My Experience With Mind Altering Chemicals

Let me start with a confession – I am writing this under the influence of a mind-altering substance.

I knew I was in big trouble when visions of cinnamon horchata frappuccino started flashing in my brain when I closed my eyes for half a second. The only way I could get rid of the thought was to actually drink it. I knew I needed an intervention – ASAP!

Flashback to my childhood, taking me out visiting with friends and family was an embarrassing proposition for my parents. In the original land of tea and coffee, the land of hospitality, the land where there is no separation between tea/coffee and hospitality, I was a hold-out into my twenties. Simple reasons- found coffee too bitter and the smell of tea made me gag. But I did not enjoy watching my parents squirm when we were asked the dreaded question fifteen minutes into any house visit – Would you like tea or coffee? It was quite painful to explain for years that I really don’t want tea, coffee, milk, bournvita, complan or mango juice. I still cringe a little thinking of those long drawn out explanations or so it seemed, as people took their time coming to grips with the fact that someone could be semi-normal without consuming either beverage.

Fast forward to the current, I drink coffee on super-rare occasions when I desperately need to stay awake – in all day meetings, classes etc. Otherwise, I would avoid it like plague because it makes me a different person – hyper, someone who talks more than listens and a little jumpy.

All that changed a month ago when I started going to the Bunker Labs at 1871 where you had to be awake, alert and functional starting at 5 pm. My cohort members and instructors are military veterans and they notice when I am not on my A-game. So, I tried the cinnamon horchata frappucino once, to get myself through exhaustion – and horror of horrors — I liked it! The next week I told myself it was just to see me through the tiredness and the week after, I woke up dreaming of Starbucks. That’s when I knew I had become an addict.

As I have been an entrepreneur close to two years now, the one thing I started doing is self-reflecting almost on a daily basis. You kinda need to do that in startups – Why didn’t my concept resonate with people, why was my email not read? Why didn’t the organization not proceed even though everyone seemed very interested? In short, part of my weekly cadence is a reflection on why things did not work and what needs to change to make it work. This was how we had pivoted over months to create Journey, our employee engagement platform. And now the BunkerLabs Launch Lab program was bringing it all together at breakneck speed.

So, after quick reflection, I concluded that my budding addiction to Starbucks was not the main concern, it was that it was a crutch masking the real issue – lack of sleep due to a crazy schedule due to several hats I choose to wear gladly and willingly. Something had to give or I wouldn’t be able to sustain it in the long run. Yes, it was kind of a ‘duh’ discovery, but in my defense, that’s what people said years after Copernicus first suggested that the sun revolved around the earth.

I am in the train my fingers hot-wired to the keyboard, typing up this blog in one sitting. Oh well – you gotta do what you gotta do!

As I was contemplating the ride into the city this afternoon for a networking event and the prospect of another long day, I decided to take control of my life by swearing not to touch that horchata- -instead drank coffee from home to keep myself awake, It worked!! I am in the train my fingers hot-wired to the keyboard, typing up this blog in one sitting. Oh well – you gotta do what you gotta do! But I know, in the long run, I need to balance my activities with enough sleep. This was an easy decision as I love all the roles I am balancing now and want to keep doing them for a long, long time.

My two years as an entrepreneur has helped me in identifying these kinds of situations early. These situations where our brains look for dopamine and adrenaline to get through what we might not be really into – whether it be a job or a difficult situation. We find crutches to keep us going through these situations. The crutches could be – losing ourselves in work so we just run on adrenalin. Or it could be avoiding conflicts. Or it could be immersing ourselves in social media. Or it could be giving ourselves excuses as to why it was okay- it was not our problem that the world does not understand us. Anything for us to get that validation from ourselves or friends and family that creates the wrong sense of dopamine-induced fulfillment.

How many of us go through our lives relying on this kind of crutches for years without realizing that we are doing so?

There is a sense of purpose missing in our life, but we might fill it with other ‘stuff’ that might be absolutely meaningless for us- but we do it because it keeps our brains from thinking about the real cause and the real solution of our void. Speaking for myself, I know that is what I used to do for years. I can see it now with the clarity of a twenty-twenty hindsight. Think of situations in your life (maybe more serious than a coffee addiction) that you might be masking because it was easy, comfortable and you prefer to avoid addressing the real ‘why’ head-on. If I made some people think about these situations in their life, that makes me happy!

Go ahead, you can give me my dopamine fix and comment if you have felt the same in your career or life.



Deepa Kartha
Deepa Kartha
Deepa is the founder and CEO of Zinda, a people tech company that transforms the workplace through highly engaged employees. Deepa developed her unique purposeful productivity based leadership style working in fin-tech managing large global teams for over 20 years. Signup to Deepa's newsletters where she writes about issues faced by leaders at all levels and how to solve them with people, process and technology with a dash of EQ and humor. Zinda was named one of the 10 best employee engagement solutions in 2018 by the CIO Magazine.

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