Monday, March 05, 2007

Green leafer madness.




Want to…write, but so very…very…sleepy.

And cross.




Also, achy.

For a long time, I would drink a cup of tea in the morning and pour a second one into my lap, and I was fine and only slightly scalded. Slowly, imperceptibly, I began making myself a third cup of tea before noon, which I would actually drink and only spill about a quarter. Then, one magical day, I noticed Daughter’s after-school classes all seemed within walking distance of a Starbucks, and each one of those Starbucks would give me a cup of tea if I gave them about two dollars! It was dazzling to discover how much less bleak and uncomfortable folding chairs are when one is clutching a hot cup of water with some leaves in it.

Things between the tea bag and I were good until they weren’t, and yet I denied, denied, denied I had a problem. It’s green tea, I would think stubbornly, I’m strengthening my tooth enamel and possibly my immune system. What could be more wholesome than that?

I was so unaware of how often I carried a cup that I stopped noticing when I was carrying it in less than traditional places. Luckily, I live in Los Angeles, where it is now socially acceptable to carry a Starbucks cup anywhere including a funeral; I think some people now request their bodies be displayed with one tucked in their hand, so their friends will recognize them.

I was so jacked up on caffeine that, by last week, I was causing static on the car radio. Bed had become the place where I lay in the dark and tried to remember my third grade teacher’s license plate number.

But, as with so many issues in my life, it was vanity which finally brought me to my senses. You can only drink that much caffeine for so long before your skin starts to dry out. Last Thursday, I looked in the mirror with entirely too much daylight streaming in, and I recoiled in horror. While I have never found myself especially cute, I have taken some comfort in looking young for my age. I was the color of a battleship and the first three layers of epidermis were making a break for it. I was no more than twelve hours away from someone complimenting me on my lovely granddaughter.

Fine, I thought grimly, no more tea for me. I’ve done this before. A day or so of unpleasantness and fatigue and I’m back in the game. A few weeks off the stuff, and I can start a cup of tea in the morning again.

I forgot the last time I had given up caffeine was when I found out I was pregnant, which leads to two important facts. One, that was a while ago, and my body isn’t as accepting of change as it was then and two, I was newly pregnant, which meant I was excited, self-sacrificing and already nauseated and tired. Now, I’m suspicious, self-serving, and inclined to avoid things which make me nauseated and tired.

Friday morning, I drank a cup of mint tea, just for that hot-water mouthfeel. By noon, I was working at my desk, clawing at the headband I was wearing, wondering why it was biting into my head so sharply when I remembered, Wait, I’m not wearing a headband. Caffeine withdrawal, right on schedule and nastier than I remembered, holding my skull hostage all afternoon. The elastic band tightened indifferently and inexorably, and grinding exhaustion set in. I abruptly fell asleep on the couch and dreamed about washing down a pound of dark chocolate with a hot-tub full of green tea. I dreamed about going to a rural area of China, plunking myself down in the middle of a field of Camellia sinensis and chewing my way out. I dreamed about George Clooney stopping by in a tuxedo, bringing me a cup of tea, and my drinking it. George asked, eyes crinkling adorably, “Would you like anything else?”, and I screamed miserably, “Yes! More tea!”

“What, Mommy?”

I woke with a start. The headache was, if anything, worse than when I fell asleep. I had been trying to read a magazine when the exhaustion had hit, and I had fallen asleep on it, and sweated so the magazine stuck to me. This meant Katie Holmes was pouting a quarter inch from my eye, which wasn’t helping matters. Daughter was standing next to the couch, staring at me. I was asleep on the couch in the middle of the afternoon, leaving my small daughter to her own devices. She appeared to have made herself a snack of strawberry jam and olives. All this tableau needed was a smoldering Virginia Slims dangling from my lips.

After two daytime naps, I fell asleep at eight p.m. My last thought as I reflexively clawed at the non-existent headband was “This will be better in the morning.”


What it has done is mutated into what I keep thinking must be the beginning of the flu, complete with body aches, lethargy and short-term memory problems. What’s most demoralizing about all of this is if you had asked me to describe my better traits, I might have said something like “…energetic, funny, quick-witted, hard worker.”

Turns out, I am none of those things. Caffeine was using me as a host to express certain character traits, but without my precious green nectar I am no more energetic or witty than tectonic drift, and my appetite for hard work is the same as my appetite for chewing off my own arm. Mostly, I want to partake of my new hobby, which is lying on something yielding and clawing at my eyes.

I saw a friend yesterday who made the mistake of asking me how I was. I responded with something like “…whine, whine, caffeine-free…whine, whine, whine, endless headache…whine, George Clooney tuxedo…whine, whine, lost will to live…”

My friend nodded knowingly.

“Third day?”

I stopped my dirge and mutely nodded.

“It’ll take about a week, and then you’ll feel like a million bucks.”

Forget a million bucks. Right now, I'd take the change my pockets have fed into the couch over the last four days of involuntary naps.


Blogger Karen of TX said...

Hang in there. I went caffeine-free last year and it was no prettier than your journey. Now I don't go anywhere without my decaf Earl Grey (forget herbal tea; I can at least have real tea, not grass clippings) and when I do want a little pick-me-up, I can. Beware, though: more than two days of caffeination and I'm right back with the DT's.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

When SO's cardiologist insisted that he stop with the caffeine, I decided to quit in solidarity. Okay, so I decided to quit in solidarity about six weeks after he quit, and mostly because I had a wretched stomach bug and couldn't take anything in for days and figured that I wouldn't notice the DT's for all the gut-wrenching agony and sleeping, but I did quit, and it was in solidarity. Still, I admit that I wouldn't have been capable otherwise, no matter how much I might have liked to take one for the team. My recommendation: actually GET the flu - it will distract you from withdrawal and by the time you feel better, you will have forgotten about caffeine.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While it would be kind of me to say things like "Hang in there" and "You can do it," I just can't bring myself to do it. I love my tea, and my tea loves me and you giving up tea under the idea of better health makes me think someday I might have to do it. I refuse to accept that thought. (and after all, isn't it all about me anyway?)

So, instead I say to you, tea is magnificent and there is no reason you can't have it. Bad skin? Just avoid mirrors. Shaking from all the caffeine? Hey, Katharine Hepburn shook, and she still was refined and lovely. Caffeine bad for your heart? Go for another hike, but never give up tea!

8:23 AM  
Blogger Tom Moran said...

Dear Quinn:

I would love to be able to agree with your friend that after one week off caffeine you'll be just fine, but unfortunately, if my experience is any guide, he's full of what the Irish call "shite."

I gave up caffeine slightly more than ten years ago (at the suggestion of the nice doctors in the emergency room after a cardiac episode), and while it's true that if you can make it through the first four days without backsliding you'll be more or less okay, it takes a lot longer than that to detoxify completely. For months after I went off caffeine cold turkey I was utterly exhausted -- I would collapse into a puddle of drool at my cubicle around 4:00 every afternoon, which did not exactly endear me to my boss. But, as I said, it's been more than ten years and I have no desire to go back to my usual three liters of Diet Coke a day.

So good luck, coraggio, and I'm sure you'll be fine. Our mutual friend David Bolduc says hi.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made the bf read this. He changed the subject real quick.

6:33 PM  
Blogger Judy said...


I'd raise my third mug of coffee towards you, but I lack the energy.

So, perchance, it isn't a rekindling of my love for husband that is making my heart go all a-flutter?


6:44 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

oh mercy. reminds me of when i quit my Diet Coke habit cold turkey a few years ago in a vain attempt to get pregnant. talk about a double edge sword. i'm cranky as hell and don't wanna "do it" because i'm cranky as hell, but if i don't do it, i won't get preggers.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cold turkey? What were you thinking? How do you stay awake during afternoon carpool? I sit in the nice warm car and inch my way forward and drift off to sleeeeeep.

I've told myself the afternoon shot of caffene is for the safety of school children. The morning jolt is so I don't leave the house without aomething important like clothes.


8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say go back on the tea.

7:38 AM  

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