Awake, Sans Caffeine. Part 1

For some reason, a week prior to the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) I embarked on an ambitious attempt to be caffeine-free. I felt ready to begin a new caffeine-free chapter of my life because:

  • For 2 years now, I had been drinking, on the average, only 1 cup of java. This was the hot go-to beverage as part of my morning ritual before I head out to run. In retrospect, there were days when I felt I didn’t actually need to perk up and only the force of habit motivated me to take it.
  • Once or twice a week when I go to Starbucks to work on my blog and other paperwork, I had been ordering my usual frappe with “decaf” and my wakefulness has been steady. I eventually completely stopped adding a shot of espresso; and even if I missed the taste and smell of brewed coffee, it didn’t haunt like a long lost lover.
  • I was on a mission to be less active at race organizing, which meant less stressful days. No longer needed the extra kick to extend my working hours, and, on the contrary, needed to sleep more and better.
  • One thing I really hate is the TOSSING and TURNING when sleep evades you. It can be stress, anxiety or too much in mind, but caffeine is still a part of the wakefulness at night, despite following a near-routine, heavy-rotation daily cycle of activities.
  • Which leads me to the very core of the reasons and scenarios why I chose to stop drinking coffee altogether. I needed a new challenge.

There comes a time in one’s life that you want to learn more about yourself; I guess this self-discovery phase came to me when I started running in 2009. Without going through the boring details, these are the MAJOR CHANGES and hurdles I faced, AND CONQUERED to-date:

  • I finally quit SMOKING. I had 35 pack-years when I seriously thought about quitting for good. I offer no excuse for this self-destructive addiction. For me, it was true that nobody can motivate you to stop, but more of an inner voice inside, that conspired with the heavens, to make you think about what life with COPD or emphysema would be like, especially for your family who has to undergo the process of taking care of an invalid, and eventually, burying you into the ashes. This is clearly the BEST DECISION I made in my life, well, next to choosing my life partner!
  • I also stopped drinking. As this went hand in hand with smoking, I was into brandy and whiskey and anything above 36% alcohol to “calm my frayed nerves” back when I was into sales and marketing. There was a time I would have too much coffee and rationalized taking the daily booze to knock off. A pulmonologist-friend warned me that this “dangerous cocktail” was forcing my heart into immediate stimulation-relaxation that I could have a heart attack anytime.
  • I lost the excess baggage. By 2008, I weighed close to 140 lbs, already above my BMI and had a complete wardrobe change from Small to Medium/Large. Honestly. I was not bothered by my size because I was quite active and not sedentary. I did not lose weight intentionally, but I had to modify my diet, for fear that I will inherit all the cardiovascular risks my parents left behind. I recall that nobody wanted to eat with me because I ate nothing but vegetables, and to most, that was not fun at all. I went down to a super-lean 99 lbs in 2010 but, with a more well-rounded diet, I’ve been maintaining 105-110 lbs for a decade now. The key is to have a healthy eating lifestyle and regularly exercising.
  • I sleep early and wake up early. For someone who played the pharmaceutical firms rat-race for more than 30 years, this is quite unprecedented to have reversed my sleep cycle. You may look at this as mellowing from an age point of view, but for me, it was good old fashioned discipline.
  • I started to live a simpler, but fuller, life. Truth to tell, I narrowly escaped getting burned by the lure of plastic cards. To live on debt and credit card is like a life sentence waiting to get hanged. Oddly, people don’t want to live within their means, except those crazy enough like me who has know what its like to have a lot…and have none.

Whew, back to the caffeine story. I think my problem as a free human being is that I am prone to ADDICTION. If I search my soul, I know I’ve gone through some pretty rough times and an addiction helped me cope with the problems. Or was did it destroyed my reality as well? When I was in this pharma company, having been given a great opportunity to contribute and earn a lot by being a senior executive, I burned both ends of the candle by ingesting 5 to 6 cups of coffee daily. More, on days of rebound when I still felt sleepy during a sales conference, I would secretly drink Lipovitan (40mg caffeine) and managed 3 to 4 hours of sleep.

Of course I am no longer in corporate, hence I have finally settled down to 1 cup a day…until I got addicted to Starbucks dark mocha frappe. In order not to gain a calorific load, I shaved off the whip cream and ordered the non-fat, no-sugar version. Still, it was a second cup of java….that kept me awake at night, in bed.

So, finally, I am up for the challenge and am ready to get rid of another addiction in my life. Some people will panic at the thought of giving up coffee, especially in the morning. I can tell you right now, it was tough as I regularly wake up at 4AM to bring Dakin out for potty, wee-wee and walkies. Some people will rebuff at the notion because coffee was “actually good” for the heart. I speak of no special benefit from coffee except as a stimulant, hence in that case, what is coffee for? Answer: it’s an addiction.

Part 2: How I kicked the caffeine addiction.

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