I need it first thing in the morning. I prefer it before I even open my eyes. I like it in bed, but I don’t like it French. Optimally, its hot and kinda sweet, but I will take it black or slightly bitter. I almost never say no to it — unless it’s in foam.
I never drink coffee in Styrofoam.
Ninety percent of American’s consume it every day, which makes caffeine America’s Favorite Upper. It exists in a delicate balance with America’s Favorite Legal Downer, Alcohol. They have almost a symbiotic relationship, the Yin and Yang. Alcohol greasing the wheels and coffee getting the work done. You are free to disagree but I am almost certain that institutions of higher learning and corporate America would grind to a stand still if you put a stick in the spoke of that wheel.
I didn’t end up on the coffee nipple until college, when I picked up the first shift at a greasy Coney Island located across from an auto plant. What I realized is that at 5 a.m. I am bitter and resentful. At 5:30 after I have smacked back two cups of coffee each with one cream and one sugar, I am downright chirpy and a stellar waitress. You heard me, chirpy.
What the hell could possibly make Kelly “chirpy?” How about a highly addictive drug that works on the same brain mechanisms as cocaine, heroine, and amphetamines. Um, yeah, that’ll make her chirpy, and it will make you chirpy too.
Caffeine binds to nerve cells in the brain where the chemical adenosine normally would. Adenosine slows you down, but caffeine speeds you up and your neurons are just all snappin’ and poppin’ like crazy and you are so freakin’ smart you can do anything. So much so that you won’t even care if the jackass at Table 2 keeps calling you honey, puts his cigarette out in his eggs and the short order cook is sexually harassing you.
But your pituitary gland sees all of this neuron firing and thinks something bad is about to happen so it goes all “fight or flight” and decided to send the message out to produce adrenaline. Adrenaline is that super-cool chemical that can help you escape a hungry bear, throw up before a public presentation, and makes you sweat like a monkey before a date. It also does this stuff:
- Dilates pupils
- Opens airway
- Increases heart rate
- Constricts blood flow to the surface of your skin, but increases blood flow to the muscles
- Raises blood flow, except to the GI tract, it slows that down
- Releases sugar from the liver into the bloodstream
- Readies muscle for action by contracting
That all seems like a great idea if you’re being hunted by wild dogs but those sort of effects might not be necessary or even desirable for a PTA meeting – well, okay maybe you need your fight or flight in that situation, bad example. But it seems like living perpetually in this condition from 6 a.m. until cocktail hour might not be the healthiest idea for your bod. A constant state of meerkat-like alert might be somewhat exhausting to all of your systems. It is.
Despite all of it’s negative impacts, coffee remains one of the oldest legal performance enhancers. Despite it’s tendency to create dependence in users as well as nervousness, irritability, anxiety,respiratory difficulty, trembling, muscle twitching, insomnia, headaches, gastric reflux, heart palpitations, and peptic ulcers – there is a Starbucks on every corner. Every corner. Why? For the same reason that while I type this I am having a big, fat, steaming cup of coffee with vanilla soymilk. It works it’s magic in my junkie brain. At this advanced age I could use something to speed up the activity in my gray matter. Without a heavy habit of caffeine I never would have gotten enough tips as a waitress to get through college. Nor would I have gotten through the sleepless years with infant children.
But just like anything else, it has an upside that must be weighed too. WebMD reports that coffee drinkers are
less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia as well as have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes
It is unclear however if this is a result of the coffee, or the action of caffeine. Researchers suspect the coffee. Research continues to reveal new information about the action of caffeine and how it may improve the action of antioxidants in destroying free-radicals. So perhaps coffee in moderation is okay?
With coffee I can’t seem to manage moderation and it is a vice that I can’t seem to shake. I try to quit, every now and again. It sucks. Caffeine addiction is considered a mental disorder and many users suffer withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. Symptoms include irritability, headache, lethargy, bitchiness, indifference and increased likelihood of repetitive use injury for the middle finger. If you would like to read more about why doctors think what you and I have is a mental disorder, read this article from National Geographic.
This sort of explains why my well-intended attempts to quit fail. It explains why entire boxes of Yogi Tea end up in my trash can because I feel like those nice little messages and quotes on the tag of the tea bag are just there to taunt me. The make me realize how angry and dependent I am and how fundamentally nice and serene all those effing “Tea and Yoga People” are. Screw it. I’m in the early stages of withdrawal and you fill my cup with some weak-ass chamomile bullshit and then attach a tag to it that tells me to “Keep Up?” Bite me, Yogi Tea.
I have never seen clinicians taunt the folks on Intervention that are giving up an addiction, so what makes you think its humane to do to a coffee drinker? Or maybe it feels like a taunt, because I’m all jacked up.
Caffeine is, and likely will continue to be my favorite chemical crutch. I suppose I should never quit quitting.
UPDATE June 12, 2011:
Check out this article fresh brewed this morning. Coffee makes you hear voices. The folks in the study heard White Christmas by Bing Crosby. That’s not what I hear when I drink too much coffee.