Trying diets for my addictions
Everyone is addicted to something: be it success, sex or just coffee. Some time ago I noticed that drinking a coffee too early after the previous one makes me hot-tempered to the point of being irritated. So, I tried to go one week completely caffeine-free. After two days of terrible headaches and being overall tired as hell my abstinence lasted for two weeks before giving up. This gave me an idea: how about, instead of the silly New Year’s resolutions, I try to abstain from my addictions, one month at a time?
The plan was simple: each month of the year try to give up on one of the things that I cannot possibly live without. See what happens: is it terrible? What am I losing? What am I gaining, or, what is the addiction giving me? Could I give it up forever? At the end of the month, switch to another one – this whole exercise could possibly be done cumulatively, but I might just as well relocate to a monastery 😉
Addiction: I drink 2 strong espresso dopios every day, in the morning and after lunch. Note: I am what they call a “morning person”.
Rules: trivial. Don’t drink anything containing caffeine, so no black/green/white tea, no coffee, no energy drinks, no Coke, you get the point.
Effects: tired the first few days, then it got better. The daily cycle, or rhythm if you will, got much smoother: instead of the two spikes after taking the coffees it was just a smooth ride through the day. Mornings were just fine: without the body expecting its dose of energy, I felt refreshed from the sleep and could work as usual. During the day the energy levels were dropping, and when I went to bed, I slept the sleep of the just.
Was it terrible? a bit. I really like the free coffee they give you on RegioJet trains. Bye bye to that. Also, I really like coffee! Then there was one occasion where Marian “the enlightened CEO” and I had a meeting in Bruxx. They have awesome Belgian beers, but I wouldn’t know: right at that time I was eating through a dose of antibiotics. They also have some great coffees, and I had… a cup of hot cocoa. And then another one. And then a third one, just to wash the taste down.
Would I do it again? yes, sure, I will. The overall smoother energy during the day is really interesting, and somewhat liberating.
Let me start by saying that I really really don’t want to become an alcoholic. Living in the Czech Republic there is the culture, if you will, of just drinking all the time every time every day. Abundant, cheap and awesome beers make this possible, and why not? It’s just beer. Or three.
Addiction: not there yet, or at least I hope. My average would be ~1 beer a day, plus some moderate amounts of wine and spirits.
Rules: not a drop of liquor, full stop.
Effects: this turned out to be surprisingly simple, just tell people you don’t drink and they respect it to the point of joining me in this experiment (Marian). Funny thing: I dreamt twice about drinking. First time it was just a very strong craving, in-dream. After waking up, the craving went completely away. The second time I drank a beer, in-dream, and dreamt about feeling absolutely guilty about it. Again, woken up, no craving at all.
Was it terrible? no, not at all. Apart from those two dreams, but let’s disregard those
Would I do it again? yes, next year, I will go for a no-alcohol quarter.
Addiction: not sure I would call it that. Sugar is not particularly healthy, so just skipping it could be a benefit on its own. I usually take sugar in my coffee/tea, I love cookies and whatnot, I put maple syrup on my breakfast oatmeal. Every day after lunch I get a craving to stuff my belly a bit more, and sweets are usually the low-hanging fruit.
Rules: my brother-in-law Mojmir has been doing this for several years now, and I have simply adopted his approach. If someone offers me a cake, I will not refuse. If there is something sweet that will go bad if uneaten by me, I will eat it. Simply put, exceptions are OK with this one.
Effects: I stopped putting sugar in my coffee, no big deal. I had to switch to non-sugary belly-stuffers after lunch. I might have eaten a bit more kohlrabi than usual.
Was it terrible? no, the cravings were few and far between.
Would I do it again? I don’t really see a point in this – I should eat less sugar overall, but going so absolutely after it makes no sense.
Addiction: this is a straightforward one. My smartphone is always around, and I always fiddle with it, whenever I have a spare
minute second. Queue in the shop? Whip up the phone, check the Facebook. Bathroom? Read news. Brewing coffee? Check Slack. Walking somewhere? Get ETA from Google Maps. Lying in bed, just before sleep? Watch a Youtube video, or seven.
Rules: I hoped to get a dumbphone, just to get rid of any temptation, but then I remembered that the phone is actually the 2nd factor in the 2-factor authentication. I wouldn’t be able to log into anywhere, and setting up the authentication somewhere else is just not worth it. So I removed all the apps from the phone, stopped the mail app from fetching new mail, and forbid myself to use the web browser. Magic! It’s a really expensive dumbphone now!
Effects: The phone is incredibly boring now. It’s a glorified point-and-shoot. It’s a slab of glass and metal that does nothing interesting. It wakes me up in the morning, it receives calls, I take a picture or two, it tells me the time. That’s about it. No longer do I carry it around – it’s perfectly useless. Going to sleep is much simpler now, just lie down, think for a moment, and sleep. The anxiety that somewhere is something happening that I have to respond to… gone. My colleagues have been told to call me if there is a fire in the server room, but it might not help them too much – the phone just lies on the table for the better part of the day, regardless of where I may roam.
Is it terrible? no, not at all. It’s very pleasant most of the time. Every now and then there is an occasion where the smart-part of the phone would be useful (grocery shopping list, YNAB app, …), but it is far outweighed by the luxury of the phone not bothering me at all.
Would I do it again? probably not. I will consciously keep the number of apps as low as possible, but in this regard I am a fan of self-regulation. It’s nice to not think about the phone, so I can remember the feeling and use it later on, to help me stay off the phone every waking second.
Do I feel like Frodo if he hid the Ring really well in the Bag End and didn’t have to worry about it for a month? sure.
May and so forth
In these four months I have kind of run out of addictions, at least those that can be tested (that excludes things like “addicted to food/air/water”). Either I can figure something out until then, or I just stop the experiment and try it again next year.
I like the Greek phrase gnōthi seauton – “know thyself”. These experiments are helping me understand the only human being I am completely, irrevocably stuck with – me. I like to think that my mind is scientific, and what better thing is there for a scientist than to experiment?
If you want to know yourself a bit more, try identifying your addictions and abstaining from them for a while. You will be surprised!