It’s been five years since I missed a bicycle race on Thursday. I was home from work on Wednesday evening, the night before, and decided to do an easy 25-miler to stretch my muscles and pump some oxygen through me. But three miles from home, I was hit by a car doing 65 mph. Machines breathed for me, and I was in and out of consciousness for a month. I transferred to Atlanta’s Shepherd Brain and Spine Center where they taught me to walk again and set me on a path for TBI recovery. 

I left the hospital five years ago with a raft of stern admonitions from very smart people. One thing didn’t bother me: no alcohol for a year. I drank about a beer a month during lawn mowing season and upped that to one a week watching Notre Dame football. But…a caffeine embargo did bother me: I worked and wrote for long hours and kept it all going with cups – there’s a heavy accent on the plural there – of caffeine. I rarely felt the jitters of the black elixir, but drank it by the pot just because I liked it. So, I’ve been off caffeine now for four years – five counting my time in the hospital and recovery – and decided to try it again. Silly? Maybe, but I can’t find two of my favorites in decaf. That, and my grocer started carrying Lavazza, and I was aching to try it.

So I did. Three days ago.

And today? I feel pretty lousy. The back of my neck feels like it’s stuck in a vice, and my head feels like it’s under water. Whenever I bend over to do something, nausea washes over me when I stand up, and I get more of the swimming head syndrome. Inviting caffeine back into my diet is the only thing I’ve changed.

So, I will do what my very smart recovery doctor at the Shepherd Center told me to do when I wanted to quit some of the fifteen drugs I took every day. Regarding the drugs, she said, quit one at a time. Cut the dose in half for the first week and then cut that dose in half for the second week. If I don’t feel a difference, go with it and cut it out. If you feel weird, she said, or lousy, then you’ve found your threshold. Keep taking that dose. It’s advice I’ve used many times in many areas.

So, I’m off caffeine again and feel great. My head is clear, and I rarely get eye floaters. I’ll trade this any day for any supposed jolt I got from the brown bean.

It’s good advice for you, too, even if you don’t have a brain injury or PTSD. If you’re feeling wonky about something, try cutting out what you think might be the cause. Reintroduce it slowly, in small increments, until you feel the same effect. Once there, stop: you’ve found your threshold. I’ve done this with exercise. Maybe because I’m an old guy now, and maybe because I laid out in a hospital bed for months after being tossed to the side of the road like a rag doll, but I can’t work out like I used to. I’m improving, but after three days of running or on my indoor bike, it’s all I can do to get out of bed and do another workout. So, I did what the doctor ordered and took some time off to recove. I learned that working out every other day doesn’t affect me in the same way. And if I’m feeling really worn on my day off, I’ll take another. There’s plenty of time ahead, you know.


A caveat: if you are on medication per doctor’s orders, before making any change, talk to them. Please! Really: do not take anything I say as medical advice. It’s true that I made a living once dissecting brains and pituitary glands, but that was only for research. 


NB – In case you’re wondering, Lavazza does come in decaf, and, yes, it is indeed wonderful. Kind of chewy, very rich, and deep. Another recent fav is Private Selection which I think is a house brand of Harris Teeter, et. al. Then there are my two longtime favorites: Peets and Gevalia. I even still use my Gevalia grinder I got in the ‘80s when I joined the Gevaila subscription club. Ha! It was a radical idea! I’m a true addict, though, and in my grandmother’s words, “will drink anything as long as it is watery, warm, and black.” Truthy, but it’s got to be decaf.

While were at it – this can be important for TBI patients or humans in general: I’ve learned that coffee is one of the crops with the highest levels of pesticide residue after harvesting. Ive started a hunt for organic decaf and have found a couple of brands. It’s expensive, but – not to be gaslighting as I’m not selling anything – what is your brain worth?

Read more here about my accident and advice for recovery from any brain injury in my book Can I Fix My Brain? It’s a free read for Kindle Unlimited readers, and I’ve priced the paperback inexpensively. If you can’t afford the cost, and I know all about how expensive TBI can be, please leave a message, and we’ll work it out. Thanks for reading!


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