March 10, 2016

Day 30. I’ve survived a month without coffee, sweets of any flavor, and not one drop of alcohol.

That fact alone should give me confidence to dig in for the remaining willpower required.   Instead I am riddled with doubt. It occurred to me last week I may have an identifiable issue where caffeine is concerned.raw coffee beans

My cure for doubt- information. Today I walked to the college library in search of what professionals might consider a “problem” with caffeine consumption. News reports are conflicting. One study suggests coffee is good for you; another reports it’s bad. The inconsistencies should leave me hovering in the everything-in-moderation zone. But I’ve been told flat out I’m a person driven to extremes. My understanding of moderation may be a bit murky.

Today’s objective- a psychological self-evaluation using The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-V.  Still shelved behind the main desk for reserved use only, I knew it would yield facts needed to put my fluttering mind at ease.

I flipped to the index where I found Caffeine-Related Disorders. Thirty-one subtopics were listed under the major headings: I took them one at a time.DSM-V cover

            Caffeine Intoxication

            Caffeine Withdrawal

            Caffeine-Related Disorders

Surely fourteen pages written by dedicated professionals in the business of assigning labels and describing symptoms would erase all doubt.

First, Caffeine Intoxication. (The name left me lightheaded.)

Diagnostic Criteria:

-Recent consumption of caffeine (Typically a high dose well in excess of 250mg).

One tiny 8 oz cup of dripped coffee contains 95 mg. That gives us coffee guzzlers less than three cups before we find ourselves in the excess zone.

I adjusted my chair, read down the list of symptoms that can develop during or after caffeine use, and thanked God I hadn’t looked at this book 30 days ago.

-Restlessness- No, after all I’m sitting down, not fidgeting

-Nervousness- Yes ever since first grade when Sister John Agnes told me God sees everything I do.

-Excitement– None in the last 30 days.

-Insomnia– I’m a mom=light sleeper.

-Rambling flow of thought and speech. Not me. My mouth just can’t keep pace with my thoughts.

The rest, all negative: My muscles don’t twitch, my heartbeat and blood pressure are  great. I can report no periods of inexhaustibility. And last, no evidence of psychomotor agitation- I tend to keep my clothes on.

Confidence started to creep in.  I didn’t fit the profile for caffeine intoxication. I flipped to Caffeine Withdrawal.

This label assumes daily caffeine use over a long time. My relationship with wakey juice began in the early 80s. There was a Mr. Coffee in a communal area nested among graduate student cubicles. An empty pint jar lined with dust wore a “donations for coffee” sticker for two years. Never empty, it was a miracle pot- kind of like the 5 loaves and 2 fishes.

Mr. Coffee Maker

Caffeine Withdrawal can occur with an abrupt cessation or reduction in caffeine use. Starting one day later symptoms may be manifest.

-Headache- Good God yes!

-Marked fatigue or drowsiness- Only when driving, but I’ll give that a yes.

-Dysphoric mood, or irritability- Negative on the mood, but if tossing two of my husband’s coffee travel mugs in the trash because I couldn’t get the goddam lids off to wash them suggests irritability, I’ll go with a yes.

-Difficulty concentrating- Can’t decide, I’ll come back to that one.

-Flu-like symptoms- No time to get sick, essays to grade.

Apparently caffeine withdrawal symptoms last for 2-9 days, with the possibility of those horrible headaches occurring for up to 21 days. I’m so past all of that.

Best discovery: The above symptoms usually go away within 3-6 minutes of re exposure to caffeine. I never thought of exposing myself to caffeine but talk about a quick fix. Maybe I’m a closet coffee flasher, who knew?

To complete my self-evaluation I read one last section under the heading Conditions for Further Study. Caffeine Use Disorder was among them.

Nine proposed criteria:

-A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control caffeine use.  I never attempted to control its use. Cutting down wasn’t considered. I quit cold turkey.

-Continued caffeine use despite knowledge of having a persistent… problem caused or exacerbated by caffeine. I never stopped drinking caffeine long enough to notice a problem.

-Tolerance. I believe over time, and that’s decades, the effects of caffeine may have diminished. My fellow bean pals get this. Can’t count the number of times a person has remarked, “Oh, I just can’t drink coffee in the afternoon, I’d be up all night.” My thought, Lightweight. It’s true for all habits, you build up to a level. The rest is maintenance.

Summary of self-analysis (considering life prior to Lent of course):coffee addict cup

Symptoms indicate I did not suffer from Caffeine Intoxication. I absolutely did suffer from Caffeine Withdrawal. This is reassuring not a concern. And I can undo any lingering symptoms with one cup of coffee—I just have to wait 16 more days. If I read about a proposed study of Caffeine Use Disorder, I’m volunteering as a subject.

Imagine being told to drink coffee!