Caffeine detox, days 1-3

I taught a lesson in church last Sunday on the subject of free agency, how God wants us to be free to make our own decisions (but not necessarily be free of the consequences of those decisions). One of the topics that came up was that of addiction, how being addicted to substances takes away our agency to do certain things. I admitted to being addicted to caffeine, how I have a hard time functioning if I don't have a daily soda, and how that limits my freedom by requiring that I have that drink before I can do anything I really want.

I figured I should probably fix that.

This isn't the first time I've tried to give up drinking soda. I did it a few years back, swearing off caffeinated drinks completely. Unfortunately, to compensate for the headaches, I started taking Excedrin (which contains caffeine), the only thing that seems to work on my toughest headaches (which, I know, sounds like the commercials, but is pretty accurate). After a couple months, I realized how ridiculous it was that I was avoiding soda but popping pills, and decided that just drinking the soda was the lesser of two evils.

Where I work, there is a fountain soda machine in the kitchen area. I thought a good way to kick this caffeine habit would be to take my 32oz water bottle and fill it with progressively less soda each day. Unfortunately, that didn't seem to be working out too well. Even just trying to dial it back an ounce or two, by Wednesday, I started to get a headache and popped a couple Excedrin. To make matters worse, on Thursday, the soda machine wasn't working, so I couldn't get my daily Coke anyway.

This Sunday, I decided to try again, but to give up on trying to make it complicated by fiddling with soda amounts. I decided to bite the bullet and go cold turkey. I didn't decide this right away — a busy morning left me soda-less before I realized it was time to go. I just decided, as I started to feel the pressure in my forehead, that I wasn't going to give in and take a caffeinated painkiller to make it go away. My wife asked me a couple times that day if I was sure I didn't want to take anything, but I had made up my mind. I was not going to be a slave to this chemical any more, and I was just going to have to suffer through it.

I wasn't feeling too well by Sunday night. I went to bed relatively early, with an ice pack on my head. I was tired enough to fall asleep fairly quickly, but I woke up about an hour before my alarm with my head buzzing. It wasn't easy getting out of bed — I'm not sure I opened my eyes much until I was already showered and dressed. Snow had fallen over the Denver area, and the roads were very slick, which meant I had to work extra hard to force my brain to ignore the pain trying to shut it down, and muster up the extra concentration required to drive safely. And, by the grace of God, I made it to work without incident (even though I passed several people who had not been so lucky).

Work was a chore. By the end of the day, the pain in my head was pretty intense, triggering feelings of nausea. Fortunately, the roads were in better condition for my drive home. Although I don't think of President's Day as a major holiday, the number of people on the road seemed rather light for a Monday rush hour. When I made it home, I immediately flopped down on the couch, while my wife got me ice packs from the freezer. I felt very tired, but I don't think I slept much more than maybe a 15-minute doze. I didn't feel well enough to eat dinner, but my wife had prepared a dessert of pound cake and fruit, and that was light enough for me to keep down. I finished off dinner with some ibuprofen, and acetaminophen (uncaffeinated) an hour later, and I was able to participate in our family bedtime scripture reading and prayer.

I would have gone to bed right then, but I had already signed up for a video game boosting session that night. (Basically, people who are having trouble getting certain Xbox achievements will sign up for a time to get together and help each other.) It would have been easy for me to just blow it off, but I didn't feel right, even if it would only affect people I have and probably never will actually meet in real life. Actually, having something to concentrate on did help me ignore the pain in my head, which by that time had moved from an all-over ache to a pinpoint stabbing behind one eye (though still not as painful as some I've had). By the end of the session, though, it was getting harder to concentrate, so I was thankful when it came to an end and I could put myself in bed. I went to bed with an ice pack on my head and tossed around a bit before I finally fell asleep.

The good news is, I woke up this morning without a headache at all. It was an encouraging start to this third day without caffeine. I didn't even feel the oppressing fatigue or headache pressure that usually drives me to have a soda or some Excedrin by lunch. About lunchtime, though, I could start to feel the pressure build up behind my eyes.