It is now 48 hours since I quit coffee. I feel dreadful. Zero energy, and my eyes are heavy; falling down heavy. I can barely keep them open. I just want to crawl into bed. Writing about it is the last thing I want to do. I decided to leave the house this morning and go to the local cafe for tea and breakfast. The lady sitting next to me ordered a giant cup of coffee of course. When it came, I stared at it long and hard. I felt an initial pang of desire, but my expectations of fierce, burning desire were not met.(1) What did come up was a sort of melancholy, a sadness for what I have lost. A dysphoria – whoever came up with that term to describe caffeine withdrawal had definitely been there themselves. It’s very accurate. If I had a DVD player and a bunch of rom-coms I’d probably just lie there staring at the screen…eating ice cream and crying for my long lost love, coffee.
Today is the day when the most significant problem with this experiment comes to the fore. The metaphorical chickens are roosting and pooping all over the crib. As I acknowledged, the control data for this experiment was always dubious.(2) Remember on Day 1 when I established my baseline for this experiment, and listed out all the things that I thought and hoped might have been caused by drinking caffeine. The problem is that to make the list, I was drawing on historical information. And now it occurs to me that most of these things were happening whilst I was in my normal day-to-day life, significantly, at work. Right now, I’m not at work. I am in fact, in the opposite situation to work. I am in about the least stressful environment that I could possibly be in; on holidays and not working. And so I think that in the same way that the effects of coffee drinking are much less pronounced for me here, so too are the effects of withdrawal much less pronounced.
And so maybe this is the thing; for people who are susceptible to stress, drinking coffee adds to that stress. And likewise, because I’m not overly stressed right now, I don’t feel the effects of caffeine withdrawal so acutely. Having said that, I’d hate to see these effects if I were stressed! I’m so low on energy – all I want to do is sleep. And the flies and the mosquitoes and the waitress’ inability to understand me when I ask her if the spinach and fetta omelet is still available annoys me greatly. And this goddamn fly keeps coming back! What the hell? Have I got shit on my back or what!? And so I start waving my arms around at the fly like a mad man. And I just know that if I were at work, and the phone was ringing, and some asshole was at the other end, I would very much not be keeping my shit together right now.
I am also – and this may not be linked to the coffee quitting in any way – quite sore in the body. This is not unusual in itself, as I am often sore in the body from physical exercise and related injuries. But I am unusually sore, that is to say, very sore and in numerous places, all of which have been sore in the past, but not simultaneously, and not to this extent. The DSM does say to expect muscle pain and soreness as a symptom of caffeine withdrawal (3) but I find it difficult to believe that it’s caused this. The underlying pain is not helping my general disposition one bit though, that’s for certain.
This morning as I was riding home, I saw a guy ahead on a motorbike slow down and make some suggestion to a woman who was walking on the other side of the road; a suggestion that, judging from the look on her face, she found distasteful. After he did this a second time to a different woman, I pulled up alongside him and asked “What, are you just harassing every woman you ride past?” It took him a while to understand what I was asking, but eventually he responded with “No, I’m asking them if the need a ride; I’m a taxi driver.” Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. He most likely was, there are plenty of motorbike taxis in Bali and any tourist walking down the street is asked 50 times an hour if they need one. I didn’t like the look of this guy one bit though, and I didn’t hesitate or think for even a second before confronting him – that lack of forethought is not normal; that is caffeine withdrawal.
Before I sign off I need to warn anyone contemplating quitting coffee to spend at least the three weeks preceding, in the gym. I have been eating like a fat and sugar addicted horse ever since the first morning. Pizza, meat, cookies, brownies etc. etc. And I’ve also been drinking lots of tea, which I acknowledge has caffeine in it but not that much, and screw it, this is a matter of life and death.
(1) This was not good coffee. The situation would have been different if I’d been staring at a beautiful creamy latte made with love by my favourite barrista James Panebianco; a latte of such extraordinary quality that it makes you want to weep with joy just to look at it; a latte whose aroma, texture, temperature, weight and flavour are all in perfect balance – a latte that sings. This is a man with such a sense of perfectionism that he yells abuse at any customer who leaves his creations to get too cold before collection. Every coffee is consistently perfect. Each a joy to behold, a joy to hold, and a joy to consume. In fact I can tell you unequivocally, that if one were put before me now, I would drink it unhesitatingly. Only a fool would do otherwise.
(2) I believe I described “confounding variables out the wazoo”, and suggested that no journal with even a hint of a peer review process would touch the article with a giant barge pole.
(3) The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the 2913 update to the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) classification and diagnostic tool.