I’ve been a lazy, lazy blogger this week. I can’t blame the apartment search, because I found a short-term option for June and punted the hunt to next month. This week, there is one reason and one reason only for my lack of blog: caffeine withdrawal.
People who know me well know that I like my caffeine. When I told some people I was trying to go caffeine-free, responses included:
“Is anything else left?”
“So you’ll drink a 2-liter of caffeine-free Diet Coke every day now instead?”
and, simply, “…Why?”
“I hope so.”
and… “I don’t know.”
I don’t have a great answer to the last one. Caffeine isn’t bad for you—in appropriate quantities—and coffee in particular has been associated with lots of nice health bonuses. Diet soda has been associated with depression here, weight gain there, but the data is inconclusive. Both excessive coffee intake and excessive carbonated beverage intake can mess with digestion according to, oh, every list of tips for dealing with IBS ever; and the proteins in coffee have supposedly been found to be “cross-reactive” with gluten proteins in some people—not confirmed, but compelling.
Most importantly, I just don’t like being dependent on caffeine. I’ve spent the past several years playing a little game called “undiagnosed autoimmune disease vs. coffee” and, as of last week, was drinking 11 cups every morning (all at once, over the course of an hour), plus the aforementioned Diet Coke later on. I’m tied to the routine and it sucks up more of my time than it should. If most people are made up of 70% water, there’s a good chance I’m made up of 70% coffee. That doesn’t thrill me.
Caffeine is such a part of my routine that I nearly cried after reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild because I knew I couldn’t possibly carry a large enough supply of coffee and water to sustain me if I ever wanted to hike the entire Pacific Coast Trail. Kindly ignore all of the other reasons I would find it difficult to imitate Strayed (e.g., I’ve never hiked or even particularly wanted to hike). The point of the anecdote is this: I’ve come to see caffeine as necessary. But what if it’s not? What if I could retrain my body to exist and, such as it does, function—without caffeine? What if it would even function a bit better?
As I (half) joked to one friend, “I hadn’t given up anything major for a few months, so it just felt right.” It was only a half joke because it’s true that I don’t feel right about just spinning my wheels waiting for my magical gluten-free diet to magically kick in; I want to keep trying things. This is another thing to try. It’s something that, back in February, I didn’t think I could do. So, progress! Sort of.
I decided to go caffeine-free rather suddenly, with no prior reflection, when I found myself at the end of Saturday not having indulged in my usual afternoon soda fix. At that point, I just thought, “Why not?” I went cold turkey, which is apparently the exact opposite of the right thing to do. Caffeine withdrawal is real, folks, and I’m proof.
By Sunday evening a headache had banded itself around my temples and behind my eyes, rendering me useless to do anything but fall asleep. I woke on Monday and my head still hurt. I don’t think I’ve ever had a headache that lasted overnight that way. It’s most likely the closest I’ve ever come to a migraine. I felt so sick that I actually stayed home from work on Monday and slept all day. “Caffeine withdrawal” may sound like a sorry excuse for a sick day, but trust me, I was sick enough. That morning, I came so close to quitting: I even brewed my normal pot of coffee and poured myself a cup. I was saved by the fact that I felt too ill to drink it.
Now, I think I’m past the worst of it, beyond the initial “I’m in hideous pain” phase and into the “I can’t bring myself to do or care about anything because it turns out coffee was the only thing powering my thoughts and actions” phase of withdrawal, which according to reputable internet sources shouldn’t last much longer than a week.
Like many of the things I’ve given up (alcohol, lactose, oats, eating out, anything made “in a facility that processes…”), I may not be done with caffeine forever. Heck, I may not make it through the rest of the work week. But, though not necessarily permanent, it’s worth a try. In the meantime, know that although I’ve been posting more infrequently recently, I’m still here and still gluten-free. That, my friends, is permanent.
I stole the phrase “fun-free” from this post on Gluten Is My Bitch. Have you read her book yet? It’s funny!