24 January 2013 · 54 comments

As part of my renewed focus on fitness, I’m doing a 30-day detox. Since January 6th, I’ve had no caffeine, no alcohol, and no manufactured drugs of any sort. The experience has been…interesting.

I’m also trying to eat healthier than I usually do. I started with a day of fasting followed by a three-day juice cleanse. Since then, I’ve tried to avoid processed sugar (truly my one great weakness) and to up my intake of fruits and vegetables. It helps that Kim loves veggies, and that she’s teaching me to prep and eat them in lots of tasty ways, but getting enough vegetables is still tough for me.

Anyhow, as I said, the detox is interesting. There’s no question that I’m much more alert mentally than I have been in the past few months. My mind is active and agile. I’m able to process a lot. There are obvious advantages to this, but there are disadvantages too.

You see, left to its own devices, my mind will spin and spin and spin without ceasing, morning, noon, and night. This is great when I need to get work done, but it’s not so fun when it’s time to sleep. Before this detox, part of my bedtime routine was to take melatonin and/or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and/or a small glass of alcohol. This helped me to fall asleep. Without these crutches, I tend to lay in bed thinking deep thoughts until the wee hours of the morning. As a result, I’m tired most of the day.

But I’m tired for other reasons too, and I’m not sure why. Even when I do get a good night’s sleep (which happens maybe twice a week), I find myself dragging from the late morning until bedtime. For instance, it’s just after noon right now, and I’m exhausted. I feel like I could go sleep for three hours. I just got back from the gym, and I had absolutely no energy there. My workout was slow and sluggish.

I’m not sure what all of the implications are here. Have I been using caffeine and alcohol so long that my body can no longer operate on a normal cycle without assistance? Are the damned eternal Oregon winters acting as an anchor in my middle age?

There are other interesting effects of this detox too.

I didn’t used to drink alcohol. From the time I graduated college in 1991 until late 1999, Kris and I steered clear of beer and wine and liquor. Then, in late 1999, I suffered a couple of panic attacks. I was anxious all of the time. Believe it or not, my doctor recommended I start drinking wine in order to relax.

Since then, I’ve become a social drinker. I’m very aware that alcohol “takes the edge off” for me, allowing me to ease into group situations. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, Kim and I attended a holiday party for her dental office. The conversation was tentative at first, but as people sipped their wine and cocktails, the talk became looser and more natural. Except that I didn’t have any alcohol, and so remained a little on edge all evening. I’m not sure if others noticed it, but Kim did.

I told my therapist about this incident. She encouraged me to learn how to take the edge off without alcohol. That makes a lot of sense, of course, but I’m not sure how to do this. (Actually, this goes to the core of what I’m discovering in therapy: I put a lot of pressure on my self all of the time, so that I’m naturally tense and anxious in most situations. I need to learn how to relax.)

Part of me wants to end this detox early, after only twenty days instead of thirty. It’d be easier. I could go down to the coffee shop on the corner right now and order a coffee, which would jump-start my energy and help me to last through the day. Then when I see Kim tonight, we could share a bottle of bubbly as we talk about what happened during our weeks. Plus, I could then use melatonin and Benadryl to fall asleep.

I’m not going to do that.

It’s a Big Deal for me to be able to make it through this detox. I only have twelve days left. I feel like even taking a sip of coffee or beer would be a sign of weakness. Maybe that’s silly, but it’s important to me to see that I’m strong enough to do this for thirty days without compromise.

Meanwhile, I’m going to take steps to figure out why my body seems to be so fatigued. Maybe it’s just age, but I don’t think so. I have an appointment with a naturopath on Monday morning, and I’m going to have her do bloodwork. I especially want my hormone levels tested.

I’d love to hear from some of you about your experiences with this sort of thing. Have you ever done an extended detox? What was it like? What did you learn? Do you see a naturophatic physician instead of a regular MD? Why or why not? And if you’re getting on in years, what advice do you have for those of us who are reaching our mid forties? What can we expect? What should we watch for?


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