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What’s your addiction…?

October 23, 2013

Well, tomorrow we take the plunge. The coffee-free plunge.

Time to get the monkey off our backs.

As far as addictions go, there are obviously worse ones than coffee.

But the fundamental principles are the same.

And like all addictions that start out promising you the world, at some point coffee stopped being fun. What was once a boost of energy became a jolt of irritability; the increased concentration became a shorter attention span; the spring in my step became heartburn and chewable antacid pills. l was making mistakes at work, couldn’t meditate, sleeping fitfully.

It hasn’t been that long of an addiction either. I never drank coffee for the first 40 years. And then it was only the odd summer iced latte on the way to the farm. Which developed into an excuse at lunch to go for a walk to a neighbourhood cafe. You know, get out of the office, go for a walk. Which became Saturday mornings in the cafe with the weekend newspaper, and then most mornings before going to work, and then every morning.

When that became too expensive we started hauling it home in bags. Getting our own grinder. Making our own. Bodums of it.

What was once only morning coffee, came to be followed by another mid-afternoon pick-me-up. And then an early evening going out with friends need to stay awake thing.

That’s the fundamental arc of any addiction.

I have a friend who started out only smoking pot at parties – and only if someone else had any, and offered her some. Which became an occasional  weekend thing to do; and then a way to relax before bed. After that it was to help wake her up in the morning. Relax before a big meeting.

One day she realized that she was smoking pot all the time. In fact, she told me there was a five year stretch where life was pretty much just a pot haze. So she quit. Or tried to. But then, after a couple of months, she shared a joint with friends at a dinner party – what’s the harm? – and two days later she was hooking up with an old dealer and blazing her days away again.

Two years after that, she quit cold. Six years ago.

Addictions are fascinating to me. They hide all of life’s little (and not so little) traumas. The initial dopemine rush is always great. Sometimes it awakens deeper levels of consciousness. Sometimes the sex is great! At least in the beginning.

My father died of alcoholism in his 50’s. He started drinking in high school. He started out a Saturday night drinker. With the boys. Then Friday nights too. Week nights after work. Business lunches. And then all day, every day. He developed alcohol senility and talked to himself. He got cancer in one of his kidneys. Sciorciss of the liver.

Addictions are killing us. Sugar, salt, and saturated fat now kill more people than smoking. But there’s also our addictions to computer screens, video games, porn, suntanning, obesity, drugs, alcohol, smoking – you name it – the list is virtually endless – it’s all about addictions.

Over-acheivers are addicted to work. Or to money. But we reward them for that. The Saturday Globe and Mail Business Section always features some over-achiever who is always up at 4:30, in the gym by 5 and in the office by 6. And not in bed until midnight.

Our minds crave our addictions. When I’m not exercising, my brain doesn’t want to get my body up off the couch and go for a cycle. When I am exercising regularly, my body doesn’t want to sit myself down to watch a movie.

All things in moderation as they say. Even moderation (also addictive).

So, the coffee bag ran out this morning. Tomorrow we start fresh. Clean. And we know what to expect. As the day progresses, we’ll get increasingly cranky. Tired. Irritable. There’ll be a nasty headache for sure.

I’m addicted. That’s the price I’ll pay. But it’s only for the day. The physical withdrawal to my relatively low-level coffee addiction (2 cup a day average) will be short-lived.

It’s in the days after that where the addiction shows its true fiendishness. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a coffee, while I read my book by the window?” I’ll say to myself some cozy winter morning. “What’s one cup of Joe going to do?”

“Wouldn’t it be nice to go for a latte after shopping at the farmer’s market”, my girlfriend will say to me on some unsuspecting Saturday morning.

“What’s one cup? No big deal.”

It could be this weekend. It could be three months, or three years from now.

That’s how it starts, all over again.

Addictions. Fascinating.


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