A Coffee Addict’s Last Stand

I am the epitome of focus and quickly weaving down the main aisle of a CVS drugstore. I entered the store with the confidence of someone who just needs one thing and knows exactly where it is.  I’ve seen it on the shelves one hundred times.  I walk with a sense of purpose while eyeballing the hanging signs… Drugs… Drugs… Drugs… It will be hidden in plain sight amongst the rows and rows of over the counter drugs.  I scan left, then right.  Right then left.  Inadvertently weaving back and forth as I do so.  It comes to my attention that there is a man who entered behind me, also walking with a sense of purpose, but his purpose is being slightly hindered due to my weaving.  He is holding himself back out of politeness.  I spot the drug area on the left, but bank right and momentarily slow to allow the gentleman behind me to pass.  I take the opportunity to turn and apologize for my swerving gate and attempt to make some joke about it being a little early on a Friday afternoon to be so drunk.  He appreciates my humor, and we share a laugh as he passes me by heading towards the Pharmacy.

“Sorry Sir,

I guess it’s a little early on a Friday afternoon to be so drunk!”

Resuming my haste, I head into the rows of drugs.  Again scanning left and right.  Not vitamins, probiotics, cough or cold.  I see it one aisle over, a sign for “stomach”, or maybe it was “digestion”.  I head into that aisle and start to pace back and forth.  I still haven’t honed in on the right section yet, but I know it will be a whole section that should not be hard to miss.  I turn to double back, somehow I am missing it.  As I spin around I realize a CVS worker is making a face like they just asked if they can help me.  I freeze, like a deer in headlights.  There are multiple people in the drugs section.  My hand comes up to my chest, pantomiming, are you talking to me?  Meanwhile, this pause in motion is exactly what I needed to notice the rows of purple boxes on my right, in between me and the store employee.  Ahh HAA!  I got you!  I now mime marshalling an aircraft into it’s gate position, as if I had two orange batons in my hands, to let the store employee know that I, 1. Am incapable of normal speech.  Seeing how we are only 10-15 feet apart and I still haven’t answered his question about whether I needed help finding something, and 2. Just found what I was looking for.  

The store employee sees me pointing to the boxes of Prilosec and comes closer to sell me on the CVS branded box sitting next to it.  My eyes narrow as I ponder, what’s in it for him?  I am now being forced into an internal debate that I wasn’t planning on having.  Branded or generic?  The cost difference is not that great.  For two extra dollars I can have the brand name.  I don’t care about the two dollars, go with what you know.  I am realizing that my conditioning to prefer brand names over generic has kicked in.  The store employee is still talking.  So helpful.  I catch a word here and there.  He’s been taking Prilosec for 25 years, except he takes the generic CVS brand.  Me, alarmed, start doing the math.  This was a new drug 25 years ago, I also took it once before when it was new, my senior year in college when I was under a lot of stress.  This guy has been taking this drug since then.  He never weaned himself off, like I did.  I just read on the innerweb’s this morning, “this drug is not supposed to be taken long term”.  Does he know that?  I find myself getting sucked into his conversation, as I am now concerned for his welfare, and need to know more about his condition.  What is the problem?  Did you also try diet and lifestyle changes?  We are more alike than different.  He’s diagnosing me, I am diagnosing him.  It’s getting weird.  

We are more alike than different.

He is diagnosing me, I am diagnosing him. It’s getting weird.

I need to get out of here, but he’s still talking.  I realize the only way I’m getting out of here is to submit to some harmless ego stroking to make sure he feels heard.  Clearly he is The Expert.  The expert on Prilosec, the expert on proton pump inhibitors, the expert on food journals, the expert on his condition.  This is funny to me, not rude, because having to navigate the impenetrable maze of food allergies for the last 27 years of my life, I also have had to become an expert on my condition.  Western medicine is really great for certain conditions, especially acute pain, trama, etc.  But long term, chronic, inflammatory issues still seem to befuddle most doctors.  Treating symptoms is easy, but I fall into the “getting to the root cause” category of medical belief systems.  By the way, my CVS friend is still talking.  I’ve already scanned his badge because, who am I talking to right now? The Pharmacist?  No.  He’s the Store Manager.  The Pharmacist reports to him, and he is licensed to count out the drugs, so he says.  OK??  He has worked in the Drug Store Industry for 25 years.  Ahh HAA!  Now we’re getting to the root cause of his digestive issues!  I silently wonder if he’ll ever put the two and two together?  I tell him he missed his calling and perhaps he should have been a Nutritional Counselor.  He tells me he makes more money than they do.  This is my exit.  We are wrapping up this encounter and I think to myself, I don’t want to go down a 25 year rabbit hole with this drug.  Seriously though, I don’t identify as one of those millions of people who have GERD.  I take better care of myself than that, I like to tell myself.  And yes, I see me judging this nice CVS Store Manager, as if I were better than him or something.  Honestly, how did I get here?

I realize I’m getting older and things change,

but I don’t identify as one of those millions of people with GERD.

It all started with my morning cup of coffee.  Well actually, it’s usually 2 large cups of coffee.  Which is down from the occasional 3rd cup that I would pour because the pot was made and the first 2 went down too quickly, but I usually didn’t finish that 3rd cup, for the record.  But I don’t think the quantity of coffee is the issue.  I didn’t even know that I always bought the same brand of coffee, until one day I didn’t.  That’s when my acid reflux issues began.  I made the switch from low acid Breakfast Blend to a high octane Dark French Roast.  It took a long time for me to realize I was having issues and then even more time to figure out what was causing them.  But now I know, it’s coffee.  I mean Damn.  Anything else!  Why God, WHY?  How can I give up coffee?  Again.  

I have made the switch back to a breakfast blend, but other factors have changed too.  I can no longer use the brand I had always used because it doesn’t come in K-cups.  I made the switch to a K-cup maker, and it was life changing.  In more ways than one, apparently.  So, by my score, my options are: 1. Give up Coffee 2. Give up my K-cup coffee maker.  Neither of these options are to my liking.  I want to have my K-cup coffeemaker and drink the coffee too.

I actually give up coffee fairly regularly, at least once a year on average.  Usually in January, it has something to do with a cleanse and wanting to be a healthier version of myself.  It’s never a long term plan to permanently give up coffee.  I lie to myself and say that I just don’t want to be addicted.  I want to have the option to drink it sometimes.  And the option of not needing to drink it every day.  There is some part of me that inherently hates being addicted to coffee.  It’s not that I think coffee is unhealthy.  It is the pure knowledge that I cannot “feel myself” without it that bothers me the most.  I’ve gone months without it, but I always come back to it.  First thing in the morning.  Otherwise the day isn’t the same.  When I am off the junk, I’m ok.  I’m fine.  Life goes on without coffee.  I even notice the benefits.  I don’t get that intense urge for sweets and snacks in the afternoon.  I notice a more even keeled feeling of energy that lasts the whole day, and no afternoon slumps when I start thinking, if I don’t have a nap I’ll die soon.  

I don’t want to feel fine, or just OK. I want to feel GREAT! I want to feel better than great. I want to feel like a bucking bronco that just had his nuts cinched up to his belly button, got tased with a cattle prod, and released into the rodeo ring to work through that pain with some awesome high-kicks and aerials! …The answer is coffee.

No but seriously, I don’t want to live my life feeling just “fine”.  I want to feel energetic.  I want to be funny and feel like joking around with people and coffee does that for me.  I honestly believe that coffee makes me a better version of myself.  And isn’t that what we are all trying to be?  The best damn version of ourselves that we can be.  And without coffee, I just don’t know how anything will get done and it certainly will all feel like a drag.  I mean, oh my God, the day is exhausting enough.  I hardly have energy to get through life with coffee.  How could I possibly spend the rest of my days not drinking coffee?

Do you see it now?  Above are the rantings of a person who is very seriously addicted to a drug and being faced with the realization that they have to give up their choice drug.  You could insert heroin or cocaine in place of all the above mentions to coffee and people would be very concerned for my well being.  But since it’s coffee, people will laugh and say, I feel you sister!  Seriously though, I am fighting this and failing it just like the girl in that Hulu show about being a recovering alcoholic.  This is true addiction and I am fighting against the knowledge that I need to be on the road to rehab.  My choice is my digestive health and ultimate death from abuse of it, or that sweet, sweet, caffeine kick to the face.  This is why smokers don’t stop smoking even when they know that smoking kills 100% of its users.  The only out is that you die of something else before you die of cancer.  But still they use it because instant death isn’t a thing.  But Addiction is a thing, a real thing.  A really shitty thing.

This is why cigarette smokers don’t stop smoking even when they know that smoking kills 100% of its users.

I can’t believe I’m in this predicament.  I’ve always been able to find my way out of past addictions on my own.  I beat Weed in 1997.  Beat blow in 1998.  Beat smoking cigarettes in 2002.  I beat alcohol into submission in 2018.  Quit fast food in my 20’s, and also gave up pop/soda then.  I’m still working on sugar, but I am really conscious about how and what sugar I use.  Like, I rarely mix sugar with coffee, except when I do, and that’s because maple syrup is so damn good in coffee.  But I haven’t owned a bag of white sugar in at least 2 decades.  Do you see how conscious I am about my food choices?  I deserve better than acid reflux for my troubles.

My internal monologue just offered the solution of, what if I force myself to drink the coffee black?  Without the half ‘n half or homemade whipped creamy foam topping that makes it taste so good?  And never again should I allow myself to add maple syrup.  That way I will absolutely not get enjoyment out of the physical act of drinking the coffee.  Take away the pleasure, take away the addiction.

Do all addicts grieve for the loss of their drug?

This feels like the beginning of recovery.  I just realized, I am transitioning from denial and shock into the bargaining phase of grief.  I wonder, do all addicts grieve for the loss of their drug?  Only depression and anger to get through before I reach acceptance and with that I will hopefully achieve recovery.  Recovery from coffee addiction and recovery from acid reflux.  This addiction, and coffee, does not define me.  I am better than coffee.  And I am better than acid reflux.  I deserve a better life than this common everyday addict’s life that I am living.  I am left with no choice.  Give up coffee, so that in two weeks I can give up Prilosec and move on with my “Just Fine” life.  I’m sorry if I stop being myself.  I strategically plan to mourn for the loss of my sense of humor after I finish processing my grief for my loss of coffee.  I am fragile, and know not to take on too much at once.  I am an addict.

Hi, my name is HappyWendi, I am an ADDICT

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