I feel like a demon has been exorcised from my brain.
This summer I phased out my coffee intake to the point where, now, just a cup of green or black tea gently shakes me awake in the morning. As I reflect on my days full of cups of straight black coffee, I remember what I thought of as the “good times,” where my heart would race, I could feel my body shaking with focused energy, and the feeling, perhaps imagined, of insane productivity.
A recent Alternet article by David McRaney “The Coffee Illusion: What the Magic Brew Really Does to Your Brain,” redefined my memories of the amazing feeling coffee generated for me; similar to my own, McRaney comically describes it here:
“Suddenly, you feel like John Nash, you can’t keep up with your own mind as geometric symbols float over the magazine articles in your lap. Someone strikes up a conversation about health care, and suddenly everything you’ve ever heard about the topic is at the tip of your tongue.”
He continues and reveals coffee’s illusion:
“Once you’ve been drinking coffee for a while, the feeling you are getting after a cup isn’t the difference between the normal you and the super you, it’s the difference between the addict before and after a fix.”
Apparently, it only takes seven days to become addicted, yes addicted, to coffee. The amazing feelings you think coffee gives you is just a temporary fix to block your adenosine receptors, which allow for drowsiness and the onset of a normal sleep pattern. Coffee also pumps adrenaline into your veins and releases dopamine – making you feel invincible. What. A. Feeling.
Like most chemical addictions, your body eventually demands more stimulant to experience the effects. Some people need several cups just to “get going,” and it often perpetuates a vicious cycle, offsetting your deep sleep to make you feel a greater need for caffeine when you wake up. Also, withdrawal can be painful, exhausting and a little depressing. Trust me, I know.
It’s scary for me to think about how hooked I was on what I used to consider synonymous to the blood pumping through my veins. Interestingly, my new found “freedom” has only made me reflect on what other substances, or even technologies, I probably have brain-altering dependencies upon (e.g., my laptop, iPod, e-mail, and Facebook) and how much they effect who I am, what I think about and how I interact with others. It could be fun to experiment with forgoing other “addictions.”
(Stock photo courtesy of sxc.hu)