Mug Life: Thinking About Sobriety’s Obsession with Coffee


It’s the typical trope — a bunch of people in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting drinking cup after cup of coffee. It seems that the moment someone gets sober, a cup of coffee magically materializes in their hand. Is the coffee and sobriety stereotype actually true? Or am I under the spell of a common recovery cliche?

Prior to getting sober, I didn’t drink coffee at all. I avoided it because I found it aggravated my hangxiety. I really didn’t need anything else to make me feel more anxious than I already did on a daily basis, so I skipped the morning cup of Joe. 

Fast forward to my recovery and I am guzzling coffee and chain smoking to start my days. Sometimes, I would even finish off an entire 48 oz bottle of Starbucks Iced Coffee before 11am. I would be so jacked up on over-the-counter stimulants that I’d find myself either ferociously rocking in my rocking chair, madly gardening, or manically cleaning each morning. Then I’d wonder why I was exhausted by early afternoon, not realizing I was caffeine crashing. 

My coffee intake has decreased since I quit smoking cigarettes (those two behaviors are definitely tethered), but I still think I drink too much of it. And while caffeine is considered a harmless drug for healthy adults, the household stimulant has been making headlines lately. Panera Bread has come under fire for its “supercharged” lemonade which lawsuits allege contributed to the wrongful deaths of two caffeine sensitive individuals. 

I just want to know why Panera is putting caffeine in the lemonade at their fast-casual family restaurants. 

While I haven’t tried Panera’s death lemonade, I have accidentally overdosed on caffeine by drinking too much coffee — and it is not fun. According to the FDA, overconsumption of caffeine symptoms include insomnia, jitters, anxiousness, a fast heart rate, upset stomach, nausea, headache, and a feeling of unhappiness. I can truly attest to the feeling of unhappiness as a caffeine overdose is extremely uncomfortable. But nonetheless, even after suffering the side effects of too much caffeine, I still excessively consume too much coffee.

But all this talk of caffeine in the news and my new dependence on coffee got me wondering. Why am I and so many other sober people drinking so much fucking coffee?

While my internet research on the topic of coffee use in recovery yielded little results, I did unearth a study from 2008 by the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. At the time the study was conducted, it found that nearly 89 percent of Alcoholics Anonymous members drank coffee daily, compared to approximately 64 percent of Americans overall. The study also concluded that 33 percent of AA members drank over four cups of coffee a day — a statistic I easily fall into. 

I suppose that makes the assumptions correct — sober people love coffee, and they drink a lot of it. And the top answer as to why the sober people in AA drank coffee? It “helps wake you up.”

This confirmed my suspicions that us sober-folk use coffee primarily for its stimulating effects. So, aside from enjoying the taste of a nice cup of coffee, the ritual of it or that it can warm us up on a cold day — coffee is loved for its pep. And that’s what I thought, because that’s why I like it too.

Did I swap my addiction to alcohol for an addiction to coffee? Maybe. But, drinking too much coffee doesn’t have an ounce of potential to destroy my life the way drinking too much alcohol did. I haven’t lost a job, wrecked my marriage, or ended up in jail because I drank too much coffee (yet). 

Obviously, coffee is so much more than something that people in recovery depend on and enjoy. The United States imports approximately 2185 tons of coffee annually. Humans in general love coffee. Legend has it that humanity’s obsession with coffee started as early as the 9th century, and us American’s even traded in tea for coffee just as a fuck you to England after the Boston Tea Party. Coffee is a part of humanity’s history and global culture. And it’s delicious! 

So if my new love for coffee makes me a caricature of recovery — I’m cool with that. It’s certainly hipper, and safer, than my penchant for alcohol.

Do you drink a lot of coffee? Let us know in the comments


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *