Breaking the Habit

Today is Day 5 of no caffeine.

I feel a sense of loss particularly today. Saturday is the day that I look forward to drinking my chai. No anxiety about work on my mind. I have Monday to start worrying about that. No rushing. Not a single sound. It’s like I have the whole house to myself. Mr. Rafia is still asleep — he’s one of those weirdos who have the ability to sleep-in on the weekend! Crazy, eh? But me? I do not have that pleasure. But I do have the pleasure of savouring my chai in peace. Oh, to have the sun glistening in through the blinds, as I attempt to process the week prior, taking two sipfuls between each sentence. That is sheer delight!

Except today, I have no chai by my side.

And the sun has decided to not shine down on me today.

But it is okay.

Honestly, I’ve been toying with the idea of giving up tea for some time. I’ve written about my insomnia before. But last week got me questioning things. Why was I getting up each day at 2 or 4 AM and then not be able to go back to sleep? I wasn’t eating dessert every single day. I was not anxious about work. I don’t even touch my phone after 9 PM. I’m pretty active (though I have my days). I only have 1 cup of tea in the morning.

Oh, tea.

I am very sensitive to caffeine, I know this. That’s why I reduced my one-time three cups of chai down to just one in the morning. But maybe, just maybe my sensitivity goes beyond that.

It was a combination of two things really. When again the subject of tea came up at my recent dentist visit, coupled with the insomnia from the week before, a part of me felt the convergence of those two things was a sign for me to do something I was up until that moment afraid of doing.

I have been drinking chai every single day since 2010. Yep, even in Ramadan. If that meant I had to wake up earlier than everyone else and got up more times than anyone else to relieve myself after fajr and therefore be unable to recuperate any sleep at all, then so be it. I could not risk giving up tea. What if I got the headaches? No, no. Better to be safe than sorry.

I am not the typical addict, especially since it’s just one cup now, but I realize I was using my dearly-held one cup of chai as a crutch. There was no legitimate fear of having to break my fast on non-fasting days. And yet the fear of getting a headache kept me in thrall. But here’s the thing: I still got headaches. In fact, caffeine may have even induced some of these headaches. I don’t know.

But since tea was making my teeth a colour that was making me self-conscious about smiling, the one part of my physical self that I took pride in, I guess that was the last straw. The first time the dental hygienist said it, I tried to forget it. But the second time? Mr. Rafia had recently remarked that my teeth looked yellow. Oh no! My teeth? My pride and joy! I put in a lot of effort to be able to smile with confidence. I did not want to go back to being self-conscious about smiling. I knew what I had to do.

I could try it in any case and see if it had any effect.

Luckily, I had already survived a few days without tea right after my wisdom teeth extraction, and I had already significantly reduced my caffeine amount over the course of a few months. I went from using two bags of black tea and brewing the cup for way longer than recommended. Then I went down to just one bag and brewing for the recommended time. Then finally, as the insomnia was still not relenting, I went down to  brewing one bag to just two minutes. As I was doing this, I had no intention of giving up tea. But unbeknownst to me, I was priming my body for this week.

When I decided to try not having tea this past Tuesday, I was afraid of the inevitable headache I would get. But Alhamdullillah, I didn’t get it. That empowered me. And now I am on Day 5.

Right about now, as my stomach would make noises I did not want to deal with at the moment, I’d sip my chai. Today, I am reaching for water.

Ever since I stopped drinking caffeine, my sleep has been better. Not perfect. But better. This may have a lot to do with the new pillow and mattress topper that Mr. Rafia also bought at the same time… but given my tendencies to become obsessed and all the negatives associated with tea-drinking (in addition to the yellow-teeth that is a distinctive mark of tea-drinkers, caffeine is a diuretic, which is a nightmare for public-restroom-hating me; it may also be a trigger for anxiety, which I am already prone to; and may even causes headaches, which I get frequently), I think it might be the best thing for me to do.

As I have written previously about fasting and deleting social media, saying No to some things can be an opportunity to say Yes to other things that are probably better for you. It may be difficulty at first. No, it will be. But we all eventually settle into a routine, whatever it may be. We need a little shock to our routines from time to time.

I guess this is mine.

It’s freeing to not have to worry about getting a headache if I don’t have tea. I’ll probably have less acid reflux too whenever I get back into my Saturday morning runs (it’s snowing like it should in winter today, so no outdoor running this weekend).

I think I’m getting better with change.

14 thoughts on “Breaking the Habit

  1. Inspiring journey. Hope you get stronger and stronger as the days and nights pass. I have my own addictions which I’ve never tried hard enough to break. Your story is encouraging, so please keep us updated.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Yacoob! I have plenty more addictions (sugar being one of the top ones) and this is inspiring me to tackle on addressing those as well. But I think I have to take it slowly. Moderation is in fact harder than complete abstention.

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  3. Hello, tea addict here :) I don’t drink coffee, it gives me heart palpitations and insomnia. But I will fight a horde of well-armed orcs to the death for a cup of tea. We had a tornado in Ottawa last year, and we ended up losing our power for 3 days. Let me tell you, I was jonesing for tea so much that I ended up calling an auntie who lived in another neighbourhood (they had their power) to do a tea delivery. Of course, she totally understood the nature of the emergency and promptly responded to it with a thermos filled to the brim with the sweet nectar. I have some issues with acid reflux, so normally I should stick to the herbal/non caffeinated tea. But seriously, I can’t resist a good cup of chai.

    You are my hero girl! stay the course, I’m rooting for you.

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  4. Haha! I probably would have done the same about three weeks ago. Do you usually just drink herbal tea then? I never could get in to herbal teas. And compared a homemade chai? Forget about it! Alhamdullilah, it’s been over tea weeks. I’m so glad that I won’t have that pre-Ramadan anxiety about whether I should forgo tea or not. Now I know I can!

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  5. Do you put a lot of milk and sugar in your chai? I would use some milk and then later half and half in my chai. Honestly, I just used a tea bag. I’m too lazy to make chai the traditional way with all the spices and whatnot. Haha! Yeah, I’ve yet to find an herbal tea I like. I usually have to add like 5 Tablespoons of honey :)

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  6. I have been trying to give up caffeine for soooooo long too, and just when I managed to cut down on tea I became hooked on coffee. Agh! I suffer from broken sleep (too many loo trips) and can’t sleep in on weekends even if I wanted to. I can get by on weekends but there are some days at work where I might just fall asleep/snap someone’s head off/forget to teach my own lesson if I don’t get caffeine! I’m like you, my wisdom tooth extraction cured my tea addiction….now I have a second impacted wisdom tooth, praying this one’ll cure the need for coffee hahaha.

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  7. I like my chai with all the goodies LOL. But much like you I’m often too lazy to do it that way. I rely on the good old tea bag + sugar (and sometimes milk). My mother gives me the side eye when I do that, she’s old school LOL.

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  8. Oh no! You have another impacted tooth? When was your earlier extraction? I had all 4 taken out in December, so I’m hoping I don’t have to have any more extractions ever. How many cups of coffee do you drink each day? I think the best way to give up caffeine is to first start reducing how many you have each day, and then the strength of your brew. I still suffer from sleep issues (last night), but it’s not as bad (so far). Regardless, I like knowing that I don’t have to use the restroom as much and that I don’t need to structure my day around my tea-drinking. It was a really OCD ritual that I did not need in my life.

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  9. Haha! All the goodies. I agree. When I visit back home, I’m like, “Mom, can you make your special chai for me?” Even my own parents don’t drink chai that way. They only do the stove-brewed chai when they have guests over or when their baby comes back home. LOL

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  10. It was 2 summers ago…How did you cope with all 4 at once? Ouch! Thing is I was out of it for 3 weeks and can’t afford that again, not while working abroad. Extractions are awful! On a school day I need 2 cups. I drink a ton of water too so I’m constantly running between the loo and wherever I need to be hahaha. I suppose it could be worse, I’m going to attempt reducing the strength. Thank you for the tip 😊

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  11. The first week or so after the extraction were pretty bad. The inside of my cheeks were swollen so I was eating pureed and soft foods for close to two weeks. I’m surprised you dentist didn’t take all your wisdom teeth out at once. Was the tooth that is impacted now fine then? Yeah, definitely try to reduce the strength if you can and maybe you can transition to just 1 cup in the morning if you feel you are ready. Let me know if you see any improvements!

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