Adventures with the Dark Lord: How I Did Battle with My Caffeine Addiction, and Won

Adventures with the Dark Lord: How I Did Battle with My Caffeine Addiction, and Won
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"Coffee" by Steve Tolcher Photography. Some rights reserved:

Like a true devotee, I honored and respected the Dark Lord. I traveled great distances and offered him my hard-earned money. He absorbed more of my cash than my health care plan. Looking back, it’s clear: I was addicted to coffee.

One fateful day, after a tense meeting at work, I was feeling bedraggled and acutely aware of all the responsibility on my shoulders. Only one thing could save me, so I headed out for a double shot. Upon returning to my office, I promptly fell asleep.

An hour later, I woke up groggy and finished my thermos of home-brewed tea. Fortified by caffeine, I returned to the tasks at hand, knowing my afternoon coffee break would give me some respite. Before long, however, I caught myself looking longingly at my watch, willing my next dose to come sooner. As the afternoon sun spread its warm rays through my office window, an unexpected thought entered my mind: “Is this what my life has become? The high point of my afternoon is a caffeine fix?”

I decided to contemplate that thought and sat down on my office couch to meditate. I looked the question straight in the eyes, and I had to admit the answer was yes. The best parts of my day were centered on caffeine. As I sat looking at the lush green ivy growing in the high windowsill, I knew life could hold more.

I was determined to do better, so I had tea instead of my usual afternoon coffee, and that evening I opted out of my regular cup of tea. Deep down, I knew I might be headed for trouble, but I felt a strong conviction about changing my ways. I was feeling pleased with myself as I settled into bed that evening.

The next thing I remember was being pulled from a dream by a painful pulsation deep in my brain. My head was gripped by a relentless throbbing that intensified as I awakened fully. Slowly, I understood what was happening: I was going through caffeine withdrawal.

"Headache" by Guillaume Delebarre. Some rights reserved:

I looked at the clock. It was 4 a.m. I knew that this moment was significant. I could choose to endure the painful symptoms and escape the influence of the Dark Lord, or I could concede to the demands of my body and go make a cup of tea.

My throbbing headache was on par with the migraines I get every few years where the pain gets so bad that I want to throw up, but I knew that if I was going to break the cycle, this was my first step. Despite my agony, I set my sights on the feeling I’d had before my addiction: real freedom. The freedom for my body to be tired when it needed to rest, and the feeling of being awake and alert because of the rising sun and excitement for the day. It was time to reclaim it!

I got out of bed, prepared for an epic battle with discomfort. My first weapon was a bottle of Motrin. I took two and got immediate comfort in knowing that it would soon start to ease the throbbing. After sitting in meditation for 20 minutes, focusing on breathing exercises to relax the spasms in my neck and shoulders, I went for a brisk walk.

All day at work, I was operating in a fog, but my resolve stayed strong and my trusty Motrin bottle stayed by my side. Remember, this was cold turkey: no caffeine whatsoever. I wanted complete freedom from my addiction. When I got off work, I went home and took a deep two-hour nap.

The malaise continued that night and throughout the entire next day. My body wanted caffeine. I told most of my co-workers what I was doing, hoping talking about it would take my mind off the discomfort and keep me focused on my goal.

Despite my ongoing headache, I went to sleep earlier than I had in about a year. My body felt tired, and there was no caffeine pushing me beyond that feeling. I woke up around 5 am to meditate and then went back to sleep. That is when I turned the corner. I had the deepest sleep I could remember for a long time.

It took a full two weeks for my body to realign with its natural cycles. My life started to shift also. Instead of using coffee to recharge, I was doing more yoga and going to the gym after work. On a subtle level, I noticed that my meditations improved. You may say it is my imagination, but I also felt that my vision and sense of hearing were improving, and I was much calmer at work and less prone to becoming stressed out.

Sometimes I still think of the Dark Lord, but he has no power over me any more.

"Freedom" by Josef Grunig. Some rights reserved:

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