Quitting 4 weeks ago was a challenge, but I'm still going strong!
New Year's Resolutions have always been silly to me. Why do we have to all of a sudden make giant life changes when we turn over from December to January?
When you're ready to make a change in your life, you're ready to make a change in your life.
This is the case with me - and Energy Drinks.
Let me start by saying that I cannot begin to speak on the struggles of HEAVY addiction, nor am I trying to compare my addiction to someone else's addiction to a much more addictive substance. That's not my purpose at all. Nor am I trying to minimize the severity and often lifelong struggle that addicts go through.
I do know how to tell when something is just a thing you enjoy, and when it starts to become a dependency and you need to put the activity in check. I guess the only thing I can compare it to is when I was a smoker.
Shocked? Yes. I used to be a pretty heavy smoker. I was, in the sense, a TRUE social smoker though. Did I smoke often? Yes. But I never CRAVED a cigarette. I would go three or four days without smoking a cigarette, then I'd go out drinking and - BAM - I'd puff down a WHOLE PACK in a night. Probably not the healthiest decision, but I made my bed - so I slept in it. I never went out of my way to BUY cigarettes, and I didn't get all itchy if I went those two or three days without them. Another interesting fact about my smoking days, I was able to pick up the cigarettes and put them down with ease. I had no trouble with the horrific addiction to nicotine that most people experience. So I was able to quit cold turkey.
However, with energy drinks - this was not the case. I was throwing down a Rockstar or Bang energy drink EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. For a good three or four years. I would purchase them in bulk, and sometimes put down two in a day. I loved the taste of them, and in the beginning - I loved the burst of energy they gave me. But eventually, I began to build up a tolerance for them. It was turning into more than "I just need a quick caffeine boost to get through the day". It was turning into "Oh crap - I drank my last one and I don't have any - I have to stop and get another three or four on my way into work!"
It was to a point where I was developing anxiety if I didn't have a steady supply of them, and if I didn't have one in a day - I made a POINT to make sure I had one the next day. I was going out of my way when I was on trips with my wife to find a gas station that sold my flavors. I made myself late to many a social gathering because I wanted to "grab a Rockstar before I got there." The dependency was transitioning from mental to physical. I would start to "feel tired" if I didn't have them and decide "welp, probably because I haven't had an energy drink today!" then head out to Kwik Trip and pick up 3 for $5.
Sometime at the end of last year, I found myself stopping at THREE different gas stations to find the energy drink I wanted, and this was while I was in South Carolina visiting my mother. I was spending time I COULD have been hanging with my mother - who I rarely see - and I found myself driving around Pawley's Island, South Carolina in search of a Miami Cola "Bang" energy drink.
This troubled me. I was not necessarily hurting myself or anyone around me, but I was CLEARLY developing a dependency on these - and the bizarre part was these were no longer doing anything for me in the sense of an 'energy boost'...they were just a clear addiction that I was hooked on them. And at a cost of $2-3 per can, this wasn't exactly a cheap habit.
Plus when you look at the ingredients on these things, they are LOADED with chemicals. Sure I was drinking the "sugar free" ones - but they have to use so many chemicals to make them taste like they HAVE sugar, and are delicious.
After taking a 13,000feet look at my situation it was clear that I was on the path to a full blown addiction of these things. It was becoming pathetic. So I took note as to what they were REALLY doing for me....and the answer was NOTHING. Except draining my wallet when I purchased them. For what? I wasn't even getting extra energy out of them...I would even drink them AT NIGHT and be able to go asleep a few hours later.
Maybe it is because of my will to simply drop smoking so quick, but I applied the same mentality to these energy drinks that had a hold of me - and I decided to stop them. Cold Turkey. And this just so happened to be at the beginning of the year. So was it a New Years Resolution? I mean, I guess you could call it that - but this could have happened in March or November or July. It happened when I was ready. I was done relying on them and freaking out if I didn't have any of them in stock. It was time.
NOW - the first three or four days were the hardest. I can't lie. I had some MAJOR caffeine withdrawals and the second or third day, I developed a headache that rivaled even the worst hangover headache I'd ever had...so bad so that I had to take a day off work it was THAT unbearable. I couldn't go make fart jokes for 4 hours...I was incapacitated. Some simple google searches and it was evident I was having some side effects from not drinking 800mg of caffeine a day.
After that - it was just a mental struggle and finding things to replace the addiction. I've since downgraded to Mountain Dew Zero one per day if any at all. It gives me the carbonated drink that I crave, and a FRACTION of the caffeine - that 800 MG a day had to be doing a number on my heart...and the chemicals used in them were certainly eroding at my kidneys. That shit will kill ya if you aren't careful. I will eventually phase out the Mountain Dew Zero and be on just Green Tea or a cup of coffee if I REALLY need the caffeine.
I also started exercising regularly again which has helped with my energy levels DRASTICALLY - it's crazy how physical activity can have such an AWESOMELY BADASS impacts on your mental AND physical health.
Again - I don't think this is any sort of major accomplishment - and certainly didn't have as bad a hold on me as alcohol or other harder drugs can have on your body. I am happy that I was able to recognize the fact that this was becoming an addiction, and I nipped it in the bud immediately.
I'm now over three weeks and haven't had ONE energy drink, and guess what - I still have plenty of energy. That doesn't mean I don't still walk by them in the cooler at the convenient store and think back at how much I loved drinking them - but then I realized that I've probably added a few years back on to my life by kicking the habit.
Sometimes in life, we need to take a step back and evaluate our behaviors. Kind of like I did with my sports obsession a few years back.
RELATED: Why being a bandwagon / fair-weather sports fan is OKAY.
If you think something may be a problem, or may be taking a toll on your mental or physical health - take a step back and make a realistic assessment on how it is impacting your life. Is it healthy? Could you live without this? Is it harming yourself or others? Does what you're doing have long term have potential impacts on your overall health and well being? It may be time to re-evaluate your relationship with these things. That's okay! Your life can still be fulfilling and rich without some of the vices we stumble upon.
This goes ESPECIALLY if you are SERIOUSLY dependent on alcohol or drugs and it is impacting your world. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. Sometimes you can't do it on your own, and you know what - THAT'S OKAY TOO! Someone who is struggling with DEEP addiction will often times shame themselves into NOT reaching out because they fear they will be in trouble, or judged for their addiction. Let's knock that shit off. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
You're not alone. Be the best version of you that you can possibly be.
Stay safe. Make good life decisions.