Originally Posted by ScottFromWI
Yep, caffeine is a pretty powerful drug actually. And adding more of it than normal to your body during early sobriety can really throw things out of whack. Alcohol is a Central Nervous System depressant, so when you quit drinking your mind "speeds up" as a result of not being continually sedated. Add extra caffeine on top of that and you see the results.
I found that my anxiety is much more sensitive to even small amounts of caffeine, especially early on. I drink half-caff coffee now and limit my consumption because it can really give me the jitters if I have too much.
This. In nerdy scientific terms, your brain makes neurotransmitters that control your mood. The primary ones are GABA, dopamine, serotonin, and glutamine. The main ones that are relevant for alcoholics are GABA and glutamine.
Alcohol acts the same way as GABA. GABA is a calming, relaxing neurotransmitter. Alcohol latches onto the brain's GABA receptors giving you the initial high, but eventual sleepiness. Over a prolonged period of heavy alcohol use the brain stops making GABA on its own. In the meantime, alcohol is a depressant, so your brain trying to "balance things out" steps up production of glutamine, which helps your brain "speed up", and greatly affects our "fight" or "flight" response.
So when an alcoholic stops drinking, the brain and central nervous system go into a state of shock, and is in a state of profound imbalance. The brain is producing massive amounts of glutamine, and very little GABA. The brain is in overdrive -- hence, initially withdrawals, and prolonged bouts of anxiety. The best analogy is that our brains are like cars going down a freeway at 100 mph with no brakes.
So caffeine in recovery only exacerbates the alcoholics situation. I love coffee, and limit myself to one small cup each before and after I workout.
I'll also add that the brain eventually heals itself, but it is a bumpy ride, as the brain swigs back and forth in the healing process -- hence, unexplained mood swings in recovering alcoholics. If, however, the person already had some sort of anxiety or other mood disorder, that will still be there after sobriety.