21 days. That’s how long I’ve gone now without consuming any caffeinated beverages, after almost two solid years of binging on high quantities of them. A friend asked me the other day how the withdrawal process has been from them. Honestly, it’s not the withdrawal that’s been difficult, as that was over in about 3 to 5 days. What’s been more difficult than anything is choosing each day to stay away from consuming them again, all because of the numbing effect it gives me from my physical pain and other frustrations of my life.
Consuming high levels of caffeinated coffee as frequently as I did over the past two years, ever since relapsing from doing nothing more than decaf beverages for well over a decade, was a choice I made each day simply as a crutch. The effect helped me temporarily feel better in a world where I struggle to ever feel better. While I love coffee in general and was fine for the better part of 10 years drinking decaf, once I returned to consuming caffeinated coffees after my cat died abruptly, I fell in love with the effect it gave me.
It not only numbed out some of the pain receptors of my fibromyalgia, it also numbed out me caring much about all the people who seem to have a negative opinion of me. I also leaned hard on this addiction to cope with this pandemic as well, waiting as long as 45 minutes at Starbucks drive-thru’s sometimes just to get my fix. I’d always rationalize all this was ok, after all it’s just coffee right?
But I had many rage-out moments while on high levels of caffeine. I’ve thrown things, had Jekyll and Hyde moments, experienced severe mood changes from sad to happy to exuberant and back to sad in short periods of time, and even gone all day at times not eating anything while consuming multiple-shot espressos just because it hit me faster having nothing in my stomach. Yes, I’m one of those real hard-core addicts and at 21 days now without caffeine, on some days it often feels like I’m missing my best friend, which is no different than how I once felt with my alcohol and drug dependency.
While the withdrawal from caffeinated beverages hasn’t been anywhere as challenging as my withdrawal from alcohol and drugs were, the trying to find happiness in going back to decaf has been an immense struggle. I regularly find myself drinking my decaf coffee quick fast like I once did my caffeinated version, because having many of those high-level espressos was often not about the enjoyment of it, it was about seeking the high of them.
People have asked me so many times over the years how I know I’m still an alcoholic and addict, given I haven’t had either in my system in well over 26 years now. Seeing how I am acting and feeling at 21 days without caffeine and looking back over the last two years at how I was on it reminds me so very easily how much I know I am absolutely, 100 percent, still an alcoholic and addict.
I’m sure some who read this might be wondering why I would choose to even write about something like this. Beyond the fact that this blog originally started out as a tool for my 12 Step recovery (hence the site’s name TheTwelfthStep), the deeper reason is to be accountable with others with what I’m going through in this.
I’ve woken up each day in the past 21 days asking, and sometimes even begging my Higher Power for the strength to stay away from caffeinated beverages for one more day, because it’s very clear to me now just how much they affect my stability on many levels.
I have noticed I’m calmer, more mentally and emotionally stable, less angry, had lower blood pressure, felt more connected in my heart with others, and maybe even closer to Source on some days by abstaining from caffeinated beverages these past 21 days. Those benefits do seem to outweigh the slight numbing caffeine gave me over these past two years. But for a true addict like me, sometimes even the smallest benefits are enough to keep an addiction going.
Regardless, one day at a time, as 12 Step recovery says, I continue to do my best to remain free from caffeine, sharing openly with all of you about my struggles and my triumphs.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson