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Caffeinated Coffee: A Love Affair Gone Wrong

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Well, after dating caffeinated coffee for 33 years I've finally broken off the relationship. We've had our ups and downs, to be sure. But this is it, this is the real deal. Last weekend my heart went crazy. I don't mean longing for coffee, I mean it started pounding hard, like it was going to leave my chest. I'd have to stop what I was doing to catch my breath. I called my doctor. He asked about stress, exercise, and of course one of the great loves of my life, caffeinated coffee. How much did I drink? I drink about three espresso drinks a day, that's how much.

I visited the doctor and he told me everything seems fine, except for my coffee intake. Before we had the appointment I quit the stuff cold turkey for about three days. Can you say, "headache from hell"? This week I discovered something though, there is a whole decaf lifestyle out there. You know when you get a new car and suddenly you find lots of people on the road are also driving the same model? Well, this week I've discovered I'm not alone in saying goodbye caffeine, hello real life.

For example there's my friend Lynne. She quit coffee and has gone to herbal tea. I didn't know that until I had lunch with her this week. Then I visited my doctor, he told me he also quit the caffeinated coffee habit. He's gone all decaf coffee and herbal tea and this is a busy guy. Guess who else isn't drinking coffee? At least three of the baristas at my favorite coffee place. They didn't like the way it made them feel. And another one told me her doctor suggested she get off coffee. I found out because we all struck up a conversation about it after they noticed I'd changed to decaf. I'm a caffeinated coffee hound and a regular there, so they all noticed the switch.

Two weeks ago, before I quit caffeine, I was standing around waiting for my tripple shot iced Americano with foam on top, when I looked at everyone else waiting in line and thought, "We're all drug addicts and this is our dealer." Now, don't get me wrong, I have a sense of community at my coffee place. I run into friends all the time there and do a lot of my writing there as well. I especially enjoy the people who work there. But come on, how many of us can't imagine starting our day without a cup of joe, especially a specialty espresso drink?

And if you're in recovery for alcohol and drugs, going to a recovery meeting without a coffee pot, well it doesn't happen. Coffee and recovery seem to go hand in hand. Sure some drink the decaf, but mostly it's the caffeinated coffee pot that gets drained. Those of us in recovery from the hard stuff are famous for switching addictions. Coffee tops the list of contenders for acceptable addictions.

Last month my five-year-old said, "Mommy, don't get more coffee. It makes you grouchy." Oh boy, pouring the guilt on his dear mom. But he was right, caffeinated coffee makes me moody, especially when I'm using it to prop myself up due to sleep deprivation.

My friend Lynne Westafer says she quit coffee to save her skin, "It's my first real shot across the bow for vanity." She says she notices her skin feels dryer and she says her body feels dehydrated when she's drinking coffee.

It hasn't been an easy switch for her either, but she says she feels more relaxed without caffeine.

Now, I must admit, I'm still drinking coffee, but it's decaf. I know the stuff still has caffeine, but believe me, not what the normal espresso has. And my recurring headache tells me I've really cut back. I salute those of you who are miles ahead of me on this topic. I'm too stubborn to quit on my own. It took a pounding heart and a decaf doctor to set me straight.

I have a relative in alcohol and drug recovery who says he didn't ask to have it be easy all the time, he asked to have it be real. I've discovered that being hooked on caffeine has kept me away from real in many ways. My biggest fear about quitting caffeine is realizing how truly tired I am. But since Arianna Huffington has launched her campaign for women to get more sleep, maybe I'll re-evaluate what I can really get done in a day, when I'm not hyped up on caffeine. If I really catch up on my sleep and calm down during the day, well maybe life will look a lot different.

It's ironic I'm writing this at Peet's Coffee, but the decaf tastes good and the atmosphere is perfect.
Goodbye caffeine. Breaking up is hard to do, but I'm already feeling more real without you.

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