Tuesday, 22 January 2013

How to give up drugs without really trying (part I)

I always get incredulous looks whenever I tell people that I don't drink coffee or alcohol.

But it's true. I don't consume coffee or alcohol.
Even though I used to love them.
Even though I used to be addicted to them.

I'll backtrack. A trip down memory lane.

June 2009. Winter in Australia, which can get pretty miserable sometimes. I was drinking 3-4 cups of instant coffee per day, at a minimum. Plus, at least one coffee from the cafe, each day. Weekends, even more than that. I loved everything about coffee. I was 99% sure that there was nothing wrong with my habit - after all, almost every person I knew drank coffee. I thought I was pretty healthy - I had become vegan 12 months previously, I was exercising, I looked ok, etc.

But the 1% part of me had doubts. I was needing to drink more and more coffee just to feel "myself". Over the years I had gone from one coffee in the mornings, to two, and even to three on weekends. Without coffee, it was difficult to get going in the morning - whether I was working, reading, socialising, or working out.

It wasn't a calorie issue. Actually, I loved the fact that coffee had no calories. I used to drink mine without sugar, and only a splash of low fat milk.

BUT. The bottom line was: I don't like being a slave to anything or anyone. And by June 2009, I was well and truly under the thumb of the delicious roasted bean. So began my experiment to give up coffee.

I did my homework - sort of. I had heard that the withdrawals from caffeine are worst in the first 2-3 days. So I started my experiment during a long weekend. The withdrawals weren't too horrid, surprisingly (although I'm pretty sure I was still drinking green tea at the time). I actually managed to go for an entire week without coffee. I don't remember feeling all that different after that week, so the following Monday, nine days after starting my experiment, I decided to have a small latte from the coffee shop.

WOAH. I definitely noticed the difference in my energy, after just one week. I remember feeling buzzed and happy. But I also felt a little queasy and headache-y, which I now realise was probably the caffeine-induced dehydration.

I replaced coffee with tea of all kinds and coffee substitutes, and I didn't have coffee again
until October, around four months later. That ended up being a memorable day: it was a Friday, I hadn't slept well that week, and with a full day of work ahead of me I decided I could use the pick-me-up. I decided to be cautious in my consumption, since it had been so long since I'd had coffee, and I ordered a mocha latte (half coffee, half chocolate).


I remember buzzing to the point of jitters. I couldn't keep still and my mind was racing. I was talking at a hundred miles an hour. Anything I typed (reports, emails) was long and rambling. I drank that mocha latte at 10am and I was still awake sixteen hours later. That was it. I was under no more illusions about coffee. Something with that strong a physiological impact could not be good for me.

I continued with coffee replacements and tea, and I got onto chai lattes, which were so amazingly delicious that they sent me into a trance. I always had the goal of eliminating caffeine completely, and over time my consumption of green and black tea slowly dwindled. I continued with herbal teas, fruit tea, and chai, and sometimes even just hot water with or without a squeeze of lemon.

Incidentally, in late 2009 I started eating a fruit-based raw food diet, and in early 2010 I started doing Bikram yoga. I have no doubt that this had a positive impact on my avoidance of caffeine, due to detox effects and my increased knowledge/awareness of hydration.

With the increased consumption of fruit, all of a sudden the fruity teas and chai became less appealing. The teas, although fruit-based, never compared to the taste of fresh fruit itself. Usually, any "craving" for fruit tea just meant that I was hungry for fruit. The craving for chai was slower to dissipate. I continued drinking chai lattes right into 2011. Until one day I realised that it no longer tasted amazing. I was no longer experiencing that trance-like state (which, in retrospect, was probably the feeling of my brain cells firing up from the sugar). I am a stubborn gal, though, and I thought perhaps it was an "off" day for the barista. So I persisted with the chai lattes until I had to admit defeat. The chai just wasn't doing it for me anymore. And, at $4 a cup, it was a pretty pricey habit to maintain.

I don't remember my last chai latte, but it's probably been around 12 months. I do drink hot water and occasionally herbal teas (like peppermint tea) in winter, but otherwise I have no desire for hot beverages.

(continued here)

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