Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Cold, (Not Room-Temperature) Turkey

Quitting cold turkey, apparently, has some measure of peril.

I'm not sure from where the term "cold turkey" originates; there's indication that the skin of an individual who abruptly gives up heroin begins to resemble the skin of a cold turkey. Whether or not that's bullshit or an old wives tale is irrelevant.

What isn't irrelevant is in our modern existence, we as a nation consume, absorb and/or otherwise ingest drugs, chemicals and foreign substances in increasingly alarming numbers. I doubt even the most proactive white-coat-wearing geek could accurately quantify the vast amount of chemicals, preservatives and other non-human-friendly substances we encounter with regularity. That is to say, it shouldn't surprise us that cancer and heart disease are our top two killers. If it's not the chemicals that eventually destroy our bodies from the inside out, it's the pressure (or the french fries) that eventually lead to our breakdown. Either way, a sledgehammer to the face and other non-subtle deaths seem to be decreasing and the silent ones, ie from the inside out, are on the rise -- or at least at the top of the list.

What I found interesting, at least on some level, was this article which addressed perhaps the most dangerous of our addictions. It's not nicotine, crack, heroin or porn; it's caffeine.

This past June, I had an epiphany and -- finally -- stopped drinking Diet Coke. Without question, I was a full-on addict; I would go through at least one two-liter bottle a day. Where other people felt the need to suck down a glass or two of wine at the end of a day, I found myself parked in front of a television or my computer with a piping-cold bubbly glass filled with heavily-chilled Diet Coke. Invariably, I would regard the nearly-frozen cauldron, watching the bubbles pop an inch above the surface of the liquid, with the fascination of a child experiencing his first snap, crackle and pop. And I would -- without hesitation or thought -- go through an entire bottle -- if not more.

The article referenced above addresses the withdrawal symptoms of caffeine. I'd had surgery so I didn't exactly have the opportunity to suck down a bottle or two of Diet Coke on my "quit" day or the next day, but I can tell you the biggest, toughest part of giving up caffeine isn't the symptoms of giving it up but realizing that it is something that requires effort and commitment to stop. And since it's not an evil like smoking cigarettes, nor is it illegal like cocaine or heroin or crack, and since it's not controlled like alcohol, it's hard to avoid grabbing a 20 oz. bottle of liquid gold on every corner of the City.

Nonethemore, now that I've forsworn off caffeine, I suck down, give or take, ten glasses of water each day, and I'd add another four or five if it's a workout day. I typically keep a bottle of water with me wherever I go -- typically flavored with Crystal Light (fruit punch or cranberry pomegranate) -- and I am happy to say I've easily remained caffeine free since June. If you can get past the first few days -- and make the conscious decision to stay away from it -- each day gets easier.

And the best part of it is you can sleep a lot easier, although you fall asleep faster at night. Waking up isn't the problem -- it's getting enough sleep so you can actually wake up in the morning.

I found this article interesting because there are so many health risks, issues and missteps which require us to climb a proverbial mountain to defeat. Beating the caffeine addiction really requires nothing more than the commitment and the understanding that it's something which can -- with very little difficulty -- be eliminated. The hardest part isn't the physical aspect of the addiction but the mental one.

Good luck ;-)

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