My name’s Patrick and I’m a caffeine addict from Ireland.

I came into twelve-step recovery from alcoholism in 2001; lust/sex in 2008, compulsive eating and debting in 2010 and raging in 2015.

I noticed a head problem with caffeine after I’d achieved abstinence and sobriety progressively from other substances and behaviours and particularly when practicing the Greysheet (GSA) food programme which permits drinking black tea, coffee and diet soda between meals.

I noticed that when I drank coffee between meals, it gave me a jittery buzzy feeling, racing thoughts and anxiety. I was concerned that I’d be unable to distinguish between real and imaginary fears which was important to be able to do, as I lived in Northern Ireland at the time. I became aware of issues with caffeine when taking drinks between meals which was not the case with tea.

I researched caffeine on the internet and discovered on Wikipedia that when a person drinks coffee, the drug attaches to receptors in the brain thus altering brain chemistry and perception, like other psychoactive drugs. I found out about CAFAA and began attending CAFAA phone meetings. I enjoyed listening to the shares and audios of members experiences with caffeine. I bought ‘Confessions of a Caffeine Addict’ by Marina Kushner and identified with the stories there, although not all the writers in the book maintained abstinence.

I enjoyed the story about the long-distance truck driver who fuelled his journeys with caffeine and ended up going off-road, hurtling across the desert in a caffeine-induced trance. Although it was not my experience, I identified with the writers’ compulsivity and shared their suffering and unmanageability caused by caffeine and soda addiction.

At present, I’m not free from caffeine. I have one to three cups a week and a 330ml can of diet soda every other day. It’s not as bad as before when I had several cups a day. I usually drink black tea which has no effect on me.

I choose to be totally abstinent from alcohol one day at a time and have been for eighteen years. I choose the SA sobriety and abstinence definition from lust and sex. At the point of writing, I don’t adhere to Greysheet abstinence. I’ve become dissatisfied with the concept of abstinence in relation to food and am looking at other food fellowships, such as Eating Disorders Anonymous. I’m investigating the concept of abstinence in relation to food but maybe for addicts of my type, total abstinence is the only long-term solution to food and caffeine addiction.

I hope to get back on the CAFAA phone meetings as I do benefit from them. I always hear something at a meeting I identify with which strengthens my Cafaa recovery. I’m sure that CAFAA will expand and hold recovery days, round-ups and conventions where we can share fellowship face-to-face. I’m much more aware of caffeine as an addictive substance than I was before thanks to CAFAA.

Thanks for letting me share my story. It’s been great to read and listen to yours and I hope you enjoy mine. I haven’t abused caffeine to the extent of some of the stories I’ve heard. I owe that to my parents and the culture I grew up in Ireland in the sixties and seventies which was a tea-drinking culture, although that has changed today, especially in the urban centres.

It’s through no merit of my own that I didn’t become as severely addicted to coffee but rather to my parents and the culture which moderated the effects of this addictive substance in my life. To my parents and my fellows in Cafaa and other twelve step programmes, I remain eternally grateful. God bless you. No matter what. One day at a time.

– Patrick