April 17, 2011
You wouldn't know it by looking at me, but I'm a recovering addict.I don't have needle marks on my arms. I don't have a DUI on my driving record. I don't have an honest businessman chasing me down to repay a gambling debt.All I did was give up caffeine for Lent. I'm not going to pretend my addiction was as hard to kick as some of those others. But those first few days confirmed caffeine became an addiction for me.Mood swings? Oh yeah, I had them. Headaches? There were massive ones that made me want to cry. Soreness? My entire body seemed to reject the lack of caffeine.As is the case with any good addict, most people didn't know the extent of my problem. I'm a fairly laid-back person with a relaxed delivery in my speech. I'm known for being calm under pressure, so people didn't necessarily see the signs.The only sign you needed to see was the 2-liter of pop under my desk every day. My coworkers snickered, but most didn't realize I'd finish that by 2 p.m. and buy a 20-ounce version from the vending machine to hold me over for the rest of the day.They really giggled when I began bringing in the store brand knockoffs to save money. I argued I'd rather pay 78 cents per day than $1.50 per day for essentially the same soda.According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest's site of caffeine content, I drank nearly 250 milligrams of caffeine per day. That's a 6-ounce cup of espresso every day. Jolt Cola, a popular drink in my teen years, had 72 mg of caffeine per can, meaning I consumed the equivalent of three and a half cans of Jolt per day.This kind of addiction can be dangerous. Aside from that desired boost of energy, doctors say caffeine brings elevated heartbeats, headaches, depression, increased blood pressure and frequent urination. Once piece of research even suggested people who drank diet cola were 61 percent more likely to have a stroke.With that in mind, I elected to give up caffeinated beverages for those 40 days before Easter. I believe in self-sacrificing something that's almost part of your personality for Lent. I walked around all day with my green mug of that sweet nectar, so I thought it fit the bill.I shared some notes along the way on Twitter:March 9: “Halfway through my first day without caffeinated drinks. Water doesn't taste nearly as good as Diet Dr Pepper.”March 9: “Awful headache right now. Can't hardly think. Not in a very good mood either.”March 10: “Feeling a bit tired on my second day caffeine free, but the headache's not as bad as yesterday. Perhaps the worst is over.”March 11: “Headaches are mostly gone in my third day of being caffeine free. Unfortunately, not seeing the cost savings as I'm snacking more.”March 12: “I've turned to lemonade and root beer in my quest to be caffeine free.”March 13: “Daylight saving and being caffeine free are messing with my brain and how tired I ought to be. It might help my sleep schedule though.”March 17: “Accidentally drank a sip of caffeine today. Have to watch labels on cream soda if you're trying to be caffeine free.”March 23: “Surprising advantage of being caffeine free: I fall asleep easily and wake up before the alarm rings now. Maybe advantage is the wrong word.”Since then, I haven't noticed any lingering effects of withdrawal. I've grown used to hydrating myself with actual water. I've cut down on the snacking, which was just a substitution for my habit. I've actually lost a little bit of weight from the experiment.I recognize Lent ends next week with Easter. Friends, family and coworkers keep asking me if I'll continue my caffeine-free ways after the 40 days of self-sacrifice does. I'm really not sure yet. I enjoy the benefits of not being hooked. On the other hand, I've given caffeine up two times before, and obviously that didn't hold. You can comment on this column at www.LimaOhio.com.