We all have this idea of exactly how addiction works. You do something too much and your body gets physically addicted and then it becomes difficult to stop. But addiction is way more than that. Of course there is the physical element, but I totally believe that it’s about one’s state of mind. I believe you can be completely controlled by any given addiction without actually giving in to it. For example when I first quit drinking I was still completely imprisoned by alcohol. Trapped by an obsession that controlled my life without the need for me to give in to the booze. I could not be free from the addiction no matter how long I abstained from it without a change in the way I saw things. Thankfully I found that change. In fact I have a little bit of experience in finding that change. As well as stopping drinking, I kicked a 50 a day smoking habit, I managed to stop smoking cannabis of which I had smoked every day for 10 years and I even managed to kick a cocaine habit that I had when I was around 19. So when I found I wanted to free myself from my Caffeine addiction I thought it would probably be a walk in the park, despite reading of just how addictive caffeine is.
At first I tried to stop dead and I barely lasted the first morning before I had to get a coffee. The headaches were too much and I simply couldn’t function without it. So it was back to the drawing board.
I decided I didn’t need to quit caffeine altogether, all I had to do was drink it sensibly. So I allowed myself 1 in the morning, and 1 at 3pm and that would be it. I got myself some herbal tea for the other times. This went well for a week or 2. But slowly I went back to the original ridiculous amount of coffee. Work was either too busy so I needed the boost, or it was too quiet and I drank out of boredom. In the typical fashion of an addict I did this on and off for a period of a few months.
The Christmas holidays arrived and I decided I was going to use this time away from work to get my caffeine intake to at least a more healthy standard. I even downloaded an app to track my caffeine. I only allowed myself a coffee when I felt like I desperately needed it. I could trust myself on this, self-knowledge is my thing, and normally when I am drinking too much coffee I’m aware of it. So for the last 10 days or so I haven’t exceeded 3 coffees in one day aside from Boxing Day when I had my obligatory can of ‘Relentless’ watching the football and Christmas Day when I needed an extra one to perk me up after my Christmas afternoon snooze.
This worked. Mind focus, and watching my ‘pangs’ it really worked. I had a strong coffee each morning which saw me through to lunch where I had another, I could feel I needed it by then. Then around 6/7pm each day I needed another, and these gave me that little boost for the evening. I had nailed it. On the second day I did have quite a bad headache in the morning but naturally I knew it wasn’t due to no caffeine and I do suffer from headaches so I thought nothing of it and it was gone by midday. But I had definitely nailed it. I was feeling pretty smug at my self-control and self-awareness and was pretty sure I could now keep this up when I went back to work.
Today I had the usual strong coffee in the morning. At around 11:30am me and my wife went for a late breakfast. I was feeling so good about my caffeine control I nearly ordered something caffeine free, but fear got hold of me and I ordered a coffee. It was just my lunch time one anyway.
This is where the twist happens. We sat down and my wife told me that since the start of my ‘caffeine control’ experience she had switched all the coffee we had in the house with decaffeinated coffee without telling me. It took a second to sink in. Yep this meant aside from the can of Relentless on Boxing Day, I had been all but caffeine free, aside from the little bit of chocolate I had sampled.
I felt stupid, but pretty amazed. I was so sure of what was going on in my mind. I had felt the slumps in energy followed by the boost the caffeine gave me. The cravings that were physical and tangible and that were relieved each time I had a coffee. I could even tell the difference in the morning coffees that I put almost 2 teaspoons of coffee in, they gave me that extra boost I needed in the morning. But all this was a lie.
Every time I had a coffee it had no caffeine in whatsoever. I felt I was having a physical craving relieved but actually I wasn’t. I was simply satisfying the mental obsession that I had believed I needed caffeine to function. That’s addiction. Aside from the headache on day 2, the rest of my caffeine addiction was in my head. It was made up, yet I could have sworn I had physical cravings. But that’s the power of the mind. It created physical cravings based on fear. For a minute or so after my wife had told me what she’d done my mind started to panic, it wanted to convince me I had known, it wanted to convince me I had been struggling more than normal, it even panicked and suggested I needed a coffee binge to get me back level. But again this was all in my head. It had to be. My experiment, or should I say my wife’s experiment had proved it. I haven’t craved or felt the need for a coffee, granted as I write this it’s only been 6 hours but I’ve had that shift.
Addiction isn’t simply doing something too much and becoming hooked. That part of this story amounted to a headache that lasted a few hours at most. The rest of the addiction is what I endured for the next 10 days that turned out to have nothing to do with what I was addicted to at all. It was all literally in my mind… I have been all but caffeine free for 10 days now, it was only today I became free of my caffeine addiction.
Would be great to hear thoughts on this!