for granted. Perhaps what I need is to develop more love and compassion for myself and use my own positive energy and intent to replace the habits that I seek for comfort outside myself. May we all love ourselves ever more, and throw our crutches to the floor.