Patrick Ward words, code, and music

Bidding Adieu to the Caffeine Siren

It happens every once in awhile: I find myself slowly drifting back into a caffeine haze, jonesing for that next espresso fix. The once a week trip to Starbucks turns into a daily event, and I become so familiar to the baristas that they have my drink ready before I show up. My specialized gold card, with my name embossed in shiny letters, gets refilled, and espresso becomes a regular addition to the daily routine. I can walk through the door of any of several cafes in this town and be greeted by name. It’s nice to be known, but it’s also costly.

Caffeine catches up to me. As much as I enjoy the taste, it’s the high I can do without. It makes me nervous, jittery, and ultimately dead tired. The more caffeine laced drinks I consume, the less energy I have; precisely the opposite effect that most people are looking for.

Caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical associated with sleep. It stimulates the body into thinking it’s being attacked; pupils dilate, heart rate increases, blood pressure begins to boil, and the digestive system starts to slow down. Our bodies react almost instantly to the intrusive effects of a caffeine injection, making it a rather efficient drug. Plus, it’s a psychoactive drug, the cousin to such superstars as morphine, nicotine, and cocaine. Better living through chemicals, right? Unfortunately, it’s a short-lived high, and, like all drugs, you have to keep going back to maintain that state of agitation.

In the end, all caffeine really does is rob me of my energy. My body works overtime while I’m flying high off those little Arabica beans. As good as they are, I just can’t afford the energy drain. By the end of the day, I’m listless and uninspired.

So, I’ve decided to oust her from my life once again. Yes, it’s true, I’ve been through this before. I’ve experienced the dopesick headaches, the agitation, the sudden lashing out at imaginary problems exacerbated by an overly sensitive system begging for an espresso fix.

I can’t for the life of me remember why I started back up again. I’m sure all it took was a moment of weakness. “Oh it’s just one espresso,” I thought, “What’s that going to hurt?” Six months later, I’m racing down the boulevard, screaming at people to clear the path as I make my way to the nearest coffeehouse. Believe me, people are more than obliged to let the coffee fiend through.

So, how do I do it? How did I break this habit before?

For me, it always has to be a clean break. Tapering my consumption a little at a time is about as good as saying I’m only going to do a half hit of smack. If you’re cooking, you’re floating, and any amount is good enough to keep you a junkie. No, it’s better if my relationship with the caffeine siren ends abruptly. She’s a lovely lady, and I love her dearly, but I only prolong the agony of the inevitable. I’m sorry, my dear, I’m afraid this is the end of the road for us. It’s easier if I just push through the detox, and come out clean on the other end.

Life on the other side of those detox blues can quite wonderful. For instance, when I quit my morning coffee habit, I replaced it with a regular juicing schedule. To this day, I still get up and make 12-16 ounces of fresh green juice to start my day. Naysayers, hold your tongues! There is nothing so lovely as a freshly pressed glass of organic kale, apples, carrots, ginger, and lime. It is my salutation to the sun, my morning oblation to the god of health, and I’ll tell you, there is nothing more invigorating. I attribute this simple switch as one of the keys to the superior level of health I’m enjoying these days.

My recent caffeine haze has not been a morning problem, however, it has been an afternoon affliction, a habit reinstated at some fateful hour of weakness when I wasn’t paying attention. And so, I’ll need to find an equally seductive replacement that is just as healthy as the morning juice is.

To that end, I’ll be trying a small amount of Kombucha in the afternoon for the foreseeable future. Yes, I know, the sharp ones in the audience are quick to point out that this ancient tea has some trace amounts of caffeine in it. It is true, that the brewing process does leave a small amount, but it is such a small amount that the effects are as negligible as decaffeinated coffee. In addition, the fermentation process in Kombucha reduces the small amount of caffeine by at least half.

The benefits of this symbiotic colony of yeast, bacteria, and tea far outweighs any negligible amounts of caffeine that can be found. By promoting detoxification, a stimulated immune system, improved digestion, cancer fighting antioxidants, and other benefits, I would say it is far healthier and less troublesome than my former caffeine relationship.

Yes, there is some controversy over Kombucha. Some say it has no value because it hasn’t been tested in clinical trials. The same can be said of many other so-called controversial practices, such as a raw food vegan diet. I wouldn’t be enjoying the level of health that I have now if I’d listened to all the naysayers about my vegan diet as well.

Certainly, drinking a little Kombucha tea is no more dangerous than a cup of green tea. I’d say it’s actually far less dangerous than the chemically induced diet pills that are on the market these days. I’ll take the thousands of years of Kombucha tea drinkers over your market driven pharmaceutical geeks any day. Do we really need clinical trials for a drink that’s been passed down through generations?

And so, I’m bidding adieu to my caffeine lover once again, and skipping off to enjoy greater energy, a clearer mind, and one less addictive influence in my life.