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My name is Natalie, and for the past 10 years, I’ve been addicted to a central nervous system stimulant. I’m in good company though. Every day, thousands of youth experiment with this drug for the first time and instantly become hooked on the giddy rush. And with earnings of $340+ million a year, the train shows no signs of stopping.

These are my confessions
As I sit here typing this confession, I’m nearly doubled over with withdrawal symptoms. I slept through my alarm this AM and bolted out the door with dripping wet hair. I barely remembered my keys and figured I could wait an hour to feel the glorious ‘no matter how much I sleep I’ll never feel this awake’ sensation pulse through my veins. I was very, very wrong. By the time I got to the office, I was overcome with headaches, muscle pain, stomach knots, extreme fatigue, and irritability so severe that I questioned my week-long alcohol detox mission. Did I sleepwalk and drink one too many bottles of sweet white wine last night? Or did I get punched by the flu?

My name is Natalie, and I am a caffeine junky.

Is it really that bad?
Tell me to run a marathon, cut all white carbs, jump out of an airplane, race up 66 flights of stairs for charity, swing kettle bells with reckless abandon or cease wine and cheese consumption (for a limited time) and I will not bat an eyelash. Tell me to quit my daily espresso habit and my response will be a mix of anger and fear. I may start perspiring at the mere thought—if this doesn’t say addict, I’m not sure what does.

But how bad is a caffeine addiction, really? It isn’t illegal and it hasn’t left me bankrupt. It helps get me to the gym and through a tough workout when all I want to do is sink into my couch and watch made-for-TV movies. It gives me the boost I need to stay late at the office to finish a challenging assignment. It allows me to see the humor in not-so-funny people. But above all, caffeine makes me HAPPY.

I can’t stop…but I don’t want to!

On the other hand, how could something that makes you this sick if you don’t ingest it not be bad for you? Conflicting studies about the benefits and drawbacks of coffee clutter magazines and websites and mystify accomplished scientists. As a self-proclaimed health nut, I wish I had the answers.

But even if I did, I admittedly wouldn’t care. All I need right now is my fix so that I can get back to normal—and after a few cups, excellence. I’ll be smiling through every dose and until I see proof that my cells are suffering, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.