As I write this, I am 6 days into my new caffeine free life. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I have recently found out I have quite debilitating IBS and have found a specialist who is helping me to treat it. Whilst we wait for the test results (due in 2 more weeks), I have been told that I must stop eating basically everything. Due to existing stomach problems, I haven’t eaten gluten or dairy for two years and now I’ve been told that I cannot touch alcohol (WAH!), sugar (WHAT?) and caffeine (KILL ME NOW!) amongst other things.
Although the no alcohol is ruining my social life, the no sugar is ruining my mood, it is the caffeine that is ruining my life. I am really really struggling with this one. Which I have to say, is a really really nasty shock, because as it turns out, I am a caffeine addict, and I didn’t even realise.
It never occurred to me that this was the case, that the fact I couldn’t get out of bed or stay awake in the afternoon without one was perhaps an indication that I might have a problem. But the jumper that my dad got me for Christmas last year reading ‘caffeine machine’ was, whilst appropriate, always just a joke… an exaggeration, or so I thought. As it turns out, not exaggerated at all, rather totally appropriate.
So at the beginning of last week, when I started my new, hopefully temporary life, the struggle came, not from the no booze or even the no sugar, rather, the no caffeine.
The misery started almost immediately on day one, Tuesday, (I never start anything on a Monday, too much pressure), when I had to get myself up, showered and dressed without so much as a sip of my nectar. It was weird, but fine. I ate my breakfast, some miserable gluten/dairy/sugar free type cereal and spent the rest of the morning gorging on whatever fruit I could find. By lunch time I had a splitting headache. A headache that stayed with me all afternoon, even after I woke from a twenty minute disco nap that happened totally by accident, but what was clearly a result of my empty caffeine levels following lunch. I was helped a tiny bit by a spinning class that evening (first time I’ve ever said that sentence!), but before I even got home again it was back with a vengeance and I’d had to call it a night my 9.30pm, very unlike me.
I was relieved on Wednesday to wakeup headache-less, but was no more used to my completely disrupted morning ritual. Before work I was going to meet my dad in the park, unsurprisingly, for a coffee, and wasn’t even slightly OK with replacing my soya latte for a bottle of water and I realised that I was going to need to think of something else that I could actually do with people during the day that wasn’t the usual ‘let’s meet for a quick coffee…’, because this was too HARD. After this though, I did manage to get through the day OK, without napping and headache free… until 5. By 5pm this was THE WORST THING EVER. I began my 3 mile walk home and within about 500 feet from work I was stopped by my headache, nausea and genuine concern that I was about to pass out, so I got on the bus home. Once there, I plonked myself down on the sofa and stayed there until I had fallen asleep at 10pm and crawled up to my bed.
By Thursday Alex had removed all of the coffee from the house, which really was just as well, as by 1pm when I had fully run out of things to distract myself with, I was ready to throw it all in and have one. My friend Omey came round, the girl that I drink SO much coffee with (normally to nurse our hangovers) and I was embarrassed that I had nothing to offer her, we sat instead in a sort of weird silence, feeling like something was missing. And by the time it came for me to go bowling that night, I had basically just turned into one big yawn. (It was at this point that my alcohol ban was put to the test… I survived… just).
Thankfully Friday morning was a busy one and I didn’t have a whole load of time to sit starting at the coffee machine willing my stomach to be friends with it again, as I had every other morning. I was tired, don’t get me wrong, but I made it through the day without a headache which was the first indication that I might just make it through this thing alive after all.
Saturday morning I woke up at my mum’s house and realised that this was probably going to be my hardest day yet, as weekends at home famously consist of nothing more than cuddling coffee cups and reading the papers. I was right, boredom as much as anything, and watching everybody else walk to and from the coffee machine, as if it were a water cooler in a 90’s office, made this incredibly difficult, I no longer had the headaches and the feelings of nausea and light-headedness had passed, but the feelings of habit, as with all addiction, was hard to kick. I couldn’t even have a cup of tea to at least feel like part of the team. I had to have another very early night, leaving my family to stay up and drink without me… which was not only weird, but hard.
On Sunday morning, this morning, I genuinely didn’t want to get out of bed, simply because there wasn’t going to be a coffee to greet me when I got downstairs and as I write this, I will be the first to admit that I am still moving at a sluggish pace and that my glass of water is no match for the steaming mug that has just been made for my auntie… BUT, I’m still here.
Apparently day 7 is the day that you wake up and feel that your life has changed and that a caffeine free future is the answer to life’s happiness, so I’ll keep you posted on that. But what do I have to say about it right now? Well, this is not the easiest thing that I have ever done, on the contrary, it might just be the hardest, but the physical changes in me are undeniable. The amount of people who have told me in the last few days how well I look (even when I’m not wearing makeup!) is incredible, and not entirely surprising. I DO look better, even I notice that. The bags under my eyes have faded, my skin looks genuinely clearer and according to my friend Ross, my eye are sparkling… which is pretty nice.
I still don’t feel particularly sparkly, and am still very much in the throws of kicking an addiction and I am counting on the fact that this is not permanent and that I can soon reclaim my Caffeine Machine title, but I won’t deny that this has been a good thing to do, and not just for medical reasons. The fact that I had a fully fledged addiction that I didn’t even know about is actually frightening. I smoke, which I know isn’t good, but at least I am aware of that and I do of course keep an eye on my drinking, but the coffee thing was a shock and something that I am really pleased that I have discovered and beaten so young.
I very much look forward to the day when I can once again lie in bed on a Sunday morning with a mug of steaming coffee, but I will make sure to remember that I don’t NEED it to get out of bed in the morning. So if you’re thinking about giving up caffeine, I wish you lots of luck, because, in case this article didn’t already tell you… IT’S NOT EASY, but it might just be worth it.
I suppose I will have to let you know on Day 7 (tomorrow) how I am getting on and if I leapt out of bed looking like a Goddess or not but in the meantime, keep me in your thoughts!