My Rapid Descent Into Caffeine Addiction

For years, I refused to drink coffee. It seemed like too intense a stimulant for me. Even on my most sluggish mornings, I stuck to the soft stuff. Chai. Hot chocolate. Coca Cola. Usually those did the trick. The sugar and mild caffeine buzz gave me enough of a jolt to power through the workday. I worried that if I ever transitioned into actual coffee, dark and bitter and ground from beans, there would be no turning back. I feared that once I took the plunge, I would plummet blindly into the bottomless abyss of a stainless steel travel mug, never to surface again. I actually had concerns about moving from the morning cup of joe to blowing lines of cocaine just to get up in the morning.

Of course that was a crazy phobia. Also, of course, it came half true.

Mocha was my gateway drug. As much as my maniac fear of addiction kept me off of coffee, so too did my sweet tooth. In the same way that I rarely drink because I don’t like how beer tastes, I barely ever dabbled in espresso because I didn’t like the way it hit my tongue. Mocha changed that. Last spring, I began working more nights in addition to my day job teaching preschool in the mornings. I was a lot of tired a lot of the time. One day I woke up convinced that my normal hot chocolate would not get the job done. I needed something stronger, so I opted for the iced mocha, which at Dunkin Donuts is an iced coffee with a thick glob of chocolate syrup. I was hooked within sips.

Soon I was downing a cup of coffee daily. Even if I made it through the morning without powering up, I’d have to gulp one down to keep myself awake past dark. But it gets worse. When my girlfriend, a longtime black coffee drinker, accompanied me for my daily fix, I became immediately self-conscious. It just wasn’t cool to drink what was basically the equivalent of chocolate milk laced with Ritalin. I started ordering regular iced coffee. Skim milk. One sugar. A little more respectable. A little less diluted.

Recently, though, I crossed a line I’d determined not to. I doubled up. One coffee in the morning and a second in the afternoon. I had a long day of travel, I reasoned, and I got up early. But those were just excuses. You know, like: “Of course it’s okay for me to be high. It’s a party. My nephew’s fourth birthday party.” Or: “I drive better with a couple of drinks in me and a stripper on my lap!” It was a rationalization, not a reason.

At this point, where do I stop? Two cups a day? Three? Do I get a mug and keep it on my desk, refilling it every hour or so as I empty it over and over and over again? Intravenous drip? One Pulp Fiction needle to the heart every morning? Where does it end? Would I be able to stop?

I don’t mean to belittle people who suffer from the very real disease of addiction. I don’t consider myself a legitimate addict. My real concern is that I have that potential inside me, the tendency to indulge compulsive or dangerous behavior once I start. Relying on any chemical on a regular basis makes me anxious. If I have a headache, I try to wait it out until I absolutely have to choke down a couple of Advil. As soon as I find myself wanting to dance or call a girl “Fancy Hair,” I cut off my booze intake. That’s not usual. It’s phobic. But it follows that when I drink coffee, I’m very conscious of the frequency and volume of my intake. In fact, on days when I wake up feeling fresh and chipper, I try to drink juice instead. Certainly this is far from actual addiction, but it’s enough to make me nervous. I’m probably not on the cusp of any real danger, but how can I be sure? Even the idea of it makes me confused and afraid.

All I’m certain of is if you ever hear me utter the phrase: “I’m not even a human being until I have my first cup of coffee,” please slap me in the face and make me apologize at gun point while sobbing because I have hit rock bottom. TC mark

image – ©


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  • lalala

    i drink 2-3 big mugs of coffee everyday, when i reach my fourth for the day i started to freak out  and be really hyper til after midnight! lol 

  • Caity Sherlock

    i have been to the pits of coffee addiction and back. i too started with Mocha as my gateway! then in college it was a pot of coffee a day and a red bull. now i’m down to one large coffee from dunkin, maybe a latte after lunch if i’m craving it. but i don’t like to believe i’m a human being until my first cup is digested. 

    mornings suck less with a warm cup of coffee. 

  • Anonymous

    “It wasn’t cool to drink what was basically the equivalent of chocolate milk laced with Ritalin.” Hahahahaha!

    Enjoyed this almost as much as I enjoy my morning coffee.

  • Tom Smith

    I need one coffee to avoid withdrawal headaches and another to be nice to other people.
    I might have a problem.

    • Kai

      What about the third to deal with everyone after lunch? And the fourth to make it through the evening?

  • Amy Barkham

    Don’t try NO DOZ.

  • Crystal

    This is my life right now.
    I have always refused to drink coffee. That was until I entered college and have had weeks upon weeks of only 4-5 hours of sleep (which is not enough at all for me). I’m cranky, rude, and unbearable until I have some good ole’ caffeine in my system. I have become a monster.

  • Bettine Symons

    I drink one cup of coffee per week (gloat) and it has to be half milk. But I am a tea granny and have been since two years old, when I learned to say: “Cup tea!”  I unashamedly drink tea ALL DAY. In fact, now that tea is on my mind I shall have another……Slurp, gulp  AAH! that is goood!  I heartily scorn herb tea. Mine has to be the brown stuff. Absolutely.  And searingly hot.

    80 years of drinking tea, and it hasn’t done me any harm. That’s what I say, anyway.  In fact, it has been very good for me.  I had a spell of drinking water and it made no difference at all…no difference at all…snore…..

    What?  Where?  I do tend to fall asleep when sittng up typing on the old computer tho’

    You might have guessed by now that I am English.

    Loved your article, BTW

    • Guest

      Are you 80 years old and reading Thought Catalog? If so, you are the coolest person on the internet. 

  • Sophia

    I’m where you used to be — terrified of addiction, so I don’t go near the stuff. The same goes for energy drinks. That stuff just can’t be good for you.

  • Soyoung Lim

    I’m in the exact same boat. My name is Soyoung, (Hi, Soyoung) and I’m a caffeine addict. Starbucks in general was my gateway and it at started a few months ago when college started. I used to get the edge off by a cup of tea but now I’ve gone to black. And I can’t go back. I don’t know who I am anymore. Thank you.

  • Guest

    You’re fine. Just don’t drink coffee after 6pm so you can sleep at night. Coffee is a beautiful thing. (Beer is good too, just stop drinking Budweiser and get some of the good stuff.) 

  • Karoline Zacharer

    I was laughing the whole time I read this.  Great article!  I love all the stuff you put up on TC!

  • Randeep Katari

    Here’s my somewhat similar story about coffee as well: (with drawings!!)

    • lianne


      it’s desperate and annoying.


  • Scott Muska

    Stay far, far away from Jolt gum.

  • Kelvin Lee

    ” In the same way that I rarely drink because I don’t like how beer tastes…”

    WTF? What is happening? Have you tried other spirits? Silly tweeney drinks like Mike’s Hard? Margaritas?

    • Joey

      Yeah, has someone told you that there are other alcoholic beverages that have been invented?

  • Noneed

    Sounds like the anxiety of being addicted is causing you more discomfort than any side effects of the addiction it’s self… Hypochondriac-much? :)

  • Anonymous

    It all went downhill when I took a job at Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m only sixteen… help. me.

  • JT

    I’ve still been able to resist the urge to try caffeine pills (I don’t know how common they are elsewhere but here they’re sold in drug stores), so I think it’s more than okay to enjoy the two cups of coffee every day, hahah.

  • Gregory Costa

    Oh, I love my percolated coffee.  All of you who say “Coffee boiled is coffee spoiled” can go screw yourselves.  I don’t care if I’m losing a few aromatic compounds–they only fill the air with that delicious coffee smell.   I love seeing the chrome pot glistening, my reflection staring back.  A smile grows on my face as the pot goes in a popping frenzy.  I get satisfaction when that little orange light tells me, “Greg, my job is complete. Enjoy!”    The simplicity of the device–hot water streaming through ground beans to produce a bold, intense coffee–no filter necessary–only make me more in love.  Grounds floating in my coffee add that slight gritty texture that I do not get from my Cuisinart…Ah, I think I could go for some now. 

  • NoSexCity

    I was laughing once this got rolling but this slayed me: ‘You know, like: “Of course it’s okay for me to be high. It’s a party. My nephew’s fourth birthday party.”’

    Nicely done.

  • Sesamesnaps

    Whatever, coffee’s good for you. That’s what I tell myself to justify my habit, since I am an unabashed full-out addict. I need several cups just to be in an okay mood, rather than a god-awful-kill-me-now kind of mood. I get withdrawal headaches within 10 hours of my last cup. Sigh. I just love it so much though. Black’s the only way to go. But if you can’t deal, forget the sugar and just add a bit of half-and-half. The fat in the cream cuts the bitter way better than that sugar bitch could ever dream of.

  • Ellen

    I started drinking energy drinks in first year to deal with all the homework (my program is particularly difficult – it’s designed to make at least 70 of the original 100 students accepted each year fail or drop out by the end of the program) but continued to deal with going to work after partying, and eventually just acting like a civilized person each day. When I moved to China, I stopped drinking them because Red Bull here isn’t fizzy, and I can’t find Monster (which I usually drink). I was depressed for a long time, which I attributed to being away from home, and the stress of a new school. But now I found a place that does (the equivalent of) $1.20CDN cafe mochas or caramel macchiatos, and my life is complete once again. The only thing is that I’m used to drinking sugar free energy drinks, so the sugar is doing weird things to me. But it’s better than the alternative.

  • a.

    I’ve gone back and forth between multiple caffeine addictions. I’m obsessed with coffee, to put it mildly, but I hate feeling like I “need” it to function. So for now I’m teetering the line with decaf or half-caf lattes.

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