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Based on a new medical finding that's getting a lot of mileage, friends tell me that an apple will wake me up more than a cup of coffee. Perhaps if it's thrown at my head at maximum velocity it will, but in the meantime, I'll stick to coffee.

I'm a coffee junkie. I think I have a problem. Do they have 12-step programs for coffee addicts? And if so, what do they serve at the meetings? Beer?

I started drinking java two years ago at my last job. I worked in an office early in the morning, and it was only a matter of time before I ran out of pop money and switched to the mocha side.

At first, it was a cup or two in the morning during work. When I left for my current job, I only drank coffee on my days off, but then it was entire pots. I'd sit at home and suck down six to eight cups and bounce off the walls.

In the past six months, I've been living with a student who had a completely different schedule, and I've leaned on coffee to help combine our routines.

After staying out with the boys until 2 a.m., Maxwell House helped me crawl out of bed and see my girlfriend off to school.

Then I got into Starbucks whenever I had to work early in the morning. Or when I was a little drowsy. It was a good excuse to take a walk and get some exercise. It made me feel cool to walk around with a tall grande cup of joe sloshing around with some pep in my step.

Another recent study shows that Starbucks has five times the amount of caffeine than other coffee chains in the country. This explains a lot. Now I'm hooked. I drink at least one large tanker of Starbucks a day and as much as 17 cups of coffee on days off.

Sometimes I sweat coffee because I drink so much. My hands are constantly clammy from an accelerated heart rate due to the constant influx of caffeine in my system. Houston, we have a problem.

I've gotta cut back before there's an intervention. Coffee makes me irritable, and I'm irritable to begin with. I keep a small carafe of latte in my jacket pocket in case of emergencies.

What happens when you cut back from coffee -- the opposite of the shakes? I've taken to chewing on grounds and coffee beans when I'm not around faucets or large bodies of water.

I guess I have an addictive personality. When I couldn't find transportation to a coffee shop, I ate two gallons of coffee ice cream and an entire coffee cake. Coffee has become an integral part of Western society, so it's tough to spot those of us with a problem.

Almost everyone with a morning job drinks coffee at (or on the way to) work. I drank pop for 26 years before I ramped up to coffee. My health teacher in high school always said that Dr. Pepper was a gateway beverage. In retrospect, I should have taken her more seriously.

Nobody's ever dropped dead from taking things in moderation. I'm going cold turkey on my coffee. Right after this cup.

And after that I'm going to kick my fondness for sock puppets, throw pillows and chocolate malteds.

TOM WATERS lives in Williamsville.

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