Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Glutton For Punishment

I must just be a glutton for punishment ... or something.

In 1996, I quit a twelve year smoking habit - cold turkey. It was just like that. What made it not great timing was that two weeks after I decided it was time to quit, my unit went to the field, which is Army talk for we packed up our crap and spent a week doing our Army job while living in tents, not showering, and eating from our mess kits.

Yeah. It was a long week, during which I ended up with a salt rash in my mouth from eating so many sunflower seeds and made myself sick with peppermints (which is funny, because peppermint is supposed to cure nausea ;).

I haven't smoked since - indeed haven't wanted to ... and I still like peppermints, which I do not associate with deprivation :).

A few years later, I was a totally addicted soda drinker. I realized that I was drinking the equivalent of two liters of soda, per day, by myself, and that was some LOT of calories, and so I switched to diet soda, but after some research discovered that the stuff in soda is just nasty, and not really something any of us should be drinking, especially two LITERS of it per day.

So, I switched to coffee, which I had always enjoyed, but without soda, my coffee consumption increased. My favorite coffee beverage was Dunkin' Donuts iced caramel lattes, large with extra sugar and whipped cream. Yum! Yum!

One day, I realized they cost $4 each. I just hadn't thought about it enough, and when I did start to think about it, I realized that I couldn't really afford to spend $4 once or twice a day for an iced coffee.

Just regular coffee at home would have to do.

But it didn't ... do, that is. I decided that I needed to give up coffee, and I switched to Chai, which was the perfect, creamy and hot substitute for coffee.

Then, I read an article about the health benefits of green tea, and I switched again.

I have become quite the green tea addict. I am probably the most hydrated person in the world and will easily consume ten cups of tea on any given day - more if I have company and we're sitting around drinking tea - I always offer my guests a cup of tea, and I drink tea all day long, all year long, and little else, except an occasional glass of water (... or beer :). I drink tea both hot and cold, all year long, and while I used to drink hot tea with milk or cream and sugar, I now like it with just sugar. Green tea steeped in boiling water with two teaspoons of sugar. My whole family knows how I like it and can make my tea for me. Today, Little Fire Faery told me that she likes making my tea for me. What a sweetheart!

The problem is that green tea has caffeine, and I've been having quite a bit of trouble getting to sleep lately. It could be the mess the world is in, or it could be that I drink too much caffeine laden green tea.

I can't fix the world, but I can stop drinking green tea.

And if I stop drinking so much green tea, then I will also stop using so much sugar, which will be a significant savings at the grocery store, but also, it's something I've been thinking I needed to do anyway, because, despite my best efforts, the camellia sinesis plant, which is the "tea" plant- as in the herb most of us call "tea", won't grow in Maine. It's simply too cold.

I think it's better that I kick the habit now, when my life is very comfortable and I have plenty of all of the other things I want and need, and finding alternatives can be a pleasure of discovery rather than a scrambling out of necessity. If tea becomes scarce, I'd hate to be tempted to trade something I really need so that I can satisfy a caffeine fix ... or worse, to feel rundown and headachy from caffeine withdrawals when I need my wits about me.

I'm giving up tea ... and with it, my addiction to sugar.

I'm starting to feel a little like Thoreau.


  1. We like our coke here. We are running low on coke and I've been keeping an eye out for sales (superbowl sales, ya know) and I am seriously debating giving it up. One less expense and I could do without the soda really. We drink lots of iced tea here.. regular plain ol' tea made by the gallon with a cup of sugar. I make it nearly every day with 7 of us drinking it, besides milk and juice.

    Anyway, back to the soda, we limit it to once a day, if at all, and the kids are only allowed half a soda when they get some.

    Good for you, giving it up. Let's see if I can convince the hubby to give it up, too. At least buying it for home and just drinking it when we eat out, anyway.

  2. One cup of coffee in the morning,one cup of green tea in the afternoon and then I switch to this lovely local cranberry tea (probably more local to you because they are in NH) from White Heron. I also recommend Yogi tea, Vanilla hazelnut with milk. a warm, creamy coffee like drink without the caffeine.

    I have a friend who has struggled with all sorts of addictions from drugs, alcohol, coffee...he finally realized that it just the personality that he has and he just has to find a healthy addiction. For him this is backpacking and buddhism. Just gotta find what works for you...

  3. I'm a dedicated tea drinker - black with milk and sugar, English style. I finally got myself off the sodas, and though I may have one at family get-togethers, or maybe with a rare restaurant meal (wine would be more likely), I don't think I'll ever buy it again. Unless, of course, I'm the one hosting the get-together. Then it would probably be expected.

    As for caffeine addiction; it's real and I've experienced the withdrawal symptoms. Not fun. Not fun at all. Fortunately, there is a way to avoid them if you have a little discipline and can opt for something other than cold turkey. Simply drink half as much as your normal intake each day until you're down to nearly nothing. Then stop. I've had to do this a number of times and was able to avoid the crippling headaches of caffeine withdrawal that I got with the cold turkey method.

    I've had no talent for sleep since birth. Just ask my mom. If I limit my caffeine consumption strictly so that I don't have any after 1 pm at the very latest, my sleep patterns are no worse than usual. Usually I'm done with the tea by 10 am.

  4. I think it's very wise of you to deal with addiction to a substance you won't be able to get locally in the future. There are many who roll their eyes at me when I talk about things like that, so it's really nice to see someone else out there with similar concerns.

    I've gotten re-hooked on coffee here. We can get coffee from Mexico. If I switched to drinking it with honey, that would add another local element. I keep asking my sweetie to see if he can get soybeans to grow here, though, so I can make local soymilk.

    It'd probably be easier to just quit and drink water. Oh, wait. Water is scarce here. ;-P

  5. Try switching over to herbal tea in the late afternoon. In the summer, I triple brew a Zinger tea and ice it. In the winter, hot chamomile.

    It keeps the caffeine out of my system, gives me a break, and I just plain old enjoy it.

  6. Sorry - that's not very clear. I brew a triple strength Zinger (usually two or three tea bags in a small amount of water). Pour it over a glass of ice and let the ice melt down to dilute it.

    In the summers, I usually put it into a mason jar and stick on the deck for a while the days I'm not at work.

  7. You don't need to give up your tea. Promise.

    Put your teabag/loose tea in to your cup/teapot and add boiling water. Wait thirty seconds, pour off all the liquid tea, and start over with more boiling water. This eliminates more than 90% of the caffeine. SWEAR.

  8. hot water with a bit of lemon? Hard to get locally grown lemon of course. But certainly cheaper than pop.