Finding The Bottom of The Bottomless Cup

A couple days after graduating from college, I was settling back into my parents’ house and printing my resume on some nice crisp paper when I realized that something was very, very wrong with me.

It wasn’t so much that I had just moved back into my parents’ house, or that I had yet to land a job. It was that I had somehow developed these nausea inducing headaches. They had come out of nowhere and weren’t going away. And by the third day of those pulsating sons of bitches, I became very worried.

My immediate thought, was that this was my body’s way of payback for the grueling–caffeine riddled–six month intensive internship I had just gone through in order to graduate.

All of those early mornings, late nights of studying, and fighting sleep 7 days a week were now manifesting as some sort of stress induced affliction.

My HYPOCHONDRIACAL THOUGHT, was that I had just become the first person in the history of the universe to simultaneously contract the Bubonic Plague, E. coli O157:H7 and Hepatitis C. Because shit like that seems perfectly plausible to someone whose brain feels like it is about to explode.

I was also more exhausted than I had ever been in my life. Sleep did nothing for me. I’d wake up and feel more tired than before. It was frustrating.

By about the 5th day, my headaches and nausea had actually dipped to a more manageable annoyance, but I was still dead tired. And even though I had already self-diagnosed myself with every known disease under sun, I figured that the smart thing to do, would be to go to my doctor’s office and be checked out by a professional, instead of a medical internet database that will most certainly someday be downloaded into a robot that will turn against us in a robot uprising.

I was ready for any test my doctor would have thrown at me, x-rays, stress tests, the GREs. I just needed answers.

The doctor started off with something simple.

My urinalysis came back spotless.

My doctor had me get some bloodwork done as well and told me he would call back with my results the next day.

And of course, I waited all day by the phone like I was waiting to hear back from any girl desperately needing to lock down a date for the Sadie Hawkins Dance.

Sometime in the afternoon, he got back to me.

And before I could follow up with a question, he hung up.

My heart sank a little. I was distraught because I knew that there was absolutely something off about me. But on paper I was perfectly fine. Crestfallen and malaised, I pretty much accepted that this numbing lethargy would be my new norm from now until the end of days, so I pulled a comforter over my head and flipped open my laptop to peruse job openings for the rest of the afternoon.

It was completely dark out when I realized that I was nearing the event horizon of a Youtube blackhole and that I had failed at perusing jobs. But since I was already deep into surfing the internet, I decided to delve back in and do a bit more research as to what could possibly be wrong with me.

For the life of me, I can’t recall the exact string of words I had thrown into Google when I landed on a particular forum–nearly thousands of comments deep–with people talking about the exact headaches, the nausea, and same overall lethargy I had been experiencing. But after reading through only a handful of comments, I knew that I was suffering from the exact same ailment as my digital counterparts.

Caffeine withdrawal.

I say again, what I thought was some new-age hybrid virus annihilating my grey matter, was actually my body’s way of saying “Get me caffeine. Get me it now.”

I immediately played back memories of the past 6 months I had just spent in a very competitive internship. It was fueled by nothing more than coffee and energy drinks by the bucket load. I needed to be awake and alert at every possible second to juggle the workload and lecture schedule, so in turn, I slammed back heavily caffeinated drinks several times a day, 7 days a week.

The day after graduating, I went cold turkey on any type of caffeinated beverage since I was no longer required to be highly alert or awake. Barely 24 hours after that is when my symptoms began.

Honestly, I had very little idea the body could become that addicted to caffeine and that it could go that ape-shit over not getting it on a daily basis.

I continued to scour through the message boards, reading the accounts of my new compatriots. And as I did, I could feel a giant wave of relief sweep over me. I knew what was wrong and I wasn’t alone.

And then came a riptide of embarrassment to pull me out to sea.

I mean, c’mon, caffeine withdrawal? It sounded so utterly trite to me, but I assure you that the headaches and nausea were unlike anything I had experienced before. It was like a hangover that had its own hangover and for some reason mononucleosis decided to join the party and was all, like, “Heeeeeeeeey!”

The whole situation made me think about real withdrawal sickness, and how my symptoms were only just a fraction of what someone dealing with a much more serious addiction problem must have to suffer through and endure. It was pretty humbling.

Anyway, I noticed over the next few days that I was feeling better, but that I still had headaches. I remembered reading the message boards and how it was taking months for most people to become “symptom free,” and to no longer require caffeine to operate. So, I decided to ride it out, however long it would take, and aim for caffeine free existence as well.

I went 5 months of hardcore abandonment on caffeine. It took me about 3 months to be rid of my symptoms for good. To be honest, once the symptoms had pretty much faded, it wasn’t that hard to not consume caffeine.

But there still existed one problem. I actually enjoy the bitter goodness that is coffee. Scratch that. I mother fuzzing LOVE a nice cup of coffee. The aroma is true splendor and sometimes those first couple sips seem to illuminate the world.

I realized that when it comes to coffee, I’m a lifer.

So, after 7 months of successfully weaning myself back down to a more normal state, I eased up on my no caffeine stance and slowly assimilated coffee back into my existence. I’m usually just a cup a day (ok, sometimes two) kind of drinker. But now I can actually enjoy a cup of coffee. It isn’t out of sheer necessity.

Sometimes, when I have a moment at work, I’ll slowly sip my morning coffee and look out at the city, and I don’t just see that I’m in a much better place, I can taste it.

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51 Responses to “Finding The Bottom of The Bottomless Cup”

  1. Cafe

    Ah, rookie error.

    Hehe, just kidding =P But as a long-time coffee addict, I’m not surprised at all. You’re right about other drugs being even more addictive and their effects of withdrawal being even more excruciating. It’s a scary thing.

    I’ve tried quitting coffee on many occasions but I also just love the taste and smell of it way too much. There have been some nights where I’ve looked forward to waking up the next day just to have my morning coffee. Only slightly disturbing.

    Anyways, as I’m sipping on my coffee right now, I cheers to you and your assimilation back into this fine coffee world of ours. Just don’t get carried away again ;)

    Reply
    • timmer

      I’m a huge fan of coffee. Nom nom nom…um, actually, sip sip sip! And, yes, moderation is the key to drinking responsibly.

      Reply
  2. Nicole Smeltzer

    Oh, yeah, it’s a real B. For a long time, if I didn’t get a cup of coffee within a half hour of waking up, I would throw up and then have a dazzling headache for half the day. I’m glad you got through it! I’m at 1.5 cups of coffee a day now and it’s working out well :)

    Reply
    • timmer

      I think 1.5 cups is the ‘sweet spot’ for coffee drinkers. Anymore and I’d end up like I was before.

      Reply
  3. creeped

    I remember giving up coffee in my first year as a trainee. I felt like my skin was crawling. I literally hit my head against the wall at one point. My colleague were slightly worried, but mostly amused. I picked coffee back up in 4 days. I was weak. But I love coffee! So now I just aim for one a day, maximum two (sometimes three).

    Reply
    • timmer

      It was hard trying to get it out of my system when I quit. But, like you, I just love it too much. It’s all about finding the right balance.

      Reply
  4. Jennie

    thanks for reminding me I haven’t had my caffeine for the day yet….no wonder I was getting a headache

    Reply
  5. Svelte

    OMG, I had no idea that caffeine withdrawal could wreak that kinda havoc!!! :/ (Coffee… It’s my ball and chain!!!)

    Reply
  6. lornamurphy

    I’ve seen some pretty brutal side effects from coffee – my step mum had a similar thing to you, and my step dad ended up in hospital twice with heart pain and palpitations… Turned out to be too much coffee!! Fun post x

    Reply
  7. becca3416

    The whole time I was thinking, “He’s gonna be pregnant. I just know it”. ;)

    I had to get myself some help with my diet coke addiction. I am doing much better these days.

    Reply
    • timmer

      Just a little FYI, I once heard of two different girls that had gone to the ER because of tooth pain, and BAM! Pregnant. And they didn’t even know it.

      Reply
  8. Margarita

    Pregnancy is what got me off coffee a few decades ago. Then as a nursing mother, I abstained. I never had withdrawal symptoms like you describe…those are the symptoms I suffer from if I DO have caffeine! So, over the years, I’ve learned to enjoy my decaf – since the pain, nausea, and days out of commission are not worth it – and am grateful that it didn’t affect my enjoyment of my other favorite caffeine delivery system: CHOCOLATE! ;)

    Reply
  9. Jen and Tonic

    So, this came at a perfect time because I kicked caffeine last Monday. As some background, I used to drink a pot of coffee a day in the first few years of my 20’s, and then switched to one drink with a few shots of espresso for about 5 years. The last two years I’ve pretty much been drinking one cup of coffee with the occasional latte thrown in.

    By about 10 AM I was so lethargic I had to lay down and take a nap. The headache came on at about noon, and didn’t leave until Friday. Granted, it lessened, but no amount of Advil helped. I was shaking, at one point I cried, and I almost caved on Thursday. In the end, I’m glad I did it. It has actually helped my writing, and I sleep way better at night.

    Reply
    • timmer

      Jen, did you go cold turkey? Or step down? My symptoms were pretty bad, I literally couldn’t operate for those first few days. The tired feeling lasted about a month or so for me, before I started to regain any form of energy. I guess it all depends on the person and how bad the need for caffeine was. Good luck, hopefully you’ll be writing about the benefits sometime soon!

      Reply
      • Jen and Tonic

        I went cold turkey, it’s really the only way I can overcome a bad habit. Yeah, the full energy does take about a month or so, but the worst part is really in the first week or so. I can relate to what you’re saying about not being able to do anything. I’m not kidding, the first day I slept something like…16 hours.

      • timmer

        Exactly, I couldn’t believe how much I was sleeping without feeling the slightest bit rested when I woke up. Unfortunately, there aren’t any shortcuts, you just have to will yourself to keep going.

      • Jen and Tonic

        That’s exactly right. The worst part: there isn’t even a 12-step program, and people ALWAYS look at you like a jerk when you tell them you’ve quick drinking….coffee.

  10. QueridaJ

    Were you sipping coffee while writing this? A witty quip for each sip perhaps? =P
    let’s just say if you were shining before now you’re downright dazzling! =)
    As for coffee…i worked in a very short stint in a coffee shop and that totally put me off coffee…but i am groggy w/o my tea…and i bounce off the walls when i occasionally have had a caramel corretto…(second cup) but it’s such a treat!

    Reply
    • timmer

      I certainly was drinking my morning coffee when I wrote it. Tea is my new jam at night. I really like mint or peppermint.

      Reply
  11. Nicolle

    Wow, sounds like it was quite terrible. I’ve never been one for coffee…I don’t like the smell or taste. Quite ironic since I used to work at Starbucks.

    In high school, I used to have energy drinks when i was working (or mixed with vodka at parties)…until I had heart palpitations. That ended any ingestion of energy drinks.

    Reply
    • timmer

      Once in a blue moon I’ll have one of vodka mixed with an energy drink, but I essentially gave up on those too. I was crushing them as an intern and realized it probably wasn’t great when I started having slight palpitations as well. Luckily that was towards the end.

      Reply
  12. Jillian

    I remember the first time I went through caffeine withdrawal in college, it was the first time I really registered that caffeine is a drug. And I hear you on how it’s humbling to think of addicts with worse addictions. I never went cold turkey for 7 months though – props to you! :)

    Reply
    • timmer

      I’m all for being melodramatic and hyperbolic, but it’s definitely good to keep all of that in perspective, and I didn’t want to lose that in this post. Thanks for picking up on it!

      Reply
  13. Tiana Feng

    I am a fellow coffee addict, although lately I’ve kind of accidentally weened myself off. Every day feels like a cloudy day

    Reply
  14. foreigninput

    ..everyday i get a latte itch…i keep hoping im not slowly climbing that hill…but that is some craaaaay business u had to go through..glad ur ok and great piece!

    Reply
    • timmer

      the latte itch is very hard to control. I’ve been much better about it after that episode of my life.

      Reply
  15. Sloan

    When you said you had cut out coffee I almost hit the ‘unfollow’ button–you redeemed yourself, sir. Thank goodness! Coffee-lifer!

    Reply
  16. Baseball For Dinner

    Coffee used to be on the absolute need list if I was going to sit down and write a blog post, in addition to about 30,000+ cigarettes. Now, I’ve whittled it down to iced tea and nicotine lozenges. Here’s to small victories.

    Reply
  17. Angela

    Having a nice cup of coffee just brightens your day…
    “It was completely dark out when I realized that I was nearing the event horizon of a Youtube blackhole and that I had failed at perusing jobs.” I like this so much!

    Reply
  18. postmoderngirls;

    I’m not really a coffee person- tea is definitely more my thing. But, I have 5 weeks until I’m smack dab in the middle of a massive, massive meeting and I’ve been drinking coffee like it’s water.. I’m dreading the complete system shut down I’m going to face six and a half weeks from now when I’m FINALLY on holiday.

    =/

    Reply
  19. amb

    One time my mom and I were staying with friends at their cottage, and we both started getting headaches by the afternoon of day one. By day three we had migranes and the shakes and were convinced our dear friends were actually psycho serial killers who lured people out to the wilderness and slowly poisoned them to death for kicks.

    Turns out they just drank decaf.

    Reply
  20. Opal Bamba

    Most people are exposed to the virus as children, when the disease produces no noticeable or only flu-like symptoms. In developing countries, people are exposed to the virus in early childhood more often than in developed countries. As a result, the disease in its observable form is more common in developed countries. It is most common among adolescents and young adults.;*-`

    With best thoughts
    <http://healthmedicinebook.comwp

    Reply

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