Thursday, November 14, 2013

More than six months without coffee and I haven't killed myself or anyone else...yet

I may have mentioned this before...oh, I don't know, six months ago, but I quit coffee.  Cold Turkey.  I know what you're asking:  are you out of your mind, Jewel?  Well, yes and no.   

In April, just a few days before my kidney transplant, I sipped on a nice hot cup of delicious coffee provided by my job.  If you knew where I worked, then you'd immediately be jealous because my job basically has it's own cafe with different flavors of hot and iced coffee...and SNACKS...and they are all delicious.  I had been sipping on possibly the second of my typical three, three and a half cups that I usually downed during the day, when I felt a shooting pain run through my gut.  It threw me off for a bit.  It really startled me as most shooting pains do. I sat at my desk and pondered why my stomach could possibly be upset with this liquid black gold; this precious drink that keeps me running like a well-fueled worker- bee at my desk just type, type, typing away and not sleep, sleep, sleeping on my keyboard.  I took a beat, a few seconds to allow my body to regroup and settle itself, and proceeded to take another sip of my coffee.  Another shooting pain.  And this time, the pain rocketed up to my neck, briefly latching onto my gag reflex.  

My stomach was hurting and I was actually about to throw up my coffee.  My COFFEE.  

This really upset me because I don't like coffee--I love it.  And at the time it wasn't that I simply wanted my coffee--I needed it.  I can recall too many nights spent at one of the  coffee shops at my university.  At that time I was still pretty new to coffee and its wonders.  Too scared to try it black or with just cream, I grew fond of the chocolatey java mixes known as Mocha.  A few years later, I expanded my palette and added vanilla lattes to my roster of super cups.  On trips to Puerto Rico and Hawaii, I sought out cafes to try their best local brews. I remember waking up at 2 A.M. with Ben to drive to Maui's dormant volcano to see the sunrise. We took along two friends--two strong cups of Kona coffee.  And it was a beautiful sunrise because I was able to open my eyes and take it all in, instead of squinting beneath droopy eyelids.

When I started work after college, four years ago, I stupidly treated myself to a medium cup of Dunkin Donuts blend every morning. I say stupidly because I realized a year later that buying coffee everyday is quite an expensive habit to have.  When the company I work for was bought out by another larger company, were were provided with a whole "cafe" of different flavored coffees all made for us throughout the day.   And it's FREE.  


Because of my husband's and my penchant for staying up insanely late on weekdays (with our heads hitting the pillow at midnight or 1 A.M.), and my incredibly poor kidney function just six months ago, you can imagine how mornings and me are not friends.  No, we do not go together like "rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong" (GREASE reference for those of you cooler than me).  Hell, to me, is asking me to wake up early every day for the rest of my life.  Can you tell I'm not a parent nor am I emotionally and mentally mature enough to be one right now? 

Before my transplant, I was definitely one of those people who'd scream "DON'T TALK TO ME!" when walking to the employee cafe in the mornings...until I got my coffee.  Then, once I had that warm cup of java in my hand, I became all softness and light, sweet and contrite...until about 11 A.M. when my first crash of the day hit.  I'd grab another cup of coffee and I was all good to go until the post-lunch crash, then I'd grab my third cup.  Around 4 PM sometimes I'd fill half a cup with some Earl Grey, just to give me that extra push to 5:30.  Ridiculous, I know.  Who needs coffee to make it through the last hour and a half of a workday? I did.

Looking back, I won't go as far as to say I was a crazy coffee addict.  There are more people in the world who drink a lot more coffee than I did.  But the coffee wasn't really doing me any favors.  Sure, it has antioxidants according to whatever MSN Living post you're reading today, but those antioxidants didn't really keep my kidneys from failing.  To make matters worse, on the weekends, when I wasn't at work and just an elevator ride from four different blends of hot coffee, I had to suffer through headaches, yawning, and drowsiness on Saturdays and Sundays because I was too cheap to go to Starbucks and didn't want to be tempted by McGriddles at Mickey Dee's while buying coffee for a buck.  But there was always Monday, I thought.  I always had Mondays at work to look forward to, not because I was SOOO eager to go to work but because there would be coffee.

One guess how I reacted when my transplant coordinator told me to quit coffee after my transplant.  No idea?  Well, my face dropped.  Not just my jaw, but my entire face slid onto the floor.  In fact, my head just started spinning trying to picture my life without coffee.  No, I thought.  Impossible.  I didn't sign up for this!  I signed up for a kidney transplant!  Not TORTURE!!  

You know me--Drama Town.

Now, to be fair, she didn't say that I should completely stop drinking coffee forever, just for about six weeks after my transplant while I was still monitoring my urine output.  Coffee is a diuretic, which means it causes urination more often than if you just drink water or juice. This can really confuse things when you're trying to measure the urine output of a new kidney.  There is some research that coffee can have some affect on your kidney function, however, none of my doctors ever told me to kick my coffee habit in the 10 years that I lived with FSGS.  My coordinator was mostly telling me to avoid caffeine, including black tea or breakfast tea and Chai, so that I could more accurately measure how well my new kidney was working.  

Well, let me tell you, it was easier to quit coffee and black tea than I thought it would be.  Here, want my recipe for quitting coffee and caffeine?  I'll give it to you!
  • Add 10 minutes of shooting pains in your stomach while you're trying to do work in the office;
  • Sprinkle on about six minutes of nausea;
  • Fold in 10 years of kidney disease; 
  • Mix, then bake.  Frost with a layer of impending kidney transplant, then
  • For the topping, line about a thousand dollar bills on top, you know, because medical procedures aren't cheap;
  • Then finish it off with \beautiful frosted calligraphy, in red, with the phrase "I really don't have time/can't afford for anything else to be wrong with me right now so I guess I can't finish this coffee."  
And Viola!  You've successfully quit coffee.  

Since the day that I threw a 3/4 full cup of Sugar Cookie blend with half and half into the garbage can, my life has mostly been the same.  I still have to wake up early for work.  And I still stay awake until midnight.  But, that's without ANY caffeine.  I drink GREEN and HERBAL teas now.  With no caffeine.  And I make it through the day, without crashing, without complaining, and without screaming.  I make it.  

I'm pretty sure I can drink coffee now if I wanted to, or black tea, since I'm not monitoring my urine output.  But I'm too scared I'll relapse. I still have dreams about drinking coffee.  And I love the smell of a freshly brewed cup (someone else's) just a little too much.  Way too much. 

I'm recovered coffee drinker, but you know how it goes.  Once a coffee-addict, always a coffee-addict. 

My new homies--the tea section at my job.