I’ve always thought that caffeine addict was just a phrase. Sure, you might find it necessary in the morning, maybe in the afternoon too, but to be addicted to coffee to the point of suffering severely if you didn’t get your dose? I had no idea that was possible.
Guess how I found out I was wrong.
The hard way, of course.
Sometime last year I noticed I was snapping at people. On a certain Internet forum, not offline. They were acting like (enter a few expletives here), but how someone else acts on an Internet forum is not my concern. My own behaviour is. And I was snapping at people. So I wondered if drinking more coffee (and energy drinks, also with caffeine) had something to do with it, and I used my Google-fu skills.
Sure enough, I’ve read a few things about chronic caffeine poisoning, and had my Aha! moment. Nervousness, check. Panicking for no good reason, check. Restlessness, check. Anxiety, check. Feeling cold in the middle of summer, check. Gastrointestinal problems, check. Difficulty concentrating, check. And so on and so forth.
Since I do pay attention to my body signals, I never got to tachycardia.
So, I was taking too much caffeine. It puzzled me a bit because the most I took during one day was two small cans of energy drinks (it says on the cans themselves you shouldn’t take more than two a day, and I was usually taking one) and one cup of coffee. It adds up, I guess, if you take it day after day after day, for several months.
No problem, I thought to myself, I’d just stop drinking coffee and energy drinks. I’d work without them somehow. I used to work without them, I can do it again.
During the first half of the coffee-quitting day, it wasn’t so bad. In the afternoon, I got the worst headache ever. If you suffer from bad migraines, you know the kind of headache I’m talking about. There was also nausea — strong and unpleasant, though it turned out I could eat without vomiting.
The headache was a caffeine withdrawal symptom. I was addicted without knowing it. This sort of addiction happens fairly often to computer programmers, writers, and many others who spend a lot of time sitting at their desks — hey, you need to stay awake and alert to do the job properly, even though sitting all day (and night, and who knows for how long) does nothing to keep you awake.
It turned out you can’t just quit drinking coffee if you’re addicted to caffeine. Err, you can, if you’re willing to suffer through an entire week of a terrible, terrible headache. I had a book to translate, so that wasn’t an option. Truth be told, that wouldn’t have been an option even without the book, not unless that was the only way. I’m not a masochist.
Fortunately, there was another way. It’s possible to gradually reduce your caffeine intake, and that’s what I did. I started with two big cups of coffee a day, and no energy drinks, and worked from there. After a while, I also started taking fencing lessons, and I believe intense physical activity helped (what a surprise, physical activity being good for you! 😆 ).
It took me several months to get rid of the addiction. It took a while just to reduce caffeine intake to one cup per day without a headache as a result. It took some time, but I knew what I was trying to achieve, and didn’t give up.
And it worked. I’m no longer addicted. I can go weeks without coffee, and now drink it only sometimes, for pleasure or in the company of others, no longer because I have to do it to avoid a headache.
Coffee is, once again, a pleasure, just the way it should be. And I’m careful not to turn it into something else.
Have you ever had problems with too much coffee?