First things first, how and why did three members of the Yellow Kite team decide to do an alcohol detox AND caffeine detox at the same time?
Caitriona: I was distressed to discover from Keep It Real that my supposedly slimline G&T contains around 3 1/2 teaspoons of sugar and the NHS compares 5 pints a week for a year to 221 doughnuts! Trying to cut back on sugar and processed foods isn’t so easy when you’ve had a couple of glasses of fizz or when you’re taking a tea break in a cafe brimming with biscuits. I’m hoping a detox from both is the way to kickstart better eating and drinking habits generally.
Dan: Coffee, and its faithful companion tea, have been welcome friends in my morning routine for a long time, and my lunchtime routine for that matter, and my afternoon and evening routines, and almost any time in between. When volunteering for this trial I realised I could not thing of a day in my adult life that did not involve caffeine. During university, holidays, quiet nights in, days out and yes, of course work, the blood in my veins was fuelled by a torrent of caffeine. If anyone needed to try and ease themself from its powerful grip, it was me.
Becca: Never has one woman owed so much to coffee beans! Dependency would probably have been the best word to describe my relationship with coffee. The barristas at 6th story, our swanky roof top café, know me by name, they know what drink I order and they can even produce it when someone else asks for it on my behalf. Having a café upstairs is a blessing at times, but for the caffeine addict, it’s a sweetie shop where the brown stuff comes on tap, you barely have to leave your desk for it. This is a worry and a financial drain, so I’m taking up this challenge.
Caitriona: I had enormous difficulty getting up this morning. This is definitely partly due to the wedding party I left late last night and I’m not sure whether the headache/dry mouth/queasy feeling is also party fall-out or caffeine withdrawal. My colleagues in marketing tell me I am ‘less delightful than normal’ and they’re concerned I have ‘gone very quiet.’ Fortunately, I booked a half day from work with this in mind, so I could spend the afternoon lethargically at home. Although exhausted, I find it really hard to get to sleep early and make myself a giant dinner. I think I will be happy to forego alcohol for a week. Caffeine not so much.
Becca: By 10am I am sweating, after having an unusually large breakfast of porridge and honey (something I never eat) I’m already struggling to shake the bleary eyed feeling – in fact my screen even looks funny this morning. By 11am I am starving, considering cheese straws which are also readily available from the rooftop heaven/hell hole. By 11.30 the headache has arrived and I’m feeling even hungrier, so much so that I eat lunch at 12.15, again something I never do, totally forgetting I have a lunch meeting at 1pm, where I later sit, apologising that I forgot and ate and order an abnormally large chocolate éclair as recompense. It’s already going drastically downhill. In the hopes that said éclair might banish headache I wait a while, but at 3.15 succumb to hard drugs in the form of two Panadol tablets.
Dan: In the morning the whole world seems to be a cold and hostile place. The shadows seem to stay stuck to things even after the lights are on. The sleep in the corners of my eyes feels like it lasts until eleven. I have eaten half a packet of Polos by then. At lunch I feel hungrier than usual and have sweets after my food which I never do. By the afternoon, the water, sugar and herb tea have helped a great deal and my concentration seems to have improved but an hour before the end of the day I have a light headache and fuzziness that won’t clear and take 2 ibuprofen to help finish off the day’s work. Home could not have been more welcome and in the evening I have no problem whatsoever in sinking into a comfortable sleep, the fear of the looming shape of Day 2 not being enough to keep my newly clean body from its slumber.
Caitriona: I feel more awake than yesterday, but not as awake as normal. I am getting a lot of sympathy and support from everyone who I mention this detox to, and I am mentioning it to everyone, in an effort to excuse my yawns. I ate a lot of sugary treats early this morning, obviously substituting one stimulant for another. This was the opposite of my intention with this detox, but the thought of having no rollo blondie AND no tea is too much to bear.
Becca: Decent night’s sleep after a second round of painkillers for the headache and a light meal. Was craving savoury food all day – I’ve got a really sweet tooth so this is unusual. Woke up feeling abnormally tired and groggy, but better once the day got going. Still finding focusing a struggle, but a little more switched on after a yoghurt for breakfast. Thinking about lunch from 11.30… At 12.30 we read our diary entries to each other from yesterday, realising our joint misery brings some welcome relief. This is short-lived at the thought of taking on the 5 further days. Spent most of the afternoon feeling tired and yawning at inappropriate moments!
Dan: After the horrors of Day 1, Day 2 arrived with an unprecedented sense of naivety: surely today would be better. I would be free. I would be re-energised. I would be able to concentrate for more than 30 seconds. This does not turn out to be the case. Food cravings were worse than the day before.Two kinds of cake were eaten. One of them with melted Rollos in. Before 10.30. By lunchtime the headache had returned with a vengeance and uncontrollable yawning. The afternoon was also more difficult than the previous day and my concentration levels hit rock bottom. The evening was much easier but reading and focusing were still problematic and bed, when it came, had never been more welcoming.
Surely, tomorrow would be better…
Caitriona: I am pretty upset that I have not had any cake OR tea OR alcohol today. I have also not had any meetings. This is not at all normal in the publishing industry and I realise today that the combination of these things might be a large part of what I love about this job. I am about to leave work for a book launch that will certainly feature cake and alcohol. It will be my biggest test so far.
Becca: Woke up feeling a lot fresher, but struggled after the first 30 minutes of the day. Just about managed to have a conversation with a familiar face at the train station but spent the whole time wishing he didn’t bother striking one up. Very bleary again all day. Struggling to focus and feeling very low on the enthusiasm spectrum. Overall, I would say this is a depressing Wednesday. I am so depressed and resigned to the idea this will never end, that I think it’s Tuesday today!
Dan: Finding it difficult to tell whether today was better or if I was just more used to the suffering. Energy levels and ability to focus still in absolute free fall and on the way to work (a journey of almost an hour) I read one page of my book. The headache was bad around lunchtime but in the afternoon things cleared up slightly and I was able to get more done that either of the previous afternoons. Morale however is at rock bottom. The remaining 2 days loom large and the only feeling which is developing is a silent resignation.
Caitriona: I’m pretty smug that I refused a delightful looking rhubarb martini and NYETimber sparkling white wine at the launch last night. I also came home relatively early, slept deeply and woke up with none of the typical dry-mouth dehydration. However. When someone pipes up ‘anyone for tea’ in the office, I don’t think ‘I NEED TEA’ but rather ‘I really, really wish I could join in this tea party.’ I miss the sociability.
Becca: Started the day feeling decidedly better but still groggy. My head arrived in the game at around 4pm, when I managed to perk up considerably – this spurt of energy lasted for around half an hour. After several important meetings, in which I struggled to string a sentence together, and a late night working, I looked longingly at Starbucks, still craving coffee at Kings Cross Station at 10pm.
Dan: The solemn mood of Day 3 cast its heavy shadow over the morning. Waking up, showering and getting to the tube all felt as though they were performed by someone else. This veil of distance between body and consciousness failed to lift for the whole day. Day 4 was however the first day which was almost entirely free of headache. Though weary and still having strange hunger patterns, I was able to work with much more effectiveness than the previous days.
Caitriona: Hello Friday! I would describe myself as chipper today. A quick poll of the office returns ‘there has been an uplift’ although they also laugh when I say I am thinking of trying to be a ‘one cup of tea a day’ girl from now on. I may also be influenced by the discovery of Paul’s coconut macaroons. So delicious. Such a motivational boost. All week I assumed the weekend would be the easiest part of this challenge, but now it’s upon me I wonder if spending two days with my parents, who instilled in me my love of tea and wine, is going to be more tricky.
Becca: Please please please can I have it yet? I NEED it. All I can think about now, so close to the end, is the disruption that cutting caffeine has made to my week. I feel unsure of myself, what have I really done? Did I achieve what I would have, if only I had the focus that caffeine affords me at around 8.45am every morning? Today is a half day in the office, it has barely begun before I have left again. At the end of the lunchtime train is my friend, currently on maternity leave. We arrive at her house, beautiful baby, a sunny afternoon, an enormous chocolate cake await, and the killer question: ‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ – did she really need to ask?
Dan: The end is nigh. After a troubled night’s sleep the fear of falling asleep at my desk was ever-present. At the tube station, as I got off the train, a man in front of me lifted the lid from the paper cup that contained his morning cappuccino. I could see the gentle steam rising from its surface and could smell the rich flavour for just a few seconds. It was enough to send a Proustian wave of memory rushing through me and suddenly all the cups of delicious coffee I could remember were in my mind all at once. I reached the office feeling dejected and, for want of a better word, bitter. To my surprise though, despite the feeling of dislocation and the persistence of continual yawning, I was still headache free and able to work as normal. The problem had shifted away from being physical to being emotional: I wanted coffee. I wanted coffee very much indeed. Physically this day has been a triumph but mentally I’m still very much in the grip of caffeine and am not sure I will be able to last the weekend.
We are what we drink
We learned this week that so much of our behaviour, both socially and individually, is dependent on what we’re drinking. Of course our focus, our energy levels and our enthusiasm are also influenced by sleep and food. However, just changing what we drink had a major impact on all of us. Whether this prompts us to rethink our habits for life remains to be seen, but it definitely made us more aware.
If you try, are trying or have tried a drinks detox, we’d love to know if your experience is similar to ours. Let us know in the comments section below!