The Caffeine Confessions

The Caffeine Confessions

A narrative of my addiction to energy.

Regardless of the form in which it comes, everyone has their addiction. Don't believe me? Look deeper. Push all the good aside in the purest person you've ever met, and you're bound to find some vice. Some affinity or weakness that one knows is detrimental to their well-being, but just can't seem to shake. I know first-hand how impossible these tendencies are to purge, as I shamefully admit to you all that I, too, have an addiction of my own. No matter how hard I've tried to fight it, I'll always be drawn back to its seemingly rejuvenating effect. It is known for many crimes, ranging from the corrosion of teeth to the occasional, albeit fatal, overdose. It presents itself as a tool for productivity but sheds this mask once the restless soul it lures in becomes reliant on it. I speak, of course, about caffeine, a substance I can’t seem to quit despite the life-threatening experiences it has caused me.

As I would imagine, you scoffed when you read the word “caffeine.” Of all things one could be addicted to, I found the most pathetic one. Clearly, this isn’t a bad thing at all, in a comparative sense, at least, but it doesn’t make for a “Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas.” No, all I have to offer is a series of previously undocumented incidents where I found myself matter-of-factly saying, “Well, my heart’s never done that before,” or, “I guess I’m going to die soon.”

It’s unclear where the problem began, but I can recall an early urge to drink energy drinks and coffee in my preteen years. Think of the stereotypical 13-year-old boy: Rat-mustached, video-game obsessed and eager to feign maturity, often to the extent of swearing and drinking whatever sugary drinks they can get their hands on. While the classmates who teased me suited this archetype better than I did, I was certainly attracted to Monster energy drinks as much as the next kid and developed a pre-addictive craving around this time. Along with this new attachment of mine, I noticed that coffee had always been a staple in my household, and was quickly determined to drink that as much as possible, though I can say now that I thought it tasted awful at first. What began as a simple, innocent consumption soon lead to withdrawal, as my then preteen self would be prone to headaches and lethargy if I didn’t get my fix of caffeine each morning.

Even with the withdrawal, I didn’t consider my newfound affinity for caffeinated beverages as a strange thing. I figured that all kids my age chose to drink the stuff, so they must have fallen victim to the same cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It wasn’t until one particularly long night spent watching movies with a friend that I realized my addiction was more foreign than I originally thought. We decided to stay up past midnight and marathon several horror movies in his basement, with the aid of a six-pack of Red Bull I had purchased at a nearby gas station. The night went well for me, and I had no trouble comfortably falling asleep after three cans of the stuff. Luck wasn’t on my friend’s side, however, and he spent the rest of the night in the bathroom with an upset stomach, a notorious side effect of caffeine overdose. Needless to say, that friend still stays away from Red Bull well into adulthood. I wasn’t nearly as wise, and my addiction continued into high school.

While the aforementioned experience opened my eyes to caffeine being a problem, the slightly increased workload in high school and long hours I began to work at my restaurant job assured me that my addiction was justified. By the time I started high school, coffee had distinguished itself as a necessity in my morning routine, and Red Bull was a common post-work pick-me-up at the end of every night, whether or not I actually had a reason to stay up. This had a profound effect on my health and demeanor, as I would constantly either be shaking from withdrawal or from ingesting one-too-many cups of coffee and grew sick from the abundance of sugar and caffeine in my system. This, along with the regular cup of coffee, added another event to my morning routine: Fighting the urge to vomit on my way to school, but I still refused to give the substance up. I was a teenager, after all, and every peer of mine at the time drank an abundance of coffee as well, so living without it started to feel even more strange than the side-effects I was experiencing.

I knew caffeine was doing some damage to my body by the time I was 18 years old but always laughed at this notion, trusting too much in the resilience I had been graced with so far. What I didn’t expect, however, was that my addiction would lead to near-death experiences. Now, I realize that “near-death experiences” sounds rather extreme, and my caffeine-induced complications never landed me in a hospital, but it’s hard not to jump to conclusions when you feel your heart literally change its tempo as much as The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun.”

I was at work the first time I experienced an overdose and had to end my shift early on account the symptoms of a surplus of coffee that morning. While trying to go about my work duties, I was struck with a sharp pain in my abdomen, a pain I was first able to shrug off for about an hour. After that hour of productivity, the pain increased to a degree I had never encountered before, and all focused on the right side of my stomach. This area made me certain of one thing: My appendix was about to burst. I informed my boss, who dismissed me immediately, and I hurried home. I’m still unsure of any correlation between caffeine addiction and the appendix, but I had been anticipating issues with my appendix for a while. I knew the severity of a burst appendix, but some foolish part of my conscience convinced me to refrain from going to the emergency room. I listened to this voice, ignored all the logic in the situation I was going through and decided to dance on the edge of death for a night. Well, that sounded too cool. What I really did was foolishly fall asleep despite the apparent fire ants in my stomach. The next morning, the pain was gone, and I never encountered it again.

Since I had been so lucky to avoid any real danger in the previous experience, I didn’t think to quit drinking caffeine. Several similar, albeit less intense, incidents followed, but I found myself developing a resistance to the substance. By the time I graduated high school, I found several cups of black coffee to be the only thing to actually wake me up and soon ditched 12-ounce Red Bulls in favor of 20-ounce ones. This upgrade didn’t affect me in any way for a long time, but I knew that I’d suffer eventually. The first red flag came when I visited the dentist for the first time in four years. After a cleaning filled with bloody gums and the striking of several nerves, the dentist revealed to me that I had eleven cavities scattered throughout my mouth. While I let him try to pull some explanation out of me, I knew my brushing habits weren’t the issue. The issue was the inhuman amount of caffeine and sugar running through my mouth every day. I found this ridiculously intense news entertaining but confirmed that I was, in fact, addicted to caffeine. Nothing changed, however, and the long, sleepless nights of college were on the horizon.

This brings my journey to one final near-fatal experience, which encountered just three weeks ago now. It was exam week at BGSU, and I expected to perform poorly. I only had three exams, but studied intensely for a week, staying up until 4 a.m. and sleeping for two hours with the help of copious amounts of caffeine. I had made the mistake of working the evening before my two of my finals, and decided to power through the night and do some last-minute cramming with the help of six cups of black coffee and thirty-two collective ounces of Red Bull. I drank all of this in one sitting and then proceeded to study until 3 a.m.

The studying went well, and I felt moderately confident about the exams now less than twelve hours away. I understood that, in order to retain my sanity, I would have to sleep for the three hours I had given myself. I laid down, closed my eyes, and drifted to sleep for a few moments. I jumped back awake and realized that my heart was beating faster than I had ever experienced before. I tried to remedy this with a few deep breaths, but these only made my heart vibrate, so I rolled to my side and tried to ignore the imminent heart attack, as I had done with my appendix. After a minute or so of shallow sleep, I jolted back awake again, this time from kicking my wall as a result of a muscle spasm. Several smaller muscles were quickly flexing and releasing at the time, which only increased the caffeine-induced panic I was already experiencing. After realizing that I was out of any options, and the stupidity that led to this emergency, I got up, looked into the mirror, and said to myself, “I’m going to die tonight.”

Yet here I am, looking back at this experience and laughing again. I did very well on my exams the next day, so some devil’s advocate in me wants to give some credit to the caffeine that almost killed me that night. Caffeine truly is my vice, and I understand that I would be wise to stop drinking it entirely. I’d like to end this narrative with some uplifting cliché like “I quit cold turkey,” but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t drink coffee every morning following that night and caved for some small cans of Red Bull.

I’d like to wean myself away from the stuff, but do I really see myself quitting anytime soon? Absolutely not. Everyone has their vice.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

Popular Right Now

​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.

Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:” Line Matters,

I want to start off by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can’t afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you’re just lazy and you “don’t feel like it”? Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you’re unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the US Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck.” stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:” line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can’t seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to ten people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!”

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the seventeen other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there’s a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 dollar bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of ten times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession - whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food, and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a forty dollar bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes - as if you’re better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you’ll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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Floating Is the Best Self-Care You Could Think Of

Escape from the pressures of the world and relax in a sensory deprivation float tank.


If you're like me, you probably spend a lot of time connected to technology. We work on our devices daily, sleep with them next to us, take them to the bathroom with us, and rarely have them out of sight. Most of us realize this pattern isn't healthy, but find it difficult to completely disengage from the devices that keep us organized, connected, and oftentimes stressed. While I don't have the solution to our "always on" societal demands, I was able to enjoy a new and relaxing experience this week that I hope many of you will be able to try as well.

Recently, Sonder Mind & Body opened in Greensboro, offering a variety of wellness services including an infrared sauna, acupuncture, and floatation therapy. When I learned that they also had a cafe that catered to special dietary needs, my interest was piqued. Due to my struggle with food allergies on my functional medicine journey, it has been a challenge to find restaurants that offer grain-free options. When I saw that Sonder offered not only amazing anti-inflammatory smoothies but also grain-free cookies, fermented vegetables and probiotic coconut yogurt, I knew this was my kind of place!

Delicious vegan cookiesEmily Adams

I stopped by while walking around downtown for First Friday and tried their Sweet Blue Bee Smoothie. It was a heavenly mix of blueberries, banana, coconut water, coconut milk, hemp seeds, bee pollen, and honey. They also offer fresh cold-pressed juices, coffee, and tea from one of my other favorite places in Greensboro, Vida Pour Tea. I love when small businesses collaborate in this way and I get to enjoy the best of both worlds!

I love their cafe optionsEmily Adams

They've done a wonderful job of making the interior inviting and peaceful. I love the vibrant plants, cheerful colors and quiet space that they've created. Shortly after my visit for First Friday, I booked my first floatation tank experience with them. A few years back, I heard about floatation tanks becoming popular, but was always hesitant to try them because I felt I would be claustrophobic and I didn't know of any nearby. After seeing that there was an option to keep the tank enclosure open at Sonder, I had no excuses left. Ironically, on my way to go relax and float, I got stuck in a huge traffic jam due to a train and started getting stressed that I was going to be late (something I really hate). I ended up arriving just in time, but looking back it was funny how worked up I got about traffic, and I realized just how much I needed the time to disengage and relax.

The halo headrest in the tankEmily Adams

As I got checked in, I read the FAQ's provided and signed the standard waiver form, then Sarah took me back to the floatation room and explained the process to me. Everyone is required to shower before entering the float tank, so I did that and proceeded to climb in. (You can float with or without a bathing suit, but they recommend without in order to have the most natural contact with the water). I've always wanted to visit the Dead Sea because of the ability to float in the water, so I was excited to simulate that for the first time! The high concentration of Epsom salt in the tank is what keeps your body afloat, and also what provides you with some amazing health benefits due to the magnesium levels and detox properties of the salt.

Floating Preparation KitEmily Adams

As I mentioned, I had the option to keep the top open or closed, but after getting in and seeing that it was spacious, I decided to close it and keep the light on to see how I would feel. Thankfully I didn't feel claustrophobic at all and was able to relax. There is an option to keep music playing in the tank or to relax in complete silence (earplugs are provided). I chose to keep some music going as I found that it helped me relax). They provide an optional headrest which I used throughout my float. It was a peaceful experience and even though I'm 5'9', there was sufficient space and I didn't feel crowded. I enjoyed the feeling of floating and tried out various positions. At the end of the float, a calming voice will come on letting you know the session has ended, and that it's time to exit the tank.

Emily Adams Shower for use before and after floatingEmily Adams

After I got out and showered, the tank started its filtration process. If you're worried about whether floating is hygienic, rest easy knowing each drop is filtered 9 times in between floats using a combination of micron filtration, UV rays, and ozone generators. Epsom salts are also a natural disinfectant, so you're covered on all fronts. You can read more FAQ's about the process here. There is a timer-based heating option that you can turn on while you're showing/getting dressed after the float, and hair dryers are provided in the bathrooms. They've truly thought of everything to provide you with a comfortable and relaxing experience. After you get dried off, you can go chill in the cafe and enjoy a juice, smoothie or snack ( I recommend their rainbow rolls!)

Photo Credit: Emily Adams Rainbow RollsEmily Adams

I can't wait to come back to spend time in the infrared sauna and hopefully participate in one of their community acupuncture sessions, which is something I've always been curious about. They also offer community workshops, yoga classes, massage therapy, and lifestyle/health coaching. I hope you'll be able to try floating at Sonder or another center near you. You won't regret making time for yourself.

great experience floating I loved my first float and slept like a baby afterwardsEmily Adams

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Emily Adams

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