The Shakes

Dear Internet:

You are here to bear witness to the depraved depths of addiction.

Physically, I don’t have that many bad habits. Emotionally, I could provide you enough material to complete your neglected PhD thesis, but let’s not talk about that. I eat well most of the time, I know a ton about nutrition, I exercise a lot, and I don’t smoke or drink. These propensities are due less to healthy lifestyle than to the manipulation of my obsessiveness: I could just as easily be consumed by self-destruction, but I direct it in a mostly positive way.

So, my big problem is caffeine. I used to have one three-shot latte in the morning, and that would be enough to wake me up and get me through the day. Lately, it’s spiraled. I can drink a cappuccino at night and not have trouble sleeping. I’ll often drink Red Bull before going to the gym if I haven’t eaten recently, so I have enough energy to work out hard. I’m not getting that rush anymore after drinking coffee, but I’m still getting the crash an hour afterwards. And then there are the headaches, symptoms of which include an intense pinching between the eyes, the inability to concentrate, and frantic rushing in the direction of the nearest coffeeshop. The internet tells me that I get a caffeine-withdrawal headache because of excess blood in my head. It also says it’s making my blood sludgy, and my pancreas overworked. For the love of god. I need to stop.

Dealing with the headache isn’t difficult here in Minneapolis, where you’ll find two or three coffeeshops piled on top of each other at every streetcorner. However, the South doesn’t seem to understand. Memphis, for example: they have only three Starbucks, and they’re all on the same street. The first coffeeshop we chose (because it featured a shrine to Elvis impersonators) opened at 11am. 11am! For coffee!! We sat in the car outside it and gaped in disbelief. Now, I don’t want to generalize too much, but I’m going to anyway. Life in the South tends to be a little slower than it is up here. And now I understand why: lack of caffeine.

Out of desperation, things got ugly in the Deep South. I had stocked up on Red Bull in case of emergency, and there were plenty of emergencies. I started drinking whatever coffee I found in the hotel rooms, along with packets of coke-like creamer and artificial sweetener. At the casino in Mississippi, I learned to skeet-shoot and play blackjack, but what made me happiest of all? The fact that there was an espresso shop in the hotel. In New Orleans, a city which understands coffee, I drank it wherever I could find it, and my hands shook constantly. I didn’t need much sleep, either, although I suspect my companions may have wanted to hurt me the morning I climbed out of bed before 7am and started wandering around, bored.

The lowest moment for me was the last day of the trip, as we made the 20-hour drive back to Minneapolis. I felt bad about missing my shift due to an Indian-snack-food-induced coma that knocked me out for an hour in the backseat somewhere outside of St. Louis. So when we stopped to pee in picturesque Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, I wanted to be ready. I went for the 20-oz cup of the gas station’s very finest dark-roast coffee. The girl at the counter glared at me as I dumped about 5 packets of Equal into it, then paid her from the copious amounts of small change that had been accumulating in my purse. It was terrible, and I drank it all. I’m not proud.

So, having returned home, I have resolved to curb this habit. I’m not stopping completely, but I’d like to just stick to espresso in the morning, rather than a constant infusion that becomes my only means of survival. Starting today.

My head hurts.
Jenni

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