In Writing

I am something of a caffeine junkie. I always walk around fearing I’m not going to have enough energy for things, so I preemptively caffeinate. (Honestly, it’s a miracle I never became a cokehead. From the descriptions I hear, it sounds like it would have perfectly suited my need for a jolt. Thank goodness I dodged that bullet).

It began with Red Bull. I have had a protracted battle with Red Bull addiction. If Red Bull were like heroin, I’d be living in a box somewhere. As it stands, I drink it until it makes me jittery and bloated, then I swear it off, sometimes for months on end, only to find myself breaking. I try organic substitutes (my children affectionately call these “toilet water” for their consistently putrid taste). I try to clean out. Then I find my way back. I am a fully functional member of society with the psychology of a hopeless addict.

When I went to Seattle a little over a month ago, a couple of the people I was with suggested I try a shot of espresso when I couldn’t find Red Bull. Through all my searches for caffeine, coffee has never come into the equation. I’m a tea drinker, but I love my Earl Grey not for its negligible caffeine content, but for the taste. I am a veritable tea fiend. Coffee I find revolting, the smell, the color and, especially, the taste. I don’t even like to be near it when someone else is drinking it. I tried it in my teens, when my peers developed their addictions, long enough to figure out that it’s not for me. At the time, I went to Vivarin, that peppy little caffeine pill that helps you stay up all night to study for midterms, then leaves you a jittery mess the next day.

Back to Seattle. Caffeine withdrawal being what it is, I tried the espresso. I amused my companions with the disgusted faces I made after consuming the little cup of industrial waste. But then a miraculous thing began to happen. About a half an hour later, my mood improved remarkably. Everything seemed positive, like good things were happening all over the place. I started feeling thinner. I thought perhaps I might go for a run before dinner.

Caffeine, how I adore you.

The hit was so immediate, so clean, that I began to toy with having an espresso whenever I was jonesing for a Red Bull. I found that it gave me the lift without the sugar crash of Red Bull. I still could not stand the taste, but it was five seconds of suffering for hours of feeling good. (I guess that’s what heroin addicts tell themselves about the pin prick?). I bought a tiny two-cup espresso maker, the kind old Italian men have sitting on their stoves, and started making myself some in the mornings.

Substance abuse being what it is, I get up earlier and earlier craving it. I normally make it after I drop off the kids at school, but this morning, impatient, I made it before.

My son came downstairs. “It smells like cat food in here.”

“That’s coffee.”

“Coffee? Why would it smell like coffee?”

“I can smell it from up here!” yelled down my daughter from the second floor.

“I make it sometimes.”

He stared at me quizzically, unsure why I’d be betraying Team Tea that way.

Because your mom is a caffeine addict, that’s why, kid. The delivery system matters less than the high.

I dropped them off at school, came home, had my shot.  I washed it down quickly so I didn’t have to taste it too much. I waited for the sweet moment when it hit my bloodstream, making me feel clear and joyful. For a while. Until the next time. Such is the life of the jolt junkie.


If you want to laugh, my daughter decided to tape me on her phone when I revealed this new habit.

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