Are You a Drug Addict?

Those who know me from my years in Nebraska (1995-2000) might remember that for most of that time I hosted a Friday morning show on community radio station KZUM, 89.3 FM.  Dedicated to freeform music (meaning I played whatever the hell I wanted, but rarely anything you’d ever hear on commercial radio), the show was called I’d Rather Be Groggy and ran from 8:00-10:00 AM.

It was first and foremost a genre-straddling music show, with everything from Cuban jazz to bluegrass to Afro Pop to you name it.  But every now and then I’d turn on the mic to back announce songs and whatnot.  And sometimes when I did, I’d get at the heart of the show’s name.

It was early in the morning, at least as far as my graduate student schedule went, and I was half asleep when I showed up.  Quite frankly, that’s the way I liked it.  And you’d better believe there was one thing I was NOT going to do in an effort to deal with that.

No coffee.  Period.

Sometimes I talked about it reasonably.  Sometimes I sounded like a misguided Baptist minister warning sinners about the satanic evil of caffeine addiction, bemoaning how it tore at the social fabric of America, crippling families, feeding gang violence, and spurring on unknown brands of indecency and unspeakable immorality.

Can I get a witness?


It was all tongue in cheek of course, partly a new way to mock what I considered to be the incredible expense, utter failure, and profound misdirection of the War on Drugs.  But the truth is I don’t drink coffee, or more accurately, I drink it rarely and never in the morning; perhaps an espresso and anisette after a nice Italian dinner, but that’s about it.

Call me crazy, but I prefer and to some extent even enjoy allowing my body go through its natural rhythms, hopefully unmolested by an alarm clock, but even including when the hour draweth nearer than I’d like.  And for sure, the last thing I would ever want is to be addicted to a drug that doesn’t even get you high.  Honestly, that sounds like a hellish state of existence to me.

However, it’s clear that in a society obsessed with drugs, both the legal sorts that are advertised and over prescribed, and the illegal ones that range from the rather harmless to the diabolical, caffeine somehow gets a pass.  Few are willing to talk about coffee, black teas, or even colas for what they really are: perfectly legal and fairly addictive stimulants.

Addictive?  Yes, addictive.

Why do you think you get cravings?  You’re addicted.  Why do you think you get a headache if you don’t have any?  You’re suffering from withdrawal.  And listen to yourself when you say things like, “God, I really need a cup of coffee.”  You know who says shit like that?  Alcoholics say shit like that.

They also behave the way you behave when everybody and everything goes on the back burner until you get your jolt of caffeine, because that’s the most important thing right now, and you’ve rationalized your anti-social and selfish behavior by minimizing and excusing the impact.  Classic addictive behavior.

For me it’s pretty straightforward.  Even though it’s nowhere near as dangerous or disruptive as alcohol, there’s still a bevy of reasons not to get addicted to caffeine, and coffee in particular:

  • It’s kind of a pain in the ass to make.
  • It’s silly expensive to buy every day.
  • It’s addictive.
  • Although it’s addictive, caffeine is also a minor league drug in terms of the high it offers.  It’s not a hallucinogen, opening doors of perception.  It’s not a narcotic, offering a boat ride to Kathmandu.  It’s not a depressant, issuing shades of euphoria to melt away personal inhibitions and the world’s woes.  Rather, it’s merely a mild stimulant, giving people a little bump, to which they quickly build up a tolerance, though the demand to relieve withdrawal symptoms can be quite stubborn.
  • The day I need stimulants to become sufficiently productive at my job is the day I either retire or find a nice home for my cat and then blow my fucking brains across the living room.  Seriously.
  • Coffee tastes okay, but it’s really nothing special.  Which is why most people drown it in cream and/or sugar.

I make this last observation as someone who considers himself to have a refined palate, and who appreciates good food and beverages.  I do enjoy chocolate covered espresso beans and coffee flavored iced creams once in a while.  And of course really good coffees that are prepared very well are nice, but we’re back to the expense issue at that point.  And regardless, there’s no way I’d want to drink a really good coffee every day; honestly, what other food is so goddamn yummy that you eat it every single day?  Nothing, that’s what.  Again, that’s totally the kind of rationalization that addicts come up with.  It really is.

Now I’m not moralistic, my radio rants really were tongue in cheek, and your addiction’s none of my business.  By the same token, I’m a fan of calling a spade a spade.  So in terms of social decorum, I think it’s high time we stopped exalting caffeine and started treating it like any other legal drug.  Just as the days of pretending alcoholism as cool are in the past, we need to put an end to glorifying addiction to caffeine.

You like taking it?  Good for you.  I don’t care.

You’re in total denial about spending hundreds of dollars a year or more on it?  Good for you.  I don’t care.

You really need a cup right now because for whatever reason you didn’t get your fix today?  Good for you.  I don’t care.  As in I’m not pulling over, I’m not stopping, I’m not gonna be late because of it, and I don’t wanna fuckin’ hear about it.

Your addiction, your problem.

Me?  I’d rather be groggy.

3 thoughts on “Are You a Drug Addict?

  1. Good thing about coffee is It’s really fun when you go off and on it, cuz it’s one of the few drugs that lets you recapture the first high.

    if you’ve been off it for, like, six weeks, and then have a cup, it’s like all your little neurons are revving for the Daytona 500 and it feels awesome and you’re convinced you can make a lot of money and you’re really, really smart.

    Not as smart as if you did some coke, though.

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