It’s true that the principle of love is not about self-gratification but about what benefits others…but sometimes this is easier said than done.
“You’ve gotta help me!” said Maya, a 35 year old mother of 2 children. “Barry has become increasingly difficult to live with. He’s agitated much of the time, especially on weekends. After going through law school and then months of study to pass the bar, Barry was offered a position at a prestigious law firm. This was a dream come true for all of us, however, things quickly turned for the worse. Barry works an average of 60 hours a week at the firm and we never see him. He has most weekends off, but much of that time he’s complaining and angry. He rarely plays with the kids anymore, nor do we ever go out together like we use to. When my parents invite us over for a family function, he never wants to go. He claims he’s too tired and doesn’t feel like socializing. This has become a real problem in our marriage. I thought we were a team but it seems like the team is me and the kids, minus their dad!” she said angrily.
“Barry has a history of alcohol problems, but since he gave his life to God six years ago, he hasn’t had one drank. God really did touch him. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it myself. Nevertheless, his behavior make me wonder if he might have returned to his old habit even though I haven’t smelled or seen any signs of alcohol. I’ve asked him if he’s been drinking again and he denies it but honestly, I’m not sure I believe him.
Something is going on but I don’t know what? This isn’t the man I married.” she said.
“I don’t blame Maya for being angry at me!” said 42 year old Barry. “Everything she says is true. I’ve been acting like a jerk and I haven’t been there mentally or physically for her or the kids. It’s not that I don’t want to, I just don’t have the energy to play with them anymore. I really do like her parents but I don’t want to go out on the weekends after working long hours all week. I’m sorry. She’s just going to have to understand!”
She thinks I’ve started drinking again but that isn’t true. I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol since I gave my life to God several years ago. However, I am concerned about a few things that I haven’t shared with Maya. I just haven’t wanted to worry her because she already has so much on her plate, but I’ve been having a lot of headaches lately, especially on the weekends. I’m having difficulty concentrating too and sometimes I get really nauseated. Falling asleep hasn’t ever been a problem for me, but lately, that too is an issue. I promise you, I’m not drinking any alcohol only lots of coffee,” he said with a grin. “Do you think my problems might be due to the stress of my new job?” he asked.
At my request, Barry made an immediate appointment to meet with his primary doctor. A complete checkup with blood work was ordered to see if the physical symptoms he was experiencing might be due to a more serious medical issue. Later that week his doctor reported the tests came up normal.
On the surface it appeared the stress of his new job was the reason for the problems he was experiencing (headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, sleeplessness and loss of motivation).
I had Barry fill out a daily task calendar for two weeks to give me an idea of his habits, sleep patterns, food and drink consumption, time spent on the computer, and any other routine responsibilities he might have. He also kept a “mood” chart so we could pinpoint any patterns, what time of day he felt anxious, tired, etc. and for how long.
The charts showed an interesting pattern. Most of the physical symptoms exhibited themselves only on the weekends just as Maya had suggested. But why? It wasn’t until I did a little more probing that I was able to find the answer to that question.
Barry’s daily task chart revealed that he drank an average of 6 cups of black coffee every day at work. He began to struggle with sleeplessness and anxiety during the work week so because he suspected the coffee might be contributing to this, he stopped drinking coffee on the weekends.
It was beginning to be ever clearer that Barry’s symptoms were in direct connection to what is called, Caffeine Withdrawal.
The complications caused by caffeine withdrawal is rarely sever enough to seek professional assistance, however many surveys indicate that people who drink coffee regularly develop headaches, fatigue and drowsiness if they miss their usual dose.
Barry was advised to decrease his daily consumption of coffee during the week. He found this very difficult and complained that without his normal six cups a day he had difficulty functioning. It took several months but he eventually lowered his daily intake to four cups a day and instead of completely cutting out his caffeine intake, he decided to resume drinking coffee on the weekends.
Barry’s weekend headaches ceased and so did the nausea. There was some improvement in his mood on the weekends but he still struggled with mild anxiety and problems sleeping. Since every potential reason for the anxiety and difficulty sleeping was eliminated, it was determined that the excessive caffeine intake was the culprit, nevertheless, Barry decided he would live with these symptoms and not lower or eliminate the coffee.
I wish I could end this story with, “And they lived happily ever after”, but I wouldn’t be completely truthful if I did. I’ve been a marriage and family counselor for many years now and if I’ve learned anything, I’ve learned that you can help people, but you can’t force people to change. Maya still complained that Barry worked too many hours but she is happy that at least on the weekends Barry is connecting more with the family. They did take a short vacation together as which seemed to ease some of the marital stress. Barry still drinks his four cups of coffee a day even though he knows it’s not necessarily the healthiest habit. I wish Barry would lower his intake of coffee a little more due to the negative affects it’s having on his body, but he hasn’t and nothing seems to indicate he will.
Nevertheless, the family still loves God and each other and for that I’m thankful.