Caffeine Deprivation – A (Kinda) Scientific Paper
Self Restraint or Self Torture?
This study started over a week ago when friends of mine were talking about giving up something for Lent. I was never considering giving something up for Lent because 1. I am not religious so I don’t want to jump into a proper religious ritual and then make a pigs ear of it and 2. forty odd days is a dam long time! Still, it got me thinking about what I have become dependent on that I don’t need. One thing cropped to mind, the copious cups of tea and coffee that I drink daily. I would say in the winter on a sleepy day I can be edging towards ten cups in a caffeine fuelled cocktail of Java, green tea, Twinings, sugar, milk and hazelnut syrup. I didn’t think that I was dependent on these wonderful substances that perk my awareness levels but I have not gone though any prolonged time without them. So…. let’s try some prolonged time with out them!
The method was simple. I go cold turkey without tea or coffee (or any other hot drinks or energy replacements) for a whole week. Seven days. 168 hours. Sounds simple. Only that one rule. Starting at midnight on Monday 20th of February and finishing midnight on the Sunday. No problem, right?
Well….. I never expected it to be so hard actually. But guess what! I did it. A whole 7 days without the sweet brown nectar of tea or coffee. Was it easy?
In the first few days the biggest challenge was the mornings. I would go into auto pilot, reach for my cup and start to fill it with my caffeine of choice. It is heart breaking to pour the half-inch of rocket fuel out once you realise what you have done! Think about what you do in the morning. Do you automatically go for a cup and fill it? If you do, then tomorrow try stopping yourself. Your brain will get very angry with you. It will then try to trick you into drink coffee. It does this by making you really sleepy, followed by make you constantly bang you head off of cupboard doors and making you stub your toes over and over. This was what I was up against to start with but it soon past and by Thursday I was taking out a glass and filling it with water (Funny that auto pilot still takes me to the kitchen and I had to have some kind of drink).
Although these morning problem had passed by Thursday this was the first day of the headaches. Dam! They were like no headaches I have had before. My brain wasn’t saying “Oh, say their old chap. Any chance of some water, I’m a bit parched and I need something wet to function”, it was swinging from the light fitting, shouting profanity and every now and then releasing a primal scream of “COOOOOFFFFFFFEEEEEEEEEE!!!”. The usual methods of paracetamol and water were not going to work. So Thursday, Friday and Saturday I had these throbbing away in the background to varying degrees.
Another massive issue was old Mr. Temptation. Every time I saw a cup of tea my heart sank a little bit. At work it was a killer but these people needed their tea. I couldn’t feel angry or that they were trying to tempted me. They weren’t doing a stupid week of self torture and needed their fix. Even my girlfriend was nice enough to not drink her tea when I was around and the lovely lass didn’t offer me a cupa all week (actually come to think of it, its been about two years, three months and six days since she offered me a cup of tea!). BUT there people out there who were trying to be the devil on my shoulder. A main offender is one of my best friends who orders a POT of tea in a PUB at 9PM to rub it in. This wasn’t too bad as it was on Monday and I probably had some of the last 24 years worth of caffeine in my system. The real villain of the piece is none other than my MOTHER! My mum came to town and we went for a walk about the shops, had a meal and during the day she asked me no less than 6 time if I wanted a coffee! SIX TIMES! Talk about temptation! To make things worse when we got back to my flat she asked me to make her a cappuccino and then she started to roll around the floor laughing at me while I made it for her. Evil! But none of these temptations got the best of me. I succeeded.
So what were the effects on me? Other than the sore heads and the frustration I felt much the same as always do and towards the end of the week I felt more level. By that I mean not tired and then fine and then sleepy. Just OK all day. It was nice. Another side effect was the huge amount of alcohol I substituted for caffeine. Now this was in the evenings, not at work. Just get that straight! It was also a week which had more social occasions that I usually have so the alcohol was not all down to the lack of coffee. It was a dam good distraction though! Last of all, the omission of milk and sugar to my diet, six to ten times a day, meant that I lost about 2 lbs off my weight! (Although like the coffee that is now back).
In conclusion I would say that I was dependent on caffeine before my week without. I also felt better at the end of the week than I did before starting the challenge. I think at least cutting down on caffeine will beneficial to me and is what I plan to do.
So I am back to drinking caffeine. I also need to be honest and say that my first coffee on the Monday morning was amazing. Best coffee I have ever had and at the very least the week of head aches and wanting to attack my family was worth it!
Anyway, till next time