Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Goodbye Coffee

More than 20 years ago, when I first decided that coffee was probably something that was doing me more harm that good, I asked Dr. Borgquist about its ill effects. He said, "No one ever died from drinking coffee!"

Right, I thought, and because of the stimulant effect and it's great smell and, for me, great taste, it is definitely not a beverage I really wanted to give up once I got hooked. But there was mounting evidence that it was causing me lots of problems.

The first difficulty I noticed was abdominal distress: painful belly aches. The dumbest thing I did with regard to coffee was get in the habit of having a cup before I went for a run. The combination of the coffee and jogging definitely plays havoc on one's tummy despite that fact that it also boosts energy for the run. When I was marathon training, my tummy distress was at its height though it was actually years before I connected the problem to drinking coffee.

However, it was around that time that I decided to quit drinking coffee, mostly because I could directly connect the drink with mood swings, especially irritability. Within a half hour of drinking coffee, my patience went down the tube and lots of things aggravated me. So I quit cold turkey one day, and I DID nearly DIE. I was so sick!! I had a headache that nearly blinded me and I vomited for several hours. Now if that wasn't a sure sign that coffee was poison.

I managed to stay off coffee for a year that first time but then the drink snuck it's way back into my life. Over the next 20 years, I quit drinking coffee again and again. Two more times I did it the hard way: getting violently sick by going cold turkey. Then I learned to decaffeinate slowly, giving myself a week to get off the stuff.

While in SF, I used I tip a learned from Jennie Lou that when you change environments, it's easier to change a habit. I started decaffeinating last Thursday on the day we left for the city, and by Monday I had my first day without coffee. I'm still having a cup of black tea in the morning but tea does not seem to have the same ill effects as coffee for me. And it's only a half step from black tea to green tea which actually has lots of cool effects, most notably that it is an anti-oxidant.

This time I made a list: Why I don't drink COFFEE:
1. joint pain
2. hot flashes
3. chronic anxiety
4. intermittent insomnia
5. abdominal distress
6. frequent urination

I put the list on the chalkboard in the kitchen. Right now, I'm high on the success of quitting, but history tells me that I'll forget why I quit and that's when this list will come in handy. For now, all 6 things on my list have disappeared after only 3 days off coffee. Such a quick reward!!


Jennie Lou said...

Way to go mom! I pray that you remember longer this time (I know how that goes.) And thanks to you throwing up on the way home from a wedding during a coffee detox, I have never had a sip of caffeinated coffee. Thanks for letting me learn that one from your experience. I've got plenty of other battles to fight w/o adding that to the mix.

Larry Steuben said...

Hi Patricia,
I quit drinking coffee, at least on a regular basis, when I had a cold. Nothing new there, just about everytime I had a cold, the taste of coffee was not something I enjoyed. But the last time, quitting coffee was followed by sharp jabs of pain to my head. I called the "Nurse Line" at the hospital and described my pain and asked if it could be from stopping coffee intake. She said it could, and I thought "wow, I don't want to go thru THIS again." During one sharp jab of pain, when I visibly winced, Louise asked me if it felt like an ice pick to the head, and I said it was exactly like that. "That's neuralgia" she told me, and one ibuprofen later the pain was gone. So much for caffeine withdrawal. :-) Nevertheless, I switched to tea, and I enjoy the variety it allows. My coffee drinking is very occasional and mostly social and decaffeinated; my regular brew in the mornings is tea of some sort: black, green, red, white, herbal.