Well, I made it. 46 days of Lent, without caffeine, and I survived.
I woke up early this morning and brewed a pot of coffee—REAL coffee, not the “decaf” stuff I’ve been drinking for the last six and a half weeks—and set about to enjoy my day.
And it’s a beautiful day. Life with caffeine seems so much more colorful than the decaf world.
And now, having completed the Lenten sacrifice—which was really more in the spirit of scientific experimentation than religious self-denial anyway—I think I’ll return to the world of “regular’ coffee, real tea, and an occasional caffeinated soda.
I won’t return to the same caffeine levels I was consuming before, though. By late last year, I was drinking a couple of cups of coffee at home before going to work, a few more during the morning hours, and then, after lunch, a Monster energy drink to get me through the afternoon. I may just say goodbye the Monsters forever now, and cut way back on those morning coffees.
Because, honestly, I found that I could get myself going just about as well without the caffeine as with it. I’m pretty much a morning person—a “lark,” rather than an “owl,” if you will—so getting out of bed is never a problem, whether or not there’s a pot of coffee in my immediate future. And to be honest, I think I was just as productive, if not more so, without caffeine than with it. Over these last six and a half weeks, I’ve:
- Worked through six deadline Thursdays, including two oversized “special issues,” one of which kept me at work for 18 hours;
- attended and covered a huge three-day industry conference in Louisville—and drove there and back;
- conceived and developed a new writing project that’s going to keep me busy this summer;
- had my best month of running since last July;
- gave a speech at a Rotary Club; and
- participated in a larger-than-usual number of meetings and other events, among other things. It was a very busy Lent for me.
…all without a drop of caffeine. There were a few cups of hot chocolate in there, which arguably might have a wee bit of caffeine, but I never really felt it.
And I managed to stay away from the “Starbucks decaf” option—on Ash Wednesday, a friend told me that SBUX’s decaf is less “de” and more “caf” than other brands of decaf; I kept that knowledge in my back pocket, knowing that if I ever got desperate, I could go to Starbucks and get myself a decaf latte and enjoy the benefits of that minimal caffeine and still claim that I was living up to the Lenten bargain because, after all, I’d ordered decaf. Fortunately, I never got that desperate.
What surprised me the most, though, was that the hardest part of it was the last couple of weeks. I had thought it would get steadily easier as Lent progressed, and in fact, I was pretty euphoric a couple of weeks in when I realized how well I was doing. For a while there, I was thinking I’d never go back to caffeine. But the last couple of weeks, I was really dragging, and looking forward more and more to this morning’s cup. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that that was the time after that awful 18-hour Thursday, which pretty much wore me out.
During that six and a half weeks, I drank an awful lot of herbal tea, probably five or six cups a day. That’s fine; it’s always nice to have a hot beverage nearby. But I began to feel like life without caffeine just doesn’t have the color, the vibrancy, the excitement of life after that first cup of black coffee.
As anticipated, this morning’s brew was a big ol’ cup of fun. Within a very few minutes, I was suddenly more alive than I’d felt since Mardi Gras. The second cup intensified that feeling. But after two cups, however, I was starting to experience the caffeine jitters; I was feeling like my body wanted to turn itself inside out. I stopped at that point, and enjoyed the rest of my day, with just one more cup of coffee with brunch. Sure, there was a bit of a comedown in the afternoon, but that’s all part of the fun. Nobody would ride a flat rollercoaster.
It’s good to be back.
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Video credit: Michael Podrucki on Vimeo.