Rants 16 Jan 2015 19:17:04

Abnegating Addiction

Some say “once an addict, always an addict“. When it comes to something as simple as caffeine addiction, that’s definitely not applicable.

Some years ago I became comfortable with the idea that I was most likely addicted to caffeine. When you drink up to a liter of Coca Cola every day, that’s not exactly a big leap to make. As it didn’t interfere with anything in daily life, I had no outward reason to care. However, what I do care about is personal control, and the idea that something was controlling me even to the slightest degree started nagging at the back of my mind.

Being a scientist at heart, I did some experiments to see what would happen if I forewent caffeine for a few days. Invariably, the first 24 hours are entirely normal with no side effects. The permanent headache starts in the morning of the 2nd day. The first few times, I couldn’t be sure it was the lack of caffeine as the weather was also a potential source, but eventually it became clear that the headache was indeed a withdrawal effect.

Having established this annoying fact, I obviously wanted to get past the addiction. To that end, I started keeping detailed track of how much Coca Cola I drank during the day. At this point, I had already cut down to what I thought was around half a liter spread throughout the day, which my logging demonstrated was true – so at least I wasn’t mentally cheating.

With the level set, I tried to break the addiction on two occasions. Unfortunately, concentrating on programming and other mental work while you have a headache just isn’t possible, which led to the attempts being cut short by deadlines and crunch times where I needed to get stuff done, addiction be damned. This led to cutting even more back on caffeine intake to a mere 200ml in the morning, used to flush down my daily vitamin pills. The irony of flushing down vitamins with Coca Cola is not lost on me.

On 2014-11-27, we ran out of Coca Cola, so I figured I’d try foregoing it again. As before, the first day was without withdrawal symptoms. And as before, the 2nd day brought with it the headache. 3rd day made it worse, but not as bad as prior attempts. 4th through 7th day was tolerable, and then the headache went away – and stayed gone.

And then I piecemeal decided to avoid Coca Cola for a month. It was available and within reach on several occasions, but I figured I’d try not having any. This led to 2 weeks, then 3 weeks, then a month passing by. And then New Year’s Eve was suddenly nearing, whereupon I decided I’d bloody well have some ice cold coke after midnight. I’d proven to myself that the addiction was real and, more importantly, that it did not control me.

I did worry that having caffeine again would immediately cause a relapse into a week-long headache when I did not continue the intake. Luckily, this did not happen. I can now enjoy Coca Cola randomly with weeks in between, without any side effects.

And as silly as a caffeine addiction is, writing and publishing this article comes with a solid dose of shame. I can’t even imagine how alcoholics and drug addicts must feel.

3 Responses to “Abnegating Addiction”

  1. on 17 Jan 2015 at 11:09:54 1.Qb said …

    just out of curiosity, are you sure that the symptoms (and the addiction) were about caffeine and not about the huge quantity of sugar contained in Coca Cola? Or maybe a mix of the two?

  2. on 17 Jan 2015 at 12:09:33 2.Tino Didriksen said …

    Because I didn’t cut down on sugar. I had other sodas, chocolate milk, fruit juice, etc, with the same carb calories.

  3. on 17 Jan 2015 at 14:10:42 3.eXpl0it3r said …

    It’s really great that you shared this story! I’d say a huge percentage of people in the modern world are addicted to caffeine, probably less through Coca Cola and more through coffee. Hope it inspires more people to take a step back on their caffeine consumption. :)

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