Accidentally, free (of caffeine) at last

Published 11:31 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It was not something I planned. In fact, there was not even a trickle of an idea, of an inkling, of a wisp of thought about it.

The whole thing was a happy accident that I’ve decided is a good thing. With it came some positive, unexpected changes, but I had to pass through the shadowy valley before I stood in the sunshine of those changes.

Let me back up about 40 years to where this story begins. I was maybe 20 when I took up coffee drinking. Growing up I watched my parents sitting together sipping coffee, first in the morning and then again at the end of the day. So, in some ways, the act of drinking coffee felt comforting, like being home.

I started out slow, just a cup now and then. However, it wasn’t long before a morning and evening cup of Joe was part of my routine. I liked holding that steaming mug on cold days and feeling the warm liquid against my lips.

Yes, I’d say I was a coffee-a-holic. Add to it, that for many years I also drank sweet tea (I am a Southerner after all) with every meal, and it’s easy to see that caffeine was indeed my friend.

I’m clicking along enjoying my daily fix. Several years ago, I did cut it down to two or at most three cups of coffee only in the morning, and I stopped drinking tea with meals in exchange for water. Then one morning last year a strange thing happened, I got up and didn’t want coffee. Instead, I went for a cup of hot tea.

A few days later, I went back to coffee, but decided I liked the tea better. So now I clicked along enjoying my daily fix but with tea — still getting that caffeine kick I felt I so needed.

Well, last month I slid back into my coffee habit. Oh it was so good — cool morning, hot coffee equaled heaven. One problem, I started feeling kind of quivery and fluttery. Since the only change was the reintroduction of coffee, I decided to return to tea, but I was fresh out of bags. I went straight to the store and picked up the familiar red box of my morning blend.

The next day I had my tea sweetened with a bit of stevia/sugar blend and some honey. That was just the kick I needed to get my day going. Funny thing, by mid morning not only was I not going but I also had a roaring headache.

“I must be coming down with something,” I thought, “Maybe my sinus stuff is coming back.”

I took a little something and the headache eased off. The next day, the next, and the next, it was back. Joining the aching head was a feeling I can only describe as a blend of anxiety, anger and the blues.

“What the heck?” I thought, as I tried to think, say and do every positive thing I could to lift the fog.

Finally, after about a week, I started to feel better. In fact, I felt much better. Some of my usual morning aching was gone and my mostly sunny disposition was back. I was sure the strange bug I had was the reason until the morning last week when I was preparing my cup of tea.

As I opened the package, I happened to read the words on the front — “Naturally Decaffeinated Tea.”

“What?” I said. “I’ve been drinking decaffeinated tea. I’ve had no caffeine for days.”

Funny thing, even though my tea had no caffeine, every morning I just knew I felt the caffeine kick in. I laughed when I realized my mind played that trick on me.

So that is how it happened. That is how I, cold turkey, came off caffeine.

Will my freedom last?

I’m thinking I just might stay in this sunny caffeine-free place because that shadowy headachy valley is not somewhere I care to visit again.