Recently I embarked upon a madcap, sanity-risking adventure. It was not a safari, or sumo wrestling, or even match.com. It was a detox/cleanse. Why? For the best reason in the world: I had a coupon.
When I called the number on the coupon, Flower, the proprietor, scheduled an appointment for the following week.
“Hold on, Flower,” I said. “Can I drink coffee on this detox/cleanse?”
Merry laughter. “Of course not.”
“Why, how much do you drink?”
“I’ve never counted. Maybe ten cups.”
Pause. “Per day?”
“Well, start cutting back now or you’re going to have one hell of a headache.”
The next day I laced my espresso roast with decaf, in a nine-to-one ratio. I drank my usual pot of coffee (I have a Moccamaster, the Lamborghini of coffeemakers!) and the following day weakened it further. On day #3 I got a headache. Which lasted for two weeks.
And an urgent, screaming need for naps.
And lethargy. Aching despair. Existential anxiety. Acne.
I called Flower and pushed back my appointment, because coffee withdrawal was gruesome enough without giving up Diet Coke and M&Ms. I needed time. I feared a psychotic break. Me, who's quit cigarettes, alcohol, pot and other things I won't mention in case I'm nominated for the Supreme Court.
At this point, 3 different friends recommended Bikram Yoga. You know about the Rule of 3, right? If 3 people mention something, you must check it out. It’s the law.
Yet, I hesitated. Yoga and I have a troubled past: At 14, I was doing a headstand (sirsha-asana) in my living room, came out of it awkwardly, landed in my mother’s terrarium, and ended up in the ER, getting 9 stitches.
There were no headstands in Bikram Yoga, my friends assured me. It’s 90 minutes of 26 regimented postures in a studio heated to 104 degrees—what its founder, a guy named Bikram Choudhury, calls “the torture chamber.” Hard to resist that, huh? And besides . . . I had a coupon.
So I showed up, sweated, survived, went home, drank 320 quarts of water and took a short 3 hour nap. And kept going back, because the coupon’s good for a month.
A week later I made my sad, sleepy way to Flower’s office, and left with a bag of weird powders and potions, a shopping list, and instructions (“no microwave, Teflon, tap water”).
Then followed 9 days of the kind of food I imagine they serve in the gulag. A few
vegetables, a handful of brown rice, some organic berries. A vial filled with Mystery Drops, some semi-disgusting green stuff you drink once a day.
Yes, my skin cleared up, my chronic back pain receded, and I lost 5 pounds, half of it from crying jags. I also lost my will to live. Oh, there were moments of euphoria, but they were interspersed with hunger so acute I contemplated eating the houseplants. Why did I keep on?
For one thing, Uranus is currently at 29 degrees Pisces, the exact degree of my ascendant. If you’re into astrology, enough said.
Secondly, last fall my doctor found a tiny blip in my EKG, the kind of thing that’s probably meaningless, but in someone whose family members routinely keel over from heart disease, worth mentioning. “How do you deal with stress?” Dr. Iqbal asked me. Kickboxing, I told him. And caffeine. “Less coffee, more yoga,” he suggested.
I lasted the whole 9 days (I cheated on days 7,8, and 9 with several pieces of sugar-free gum, but don’t tell Flower). On Day 10, I had a cup of coffee and some cookies. Talk about nirvana.
And now I’m back to my old tricks except . . . more yoga, less coffee.
Name your poison.