Caffeine has been around my whole life. Pepsi was one of my first words. I never got jittery or hyper when my parents let me have a drink. They still limited how often I got to have it, though. I loved the feeling it gave me; like I was calmer and more balanced. I could interact with people better. I was hooked right away. But I was still too little to get it whenever I wanted.

My dad was angry a lot and he used Pepsi and cigarettes to calm down. Mom would make coffee in the percolator and drink it all day long. She complained about the taste, but she drank it pot after pot. I saw the behavior all around me but I didn’t pay attention to it. I was in denial.

When I was old enough to go out on my own, I collected glass bottles for the deposit money or stole change to get my fix from the Pepsi machine in the back of TG&Y. For thirty five cents, I could get a cold can of Pepsi back when cans had a pull tab. I even carried a small pliers for when the tabs broke off on the can.

When I was old enough to get a job, I medicated my way through high school. I had a ritual of getting a Pepsi at the store across the street at lunchtime. I would have taken it to class all day long if it was allowed. My income was almost entirely spent on caffeine. I felt like an adult. I could buy my own gas and soda.

If I worked hard, I made sure I had a Pepsi to start with. If I was bored, I drank Pepsi. Accomplishments were celebrated with Pepsi. Socially awkward moments were smoothed out with Pepsi. Feeling frustrated? Have a Pepsi!

The first time I dried out was boot camp. It was the longest six weeks of my life. Everything else was easy enough, but going without caffeine was brutal. I used throughout my time in the service and moved back to Texas afterwards.

I got a small apartment and went on long walks. At some point I realized every direction I chose to walk was to a store to buy another soda. I didn’t have any friends and my soul activity was caffeine. I needed help, but there was no help at the time for a caffeine addict.

I tried to quit again. My skin crawled and I had sweats and shakes. I managed not to use for a while.

It never lasted long.

One day I had an open bottle of Pepsi in each hand trying to drink from both and my next thought was to go to another store to buy another soda. I was drinking enough to make myself sick. My saliva was thick and drooling and I could taste the caffeine running out of it in my mouth. It was going to kill me if I drank any more. I realized I had to spit for awhile and not drink any more even though that was exactly what I wanted to do. The sick feeling went away and I cut down for a few weeks again.

I had a high stress job in the correctional system at one point and started drinking Mountain Dew to cope. In no time, I was drinking eleven liters every day. I needed it to go to sleep, wake up and go to work to pay for more soda. I had completely gone from drinking for fun to just functioning. Realizing that I was paying four hundred dollars a month for soda helped me try to quit again.

In a few years, I was working for a grocery store. I was hungry and didn’t have anything to eat until payday. We had a free coffee pot and I tried a cup for the first time. The caffeine didn’t do anything about my hunger like I had hoped, but I discovered I liked the taste of coffee.

From then on, I would get coffee and make fresh pots all day long. It was cheaper than soda and I was using more too. You could leave cold coffee in the pot a few days and I would still drink it.

I knew I had a problem. Someone told me about fake coffee made of chicory or other things. I tried taking that to work to get the taste without the drug with mixed results. After spending a lot of time and money in pursuit of a solution, I gave up on that idea.

I was using instant in my small apartment while working from home without regards to the consequences of not drinking any water. One day, I passed the first kidney stone. The pain didn’t stop my habit.

A few months went by before the next stone. I got checked out. I was wheeled in for surgery. When I woke up, the doctor showed me enough stones to fill a small bottle. I was assured that was over. I would be fine.

I continued to drink coffee and tried to drink water more often. A routine checkup found a possible foul up in my kidneys again. I knew I needed help.

Someone told me there was a meeting for people like me.

I had a six month supply of instant coffee and assorted paraphernalia for my habit. I had tried to quit so many times.

I called the number and participated in my first CAFAA meeting. I sold the coffee to a friend. I brewed herbal teas to replace the ritual of preparing caffeine.

I have to watch myself. I need to schedule things so that I don’t have any free time. Boredom and time to kill make it easier to slip back into old habits and change the way I feel. I have to accept that I have no control over my caffeine use.

I still have days that I want to change how I feel, but I don’t use. It isn’t easy to change lifelong habits, but it can be done!

I now avoid chocolate, cocoa, tea, coffee, energy drinks, and medications with caffeine. I attend at least one CAFAA meeting a week. After a few mistakes of eating chocolate by accident, I have stopped using since May 12.