iPhotograph My Life: Ep 2: Off Coffee Twice

The last time I had gone off caffeine was nine years ago. I was living in a tiny studio in Venice Beach and working in the west valley. My commute was the PCH. Withdrawal was brutal, but after a week or so of foggy ten-hour full-day headaches, I had weaned myself off the caffeine, reducing my daily intake from roughly 800mg down to about 30-50mg per day. I was proud of myself, feeling healthy, sleeping deeply, dreaming vividly and waking up thirty minutes before the alarm, every morning. But the following winter while visiting my folks, I went back on caffeine during a snowstorm, largely out of boredom – and I’d never looked back.

Last Monday I was late for work. I was in a real rush. I didn’t have time to get my fix. “I don’t need coffee today. In fact, let’s kick it to the curb and see what happens. I drank enough Joe in San Francisco yesterday to give me a heart attack. No coffee; I’m going to eat right this week, too.”

And so this past week I subsided on placebo decafs and the occasional green tea, and subsequently dropped my daily caffeine intake from the 800-1000mg range down to about 35-40mg, again, by my calculations.

I also bitched out my boss on three separate occasions (going so far as to assign her a few action items), berated a consultant, dicked over my downstairs neighbor by poaching the dryer while his duvet was clearly still wet (and played innocent), bitched out my girl for playing Jewel on her iPad, gave various parties the silent treatment, warned Robin that her plane might crash if the jet fuel wasn’t properly blended, berated a pigeon, considered kicking a dog in the jaw, called a tiny black ant on my workstation a “fucker” before squashing him with my thumb, unnecessarily humiliated my vanpool-mates, muttered to myself incessantly, appeared grouchy, scowled, frowned, postulated in a foggy haze, dozed (fell fast asleep on a park bench during lunch break), drooled, bolted out of a St Vincent show without saying hello to a soul, felt miserable, and generally acted in a menacing fashion, for four days straight. All true. I dreamt vividly, and woke scowling.

Now, mind you, I am by no means drawing a direct correlation between my behavior this week, and caffeine. And, should you lay me on the analyst’s couch, darker roots would undoubtedly eventually surface. (He is quick to anger. He lacks patience. And empathy. Quick to judge. Chemical imbalance. Unrealistic expectations. Malcontent. He hates tiny ants. Has problems with authority. He lacks patience. Lacks sleep. He lacks…) I am simply documenting my behavior during a four-day window when my caffeine intake happened to be extraordinarily low.

This morning, Day Five, I walked leisurely to UnUrban, a coffee shop on Pico. The friends of Bill Wilson were meeting in the back room. Apropos? I walked to the counter and ordered an Americano. “How much is an extra shot?” “How many do you want?” “Three.” “Three dollars.” Gazed into my threadbare wallet. “I’ve got exactly three dollars. Let’s do this.”

It was the best tasting coffee I’ve had in nine years. I’m ok with this drug and what it does to me. Caffeine, I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry. It will never happen. Not ever again.