Throughout my childhood and into adolescence, morning was announced with the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Dad would get up at six am, start coffee and read the morning paper in his tighty-whities reclined in his easy chair (there’s a mental image that you’ll never erase) while drinking his first cup of coffee. Mom would get up and brew coffee in the morning in those years after dad wasn’t around.
Throughout childhood and into adulthood, morning and coffee were inextricably linked for me; and to this day, I wake up when I smell coffee brewing. It’s a better alarm clock that any other that I’ve discovered in nearly sixty years of experience. This fact of life presents a problem when you aren’t allowed to have coffee anymore.
Caffeine is high on the list of food/chemical triggers for Meniere’s, and it is one of the many things that they tell you to give up when you are diagnosed. When I was first diagnosed I poo-pooed this directive. I’d been drinking iced tea and Coca-Cola all my life. Dad had a gas station with one of those ancient 25¢ (15¢ for the beverage, 10¢ for the bottle deposit) Coca-Cola vending machines and I drank Cokes every time I had a quarter to spend in that machine.
I had only recently acquired a taste for coffee myself before being diagnosed with Meniere’s. Before that time I was a tea drinker even though I liked the smell of coffee brewing. Working as one of the ever-present drones in an office cubicle farm where coffee is kept hot and on demand all day long made me come to terms with the quality issues that most coffee services face.
I was reluctant to give up my morning coffee. I fought against giving it up until that one time at the Waffle House where I gave myself a vertigo attack while drinking coffee. That was case closed for me. No more coffee. No more caffeine in anything like a regular dose; so no Coca-Cola, no black tea, etc.
Dropping caffeine from my diet revealed other things, too. That thing I called sugar shakes as a teenager? That was probably caffeine shakes. I fell off the wagon and had a cup of regular coffee one Sunday a few years ago. The same fluttering in the arms, legs and stomach that I used to blame on a dip in blood sugar occurred; and it wasn’t sugar shakes because there was no high sugar intake that preceded them. I drink everything unsweetened unless it comes presweetened. The coffee was black and I still got the reaction a few hours later, a connection that I have purposefully initiated and observed several times since.
I had stopped having these sugar shakes after I stopped drinking caffeinated beverages and not only when I had stopped drinking Coca-Cola, where the sugar was in sugar shakes. I should have known it was the caffeine.
There was this one time when we were out driving test cars on short sleep and I needed a pick me up. When we stopped for our break in Sonora I got some 357 magnum caffeine tablets (a truck driver’s replacement for a pot of coffee) and took one or two of them on the drive down into the hole along the Devil’s River.
Then I had an argument with my test car. She was a beauty, that one. They had us testing tires on new Chevrolet Camaros. I had the prettiest one of the group, midnight blue with a black interior. Most of the interior had been stripped out and replaced with sandbags, but she was still the sweetest car I’d ever driven at the time. She wanted to go to Florida. I told her, “no, we can’t go to Florida.” Didn’t I want to see her on the beach? “Well, yes, of course, a beach would be nice, but Florida isn’t on the course we’re driving.” Come on, she said. We could just take off. It would be weeks before they could find us. We could have a lot of fun by that time. The argument lasted for hours and came to a head as we drove back into Sonora on the way back home.
I made it back to the shop that day, despite the greatest temptation I’d ever encountered in my life. In hindsight, I should have known that caffeine was not my friend based on that experience alone.
I can’t lie, I miss my morning coffee. The quick pick me up and focus that comes with the caffeine buzz. The energy and concentration. I miss that. I don’t miss the lethargy and feebleness of the downhill side. Hot green tea is still good and doesn’t give me symptoms of any kind. A nice, hot cup of green tea on a cool morning. There is nothing better when viewed from a distance.