I gave up marijuana in my late teens. I gave up cigarettes in my twenties. I (virtually) gave up hard liquor in my thirties. Is the end of beloved wine and coffee near?
At the time I gave up those substances, it was not for moral or ethical reasons, but rather because my body, as young and capable as it seemed, simply let me know one day that if I wanted to continue my existence on this earth, there could be no more ---------------- (fill in the blank by decade). Call it a case of hypochondria; I have what I have acceptingly come to describe as a sensitive system. As for why I need a two hour nap after a slice of pizza, as for why I need to open all the windows when a house guest wears perfume, as for why I seem to smell and taste things others don’t, I can only speculate. Maybe it’s genetics. Maybe it’s environmental—and by environmental, I mean from my past environment: the decade from childhood to teenage-hood I spent living in a basement apartment and sleeping next to an oil burner. I would not be surprised if the reason my thyroid is supposedly attacking itself—that has been the latest diagnosis, anyway—is the result of those years spent living among mold, rodents, and photo deficiency.
Whatever the reasons, this sensitive system of mine has been both the bane and blessing of my existence—bane for obvious reasons, not the least of which is being judged and criticized for being a general pain in the ass, and blessing if you believe the health gurus who claim that I am lucky to wear my inflammation outside of my body, therefore getting a forewarning before something serious erupts. Dr. Andrew Weil and his celebrity contemporary, Dr. Oz contend that inflammation is the precursor to disease, and since I wear mine outside of my skin, so to speak—in the form of little angry red polka dots, (diagnosed as Guttate Psoriasis), that mottle my torso and limbs, I am fortunate that I can literally see when I am in need of some anti-inflammatory measures. What a lucky girl am I!
The polka dots haven’t been my only clue throughout the years; there have been lesser more subtle hints when something in this mysterious body of mine goes awry. There was the time I, (along with my non-basement-dwelling friends), smoked pot, and I felt myself falling into a wormhole from which I could not escape. As I glanced around the room, I saw that not only was I the only one potentially hallucinating, I was the only who seemed remotely affected from the two bong hits. While everyone else was laughing and eating chips, I collapsed on the bed and gave into the wormhole. Luckily a friend brought a cold washcloth and some ice water. “I don’t think pot’s your thing,” she said. That was an understatement.
Cigarettes were also not really my thing. In the 80’s and 90's when cigarettes were still fashionable, I was admittedly that pain-in-the-ass smoker who acted like a non-smoker. While blowing my own smoke into the atmosphere, I would ask a friend to switch her cigarette to the furthest hand from me because I couldn’t handle the secondhand smoke. After extinguishing my own cigarette, I could sneeze up to forty times. After a number of years of this insane, self-afflicted torture, my kidneys began to ache in the mornings, and I eventually took myself to hypnosis. When that didn’t work, I finally just stopped buying them.
Hard liquor was fun, but only for me. Anyone who has partied with me can tell you that the metamorphosis for me comes not after three drinks—for that’s when the brown-outs and black-outs come, but the moment the alcohol touches my lips. Of the many drugs available, it is a strange thing indeed that alcohol is a legal one, considering that it is a neurotoxin.
There have been other things I’ve had to let go, smaller things—things I am almost embarrassed to mention, but alas, things I will also not miss too much, like eggs. Eggs and I have had a strange history over the years—one my sister, who claims I burped eggs into her face when we were little girls, would certainly vouch for. Recently, feeling tired and run down, I went for an allergy test and discovered that eggs are certainly on my no-no list, as are gluten and broccoli. The other day I had a cup of tea with honey and almost passed out. I consulted my allergy card. Sure enough: three stars for honey and four for black tea.
I could fight through all of this, of course. I could chalk it all up to nonsense and go hog-wild and have steamed broccoli followed by an egg! But the problem, now that I know these triggers exist, besides that the psychosomatic games are well underway, is that frankly, it’s getting harder and harder to deny my body’s reactions as I get older. Ultimately I find myself so exhausted sometimes, it’s shocking. Please tell me I can’t be the only one who at eighteen existed on caffeine, nicotine, snickers bars and vodka cranberries, and who now needs a balanced diet of protein, fat, essential oils, and vitamins-- and that's just for breakfast-- or else a collapse is imminent.
But wine? Coffee? I will be truly saddened to have to give up these vices. These were supposed to be the ingestibles that would grow old with me; the socially accepted drugs that garnered me respect and admiration the more I knew about them. Sure, it took me a decade to learn that good wine doesn’t come from a box, but since then, I have been on a fast track to connoisseur. I now drink wine with corks, and have visited wine country. I even have a few French friends!
I know what you’re thinking. Just be moderate! Easy for someone with a normal system to say. That’s like when people tell a psoriatic to just put some cream on their faulty-immune-induced skin breakout.
At the same time, moderation is the only hope for now. Griping about it sure doesn’t seem to change things. I suppose the only other thing worse than listening to someone talk about what they ate for breakfast is listing to someone talk about what they can’t eat for breakfast. And the only other thing worse than that is me without coffee. So for now, I implore you Dear Body: please oh please don’t shut my adrenal glands down. You took away my half and half and then my silk soy creamer. If you allow me French Roast at least until my sixties, I promise to behave and drink my Milk Thistle Tea in the evening