The Final Addiction

by Bill Brenner on March 10, 2010

The author on why he will shamelessly revel in his last addiction until he can’t anymore.

Mood music for this post: “Dr. Feelgood” by Motley Crue:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OU1zliOPCHo&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

Addiction has led to many shameful moments in my life:

Binging on a $35 bag of McDonald’s junk between work and home and walking through the door in a zombie-like state, feeling like the lowest of the low.

Realizing that I HAD to have a glass of wine at the end of the day or, better yet, all afternoon on a Sunday, the glass filled to the brim.

Dreaming up all kinds of ways to hide the money I was spending on both. In other words, lying to everyone about what I was up to — including myself. [More on that in The Liar’s Disease]

That was the real self-destructive stuff. I kicked the first habit by cutting all flour and sugar from my diet and putting all my food on a little scale. The second one was easier to kick, because even at its worst, that addiction was far less damaging than the flour-sugar kind.

I’m both sober (from alcohol) and abstinent (from compulsive overeating) and I work the 12 Steps of Recovery.

I still enjoy the occasional cigar, though I’m off them for the duration of Lent.

But there is still one hefty addiction on my shoulders. And you know what? I have no desire to kick it.

Caffeine.

I drink it all day, mostly in coffee form. I like it strong and bitter, and if there are grounds spinning in a circle at the surface, I’m fine with that. Even when I put cream in, it still looks black to the naked eye. I love it so.

My favorite routine is to get up at 4 a.m., brew a cup and let it seep into my bloodstream as I look out the living room window, sitting in my favorite chair, watching the sun come up. By 9 a.m., I’m on the second cup.

I prefer Starbucks, though Peets and Panera brew some good stuff as well.

On some of my work-at-home days, I can be found in the Starbucks up the street, using the place as my own caffeinated office.

When traveling, one of the first things I do is find where the coffee is at. By the way, there are a lot of great coffee shops in Washington D.C.

Why the obsession with coffee? Well, the easy answer is that I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and chances are I’m always going to latch onto something. The trick is to latch onto the things that are most harmless to me, my family and everyone else. Caffeine is one of those things.  Sure, there’s the risk that I’ll overdo it and end up in an emergency room with my heart trying to rip its way out of my chest.

When I was around 20, I thought a great way to lose weight was to drink as many cups of black coffee as I could squeeze into a day. It was good for weight loss, but that kind of weight loss is only temporary. And breathing into a paper bag to calm down at the end of the day got old fast.

What works for me now is to sip slowly. Guzzling is the path to heart palpitations, so I avoid that.

Sometimes, when I’m on the road, I switch over to Red Bull in the afternoon. I’m not as big a fan of the stuff, but it helps to dull the edge I get from seeing all the free booze and food flowing around me.

Yes, I’m letting something control me. Yes, I’ll probably have to stop someday. But not today.

Of all the addictions I have, it remains the least harmful. And if it keeps me away from the stuff that really pushes my life into a downward spiral, so be it.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mazoo March 10, 2010 at 7:41 am

Bill, yet another thing we have in common.

Before you knew me as a security tech PR guy – I was in Corp Comms for Starbucks. I used to cup (taste) hundreds of coffees almost every day. At one point I was one of only twelve individuals recognized as a “Coffee Ambassador,” a designation I had to compete for and win. Back in the day, when I was in practice, I could taste a coffee and tell you what countries the blend came from – or identify a single origin coffee by country – and sometimes even which region in the country it came from.

Funny thing is – I now drink more coffee than I ever used to back in those days (it was mainly sip and spit back then) and I drink coffee all day long. When I go on trips where there is unlikely to be good coffee – I even pack my own…

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