This post was originally published on June 9, 2015.
First there was booze, then there was coffee.
I prefer the latter, of course, as I am a sober person in recovery from alcoholism. Like I once did with alcohol, I make a ritual of my coffee habit, taking every chance I can get to achieve the maximum caffeine intake. I’m a real caffeine queen. No matter where I am, what time of day it is or what I’m doing, I make a beeline to the nearest café. There isn’t one second of the day or night (excluding sleeping hours that are few and far between) when I don’t have a coffee in my hand or nearby.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that my coffee-drinking habits are becoming an awful lot like the negative ones I had while I was an active alcoholic. Thank God I never discovered alcohol delivery services were a thing. Wait, wait—OMG…is there a delivery service for coffee? Once obsessed with a drink, always obsessed with a drink.
Coffee is an extraordinary substance. I first noticed my preoccupation-turned-obsession with it last year, when I frequented my home group meeting of AA at Café Tropical on Sunset. Their delicious Cuban coffee is so strong, it wouldn’t surprise me if jet fuel makes the list of its ingredients. At the time, I needed enough caffeine to propel a jet engine because being up that early was foreign to me/completely unacceptable. Once I decided to be there every day, I couldn’t resist the aroma of a large café con leche. I was hooked. Steadily, as my attendance at the meeting became consistent, I learned that just one cup of espresso coffee was not enough for me. I needed more to get through the day.
In my last year of drinking, I regularly consumed coffee right alongside my whiskey. There were some weekend days where my hangover screamed at me so loudly, the only way I could shut it up was by pouring whiskey or vodka in my Venti iced coffee, two-shot-of-espresso-Starbucks cup (in the very unlikely event I had booze left over from the night before). Like a pro, I completely bastardized the intended use of coffee to give myself an experience to remember. I rarely left my apartment on days like these, except to frequent the liquor store down the street. I was a rather animated customer by the time I was ready to purchase more alcohol.
Come to think of it, my caffeine and alcohol concoctions began when I lived in Florida. My consumption of both escalated when I discovered Four Loko or, as I like to call it, blackout juice. The makers of Four Loko have since recalled all malt liquor beverages that contained caffeine. No doubt there were people like me who enjoyed abusing both substances simultaneously, though most of them, I’d wager, were probably 13-year-olds.
Since I’ve been home in Virginia, I’ve upped the ante on my coffee abuse. Even though I am only visiting, the change arouses all sorts of anxiety in me. My morning routine changed abruptly so I’ve had to make arrangements. Within an hour of arriving home, I scoured the local meeting directory to find groups that met near Dunkin’ Donuts locations. Never mind which groups are for young people or for women only, my priority is my cherished Dunkin’.
The first time I found a Dunkin’ on my road trip from Philadelphia to Virginia, I put red lipstick on to take a selfie of me and my inaugural cup. I primed myself for the best coffee in all the lands—which reminded me of how I used to get gussied up to “meet guys” at bars like the Silver Lake Lounge and the Thirsty Crow. I put my makeup and dress on for booze, you fools, not for you. These days, it’s official: I’ve broken up with booze to marry my new lover, coffee.
In the throes of my financial meltdown, it became clear to me that I was spending exorbitant amounts of cash buying upward of seven cups of coffee per day. I’ve gone so far as to spend $4 on a cup of Joe with $8 left in my bank account. No sane person would do that.
Sanity be damned, I have an addiction and I don’t want to let it go. I am 99 percent sure that the more coffee I drink, the more anxious I feel, but I just can’t quit you, caffeine. I experience panic attack at least once a month, due in no small part to the ginormous amounts of coffee I drink when I am stressed to the max. There’s no conclusive evidence that caffeine is bad for me. The latest study I’ve found suggests that four cups of coffee a day is the tipping point at which a person should stop drinking it. Ironically, a woman who drinks four alcoholic beverages in a day is considered a binge drinker. The parallels amuse me—evidently four is my magic number. Just as no study would derail my passion for drinking to excess, this coffee study hasn’t change my attitude toward coffee.
I’m sober, but I drink coffee alcoholically. I no longer drink alcohol, a poison that once dominated my every waking thought and nearly destroyed my life. In its place, I savor the pleasures of my constant caffeinated companion. It’s no accident that nearly every AA meeting has free coffee. Taking the coffee commitment at my home group meeting was the way I kept my caffeinated tush in a seat for over a year.
I’m grateful to coffee for keeping me awake and alert when alcohol insisted on keeping me unhappy and incorrigible. For today, I get to be café blatto instead of blatto drunk. Now please excuse me—my next cup of coffee is getting cold.