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Six years ago I released myself from the grip of caffeine. While I was never a fan of soda, I’ve had a cup of tea in my hand since childhood and traded up to daily coffee at age 22. As much as anyone, I love the creamy deliciousness of a cappuccino, the comfort, communion, and atmosphere a conversation over coffee brings, and the extra pep an iced latte provides to tackle the day. However after decades of a daily caffeine habit I arrived at a place in my life where I wanted to have more mental integrity, physical truth, and freedom of spirit. Things I could not find as long as I was beholden to something outside of myself in order to get through the day.
In the beginning, my aim in removing caffeine was less about health and more about self mastery.
How could I claim free will if my actions, mood, and behaviors were controlled by this external force? I wanted to live in complete freedom — not captive to a cup of coffee every morning no matter where I found myself — at home, at work, or on vacation. Getting free from caffeine was more of a spiritual endeavor, but ended up becoming a tremendous liberation for both my body and mind.
In mid-March 2015 I embarked on a cold turkey caffeine detox expecting the usual side effects — headaches, lethargy and fatigue, irritability, and perhaps some mental fogginess. However what I endured went well beyond a bit of unease and discomfort. During the first twenty-four hours without caffeine the splitting headache arrived and I was short-tempered. By the afternoon of day two I was completely laid out on the bed unable to do anything — work, cook, clean, run errands, move, eat, engage with my phone or computer, talk. My entire body from head to toe was in an extreme state of ache, irritation, and pain. By the time night two arrived the suffering was so severe that I contemplated going to the hospital. I had sharp, constant kidney (what I later learned to be adrenal) pain which made it impossible to sleep. However each time I would try to lie down, overly exhausted, hoping to get some rest, I had an incessant crawling sensation in my legs. The only thing that made it a bit better was to get up and move, so I paced the apartment for relief. The all-encompassing pain in my legs felt like snakes were slithering in and out of my veins and around my flesh and bones. These unbearable experiences continued into the third day and night. When I woke up on day four I felt the first glimpse of having emerged from the grip of caffeine, and one thing was glaringly clear to me.
While caffeine is a socially acceptable stimulant, make no mistake it is a drug, and the experience I had detoxing from it after decades of use was a raw reminder of its devastating effect on the body.
The virtues of this natural high are well heralded in today’s modern world — it is the essence of morning routine, brings people together, a trusted companion in any daily endeavor that adds comfort, company, and pleasure.
However the truth of what caffeine is and where it comes from is too compelling to be overlooked. Caffeine is a natural insecticide that plants produce to ward off and actually kill insects. In 1984, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital Neurologist Dr. James A. Nathanson found that exposure to caffeine not only caused distorted behavior and inhibited reproduction in insects, but death within hours or days.
In speaking solely from my personal experience, many lingering physical ailments I chalked up to age or lifestyle completely disappeared in the months after I removed caffeine from my diet: common and frequent headaches — gone. I get them maybe once or twice a year now; a dull, aching pain in my left knee that lasted more than seven years — gone; eye muscle twitches — gone; an obvious manifestation of everyday OCD that I chalked up to my “personality,” — gone; interrupted and light sleep — gone. Now I sleep straight for at least eight hours each night; skin dullness, rashes, irritations, and pimples – gone.
Perhaps most importantly, my entire demeanor is less intense, more relaxed, less reactive, more creative. For too many years caffeine was an electrical shock to my nervous system and created a personality I thought was me. When I released from caffeine I saw clearly that the hurried, lightning state I was living in clouded every thought, decision, and action in my life. While caffeine offers a sense of drive and focus one may believe they need to tackle life and all of its challenges, this empowerment is an illusion. What I found is that when you release from caffeine the world takes on a much clearer, simpler hue not muddle by incessant thoughts, constant negative emotion, or other distorted mental connections that have been created by the synapses in your brain attaching to daily caffeine intake instead of firing in natural ways.
Now, nearly six years later, I still have a nostalgic longing for coffee anytime its smoky and earthy scent passes my nose, but I stick with a lovely variety of herbal teas instead. The freedom that comes from living without caffeine is much more layered and expansive, dwelling in possibility instead of the practical, and reverberates on vibrational levels far higher and deeper than a beloved daily habit can ever bring.
The information and other content provided in this blog is not intended to be and should not be construed as medical advice. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.