There has been a renewed effort, recently, to try to convince my Dad to stop smoking.  That’s his own personal battle, one I know he has waged for many years, and there is little to nothing I can actually do about it.  But I did decide, last Tuesday, that I couldn’t ask him to quit nicotine if I can’t even quit my own personal demon: caffeine.   It doesn’t help him quit smoking, but does at least put me in a position where I can relate (maybe? just a little?)

At the time of quitting, my caffeine habit consisted of a cup of coffee in the morning, a soda at lunch, and occasionally a second soda in the afternoon.  I don’t think this was too excessive. I’ve certainly been worse in the past (particularly in undergrad).  Periodically I will think ‘I need to cut back,’ and will reduce for a time, but it always eventually creeps back up again.

I quit altogether when I was pregnant with the Peanut and thought I would stay off it after she was born.  No such luck.  My epidural punctured my spinal cord and I was leaking spinal fluid (too much info?)  I couldn’t sit upright for more than 15 seconds without feeling like I was going to black out.  When I called my doctor, my solutions were to either 1. Go back to the doctor to let them ‘patch’ up my spine (“Um, no, thank you, you will not be touching my back again.”) or 2. lay flat on my back and drink assloads of caffeine until my spinal cord healed over.  And, just like that, I was hooked again.

I’ve wanted to quit for a while because:

  1. The human body is an amazing thing that I think has an incredible ability to regulate itself. Caffeine messes with that. It affects your sleep patterns and alertness levels, it leaches calcium from your bones, and affects your body’s ability to absorb other vitamins, etc. etc. etc.
  2. I’ve long suspected that I’m particularly sensitive to caffeine: There is a marked jump in my blood pressure readings if I’ve had caffeine within the last few hours. I once had just a swallow of a friend’s energy drink and I thought my heart was going to explode.  As addicted as I admit I am, I generally just don’t feel good when I’ve had caffeine: more than one cup of coffee and I feel jittery, edgy, and just disgusting.
  3. I particularly hate that I drink soda: It’s not just the caffeine, it’s the sugar. I’m convinced that it is the next item to face health regulation.  I don’t want to ever get to the point where my girls are saying, “Ma, we really wish you’d lay off the soda…”
  4. I know I’m addicted and I don’t like feeling like I need to have anything.  It’s a potentially nasty streak of stubborn independence I struggle with.

So last Tuesday I quit, cold turkey. And I made it through that first day pretty well.  I was really tired, and I think I went to bed stupid early, but otherwise, generally felt okay.

On Wednesday, I cheated.  My typical routine is to pack a sack lunch, get a soda from the vending machine at work, and take everything to the park to eat.  On Tuesday I had my water bottle, so I could avoid the vending machine and just take water. But on Wednesday I forgot.   The solution would have been to eat my lunch at the office and use my firm’s glassware to get some water. But I learned a long time ago that getting outside every day for my lunch hour is absolutely key to my happiness.  So, I cheated.  I’m a cheaty-cheater. On the plus side,  I learned that lunch at work is one of my ‘triggers,’ and I need to plan ahead for how I’m going to get around that time each day.

On Thursday, no cheating.  And the headache was killer. By the end of the day I was CRANKY. Full blown snapping at the kids for daring to make noise while they played, cranky.  I completely lacked any sense of humor.  I think I frightened D a little bit.  When the clerk at Target spent what felt like 20 minutes ringing up a bell pepper, an onion, and a loaf of bread, I mentally pictured punching her in the neck.  Without once bit of irony or hyperbole, I can safely say that I was a straight up bitch to everyone. Once the Peanut was down for the evening, I snarled at D, “I’m going to the gym.”  “I’m going with you?” he meekly asked. (Ms. B. can babysit). “Fine, whatever.”  When we got there, D asked, “So, what are we going to do?” “I’m putting my headphones in and am moving until I’m not angry any more.”  I jumped on a machine, set a brisk pace, and within minutes I felt better.  Lesson learned: Exercise helps.

On Friday, no cheating. I did, however, have to buy a 2 liter of Coke for Ms. B. to take to a pot-luck party she was attending to celebrate the end of a summer-school class she was in.  I did it, praying to God that it would be all gone by the time she came home from the party.  I spent the entire afternoon at work thinking, “I want a Coke, I want a coke, I want a coke.”  Headaches, fatigue and crankiness abound, but I made it.

Saturday morning, I woke up with a headache and felt like I had the flu.  All of my muscles were incredibly cramped and stiff. I’m normally a pretty flexible person.  When I wake up in the morning and stretch I can usually touch my face to my knees.  Saturday morning I couldn’t even touch my shins.   Perhaps I pushed myself too hard at the gym on Thursday, but I just doubt it.  I’m chalking up flu-like symptoms and muscle cramps to caffeine withdrawal.

I spent the entire day again mentally chanting, “I want a Coke, I want a Coke, I want a Coke.”  At lunch time D pulls out the remains of Ms. B.’s 2 liter of Coke (curses! There were leftovers!) and pours himself a Coke in front of me.  I briefly consider this grounds for divorce.  We’re now up to fatigue, headaches, crankiness, flu-like symptoms and muscle cramps.  I’m also in a mental fog. I lose my sunglasses (which I’m normally pretty good at keeping track of) some time during the day.

Sunday I wake up and I somehow manage to feel even worse.  D makes the grievous error of trying to play keep-away with the grocery list.  Perhaps he thought this was cute? Foolish. I snarl, “Oh, please, PLEASE mess with me today.”  The dosage of snark delivered with that line was lethal.  He slowly and silently hands me back the grocery list and I storm out of the house.  I know. I’m not proud of my behavior over the last few days.

While out running errands I stop at a gas station and purchase a chocolate bar, not because I want chocolate, but because earlier in the day D asked, “So chocolate has caffeine. Are you giving up chocolate?” To which I answered, “Hell no!” A girl has her limits.  I was hoping that the chocolate would take some of the edge off, which it did, maybe(?) but not much.  I run in to Marshall’s looking for a new pair of sunglasses and a pair of running shorts. (One of the many things that managed to piss me off on Thursday was that I only owned two pairs of shorts and they were both dirty). I leave Marshall’s with four pairs of running shorts, four t-shirts, three sports bras and two pairs of sunglasses, because the thought of making the decisions necessary to whittle that pile down to something reasonable just felt too overwhelming.

I get home, snap something at D, I don’t remember what, and he finally says, “Okay. That’s it. You’re going to the gym. Now.”  I’d been resisting going because I felt so flu-ey, but, you know, he was right.  It again helped me almost immediately.  So, okay, I get it. Gym it is.

This morning I got up and went to the gym first thing, thinking I would beat the symptoms before they beat me. Also, I have all of these new running shorts I need to wear.  It wasn’t the best – I blame D’s heavy pours on the wine with dinner last night and a resulting hangover. (D’s facebook status from last night starts, “Inadvertently got the wife drunk tonight…”) But I actually feel okay today.  I don’t feel flu-ey and my muscles aren’t cramped up, which was the worst of it.   I’m still craving a Coke (why am I finding the Coke harder to quit than the coffee? Anyone have an explanation?) but it’s not a chant gong-ing in my head all day. And as we move into the afternoon I’m starting to get tired, but it all feels bearable.  Hopefully I’m through the worst of it and there’s not some new horror around the corner…  You all need to help keep me honest on this one.

About Shannon K.

My name is Shannon. I make stuff up.
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4 Responses to Junkie

  1. Kristin Benjamin says:

    Yikes, Shannon! De-toxing off caffeine is the worst. Years ago on a lark I decided to go righteous and go off coffee. A day later I wondered why my head was cracking open. What may help w/that is drinking alot more water–alot and munching on protein for that mid-afternoon slump.
    I remember your having a really rough post-partum time of it but I didn’t realize your spinal cord had been punctured. I cannot imagine having a new-born and husband and energetic daughter and trying to deal with that!

    • shannonmakesstuffup says:

      I actually miss the soda more than the coffee, I think because I’m going through a sugar withdrawal as well. I’ve been drinking lots and lots of water, but I’ll have to try the protein snack in the afternoon trick.
      Re: Post-partum. I think you didn’t know because I wouldn’t talk about it for a long time. I would just say, “It was horrible” and leave it at that. I was afraid I would turn into one of those crazy women in Target stopping pregnant ladies to tell them their horrible labor and delivery stories…

  2. robin says:


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