Column: Withdrawals, headaches and a bad attitude: My week without coffee
Coffee is a drug and should be treated as such.
Sep. 20, 2011
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
What do Four Loko and Monday mornings have in common?
They’re both pretty rough on college students, and they’re both pretty pointless without caffeine.
Although I can only speak from experience about the latter, it goes without saying that, from 5-Hour Energy to five cups of coffee, we college kids have a pretty heavy dependence on caffeine.
In fact, a recent hypothetical study showed that approximately 98 percent of students attending D-1 universities in the continental United States experienced a complete loss of interest in academic life without a readily available source of caffeine.
With such a grave statistic fabricating itself in my mind, I decided to engage in a substance-related experiment that most college kids would consider more risky than downing a Four Loko or two.
During the last week of summer, I embarked on a seven-day journey into hell. That’s right, kids: I decided to shun Starbucks, Mr. Coffee machines and anything coffee bean-related in general to see just how much coffee impacts the operation of my body and mind.
So, without further ado, what follows is a brief account of my descent into caffeine deprivation and the lessons I learned the hard way, all so that you don’t have to.
On the first dark, dreary morning, I looked sullenly at my coffee pot from across the room. I watched the coffee drip down into the pot as the strong, roasty aroma wafted through the kitchen.
Unable to grab my mug as I’d done every morning and afternoon for the last few years, I instead waited for the normal withdrawal symptoms to set in — headaches, lack of energy, zero motivation to live.
Fortunately, things were rather uneventful. I didn’t start shaking uncontrollably. I didn’t feel any urge to inflict bodily harm on myself, and I didn’t cry. My head felt a little foggy for about a half an hour, but whatevs. Welcome to late adolescence. I still felt pretty good convincing myself that I was somewhat capable of producing my own energy.
Despite the relatively headache-free mornings, my outlook on life became bleaker as the days progressed and digging myself out of bed became one of the biggest challenges of my day. I cheated a few afternoons with a Red Bull, but that still didn’t make up for the hellacious mornings where I had nothing to look forward to or pull me out of my sleepiness.
One small sign of hope glimmered briefly everyday around 11 a.m. when I would naturally dig myself out of sleep and feel somewhat energized. But it wasn’t long before moodiness, irritability and other symptoms started telling me it was my time of the month.
As the week wound down, I resigned myself to my fate. Waking up and functioning without my cup of joe wasn’t getting any easier. Lethargy, depression and random acts of violence were growing more frequent.
I attributed my negativity and general state of depression to the fact that I was packing and leaving home in a few days, but until I had a cup of coffee at the end of my caffeine sabbatical, I didn’t realize that I was just suffering from the caffeine withdrawal.
Long column short, I had to come to grips with the fact that caffeine is a drug, and any drug can cause addiction and withdrawal if consumed frequently enough.
After drinking at least one cup of strong black coffee every morning and afternoon for such a long time, going a week without it was terrible, and it wasn’t a good situation to be in.
I mean, what if my coffee pot stops working? What if Starbucks goes out of business? What if someone declares nuclear war on South America?
Extreme circumstances aside, it’s nice to know that I will actually survive a few days without coffee, no matter how miserably.
But it’s even nicer knowing that I probably won’t have to, especially since I wouldn’t have been able to reflect on Week Decaf and write this if it wasn’t for the coffee currently running through my system.
And if any of you would like to try a similar experiment, feel free to buy me a cup to drink for you.