Caffeine Revelations

I gave up caffeine and it’s depressing how much better I feel.

I love coffee. I’m well aware that’s an utterly banal and uncontroversial expression of love to make given 90% of the world consumes caffeine. I’m in good company it would seem.

I didn’t want to give up caffeine. I got a nasty infection (read ‘cold’ if you’re my girlfriend) at the start of the year that was playing havoc with my heart rate and the doctor recommended I give it up. So I did.

The first week I couldn’t tell whether it was a more dramatic stage of the infection or the effect of withdrawal, but I felt as if I was on death’s door. Misery, low energy. At one stage, I think I uttered the phrase ‘life isn’t worth living without coffee’.

Up to this point, I had never considered myself an addict of anything really. Granted, I’ve had some pretty mean obsessions, usually around video games binges. I was into the 15th generation of a Sims family at one point. But I didn’t really acknowledge caffeine in the mix of addictions. 

My coffee love crept up on me. I was never really fussed about tea growing up unless it was used as a moistening system for custard creams. So I was fairly late onto coffee, a mid-twenty something trip to Italy sparked it. My attraction to coffee was partly inspired by my need for cheap-energy while teaching, partly inspired by a self-loathing pretentious attitude that loved the bitter taste and cool look. Once I took to it, my ascension (or descent, depending on how annoying I am to you) into coffee hipsterism was gradual, and it was relentless.

None of that wimpy stuff with milk either. Proper coffee. Espressos, doubles, americanos, long blacks. Instant coffees were banished in favour of my own coffee machine and grinder. I was currently in the process of getting my perfect grind level for my tastes. There was a patch where I would mercilessly bore people with the difference between americanos and long blacks (coffee first, water first) or wax lyrical on the coffee’s influence on the Enlightenment. I was and am an absolute hoot to be around with facts like that.

Here the cliches only compound – I loved the smell, the ritual, the comfort of a hot coffee. Coffeehouses are awesome, and as my alcohol consumption has reduced as a result of the dreaded 30-something hangovers, coffee took the top spot of choices of drink. Looking back, I can’t recall more than a week where I haven’t drank a coffee in 8 years. That’s more of a committed relationship than any I’ve ever managed. Other than that 15-generation-family in Sims.

So in hindsight it was no wonder going caffeine-free hit my system to the extent I felt the Grim Reaper knocking at my door. The really gutting aspect is how much better I feel after the initial withdrawal wore off after a week or so. I was expecting some aspects to be different, maybe a little better sleep, a little less swings in energy. But the improvement has been so stark that I’m profoundly depressed.

My sleep is so much better, I feel so much more rested throughout the day, that it’s bordering on a joke. Now I only get up once a night for my old man wee, and once I get a handle on that existential dread that keeps me awake at night, I’ll be sleeping ‘like a baby’.

The mix of being better rested and the lack of periodic caffeine injections mean that my energy levels are far more consistent throughout the day – waking up is far easier, there is less of an afternoon slump, and my focus and attention is dramatically better. 

And then there’s the nebulous anxiety that comes from consuming coffee – you’ll know it well if you drink coffee – that uncertain feeling of either having drank too much or too little and not knowing which.

And finally I will say digestion and leave that sentence right there.

Some might be pleased at this revelation, at having broken the addiction, at this dramatic improvement in my quality of life. Perhaps intellectually pleased, but emotionally I’m utterly depressed at the fact. Now yes, 1) I know there’s decaf, but it isn’t the same and you know it, and 2) ‘you’re hardly the first to have this revelation’ – this is good and so this – but so what? I miss it and I need to vent.

I know I cannot rationalise drinking coffee in the way I did, and that’s what hurts the most. I wish I didn’t have the burden of this knowledge. I want to go back to my ignorance. Alas, I cannot. Maybe I’ll allow myself to dip back in at some point, like the smoker who only smokes when they drink. For now, I’m going to stick to the decaf. And in the meantime maybe I’ll see whether that Sim survived in the pool I trapped him in for failing to get a promotion to Astronaut.

Featured image: williansaez

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