7 Stages of Caffeine Addiction: What Do You Mean I Can’t Pour Coffee Over My Cereal?

October 2, 2018

Caffeine is both the highest-selling and most widely-used drug in the world.  You’re probably hooked on it, along with your mom, your dad, and every other person who has ever needed to wake up early, or stay up late. When ingested, this highly addictive stimulant wakes you up, keeps you focused, and improves your athletic performance—until its effects wear off, that is. Without a regular hit, users turn surly, uncoordinated, and so delicate that thinking too hard makes their brains hurt. But fortunately, you can easily cure that by drinking more caffeine.

Whether you prefer to take your poison through a simple cup of joe or in a bottle of suspiciously fizzy, neon-colored energy drink, all true caffeine junkies go through the same stages in their relationship with the stuff. If you’re hopelessly hooked like me, this list will be intimately familiar. And if you aren’t, you could either take this as a warning or an invitation. Your call.

1. The Virgin

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All of us were innocent virgins at one point. We were blissful in our ignorance, happily playing in our denim overalls and backwards-facing baseball caps with propellers on top. The occasional glass of Coke was our sole caffeinated indulgence. We ordered hot chocolate at Starbucks, drank milk tea with more milk than tea, and needed no artificial source of pep to push us into being pleasant company before 10 AM.

It’s a safe place, being a virgin, and there’s nothing wrong with it. However, just imagine how much Star Wars would’ve sucked if Anakin never went to the dark side.

2. The High-Flyer

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Often triggered by a grueling week of exams or the need to get the new girlfriend a trendy planner from that fancy coffee place, high-flyers are like the newborn infants of the caffeine world. Everything’s still new and exciting to them, and they haven’t been on the stuff long enough to experience any of its nastier effects.

High-flyers are amazed at all the perks their new habit has given them. They feel smarter, stronger, and more alert. They think of themselves as superheroes, with caffeine as their (not so secret) super serum. You would often find them watching that Bradley Cooper movie (Limitless, I think it’s called), while nodding sagely and muttering to themselves, “I can so relate to this.”

Like a two year-old screaming, “Look what I can do!” after learning how to run or mastering the art of peeing while standing, high-flyers are desperate for people to notice all the coffee-guzzling they’ve been busy with lately. They naively wonder why everyone on the planet isn’t mainlining caffeine when it makes people feel so fantastic.

3. The Dependent Junkie

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As caffeine continues to worm its way into your soul, you become increasingly dependent on the stuff. You find yourself unable to do basic things without it, such as working out, studying, or simply getting out of bed. Numerous factors, like whether your mom hugged you enough while you were growing up or the number of times you were picked last during grade school PE, largely determine what kind of junkie you become.

Some people turn into a coffee connoisseur. This is a man who fancies himself a cut above the common rabble of the coffee-drinking world. No 3-in-1 sachets for this cultured gent, only the finest beans harvested by little dancing elves from the most remote corner of Africa and roasted by a barista with a Ph.D. in coffeelogy can ever grace his discriminating palate. He spends most of his time quizzing the annoyed lady cashiers at Starbucks on the difference between a cup of Turkish-ground Vienna Roast and a mug of French-pressed Cinnamon Roast. For her part, the server takes revenge by deliberately screwing up his order, no matter how many times he asks for the same needlessly complicated drink.

For those who never got their head stuffed in a toilet growing up, they’d probably be a lot less fussy.  Fully aware of what caffeine does for their body, they dose themselves with it periodically, based on their activities for that day. Whether it’s from plain coffee, tea, energy drinks, soda, or even wake-me-up pills from the local pharmacy, they’re not picky about how they get their fix.

4. The Near-Death Experience Survivor

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As your caffeine threshold increases, things will inevitably go too far. And if you’re not careful, you’ll run into something so bad and so serious that you’ll realize that shit has gotten real.

For me, that moment came after I knocked back more caffeine pills than I have fingers. I was forced to spend the next hour listening to my blood splish-splosh its way through my veins and arteries, while I sat immobile on my comforter. My eyes darted around, amazed at how everything around me seemed to simultaneously speed up and slow down. I could even feel my face on my face.

I stayed that way for forty minutes, just waiting for my chest to explode. Thankfully, my heart gradually stopped imitating a dubstep record, and I regained the ability to move soon after.

My whole perspective changed after that incident. Flowers smelled sweeter, the sky looked bluer, and even George RR Martin’s childish glee in killing all my favorite characters no longer seemed like such a huge deal.

5. The Cold Turkey Turkey

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Normally, after such a harrowing experience, people are bound to make some serious changes. Afraid of dying from too much Red Bull, they swear off caffeine forever. Like a fresh new convert from the neighborhood church, they’re wildly enthusiastic about all the new health stuff they plan on replacing their caffeine addiction with. Unfortunately, their enthusiasm alone is seldom enough.

As the brain’s adenosine receptors readjust to the lack of caffeine, withdrawal symptoms start to manifest, ranging from general grouchiness and lethargy to much graver side effects like clinical depression, constant nausea, persistent joint pains, and unbearably painful headaches. I’ve seen people get migraines so bad that they spend the entire day crying in bed, soundly cursing at anyone who dares to speak above a whisper.

The worst part is that there’s really nothing you could do to alleviate the torture. It’s not like you could just take a little sip of coffee so you can function normally again, right?

6. The Justifier

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Also known as the Lying-So-Much-You’re-Either-Running-For-Public-Office-Or-You’re-My-Ex-Girlfriend stage, this is when you start taking little tastes of caffeine again, while rationalizing them as a necessary evil. After all, you’ve got to study six chapters for that big test tomorrow, or maybe you need to finish the quarterly sales report before the big staff meeting this afternoon. “Just this once,” you’d say.

The fibs start small, but steadily escalate. One day, you find yourself sneaking into Jollibee at 4AM for a 5-peso cup of (terrible) java, and you realize that the fairy tale is over.

7. The Symbiosis

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You’re focused, you’re happy, and you’re not almost killing yourself every time you need to stay awake. You, dear sir or madam, have found the promised land of caffeine equilibrium. Your relationship with the mug of liquid black magic in your hand has turned symbiotic.

All of us at this stage know the dangerous double-edged sword that our habit brings. Those of us still alive have learned how to use it to enhance our abilities without offing ourselves in the process. We’re practically superheroes, well, super villains. Addiction doesn’t really strike me as a heroic character trait.


Do you guys have any funny or scary caffeine stories to share? Do you think we missed a few important stages? Hit the comments and let us know!

Lars Roxas Lars Roxas

Laurence is a twenty-something turtle pretending to be a writer. In the past, he has worked as a warehouse clerk, Apple genius, martial arts instructor, copywriter, editor, english teacher, and personal trainer. He can’t swim or ride a bike, but he's done Judo on three continents. He has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Occasionally, his stories appear in real actual books. He makes awesome waffles.

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22 comments in this post SHOW

22 responses to “7 Stages of Caffeine Addiction: What Do You Mean I Can’t Pour Coffee Over My Cereal?”

  1. D Camacho says:

    Symbiosis! A.k.a. Coffee nirvana! Good job, Lars!:)

  2. Nico Goco says:

    to review for my board exams, I downed two red bulls with a sachet of extra joss to boot. this was after I took my morning cup of Joe. Not a good idea..

  3. Hannah says:

    HAY NAKO LARS, PANALO KA TALAGA MAGSULAT. Sobrang tawa ako ng tawa sa office! Relate na relate ako dito!! :))

  4. Terrifying in its accuracy. After two weeks of insomnia, I finally bit the bullet and decided restart my body clock. I guzzled four or five giant mugs of cheap coffee to power my last twenty-four hours. I remember waking up on the floor of my bathroom.

  5. Ah, those days how the glass wall I leaned on would imitate my heartbeat after a 473 ml latte cup, which I took after a 330 ml “3-in-wonderful” cup.

    I wish my coffee ban gets lifted sooner. I miss kissing rims of coffee cups.

  6. I went directly from #1 to #7, no joke. I appreciate a good cup of coffee, but I never actually drank it for the caffeine hit. If anything, coffee makes me mellow enough to go to bed. Weird, but true.

    However, once, I did down a huge tumbler of Figaro’s Barako Blend in like 2 minutes. I was palpitating the entire morning. Never again.

  7. LOLed at the images! 🙂

  8. Adriel dela Rosa says:

    But some study shows (a good hit for coffee drinkers), that drinking coffee prevents certain cancers and heart diseases.

  9. There was a time I drank a latte from CBTL after an all-nighter and before my 8am class. Palpitations ensued -_- Still, I’m nursing a somewhat healthy addiction (3 or 7’s pretty accurate). I’m not picky though; even Nescafe’s cheapest 3-in-1 would do.

  10. […] spoon or sip it through a straw. The Starbucks version is a crowd pleaser, and its return will have caffeine junkies, who prefer to get their fix sweet, making a bee line to the nearest branch for a Mocha Cookie […]

  11. […] spoon or sip it through a straw. The Starbucks version is a crowd pleaser, and its return will have caffeine junkies, who prefer to get their fix sweet, making a bee line to the nearest branch for a Mocha […]

  12. […] all of you), when I’m not being a giant nerd on the Internet, exposing my crippling real life addictions for all to see, alienating kids, or equating love with heart disease, I write stories. Like […]

  13. […] entering your favorite coffee shop on a rainy Saturday afternoon. You order a fresh cup of black coffee (or your Venti sweetened, salted, blended, low-fat, no foam, six pump mocha with soy instead of […]

  14. JCJC777 says:

    Really good post. Thank you. I’m at 6. I’m not sure 7 really works? can you hold things steady at mild intake? I always trend up from 1 to 2 to 3 cups/ day. At 1/cup/ day the feeling is fine, but body acclimatises. When up at 3 cups/day it feels pretty terrible.
    .

  15. […] I’ve repeatedly pointed out, I have an interesting relationship with coffee. 3-in-1 coffee litro packs would be a godsend for caffeine junkies like me. We’d be double dosing […]

  16. […] Joining the throng of third-wave coffee shops popping up all over the Metro is Magnum Opus Fine Coffee Gallery. Known for its Belgian Heartbreaker, this coffee shop provides specially-crafted brews (made from meticulously-curated beans) for those who’d like a more classic take on their favorite caffeinated beverage. […]

  17. […] 7 Stages of Caffeine Addiction: What Do You Mean I Can’t Pour Coffee Over My Cereal? […]

  18. irisinwonderland says:

    i just remembered when i was still a caffeine addict. i would drown myself in a cup of brewed coffee and instead of sugar or cream, i usually use 3in1 coffee to get that heavenly taste. Just imagine that cordilleran brewed coffee aroma plus that just oh-so-right sweetness from kopiko brown. it was heaven. but now i couldn’t even stand 2 cups of regular coffee for a day. 🙁

  19. sebastian malmsteen says:

    didn’t get to 5 & 6, got to 7 after 4…just really appreciate a good cup, though i can’t really work without it in the morning..2-3 cups will do for me, but a grande is enough for a day…i always prefer to have my caffeine fix through coffee, not colas…

  20. Robert says:

    Maybe there should have been a next stage….the cheater or two-timer. HAHA

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