It’s 11:58 pm on a Thursday night. And I can’t sleep. I’ve tossed and turned for over three straight hours. I was overly exhausted as I headed to bed tonight. I even took a hot bath and climbed into bed early. It’s been an extra long week – lots of work at my 9 to 5 corporate job, a lot of time in my off hours toward my coaching practice, attending my mom’s orthopedic surgeon appointment with her, my daughter’s birthday on Tuesday, and the last week where my family of four will be under the same roof until May (both kids head back to college).
Being awake at this hour, I now realize what caffeine is truly doing to my mind and body. In 2019 (that seems like forever ago, doesn’t it?), I read “The Chemistry of Calm” by Dr. Henry Emmons at the recommendation of my dietician, Katherine. It was all about how certain chemicals make us more anxious and restless. Caffeine was one of them. I didn’t believe that, even though I’d been a devote consumer of “Big Gulp” sized sodas at the height of my eating disorder. I’d vow to give up caffeine, suffering through the withdrawal headaches as I quit cold turkey. And then, there would come a time when I didn’t get enough sleep and wake up tired. The lure of needing to be “awake” would bring me back face to face with a caffeinated soda. “Just this one morning,” I’d say. Then, slowly over time, I’d be addicted to caffeine when one morning became a daily or twice daily habit again.
During my eating disorder recovery journey I’d come to realize what a pedestal that soda had been placed on for me. It became an instant cure of a sluggish morning. It took the edge off the morning when what my body really needed was more sleep. It took the edge off the anxiety of needing to have a crucial conversation. Yet, I didn’t realize the complete ramifications of it at that time.
Now, I sit here feeling very far removed from those experiences of my past and yet so close to being sucked back in. I’m wide awake. At 11:58 pm. My “normal” bedtime is between 8:30 and 9:30 pm. I didn’t sleep well last night so I sucked down a Mt. Dew this morning after my first few meetings. Then, feeling a little stressed, I chose to get a Dr Pepper with my lunch we ordered in. And I was still drinking it at 1:30 this afternoon, ever so mindlessly.
And now, some nearly 10 hours later, I am paying the ultimate price. I can now see how Dr Emmons was so right. Caffeine has riled my brain – made it extremely restless when sleep is what it really needs. I’ve been on this self-induced rampage of restless energy since 5:30 tonight when all the caffeine consumption caught up to me. I now see what I debunked as hogwash in 2019 is actually true. Caffeine is affecting me far more than I had ever thought. I am more restless on the days I have it. I try to be like the Energizer Bunny going about my day on those days it is consumed. I find it hard to relax. Hard to stay calm. It only took me 1 1/2 years to come to terms with its impact when wide awake and physically feeling the restlessness in my body.
Now, the challenge will be to kick my caffeine habit again. And to offer extreme empathy to myself in this moment. The easy thing to do is to bash myself for drinking so much soda today. The empathic thing to do is to say, “Dear one, you are stressed. You are tired. We all make mistakes when we are stressed and tired. What is it you truly need for yourself now?” And then go do that. Even at 12:15 am!
Have you ever noticed the impact caffeine has on you? What will you do to start noticing if you haven’t already?