Red Bull Blues

by Bill Brenner on April 5, 2010

The author learns once again that when he puts one addiction down, he picks up another.

I realized something awhile back. I guess I already knew, but this just made it crystal clear for me.

I was at the airport, en route to Santa Clara, California. There was no Starbucks nearby. My other choices were Dunkin’ Donuts or coffee served at a breakfast place across the way.

Certain that both choices would fall far short of the kick I get from Starbucks, Peets or one of the other high-grade coffee providers, I went with a can of Red Bull.

My latest addiction.

I never thought I would start drinking this stuff. But here’s how it happened:

During the 2010 RSA security conference, I was feeling a bit edgy because living through a conference without enjoying all the free booze was something I was still adjusting to, even though I’ve been sober and abstinent from binge eating for quite some time. On the show floor, the Threatpost “clubhouse” had a fridge stalked with free soft drinks, including Red Bull.

Free caffeine in a can. And there’s a sugar-free version, which helps, since I gave up flour and sugar for the binge eating problem.

Drinking it removed the edge, and having a can in my hand instead of a coffee cup somehow made it easier to exist around all the people with beer, wine and stronger cocktails in their hands.

Game over.

Since then, I’ve been drinking at least one every afternoon or evening. Erin said she was getting annoyed finding random empty Red Bull cans around the house and in my car.

The funny thing is, she used to express it the same way when she found evidence of an eating binge under the car seats. Guilt bags, she called them.

Now they’re empty Red Bull cans.

And thus we have another example of what I call playing your addictions like a piano. You pound on one key until it breaks into pieces. You realize it was stupid to do that and you stop it. Then you do the same thing to another key further down the board. The process repeats until you’ve smashed every key on the piano.

Then you find another piano and repeat the process.  It’s a kind of purgatory addicts live in.

Am I angry about picking up an addiction to Red Bull?

A little.

It pisses me off that I can’t picture myself without SOMETHING in my hand to somehow fill the soul hole. Over time that hole has gotten a lot smaller, allowing me to put down the most destructive addictions. But there’s just enough of a chasm left that other, smaller addictions come into play.

Here’s what I’m going to do about it:

NOTHING.

For now, anyway.

That’s because I have to focus on Priority-One of my recovery program, which is to stay away from the addictions that crushed me and made my life unmanageable.

Those addictions were binge eating and, as a smaller byproduct, wine.

If the caffeine helps me stay away from those things and allows me to keep my life manageable, that’s how it must be.

Update: Last week I was in San Francisco again for RSA Conference 2012. Red Bull was available everywhere I went. Much of the time I drank it from a glass, which threw people for a loop. A lot of folks never see the stuff out of the can, and are surprised to see that it looks like lightly-carbonated whiskey or beer.

I was the sober man in rooms packed with the pleasantly buzzed. But, holding my glass of Red Bull, I really felt like part of the crowd.

Fucked up, I know. But there it is.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Regina Boratgis April 5, 2010 at 10:41 am

I met a lot of AA people in OA who had substituted food for booze.

Mazoo April 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I used to drink a lot of these too. I would buy cases of them from Costco, and relied on them throughout the day. Great kick, no sugar – You’re ON!

Then I read this: Red Bull drink lifts stroke risk: Australian study http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSSYD5846120080815

“One hour after they drank Red Bull, (their blood systems) were no longer normal. They were abnormal like we would expect in a patient with cardiovascular disease,” Scott Willoughby, lead researcher from the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, told the Australian newspaper.

I haven’t had another energy drink since… although I still crave the kick every now and then (not to mention the uniquely strange but enticing chemically/effervescent flavor), I make do with Diet Coke and coffee throughout the day. Yes, I know they have their own health risks associated, but I don’t recall ever reading that increased risk of a stroke was one of them…

Ann April 5, 2010 at 3:15 pm

As long as that cigar or a cigarette don’t replace the sugar, flour or booze – you have my support all the way! Bull it up!

billbrenner1970 April 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I had read about the Red Bull danger. But of course my main addictions had the same effect, plus the mental-depressive build up.

Paul M. April 5, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I look at my spirit as a vessel, and it’s contents. When we first get into recovery, the vessel is broken, so it can’t hold anything. As we work on it, the vessel gets repaired then we just need to keep replenishing the contents.

The fuller we can keep our spirit, the less our disease manifests itself.

Marisa April 5, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Another totally huge album! Although I might have been the only one I know that defended ReLoad with the same loving fervor as I did for Load. Thanks for the memories.

Anne April 6, 2010 at 4:06 am

You drink one of those “energy” drinks each night?! I can’t even drink tea after noon if I want to get a good night’s sleep!

Rebecca January 21, 2011 at 11:57 am

My name is Rebecca and I’m a casting producer for the TLC show “Freaky Eaters.” We’re currently looking for ADULTS ADDICTED TO ENERGY DRINKS for Season 2 of the show.

For more info or to nominate someone, please send an email to pickyeaterscasting@gmail.com with your name, age, number, and brief description of your daily consumption of energy drinks/caffeine.

Hope to hear from you soon!

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