How an Ulcer Retrained My Brain

How an Ulcer Retrained My BrainLife got a little crazy a couple months ago, and I ended up with an ulcer. I have a high pain tolerance, but I couldn’t tough this one out. Luckily, I was feeling better in a couple days with medicine. But medicine is not the only treatment. The nurse informed me I’d better stay off caffeine and alcohol for a couple months.

So no coffee, no wine.

No happy mama.

Isn’t that what almost every “mom meme” is about? Coffee and wine? The two pillars of surviving motherhood, according to pop culture.

My routine at this point was two cups of coffee to help me through the morning and a glass of wine in the evening, usually part of my ritual of cooking dinner. I didn’t think I could make it through a day without my routine. How was I going to wake up in the morning? How was I going to wind down in the evening? This was not going to go well.

But I wanted to do anything to help the pain go away. Bye-bye coffee. Bye-bye wine.

It helped that we left on a trip a couple days later, so our routines were thrown off anyway. (Need an excuse for a vacation? This is actually a scientifically proven way to kick habits more easily!) I was surprised to realize I wasn’t thinking much about either. Only had a caffeine headache one day. Otherwise, I felt fine physically and mentally.

Back home, it was harder. I thought I’d cheat a couple times but ended up regretting it. My stomach didn’t care what my mind was battling, it was not tolerating those things.

First, the evenings got easier. I’d pour myself a stemless wineglass of cranberry juice and sip away. It gave me the ritual without the wine.

The mornings were tougher. Tea is just not the same as coffee, and decaf can still irritate your stomach. My mind pulled me to the coffeepot, but my body was screaming, “No! No!” So I didn’t find a good substitute, and there were some sad mornings as the comforting aroma of my hubby’s coffee hit my nose. But I wasn’t dragging like I thought I’d be (it helps that all my small people are currently sleeping through the night).

Sometimes I’d wake up thinking, “I can’t do this day. I’m just not up for it without a boost.” But when coffee was off the table, I realized it wasn’t a caffeine problem, it was an attitude problem.

I thought I needed those things. I didn’t.

I missed them, but I didn’t need them. Contrary to my expectations, I didn’t become a horrible crazy mommy without coffee and wine. I don’t think I became a better mommy, either, but at least I was the same level of crazy without the pain.

Changing routine is hard. I wasn’t dealing with an actual addiction (please seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with that!), I was just breaking habits. Just breaking habits. Sounds simple. What about taking away a paci? Potty training? Changing preschool classes? These are all tough habits and routines to change for our kids, and habits are just as hard to change for adults.

If I was going for maximum impact, I’d say something like, “My health was so fantastic after giving up alcohol and caffeine! I could feel the difference, and I’ll never go back!”

Nope, didn’t happen. I felt no difference other than a healed ulcer. And I’m off the medicine, feeling better, and back to my morning and evening drink routines again. But only half a cup of each to keep my stomach and my mind happy.

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