[Full credit for the headline due to this wonderful Onion article.]
My professor of Poe Studies in my senior year at UF, Dr. William Goldhurst, told us that Poe could well have been allergic or oversensitive to alcohol because usually it took only a drink or two to completely addle his senses. Other scholars may not go that far, but many agree that he drank relatively rarely but it fucked him up when he did.
I drink way less, perhaps two six packs of Angry Orchard and two bottles of Jameson’s a year (not all at once), and mostly it puts me to sleep. For much of my early life, I was afraid of even trying alcohol because of my father’s dependence, but when I think back on it, I wonder if he wasn’t actually BETTER when he drank: less anxious and angry, anyway. He may well have drunk so much to self-medicate his undiagnosed anxiety disorder.
I’ve got Wellbutrin for that, so score one for science.
Both my parents smoked heavily, though my father managed to quit about twenty years before he died. My mother never could, and we’re pretty sure that’s what got her in the end.
I bring all of this up because I seem fortunate to be almost entirely free of damaging addictions, which will likely disappoint scholars of my work.
Almost entirely free.
This is going to sound entirely ridiculous and perhaps insulting to people with real addictions, but I sincerely think that caffeine grabs me and damages me more than it does most people.
No, I’m not a Mormon.
When I was a kid, soda was what I drank when I was thirsty instead of water, and I went through a 2 liter bottle probably every couple of days. In college, Coke and milk were the priorities at the store with whatever cash I could scrounge, and since then, I’ve tried to quit countless times. Once I made it nearly two years, but more usually my pauses last a few months at most.
I think I forget just what caffeine does to me and therefore think it harmless when I need a quick jolt of “inspiration.” So (more for me than for you), I’m listing its effects out here for my future reference.
- It makes me shaky and fidgety, changing my handwriting and fucking up anything that requires fine motor control.
- It gives me this constant low grade feeling that things are Going Wrong Somewhere, or that I’m in trouble, or that I’m out of control of my life.
- It provides that jolt of inspiration for only the first three times of using it, after which it has little effect.
- It leads me to weirdly totalizing thoughts about the world, taking one bad moment or circumstance and reacting to it as a sign of a malignant universe.
- It makes my heart rate quicken and blood pressure increase so much that I can see my vision pulsating when I sit still.
- When I try to quit, I have one day of headaches and about a week of depression and muddled thinking.
- One of the things I would tell myself in the distant past is, “You have anxiety disorder, and caffeine makes it much worse.” That sentence alone would have revolutionized twenty years of my life.
I’m on day six of no caffeine, and I’m beginning to feel better again. I just have to remember this blog post when I’m tempted by the allure of one exciting (and probably delusional) writing session.