My name is Amelia and I’ve been caffeine-free for 2 months and 18 days. Except for 7 unintentional cups of caffeinated tea. And 1 cup of Varun’s chai I couldn’t resist.
Caffeine and I go waaay back. In middle school, I began attending a school that was 45 minutes from home. My brother John and I would drive to school as the sun rose, listening to CD’s and watching the sun rise. Our mornings were often brightened by stops at WaWa for sugary French vanilla cappuccinos. I learned quickly that caffeine, that dark elixir, came in many delicious forms and could add hours of energy to my day.
In high school, I began drinking coffee to study for AP exams, survive long drives home from school and juggle social activities.
In Grade 12, I fell in love with Vanilla Lattes from Starbucks. Amidst the pressure of taking university classes, finishing high school, deciding about my future and saying goodbye to friends, Vanilla Lattes gave a welcome oomph.
In university, my lovely roommate and I perfected making coffee in a pan when our pot broke. We made mochas and sat at our tiny table entertaining friends, practicing guitar and bracing ourselves to walk to class in the frozen Montreal winter.
By the time Varun and I got married, I had learned two crucial facts about caffeine: 1) whenever I needed more hours in a day, I could buy it in a 12 oz cup. 2) whenever I drank coffee, the acid turned my stomach into a pit of torment.
I discovered London Fog and a thousand variations of Iced Tea. I learned that making chai Indian style creates a sweet and spicy concoction choc-full of caffeine. If I ever forgot to drink a cup of tea in the morning, by 10 am I would be railing at Varun that we needed to get hot water and a tea bag NOW. The headaches were monstrous. But you know what was glorious? Knowing at 11:30 pm that I could stay up later to get more done, and still wake up on time and be functional the next morning.
And then, I met this sassy sleep Doctor who told me I needed to sleep more and cut caffeine. I know. I had the exact same reaction: what????
Wanting to remain in my caffeinated state of denial, I tried all of his other suggestions.
Vitamin D pills, check. Iron pills, check. No change in my creepy habit of sitting up in my sleep. Finally, I resolved that if there were no change in my sleeping habits by August 1, I would try no caffeine for a month.
Let me describe for you August 1-3:
Okay, I can’t. But I’d guess it was a blur of headaches and naps and ‘why am I doing this??’ texts.
But after a few days, the headaches stopped. 10 AM no longer marked the moment by which my bloodstream required caffeine. And sitting up in my sleep? It decreased to about once a week. I’m still working on figuring out what other factors influence this (I have some theories), but we’re down from 4-5 times a week!
Something unexpected also happened: I found my wall. It turns out, energy is a limited resource. I have fallen asleep accidentally in the past two months more than I care to count (reading, church, riding in the car, prayer meeting). Since I can’t drink caffeine to push through, there’s no recourse. I just get tired and crash.
It might sound absurd, but I think giving up caffeine is actually forcing me to reassess my life a bit. I still have yet to make real changes (as illustrated by my spontaneous nap in class this morning), but I’m at least beginning to think about my priorities and my tendency to operate above capacity.
I’m honestly not sure where to go from here. Caffeine is definitely gone from my life for the foreseeable future. But how do I deal with the truth that I’m overdrawn? More than a decade of caffeine addiction has left me busy, over-committed and needing a nap. Now that I’m caffeine free, I may have to actually slow down…