I’m not an addict…

I really like to drink coffee. I’m not addicted to it, I just really like drinking it. It gets me in ‘the zone’ in the morning and winds me down at the end of the day. I don’t NEED it you know, I just really LIKE it. I’m totally in control of my coffee habit, which is all it is, just a habit. I could stop whenever I want to as well. I’ve had days where I wouldn’t drink any, like that one day in February when we ran out and the two days after dental surgery, and I was totally fine. I drank coffee again as soon as I could after, but that’s just because I like the taste of it. I’m not addicted to it or anything.

Some days I think I should try to go without coffee for a while because I notice I feel more tired at the end of the day when I drink too much of it. The morning after this thought however, I get up at 7.30 and just really want to have a cup of warm bitter-sweet brew in my hands to get ready for the day. Like I’ve done for years and years. Suddenly I can’t really see the harm, I just feel like having a coffee right now. So I make one, enjoy it and accept that this is not the day to go coffee-free. Again. Oh well. See, it’s not like I’m addicted, I’m just not motivated enough to stop because I can’t really see why. Not until the end of the day when I’m dog tired again…

Some people like eating wheat. They’re not addicted to it, but just really like bread, cereal, biscuits and pasta. They don’t NEED it, but just like it, because it’s a staple food and they’ve always eaten it. They couldn’t imagine having any trouble going without it, like that one day when they were ill or when they went to Thailand and only ate rice based stuff. When they come home they instantly eat cereal, bread, biscuits and pasta again, but that’s just because they like it. It’s not like an addiction or anything. It’s just a habit.

A few years ago I realised I should try to stop eating wheat because I suspected that it was making me very tired and headachy. It took years until I successfully banished it from my diet and I can tell you, it’s hard. For days after the cold turkey day I felt like I had the flu. I started craving bread really badly, The smell of it came to haunt me. I persisted, though having small amounts every now and then and slowly came out of withdrawal. It took months, maybe even years before it became normal for me. I find now whenever I have a slice of pizza or a roll I get an instant headache and feel like I’m going to fall asleep at any moment. It seems my body had developed a tolerance for something that adversely affected me, and it had disappeared from abstinence. But I wasn’t addicted to wheat, no sir…

Addiction is understood by the American Society of Addiction Medicine as ‘the continued use of mood altering substance or behaviour, despite adverse consequences’ . it includes ‘impaired control over substances/behaviour, preoccupation with substance/behaviour, continued use despite consequences, and denial’. Addiction is also characterised by an short term gratification that leads to long term problems.

I guess my coffee addiction (yes I do actually admit it) and previous addiction to wheat fall under this understanding. But to some extent, so does eating biscuits or crisps every day, playing computer games, checking Facebook, drinking litres of diet coke, biting nails, watching television and other common habits that ‘we’re not addicted to but choose to do because we’re adults and we can do whatever we want’. Where smoking cannabis, or plain tobacco, drinking, gambling, binge eating, self harm, and over exercising are seen as the obvious addictions that everyone can have an opinion on, the addiction to things like sugar, wheat or coffee are seen more as a choice.

And then we might choose to stop eating sugar and god is it hard. Or we might decide to turn off the television and find ourselves utterly bored and with no idea what to do with our evening but watch another rerun episode of Topgear. Addictions come in many different forms and sizes and everyone is to some degree susceptible to them. Some affect us greatly, some only on a small level, but the thing about addiction is that often we don’t even notice it until we try to stop the behaviour.

The behaviour we think of when we think about addiction (smoking, drinking, gambling) are the types of behaviour that have a bigger effect on one’s personal life, as well as on the lives of their immediate surroundings. It seems not understandable why anyone would put their family and friends through a difficult time when all they need to do is ‘just stop’… I don’t think it’s that easy though. If it was, it wouldn’t  be such a problem. I think these are the obvious shapes of addiction, but we all have our addictions and they’re goddamn hard to shake.

Because sure, smoking might be regarded as worse for your health than eating wheat, but trying to quit both substances takes a massive amount of will power. And I don’t mean stopping for a day, but stopping forever. That’s right, no more pizza, Oreos, noodles, cereal and bacon rolls, ever… I try to consider this when looking at a certain behaviour that I don’t understand and think ‘why don’t they just NOT do it?’. It’s because it’s really hard to just stop. “Just one more, it’s not going to hurt, aw fuck, I’ve screwed up this day already, we’ll try again tomorrow”. And this train of thought can apply to biscuits, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes and heroin. That’s addiction.

I know my coffee drinking habit is recreational, it’s kind of like self medicating therapy, it’s a ritual, and although it makes me tired, I really really enjoy it. Unfortunately all that also makes it a bloody hard to shake addiction. But I’ll have one more because I already had a few and…. oh… shit… *sigh*

Jude

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