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Hi, is this the support group for caffeine addicts?

I’ve given up Caffeine… sort of.

It was an emotionally difficult choice to make but coffee has become something of an abusive lover. I drink it because I want it, but it’s no good for me. The more I drink thinking it will change, the more it resists and the more disillusioned I become.

This may be a slight exaggeration of course but I’m not had a great relationship with it. I’ve found myself craving it first thing in the morning. That need for it before I can function properly. Even my arse seems dependent on it. My intake had already increased since Tiny T came along and now he’s well into his 4 month sleep regression stage, my intake has rocketed. I’m just tired and caffeine seemed to be my companion, there to pick me up, there to get me through the day. Even there to help me poo. Yet it was lying to me the whole time.

I woke early last week as Tiny T had had enough of that sleeping lark and wanted to be up, thus he insisted I get up. This was communicated by the medium of a whinge. I was absolutely hanging, having already been up with him a few times in the night. We went though his usual routine that morning, nothing different at all. As I lifted him from the cot, the whinge stopped and it was replaced by gurgles and heart melting smiles. We trotted down stairs, I put his bottle on whilst simultaneously making myself a cup of tea. I fed him, tea’d myself up and then changed his nappy. We then had our usual one sided conversation. I did all the talking, he made some appreciative sounds before yawning and deciding he’d like to sleep again. He’d been up an hour by this point and that’s all he really manages between sleeps during the day.

Donning our outdoor gear, I popped him into the pram and off we went with the dog in tow. On the way to the park there’s a lovely bakery which does fantastic coffee. They’re as slow as God’s horse in terms of service, but it’s probably the best coffee around here, and I was really struggling. I’d only managed a cup of tea as I had that sicky / nauseous feeling you get from not enough sleep. Like when you set your alarm stupidly early for a flight and wake up so knackered you could vomit. That was me, so I thought coffee would bring me around. Tiny T was already fast asleep by this point so in I swung, mask muffling my face, flat white ordered. Good times a’coming.

An hour later I developed the most awful reflux. I had an unrelenting burning / stabbing pain under my diaphragm. I spent the rest of the day swigging Gaviscon to no avail. It felt like my oesophagus was on fire and I could taste and feel the acid with every breath. And what’s worse, this carried on into the next day. Not connecting the dots, the problem was exacerbated when at work, I ordered another coffee. The first of three I usually consume on a shift. Well, I quit coffee there and then. Well, I quit caffeine.

The following day I had actually started to feel much better. I’d been slamming the antacids the day before, (after that coffee) and to be fair they had worked a treat. However, like all drug addicts, my withdrawal was in the post. It arrived about midday. That need, want and desire for a good flat white came a-knocking. I wanted that hot satisfying, shudder inducing goodness. I wanted to be able to smell that aromatic bean. The smell alone is enough to lift my spirit and mood. I’ve darkened many a coffee shop door just to sit, smell and write. The actual ordering of coffee (and sometimes a cake) is often just an added bonus. So there’s me, stood outside the coffee shop at work smelling the brewing coffee, breathing it all in like some kind of deranged pervert at a lady’s bicycle seat. I didn’t actually go in, I quickly realised I had a problem and retreated back to the break room to regain some composure.

The one thing no one actually tell you about caffeine withdrawal is the headaches. Ow! I had a mixture of symptoms which included a needling pain behind my eyes and a whole brain pulsating thud of a headache. Apparently this is because caffeine actually restricts blood to your brain through vasoconstriction (narrowing the blood vessels to the brain). So when you stop drinking, you get more blood to your brain and it throbs. Weirder still is that caffeine can be used to treat certain types of headaches. To be fair, it would have helped my headache as it would have stopped my withdrawal. The paracetamol and ibuprofen did nothing for it, I might have well taken smarties. I even tried going back to coffee shop and ordering a decaffeinated flat white. Nothing. I just had to suffer, for a good 24 hours. My bed was made and I was crippled in it. I let everyone know about it. Suffering in silence is for others.

I’m probably now 2 weeks sans caffeine. I have been drinking decaf tea and coffee. I just like the taste and the caffeine intake is minimal, hence the “sort of” given up. It’s true though what they say about reducing your caffeine intake. I am sleeping better, I feel more energised and my bowels are more regular as apposed to dependent. I’ve also not had any more reflux, so all that’s good I’m sure you’d agree. I do, however, feel like a recovering addict on the brink of a relapse though. I could break at any point and I reckon it would be a rapid spiral to disaster. You could find me eating Nescafé straight from the jar, with a spoon, showering my keyboard with caffeinated tears. I’ll be on a substance misuse register with some lad called Darren telling me everything is going to be ok, but I’d know. I’d know it’ll never be ok.

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