I am an addict

I have a confession to make. For years now I’ve become increasingly dependent on a substance grown in distant Third World countries, processed into brown powder and shipped across our borders in huge quantities. It’s called coffee.

Like most addicts I’ve been in denial. It’s just a harmless pick-me-up, I tell myself. If I wanted to stop, I could. But could I? What would happen if I did? I’ve just found out.

The other day I had a hospital appointment. For about a year I’ve had a cough I just can’t shake off. Naturally I concluded I had lung cancer and had better start putting my affairs in order.  My doctor, however, assured me there’s nothing to back up my DIY diagnosis – and suggested it might be late onset asthma. I was booked in for a test to check this out which involves irritating your lungs with a drug, to find out if it makes you stop breathing.

One of things I’ve learned in life is that Sod’s Law is evident all around us. Like when you’re at work and no-one can be bothered to pick up that annoying ringing phone. You just know that the moment you walk to the other side of the office to answer it, it’s going to stop ringing just as you stretch out your hand to pick up the handset. Same with hospital appointments. I’ve waited months for this scary test – and a couple of weeks ago, my cough just clears up. So do I cancel the appointment? I decide no, because Sod’s Law also teaches you that the moment you cancel the appointment, the cough is going to come back.

What’s this all got to do with coffee? A few days before the appointment a hospital lady phoned to say I was not allowed any stimulants such as caffeine on the morning of the test. ‘Not a problem,’ I assured the hospital lady. How little I know about myself.

Like most parents, I don’t enough sleep. My job often means I get home late – but if it’s term time, the alarm must without fail go off at 7am if we’re to stand any chance of getting the little buggers angels to school on time. Even when I have the opportunity to get to bed at a decent time, I rarely take it. There’s usually some fascinating documentary on the SAS or the world’s greatest sheds that needs to be watched. A guy’s got to live a bit, after all.

The upshot of all this is that I normally wake up looking and feeling like The Undead and it’s not until that first slug of the brown stuff slips down my throat that my neurons start sparking. I generally manage to knock back a second cup before starting the school run – much to the disapproval of Khaleesi  who insists that she’s too busy getting the kids organised to have time for any food or drink.

The morning of the hospital test I am totally unable to shake off that Undead feeling.  Without my morning coffee I feel like I’ve been slipped a powerful sedative – but it gets worse. By late morning the headache sets in as my brain cells scream in protest at the lack of caffeine. I’m going cold turkey.

OK, so I am addicted to caffeine – but is it a problem? Try googling it and – as with most health concerns – you come up with lots of completely conflicting advice.

On the Coffee is Bad side of the argument you discover it:
Increases heart rate and raises blood pressure in the short term
Makes it hard to get to sleep at night
Causes stomach upsets or muscle tremors
Makes you irritable or restless
Leads to frequent urination and stomach upsets

On the Coffee is Good side of the argument you learn that:
It improves your mood or alertness
One study found more than two cups a day cuts the risk of heart disease
Some evidence it can ward off Type 2 diabetes
May protect you against liver cancer

Experts never agree on anything – but the mainstream view it that it’s OK in moderation. Anything up to 400mg of caffeine a day, or four cups of brewed coffee, probably won’t do any harm – and might even do you some good. But being dependent on a chemical surely can’t be right. So I am going to cut down. But before I do so, I think I need to establish a baseline. How much coffee am I actually drinking? I need to count the cups of coffee I drink. And, as with almost anything in life, there’s an app that can help. Several in fact. This one will do.

I will post an update on my coffee addiction in due course. (And the scary hospital test? It seems I do not have asthma)




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