When I started college last year, I averaged about five hours of sleep a night. As the year tolled on, my alarm clock chirped an hour earlier. Four hours of sleep definitely wasn’t something I enjoyed, but it was a routine necessity just like everything else on my to-do list. I enlisted it as another adjustment to becoming an “maturing.” Adulthood meant being career-driven and hungry for success—so naturally, sleep deprived, right?
Unfortunately, even only a few months, in the human body realizes that it simply cannot operate with so little rest. Four hours—a sixth of a day—is not something a living being can physically exist off of. No phone can go without a recharge, no road trip can happen without a pit stop—and sadly, though inconveniently, the body will eventually demand its sleep or otherwise shut down. Access denied.
In the midst of finals week, I had my first energy drink. I rarely drink coffee, and never soda. It started with coffee—every morning. Then, I added Coke, because though the calories of carbonation disgusted me, it’s a grab-and-go for energy-depraved people falling down the same path. Then, when I physically could not keep my body in a sitting position—when I was called out for falling sleep during work and during a voice lesson—I had my first energy drink. There were commitments I made, and essays due in the next hour, and exams I demanded myself not to fail. Just one little Starbucks “all-natural” energy drink couldn’t kill me, right?
As every story goes though, one became two, and two became twenty-four (one for each hour!), and Starbucks all-natural became Red Bull and Monster and all the other repulsive brands I always vowed I’d never put into my body. But, I felt energised, alert, able to devote more time to more commitments that really never could fit on a human schedule.
Before I knew it, I had been awake for fifty-five straight hours, and I was ready to take my first final with six shots of espresso and a Red Bull in my system. I felt great.
Nevertheless, once all my major exams and assignments were over though, I swore to myself that I would give up energy drinks for good—not only for health reasons (because God knows what they put in those drinks), but for sanity reasons. I would never want to be dependent on an energizer other than my mind and soul.
And this is when I tell you that there is a reason caffeine is categorized as a stimulant: a drug. This is my perhaps over-dramatic story of brief addiction, but also my story of withdrawal. There are clearly people who struggle with much more severe forms of addiction, and I in no way mean to diminish their story with my own petty struggles. I mean, how ludicrous does a three-week caffeine addiction sound? All I know is that I never knew what a potential heart-attack or seizure could have felt like until I drained my first energy drink. When I stopped fueling my blood on caffeine, the foreign concepts of migraines, cold sweats, jitters—all introduced themselves to my body.
In the end, as our moms seem to preach from day one: too much of a good thing is never good. Unhealthy dependence is possible with anything if you make it so.
I feel like a broken recorder, or a mentally dysfunctional parrot, repeating myself over incessantly. But it is so incredibly necessary to be gentle with yourself. Nothing should be more important than your health, and when your body is screaming from the depths of despair, it may be time listen, and send down a ladder.