I recently left Caffeine behind. I am a still an avid coffee drinker, but now drink only decaffeinated drinks. The reason that I quit was for my personal sanity, and feeling of normalcy. Having three large cups of coffee a day (as I acclimated to a new habitat and job after my move to Hilton Head Island) had me thinking through the process of rehydration (lots of water) and the effect of lots of bathroom breaks. Not to mention that when I did not rehydrate well enough, I became anxious and stressed out. Coffee was no longer for even the effect of being more effective – it was something to feel normal in the morning, something to keep me going in the afternoon, and something to boost me for my evening activities. I guess I could call myself an addict in a minor way, because I did not want to stop because I did not want to feel the withdrawls.
I did quit though, and it took two days for the withdrawl symptoms to hit me. I became groggy, my memory was often shot, I had a constant headache, and was muscle tired. But I was determined to stop. Even two and three weeks later, there were hard days, and the temptation to just have another cup of coffee is always there. But I’ve held and I am now a month off of caffeine, and I don’t think I’m going to go back. I still enjoy coffee, but not for the drug any longer.
As I regain a sense of normalcy, and my brain begins to function at its higher levels once again, I would like to share a bit of what was lost in the time I was drinking coffee so heavily because there are things that are lost when you begin to depend on this substance for a good while.
(1) I began to sleep longer and was tired more often. My productivity eventually went down the tubes, and my ability to become motivated to do things became harder and harder.
(2) I didn’t want to exercise because of the lethargy, though my wife was good at getting me out to the gym anyways. That kept me healthy, but my energy in other things such as chores was seriously waning.
(3) I stopped Dreaming. And this is the thing I find most important about not being on Caffeine anymore. I find that when I dream and remember the experience, it is usually about what I’ve been processing or thinking about the day prior. Often the material is important enough that it helps me think through who I miss in life, who are important to me, and my feelings for them as I dream and process those dreams. It is so unfortunate that for a long period of my last few years, I did not dream.
The dreams, post caffeine have been vivid, like when I was a kid, or a teenager. I wake up earlier than I did before, and I have time to lay in bed and think and pray about the meaning of my dreams. I go to places that I want to go, I see people that I have good or sometimes strange feelings towards, and I have conversations that I never would be able to have in real life. But it is very real. I wake up with a sense that I’ve been living in my sleep in a deep way.
A challenge to those of you who have walked into Caffeine with open arms. It may not be affecting you in quantitative ways (productivity, goal getting, etc.) but you may be missing out on something very intense and very human – the ability to dream. So go through the withdrawls for a month – get off of the substance, and rediscover how you and your mind functions on its own. I find it to be a more robust and intense experience. The ebb and flow of life is certainly different, but I’m finding it to be better, and I still have the taste of a great decaf peppermint mocha when I feel like it.
Picture sourced from: http://www.biojobblog.com/coffee_roaster%281%29.jpg