Why Quitting Caffeine was Harder than Quitting Smoking.

Human Guinea Pig Chronicles #3

Coffee and cigarettes go together so well that Jim Jarmusch made a movie about it. Throw a chocolate Tastycake on top of that mess and they form the unholy trinity of unwise breakfasts like Voltron.

No gives you a pat on the back for quitting caffeine, instead look at you with pity mixed with judgment. While smoking is limited to certain areas, people can drink coffee anywhere. (Except near my laptop. Get back! Ungawa!)

I thought my coffee habit was under control, until I became a barista who got high on his own supply. Due to boredom and the folly of youth, my colleagues and I held contests to see who could down the most shots of espresso, with hands shaking and eyelids a’ twitter.

My transition from coffee clerk to freelance audio visual technician only made things worse, with fifteen hour days starting at 6 am, sometimes after working until 11 pm the night before on a different job. I became coffee, with a 32 ouncer glued to my hand, so hooked that I’d place a half-empty cuppa on my bed stand before hitting the hay.

The thing they don’t tell you about any kind of upper, from coke to crank, is that you will do everything faster, especially making mistakes. If you want to sprint down the wrong path in life until bloody collapse, speed is the way to go.

The headaches were debilitating. I thought allergies were causing the headaches and nocturnal teeth grinding, but the culprit was caffeine withdrawl. Anytime I went an hour or so without kissing the mighty bean, my head would throb and my focus would turn to static. Because my sleep patterns were anything but, I’d wake up in the middle of the night, ready for action for nothing.

Addictions are annoying, because they are so needy and expensive, demanding attention at the worst times like a spoiled brat. It was time to kick caffeine to curb, like I did cigarettes the year before. Because of my boolean personality, I’m either on or off with everything in life: zero cigarettes or three packs a day, no candy or the whole bag of candy, balls to the wall or nothing at all.

I quit smoking by totaling all the loot that I’d spent in a year on cancer sticks and budgeted tickets to Jamaica as my carrot to dangle. If I started up again, then I knew I couldn’t afford the trip. Quitting smoking was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and I figured caffeine would be just a little hurdle. It turned out to be the high jump.

With personal days to burn, I took off a week just to quit caffeine and binge Storage Wars: Texas. On day one, I thought that taking the whole week was overkill and admonished myself for being a decadent baby. I thought it was going to be easy. I was wrong.

On day two I was bedridden with a Texas sized railroad spike buried between my lobes, like a doughy Phinus Gage. I felt like a photocopy of my former self, and was as pleasant to beanbe around as a runway queen freshly voted off of Drag Race. That day, I knew that I’d never touch caffeine again and risk going through that pain. I was scared straight. There was a lot of fetal position going on.

It wasn’t until day four that I could walk around and go outside for a little bit. I felt like I took a handful of stupid-pills that wouldn’t wear off. This haze created a full month of idicacy. I’d put the jelly in the cupboard and the peanut butter in the fridge. Screwing up left and right at work, I became the subject of many a nasty-gram regarding my performance.

With smoking, it only took me two weeks to conquer the physical addiction. After day fourteen, the only desire for a nicotine fix is mental. Quitting caffeine left a mind fog that lingered for a full month before I was back to normal. (Well, normal enough for this guy.)

Five years later and I survived, still caffine and ciggarette free without the need to convert to Mormonism. My insomnia is all but gone, my digestion has improved, and I no longer ground my chompers in my sleep. Sure, I still drink decaf in the morning for the bitter taste of reality, but if I run out of coffee, I no longer need to run out to the store like an addict. Given the hypothetical, I’d choose quitting nicotine over caffeine, as they say on Storage Wars: Texas, “all day long.”

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