I’ve had an interesting experience with myself last week: I switched to decaf, after having caffeine creep into my coffee consumption more and more recently. After my treatment, I abstained from caffeine for a while, and eventually added a spoon of caffeinated coffee into my own special mixture I’d like to call “third-caf”, made up of two spoons of Folgers decaf and one spoon of Bustelo. I really liked the taste.
Over time, a second spoon of “real” coffee crept in, and over the last three months or so, I found myself on fully caffeinated Bustelo again. It’s the only vice I have left, and I didn’t see it doing any harm to my system, nor did I receive any adverse messages from my body. Until last week, when I had a full pot of decaf.
Julia doesn’t drink coffee, because of the caffeine, but she does enjoy the smell of a fresh cup of Joe or a newly opened pack of coffee. With decaf, she even joins me for a cup sometimes (otherwise she’s more of a decaf tea person). I liked the pure decaf taste, and also didn’t think it would do anything adverse.
Then however one of those numb non-localised headaches came to visit me. Those you can kind of live with, but life would certainly better without. Many familiar with this phenomenon will quickly recognise it as caffeine withdrawal syndrome. Apparently it’s caused by an increased amount of blood going to the brain, or rather the “normal” amount of blood going to the brain.
Caffeine has the bad side effect that it actually restricts blood flow to the brain, causing a kind of “controlled stress”, with the effect of us being more alert. That’s why we like it so much. As we indulge on caffeine, our body gets used to it, as we get used to its effects. When we stop taking it, our body needs to get used to that lack of stress induction first, which can cause a whole host of effects in some users:
- difficulty to concentrate
- flu-like symptoms
There is of course a scale to this phenomenon, and mine was a very mild case, yet strong enough to make be aware. A few days of complete coffee abstinence followed, and now I’m back on the full decaf (which depending on where you get it from, and how strong you brew it, still contains a small amount of caffeine; I remember a Starbucks’ decaf [on the slim chance they actually have one brewing] is strong enough to make me feel the caffeine).
I’m telling you all this because today I tried to smuggle a spoon full of caffeinated Bustelo into my daily mix, thinking what a nice treat the flavour variation might be. And while I enjoyed that taste indeed, the caffeine effect wasn’t working for me. It’s fairly new behaviour for me to react immediately and honour that feeling in my body by pouring out that Thermos and making myself a fresh pot of 100% decaf.
Back in the day I would have just “started doing that tomorrow” and continue drinking the mix I had readily available, suppressing my feelings with thoughts like “don’t be such a wuss and get on with it, you’ll be fine”. Every addict knows that voice. The real power is in breaking it there and then, and NOT continuing with current behaviour and acting immediately. That’s what puts you in charge, and that’s what makes a change and a difference.
So yes. I’m back on the decaf, and I’m proud of being aware of what just happened there 😎