Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dealing with Addictions(the silly ones that could REALLY hurt your chances of survival)

Don't forget to check out ALL of my Last Man On Earth Studies posts!

I tried to come up with a witty way of naming this post. I really did. And if you think you have a better one, then I am all ears.

I have tried to think about things that you may not have thought of, in regards to EOTWAWKI. And maybe not just fresh ideas for readers, but even for those that write about these things. And, it's possible that you may even think that I am going WWAAYYY out there to bring you fresh ideas. But I'm not. I bet you haven't thought of how silly and secret addictions can really hurt you. Have you? While the effects of hard drugs, even seemingly minor alcoholism, have their own withdrawal symptoms that are easy to point at and identify. It's the ones that you haven't thought of that may be your undoing. Let me share a story.

Last week, I traveled to ATK in Utah for some NASA work. Flight left at 6:08am. So, I didn't really have time to fix a pot of coffee. I figured I would grab a cup when I got the the airport and enjoyed a fabulous $10 rewarmed biscuit. And, verily, that's exactly what I did. I enjoyed said biscuit with a small coffee, then boarded the flight from Huntsville to Houston.

Knowing that this would be a long day, judging by past experiences on United, I drifted off to sleep on the flight. When I woke up, I found out that we had been diverted to Alexandria, LA due to fog. We sat on the plane an hour, then deplaned into this tiny executive airport. Alas, it has no restaurants and only one kiosk that sold bottle drinks. Since 7 other planes arrived before me, the kiosk was drained. No big deal. I have sworn off soft drinks in an attempt to loose weight.

Boarded, once again, and we finally made the flight to Houston.

That's where it began.

I had a splitting headache. I was sick to my stomach. I had ZERO energy. When I called my wife, she immediately could tell something was wrong. I could barely speak, I was trying to figure out what I needed to do to make it to Salt Lake City with all the delays. But I couldn't think. At all. My brain simply wouldn't work. I told her I didn't know what it was and that I felt I was dying. Being ever so intuitive to her loving spoonful, she knew what had happened. I had 1 cup of coffee. All day.

Sounds stupid, doesn't it? Because I had only 1 cup of Joe that day, I couldn't mentally function. And this isn't the product of just a long day. It's happened over. And over. And over.

In fact, I can't start my day without having a pot of coffee. Not because I am spoiled, but because I can't mentally function. See, my every morning revolves around dressing my kids, packing snacks and diaper bags, and getting them to school. There have been days that I have gotten to work and had to seriously think about if I actually took them.

Laugh now. But consider. Are you in the same boat? Do you have a long term tradition of stopping at Starbucks? Do you have to have a pot of coffee at your desk while you read the news, before you start your work day? Do you have to have that Mt. Dew at 2pm? how about that Redbull or 5 Hour Energy Drink?

You do. Don't you? Don't lie to yourself. It's ok.

And if you don't? Do we dare go down that path? Well, I've already told you about my inability to function. As a NASA engineer, I recognize many of the stereotypes in myself, and one of those is the need to "mainline" caffeine directly into my blood stream. And if I don't....I cannot function.

Ok. So, I think we have beaten that dead horse enough.

What does this mean for our survival? Do you realize just how dangerous this is to your EOTWAWKI plan? We have had many talks about being on top of your mental game. Having a plan and enacting it, having thought of solutions to conceivable future issues. Making. Critical. Decisions. At. Critical. Times.  This takes clarity of thought. And if you don't have this, you have a problem.

I couldn't wrap my mind around how to change a flight to make it to my destination. How would I ever be able to make a split second decision on how to save my and my families life? I wouldn't. That doesn't even get into the physical ailment I felt. I am willing to bet that I would have been throwing up had I not downed a 34 ounce Dr. Pepper.

Now, I am much better off with my coffee consumption that I have been at other times in my life. I drink about 10 fluid cups a day. That's the only caffeine in which I partake. Let's look at some facts.

According to CoffeeFAQ, a standard 8oz coffee has UP TO 200mg, but usually around 110mg.
According to Mt. Dew, a standard 12oz can has 55mg
According to 5 Hour Energy Drink, a standard shot has 208mg
According to Red Bull, a standard 8.4oz can has 50mg

So, while many people may laugh at the amount of coffee I drink, many of those drink multiple 20oz bottles of Mt Dew everyday. Or multiple Redbull. According to this, I consume a gram of caffeine a day. A GRAM!

Where do you fit? Have you ever gone without? If so, what were your experiences? I honestly would like to know.

What this past weekend showed me was that I have a severe addiction to coffee which can completely inhibit my physical and mental cohesiveness. It is something that I MUST consider in my survival plan. But, I will be honest. I enjoy coffee, so weening myself off of it is improbable. So, what's my solution? Well, it's silly and simple.

I had been thinking about this topic and just how dangerous it really is, for something as stupid as a daily habit. I mean, honestly, I don't rank my addiction up there with heroine...and yet, I can now identify what Kurt Cobain must have felt (though I identify that I didn't have Courtney Love to deal with). When I got to my hotel that evening, the first thing I saw was the prepackaged Coffee on the sink. I thought to myself....hey. That's at least a bandaid solution. After all, in the EOTWAWKI, our plan all along is that we will have scavenge at least SOME. But until it's safe, just a few packets of prepackaged brown goodness would get me by. So, I snagged it. And now it's in the pack.

While this may sound stupid and you may not even believe me, others have considered it. In the "Outlanders" series of books by James Axler, coffee is a regular staple of commodities that are held in high regard in the Post-Apocalypse. In "Pitch Black", Cole Hauser's character Johns, has an addiction that is never specified, yet it renders him physically and mentally incompetent after their space ship crashes on a hostile planet.

So you don't care about media? Consider this: Coffee is a staple in military MREs. Why? Maybe not for addicted souls like me, but certainly for some of the reasons that I am addicted to it. It's a stimulant. It keeps you alert. It's comforting.

The fact is, the EOTWAWKI is a scary and harsh place where survival is already walking a razor thin edge. Just to survive and prosper, you already will require a great amount of luck, not to mention the planning and sharper-than-razor mental capacity to make even the smallest decisions that mean life or death. You cannot have anything keep you from making the right call at the right time. Loosing your mental capacity over something stupid, such as missing a days worth of coffee, is a silly way to go out.

And, again, we aren't even considering the more serious addictions that you may have. Doing a quick search, it says that 3% of Americans have a drinking problem. That sound about right to you? It does to me. The effects of alcohol withdrawals are just as dire, and even more so. I have seen it first hand. So, 1 out of ever 3 of you that read this now know that your alcohol addiction should be something to consider.

I'm not telling you to kill off your secret addictions. It's not my place. And, considering how unlikely an earth-shattering EOTWAWKI would be, it's probably not worth quitting. Shoot, I know I can't quit coffee. But, it's certainly worth planning for, even if it means raiding the hotels freebee coffee stash.