Happy first day of February! We are now 1/12th of the way into the new year. I took this as an opportunity to check in on my progress this new year. This past month, I attempted to give up both alcohol and caffeine. I was somewhat successful with both. With the alcohol, I refrained from ordering drinks on nights out and limited myself to no more than a shot-glass-sized serving of wine on a few occasions. With caffeine, I only slipped up once when I was traveling and desperate for a pick-me-up (more on that here). Now that it has been a full month, I thought this would be a good time to figure out steps forward on both fronts.
One month later, I can confirm that the results of my caffeine-free existence were…mostly negative…actually, straight-up terrible. Initially, I was plagued with headaches (which subsided after a few days) and extreme lethargy. After about two weeks, I began to start feeling more “normal.” I no longer suffered from the severe dip in energy sans caffeine, however, I also never felt “alert,” rather just “awake.” I felt like a depleted battery that could not charge more than 70%. In the evenings, I became so tired after dinner that I would essentially just try to stay up until 8pm and then would quickly and eagerly get ready for bed. I felt like a shadow of myself. I think life was easier when I had caffeine to support me in my times of need. These past few weeks were hard. I’m glad I underwent this self-experiment, because I know now that the caffeine-free lifestyle just isn’t for me.
Regarding alcohol, it felt liberating to say ‘no.’ I like wine, I like beer, and I like cocktails. I do not drink to excess, but if I were to go out to dinner four nights a week that would mean four drinks. If I were only to go out to dinner once in two weeks, then that would mean only one drink in a fortnight. The point is that I say ‘yes’ to drinks when offered…this was a problem in college…. Pronouncing my self-imposed prohibition “gave” me the option to decline drinks at events. It really did feel good at times to keep dinners simple (and cheap!). However, I do not want to box myself in to always saying ‘no,’ so I will now indulge in moderation.
Today, my caffeine hiatus came to a much-needed end. I went to the grocery store in search of the perfect caffeinated beverage. I felt like a born-again virgin plotting something naughty. Should I go with a basic black tea? Spice things up with a flavored green variety? Or, perhaps, I should start the month with a bang and go for the energy drink and a shot? Believe it or not, I really did have all these thoughts (and more!) when I was pacing up and down the grocery store. The inability to decide was paralyzing. In fact, I cut out of the store like a bandit without so much as a decaf tea in my possession. Instead, I went straight home and dug out a bag of matcha powder that I had been harboring in a crate for well over a year now.
I googled a simple recipe for a matcha latte and hurriedly and half-heartedly compiled and combined the ingredients to get a lumpy, little cup. Never did a warm, green liquid ever taste so good. I’m glad that I lifted my caffeine embargo. It honestly started to take a toll on my mental health, much in the same way that my experiment with vegetarianism did. In both instances, I would feel reluctant to go out to eat or for coffee, because I felt limited in my options. With my herbal tea in hand, I felt like a child compelled to take the clunky carton of 2% milk, while all my fancy adult friends sipped their hand-crafted cappuccinos, macchiatos, and espressos.
Sometimes for me complete abstention can be fun, almost like a challenge. I think there is a word for someone who takes pleasure from this sort of thing, but I cannot remember it. Actually, I just looked it up and the words “masochism” as well as “self-disciplined” are being thrown around. Hmm…I may have to dissect this later.
Anyway, I think we all just want to feel good about the decisions we make. I think that we feel our best when our hearts lead us to make decisions that bring us both short- and long-term happiness. I think we feel our worst when our hearts lead us to make choices that we regret and those that make us feel trapped in a vicious cycle. My month “without” has given me new perspective. It’s only been 31 days, but I think I experienced a smidge of enlightenment as well as a whole lot of self-awareness. I hope that this one month of pain will bring me eleven more of pleasure. I hope you too, Dear Reader, will check in every once and a while (or if you’re like me, roughly 12 times a year) to make sure your happiness is on track.
Have a happy February!