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The Similarities Between Caffeine Addiction Recovery And Dating

Turns out, caffeine withdrawal symptoms aren't all that different from getting clean from a toxic relationship addiction.


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Here's something I never thought I'd say: I recently quit coffee. I scaled back somewhat gradually as it was my desperate attempt to be well once and for all after a difficult year recovering from surgery. Much like the most unhealthy relationships I've been addicted to, I felt completely wacko while coming clean from coffee, and found myself wanting to ship off to caffeine rehab, where I could not work, sleep when I needed to, and focus on taking care of myself. In the process of getting clean from caffeine, I learned these four truths about my addictions in dating.

1. I postponed breaking up with coffee, and breaking up with many girlfriends, because I knew the withdrawals would suck. Withdrawal from caffeine addiction is no joke, and according to Time magazine has been added to the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5. A full-on mental disorder is exactly how I felt almost all day for the first six days sans caffeine. Looking back on my worst relationship ever, the one where I lost so much of me I didn't know if I'd ever be the same again, the one where I was gaslighted and treated to the lovely mindfuck of being pulled in and pushed away, I was terrified of the withdrawals. My addiction to that unhealthy dynamic was so strong that it took getting punched in the arm to walk away. What I realised later was that I didn't miss her. I didn't even really like her. Something about the dynamic was familiar to me and I was a junkie for noxious love.

2. I was on an emotional roller coaster. In the mornings, both sans coffee, and amidst a bad relationship, I just didn't want to get up. What was the point without the intoxicating aroma of gourmet coffee brewing? What was the point of getting up when I knew an awkward, stonewalling silence would ensue, or that forced over-politeness that screams relationship trouble? By afternoon, after drudging through the morning and sleeping through my lunch hour, without the caffeine crash I was perkier and more present. In my bad relationship, I'd get one nice (and by nice I mean "not cruel") text message from her and I was pulled right back in, drama forgotten... Only to have it start all over the next day.

3. I was mostly disconnected. One of the first things I noticed after the caffeine withdrawal symptoms subsided was how much more present I felt, in everything. Post worst relationship breakup, I felt an awareness about just how much I ran errands, made plans, and drank to avoid my uncomfortable feelings in the relationship. Tuning out was a survival skill that I didn't even know I put in place until I didn't anymore. It was only after getting clean of my toxic relationship that I was able to come back fully to being present in each moment.

4. I craved relief, not the drug. After a few days, I didn't miss the taste or smell of coffee at all. I just craved it in that way that says, "This will take away all these head-achey, foggy feelings." The same is true for my relationship addiction. Breaking away was hard, but not because I missed spending time with her or talking with her. It was hard because I was longing for something that could never be. I was grieving who I wanted her to be and how I wanted our relationship to be. Unrequited love, they say, is the most compelling of all.

Now, seven days clean of coffee, it's clear that I can't go back. It just wreaks havoc on my system. I'm not certain that I've fully kicked my toxic relationship addiction, but I know I can't go back and that for now, I'm taking it one day at a time. These days, I fuel my relationship drama addiction with reality TV instead of real life drama.

To read more about relationship red flags, check out Girls Guide to Health Dating: Between the Breakup and the Next U-Haul or click here.


Kim Baker, author of Girls’ Guide to Healthy Dating: Between the Breakup and the Next U-Haul, is a dating columnist and writer whose writing examines healthier dating through the lens of mindfulness and self-care. Find her at www.girlsguidetohealthydating.com 

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