This discussion topic about the role caffeine plays in sexual addiction recovery is from one of our friends in recovery, Anoni Mouse. This concept was originally discussed on his blog – thanks for contributing to the group discussion and for the time you put into collecting you thoughts. If anyone is interested in sharing a discussion topic, please reach out to me here.
I remember going on to the Rowboatandmarbles.org website and reading the article about the guy who decided to stop drinking caffeinated soda because it was too triggering for him. I’d chuckled at it.
Soda was helping him relapse?
What kind of weird fantasy did he have going on?
Was I addicted to caffeine?
Yeah. I’d been drinking it all my life. I was a Pepsi guy. I’d drink it all the time. We’d buy a 12 pack and it would be gone in just 2 days. I loved the stuff.
I’d tried stopping before. Once I stopped drinking for at least 3 months and lost a lot of weight. So every now and again I’d try stopping it to try and lose weight. This would last for maybe a week. (Which in addict speak – like half a week.) But I’d always go back.
I knew when I was addicted because when I would go a day without it, I’d get headaches that were hard to manage with ibuprofen. It could make me a little irritable. I’d crave it during my working hours and stop at gas stations to get a 44oz. (They are only 79¢!) I’d lie about it. That is to say, I would not tell my wife when I’d buy them, even after she told me she wanted to know when I did.
But I wasn’t using! (i.e. Looking at anything pornographic or anything.) So why did I have to tell her this? She was just trying to manage my life! Haha.
I’ve gotten kidney stones a number of times and the doctors agreed that it was probably from all the soda consumption. I’ve been basically dehydrated for most of my life. I had kidney stones because of soda!
Did you know that doctors say that passing kidney stones are about as close to the pain of childbirth that a man can get? I’ve been told by some female doctors that kidney stones are actually worse. I couldn’t tell you obviously, but I do know that they are the most painful thing I’ve ever had to deal with.
Did the pain of kidney stones help me stop soda? I think the first time I stopped for maybe a week and a half. (Addict speak: almost a week). The next couple of times, none. I didn’t stop. The thought of a world where I couldn’t drink soda was insane.
And besides, the caffeine didn’t affect me anymore. I could knock back a few cans of soda and go right to sleep. Granted I have sleep apnea so it has never been the most restful sleep.
The thought of caffeine helping my lust addiction was almost laughable. It wasn’t like I was drunk or anything. Caffeine didn’t hinder my judgment.
I was a Damn fool. (I guess technically I still am.)
Then one day I asked my wife a question that has destroyed my ignorance.
“What’s the half-life of caffeine?”
For those who don’t know, the half-life of a drug or chemical is basically how long traces of it remain in your system.
If I’d been drinking something I would have spit it out. 12 hours? 12 hours! Holy Crap! That’s half a day? So basically I had almost never been off of caffeine for the last 15 years.
I then got to see what kind of webs spiders make on different drugs and then what kind of web they make on caffeine. The thing was messed up.
Seriously. Even the spider on LSD had a better web! So this was my brain. Well actually, it was worse!
If a sex addict brain looks similar to someone who’s been in a car accident and received frontal lobe trauma then what would my brain scan look like? How grossly messed up had my brain become?
So, we looked into caffeine. Holy poop. Did you know caffeine impairs your cognitive brain? Thus making it easier for the basic human instincts and Flight or Fight Response to take over?
I mean, we’ve all known and debated how caffeine is “bad.” I used to be great at defending my billion Pepsi’s a day. And to tell you the truth, I can say that maybe healthy normal people can drink it, be impaired for a little while (at least a day) but not to the point of anything really self destructive. I don’t know.
But I’m an addict. I’m a Lust Addict, and my brain is ALREADY damaged and broken.
It dawned on me that I was trying to keep my brain broken. Not on purpose, but I was basically letting a doctor (God) try and do brain surgery on me (to keep me sober) and then beat myself on the head with a hammer (soda). No wonder I was always stumbling about in a stupor. (Part of that being ADHD).
No wonder things weren’t changing faster. No wonder I was slow to pick up what was being taught.
I realized that while yes, I’m an addict, relapse is always a possibility (should say a reality, addicts use. Without God a relapse wouldn’t be a possibility it’s just fact), but by drinking caffeine, I was HELPING the addiction. I was HELPING me stay in addict mode. I was HELPING me have less empathy. I was HELPING me have less connection with God.
So I stopped.
I haven’t had caffeinated beverages since February. And I try not to have sugary soda either. (I’m scared to find out what sugar in and of itself does to my already broken brain).
I tell you what, it sucked at first and sometimes still does. I had a headache for about 2 weeks. I actually got really sick right after, and I’m not sure if that was because of the detox or because I caught something. I went through a period of crawling out of my skin and being irritated.
I know my brain is still healing from that abuse, but I cannot tell you how much it has helped me. I find it JUST as important as working the program and going to therapy. Maybe it helped so much because I’ve been working the program and seeing a therapist.
But I have seen tremendous behavior change since I’ve stopped. I’ve had a huge, HUGE increase in empathy. There have been hundreds of times now where I’ve walked into one of my kids rooms, or into their arguments, or whatever it may be, and actually RECOGNIZED the looks on their faces!
I’ve been able to register, “He/she looks scared. What am I doing that makes them look scared?” And change how I look as I approach a situation so that they know I’m not mad.
I’ve been able to say something to a child and see the look on their face afterward and think, “They are sad. I said something that hurt them.” And then be able to assure them that I’m not mad and that I love them and give them reasons WHY I need them to stop screaming or pick up their mess and let them know they are good.
It’s been awesome. Other side effects: eating out just isn’t as fun to do anymore. I don’t care for it as much. The excitement is gone if I can’t have my Pepsi.
But it helps keep me sober. It helps me be in the present and enjoy life so much more. I interact with others better, I understand more. There is a level if clearness in my thoughts and brain that I haven’t experienced before.
I’m grateful for the clarity.