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2:36 p.m. - August 23, 2005
Off Caffeine and High On Life...Or Something.
I was commiserating with the Jenster about small children and pre-school and I brought up the fact that Kristin has slept through the night three nights in a row (and she’s just made it a fourth – and I’m now avoiding bricks and large objects from all of the other parents out there because my two month old is sleeping 8 hours at night…Katie did the same thing, too!). She was happy because, as she said, she remembers the “days of yearning for caffeine / sleep / caffeine / sleep.”

I replied back that I haven’t had caffeine in two years.

I could hear her jaw hit the floor. (And when you can do that during an email conversation, that’s impressive!)

She remembers me back in the day. The days that I had a coffee cup permanently fused to my right hand. The days where I drank Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew like they were water. The days where I used to have my iced tea refilled four or five times in a sitting. (Hey, it got me a date with a cute waitress, though, so perhaps there were ulterior motives. Yeah, I had some ulterior motives – deal with it. Like YOU haven’t flirted with a waiter or waitress before…)

In fact, I used to horrify Moose when we were roommates. I used to drink a Dr. Pepper at about 10:00 at night, then fall asleep an hour later and sleep through the night. He was just stunned that I could ignore the caffeine and just sleep through it.

But all that changed in 2001. I hadn’t been to the doctor for a checkup since…oh…well since my Mom dragged me to the pediatrician. I was feeling sluggardly and lethargic and I was getting the ol’ beer gut. And it wasn’t just a normal beer gut – I was concealing a pony keg under there. (Well, I do like beer – it’s a damn shame it has so many calories!)

What convinced me to go was when I found a scale in our house and realized that it said I weighed over a double century. I’m not quite 6’0, and in high school I weighed 135. In college I weighed 155 and for a few years out of college I played basketball and softball regularly so I had some exercise. But after I moved to Indianapolis the consumption of beverages and junk food remained constant – while the exercise factor dropped to zero.

I had my Mom’s genes for weight for use. Dad is my size and never weighed more than 150. My sister is also my height and is skinny. My brother is a little heavier, but not so much. So I didn’t draw the right card on my way out the door, I guess. My metabolism took a left turn in Albuquerque when I moved to Indy.

We knew we wanted to adopt a baby soon, and I decided it probably is best to get myself checked out. I’m glad I did.

Going through the HMO crapola of having a primary care physician, the doctor I chose a relatively young doctor. (This freaked me out, a bit. Her being younger than me – that is a sign you are growing old, I guess. I was not freaked out at all by her being an attractive redhead. In fact, when she was giving me the hernia test…oh, I should stop….). She was quite thorough – and was very honest and direct.

1. My blood pressure was way too high.
2. My cholesterol was high but it could be controlled with diet, possibly.
3. I needed to drop 30 to 40 pounds, pronto.

That’ll wake your ass up.

(She did send a very nice letter thanking me for coming in and explaining all of her findings to me, again, in writing, and what the next steps would be.)

So, she started me on blood pressure meds. (Later, I started on cholesterol meds as well, but that’s beside the point – if there is a point.) I also started to exercise more (I play hoops at lunch twice a week and try to walk a lot) and really started watching what I ate. No more Taco Bell was step one.

The meds helped, but my pressure was still borderline high, as she observed in my next annual physical.

So she doubled my dosage, and then just asked this question.

“Are you still drinking coffee??”

I of course, answered yes.

Her voice said, “Well, you know that affects blood pressure.”

Her eyes said, “WTF?? You dumbass! How could you not know this?”

So we agreed that I would go off of caffeine.

You know, it wasn’t that hard.

I drank hot tea for breakfast from the age of 9 until 18, when I switched to coffee. I drank coffee at church from age 10 onward. I drank my coffee black and strong (insert funny haha joke here…). Since I had a 45 minute commute, I drank a cup at home, drank a large travel mug on the way, and then had a couple of cups at work. So I was drinking five to six cups of coffee a day.

Not to mention the fact that on my way home I sometimes would get a fountain Coke at the local ice cream / frozen custard place. (Do you think that having a large Coke and a large chocolate cone from the Dari-Licious three times a week had anything to do with me being overweight?? Nah! Those were pretend fat grams because I ate them in the car. They don’t count, right?) And I’d have a soda at lunch, too, usually Coke or Dr. Pepper.

So I had a lot of caffeine going through my blood. And I knew that if I cut it out cold turkey I’d go through withdrawal. But I also knew I needed to quit it as soon as I could.

So for a week I started to mix half decaf and half regular. And I stopped drinking caffeinated sodas.

After a week, I decided to see if I could go a day without caffeine. It was a weekend, so if I was going to have a withdrawal I could just subject my wife and baby to it and not the general public. So I made a full pot of decaf, and waited.

No withdrawal. No headache. Nothing. I felt sleepy, but that was it.

And I haven’t had caffeine intentionally since.

Oh, I still drink decaf like it’s going out of style. And I drink Sprite or lemonade, and I buy two-liter bottles of Caffeine Free Coke. But I also drink a lot of water.

A couple of times Liz had made regular coffee after I left for work, and she left it in the coffee pot. (Yes, sometimes I just reheat the day-old coffee instead of making new – I don’t like to be wasteful and it’s NOT that bad.) The affect didn’t hit me until I was at work for a half hour. I noticed that my heart rate was up, I was all nervous and tingly, and I was racing around. Liz was still working at the time, so I called her at work.

“Did you make real coffee yesterday?”
“Crap, I forgot! I’m soooo sorry. How are you feeling?”

And I was. I went into my boss’ office and started talking. I could sense all of my words were running together and I was just blabbingonandonandonandonandonandon….

I certainly had mouth diarrhea – more so than normal. (Everyone, be shocked and horrified that I could be even more of a windbag than I am in this space, because I was, I truly was.)

It was ugly. I had to go outside and walk around for about 15 minutes. I felt so out of control.

People who have known me for years have known that I’ve been a bit – hyper. In fact, I was once diagnosed with ADHD (though I think it was an incorrect diagnosis – I am a bit energetic but I am also focused and have a memory like a steel trap). So people have always known me to have a bit of an edge, and with caffeine that edge at times was borderline manic.

Now I’m still energetic – and no one knows that I don’t drink caffeine unless I tell them.

And those who know still can’t believe it.

I don’t really miss regular coffee – there’s decaf. I don’t really miss iced tea, that much. What I do miss are the fountain Cokes – from the Dari-Licious – especially.

And I know if I have just one fountain Coke, for old time’s sake – then I’ll have another and another and well, there you go.

I’ll be face down in the street – my mouth covered with the pure fountain Coke syrup – dazed and confused – pleading for some carbonated water so I could mix my own….


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