Thursday, August 19, 2010


Hi, my name is LK and I have a problem with caffeine.

I started drinking coffee I think in Middle School and by the time I reached High School, I would brew a pot of coffee and be up all night finishing papers. When undergrad started, I was pretty much living on a very expensive habit of lattes and mochas as well as that Awake Tazo tea...I was never without my trusty travel mug. Hours were spent studying in Borders with endless refills…to this day, their coffee turns my stomach.

I would say that, between the ages of 18 and 21 I probably consumed about 6 caffeinated beverages a day…maybe 10 when studying for finals. Are you shocked by this? You have seen nothing yet.

By the time my first year of law school came to a close, I was a full fledged addict. That 1L year killed me – constant all-nighters or functioning on 2-3 hours of sleep just to stay ahead, coupled with 8:00am classes, I was a disaster. I am talking large coffees at 10pm…11pm. In the mornings I was often up at 4:00am or 5:00am to get through assignments I couldn’t finish the night before…by the time my first class would roll around, my stomach was solid acid due to the coffee and I would switch to Diet Mountain Dew for my first class then back to coffee for the rest of the day…often a few Red Bulls would make their appearance at night. I cannot even guess the amount of caffeine I was taking in – 12 drinks a day? 15?

Sick yet? I did that for 3 years.

During my last finals period in law school, my tongue and lips started to go numb. No feeling at all. A doctor told me that it was from too much caffeine…the caffeine was leaching the calcium out of my body, causing my mouth to go numb. This doctor, also a friend, knew that there was no way I was laying off the caffeine in the middle of finals and told me to take a heavy dose of Tums everyday to get my calcium levels back up. Feeling returned to my mouth. I kept downing the lattes.

After that finals period, I laid off the caffeine for a bit until I started studying for the bar exam…the consumption again went sky high, but as soon as the exam was over, I was back to having maybe only 4 cups of coffee a day. I was in control.

When I started at my first law firm, I was again working on 3 hours of sleep and my stress level was through the roof. The morning usually started with two cups of coffee before I left the house, a travel mug for the road and probably 6 cups throughout the day. I also discovered RockStar energy drinks at this point (the white can, in case you are curious). I usually had one or two of those a day. About a year into that job I started seeing spiders in my peripheral vision. Weird, right? Since hallucinations are never a good sign, I went to the doctor. She told me that the combination of too much caffeine and a high stress job were causing my brain to send out the ‘spider’ warning signal. I was told that I had to keep it at 4 cups of coffee a day and no cups on high stress days. I fell asleep at my desk everyday for a month…but the spiders stopped.

Last summer I switched jobs and States and had to take the bar exam again while working. Hello Coffee and Java Monster…oh, and 5 Hour Energy and 7 Hour Fuel hit the scene. I distinctly remember standing in my Sister-in-Laws/Brother’s kitchen having just finished up a hot summer run, actually vibrating and having chest pains…and I thought, enough is enough…after I get through this exam. I took a swig of my Java Monster and went to study.

After the exam I got my caffeine levels down to a decent level (probably 4-5 cups of coffee a day) and swore off energy drinks except for the occasional 5 Hour energy before a long run. I have since also given up the 5 Hour energies completely. The past few weeks though, I hit a downward spiral. Work has been crazy and my stress level has been high. I am guessing maybe 7-10 cups of coffee a day?  And I started seeing spiders. I knew what that meant, but I was on a role. Then I started having nightmares. Then this morning I had such an extreme dizzy spell that I had to grip onto my desk for support as the room turned sideways. And my tongue is numb.

And I am drinking water and not having anymore caffeine today.

I am telling all of you this so that you can look at your own bad habits honestly. Assess them. Recognize where you need to change. And for goodness sake, lay off the caffeine.

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