Caffeine Addiction

...These young people amaze me; drinking their coffee, they tell clear, plausible stories. If you ask them what they did yesterday, they don't get flustered; they tell you all about it in a few words. If I were in their place, I'd start stammering...

Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea

I did not discover caffeine until I was in my mid-30s. In the past, I had sometimes remained awake all night after drinking a can of Coke, but it wasn't until I tried café style coffee that I began to appreciate the buzz it gave me.

After I began drinking it regularly, giving it up was also very difficult: it would take about 4 days, and during that time I would have intense headaches, nausea, vomiting, weakness. However, since I radically altered my sugar/chocolate intake at the same time, these effects might also have been related to sugar withdrawal.

When I am drinking coffee regularly, I depend on it to give me the energy to cope with the day. As soon as I wake up, the first thing I do is have coffee. After having coffee, I may have the energy to have a shower, or at least to brush my teeth and tidy myself up a bit. If I haven't had any caffeine in my system for over 24 hrs, I may start to develop a headache, or feel somewhat ill. If it's a hangover day, it's important for me to get down some coffee as soon as possible upon waking.

I developed a pattern of occasionally giving it up for a period of time, so that I would have a chance of experiencing a high again when I tried it. Over time, this pattern has become less effective, and I don't really reach the highs I did in the past. The closest I get occurs if I give up caffeine for a while, and have been in a state of semi-starvation just before I try it again.

Caffeine often becomes the trigger that sets off all my addictions at once (if I have been completely abstaining from all): If I have coffee and dessert, I will also soon drink alcohol again, and will also soon b/p again. I overdo all behaviours, and eventually it seems like the only way out is to give them all up for a time, such that eventually there will be something to look forward to again.

It is possible that with caffeine I can concentrate on something difficult for considerably longer than I could otherwise, although there does seem to be a limit to which I can push my brain when trying to tackle difficult or emotionally unpleasant subject matter.

Another positive effect of caffeine is that it does usually reduce the need to binge. Having coffee and dessert can satisfy an urge to binge, whereas most foods in themselves will just set a binge on a roll.

I think it is necessary for me to combine caffeine with milk and food (e.g., cookies or chocolate) in order to protect my stomach. Chocolate itself and sugar probably add to the 'high' or feeling of energy and well-being that make it possible to concentrate, but if I didn't have milk and a bit of food I think I would experience gastrointestinal discomfort.

When I have had too much caffeine, I experience headache and nausea. To combat this, it may be necessary to eat non-sugary food, and/or to take paracetamol. Alcohol also works quite well. If I am busy working on something, I may not notice headache and nausea for some time.

When giving up caffeine, I don't ever try to go cold turkey any more. It seems to take about 4 days regardless of whether I go cold turkey or taper off slowly, and it's a lot easier on my system to taper slowly. (The quickest I have been able to taper to zero caffeine is 4 days, but I will often stretch it out to about a week.)















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