“…Yesterday I asked Maman if I could drink some tea. My grandmother drinks black tea at breakfast, flavored with bergamot. Even though I don’t find it particularly good, it seems less aggressive than coffee, which is a nasty person’s drink.” –Muriel Burberry (The Elegance of the Hedgehog)
I’m a firm believer that everyone should have a vice to call their very own. However, I don’t think that vice should have your head in a vice-like grip when you decide to finally be done with it, and let go. I also do not find it admirable to have any less than three, but also no more than five vices. After an in-depth self-analysis, self-administered blood tests, and a brief, well-skilled self-execution of the Heimlich maneuver, the diagnosis is that I have not one, but SEVERAL vices. This simply will not do. I am sure there are more than five and therefore I must work to eliminate them ALL! Here is one I’m working on this week –it’s called “Project 5 Days Sober” and it’s a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual addiction I am attempting to free myself of: caffeine, namely in the form of coffee.
Disclaimer: I do not necessarily think that coffee is a particularly bad or poisonous substance. I do however think that for everything in life, there are pros and cons, there are people that can handle the cons and people that simply, cannot. Therefore, I will be, for the next five days, providing a personal story and tale of my withdrawal journey, as well as highlighting some of the negatives and positives of this delicious drink which America runs on 24/7.
I literally came out of the womb drinking coffee…and most likely, like every normal baby, screaming. My mother drank coffee while pregnant with me (which explains my rail-thin girlish figure and high-speed metabolism) and I began suckling the stuff as soon as I became of age to do so. My entire family (except my dad) starts their day off with a powerful cup of caffeine courage. I don’t remember having too much caffeine throughout my childhood, I wasn’t allowed soda when I was a kid, and we were too broke for tea, but I always saw my mother drinking it and by the time I entered high school and was able to drive myself to get my own personal cup o’joe in the morning, I was hooked. The same friend that taught me the precarious technique of shaving one’s legs, also taught me the joy and happiness found in a cappuccino from BrewBakers in Keene, NH. My first experience with the thrill that came with a brush with the enemy. There are some patterns I am now piecing together, but previously had gone unnoticed:
- I was always a hyper kid, and didn’t need coffee in the first place so when I had it people thought I was on Speed and even asked me what drugs I did.
- I’ve never paid attention (prior to more recently) to the time of day that I drank the stuff, and in college I would sip it all day through causing me incredible problems with insomnia, shaking, and feeling very strange and jittery at any given time of day
- Every time I have been on a road trip, dizzy and feeling like I was on drugs and going to die at any given moment, involved a rapid intake of a caffeinated beverage
- I can’t drink my coffee black, I must add some sort of creamer. Enter, a host of other problems.
Ask any of my college roommates, coffee is what literally got me through each day, and the countless cups of it that have poured through my veins brought me from a gloomy, depressed college student to one that could fake the emotions she needed to in order to get by. Everywhere I have lived, I can tell you the best places to get a cup. The best service, the best price, and the ones that open before 8am. But, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to tell you how coffee has ruined my life.
Anyone who has spent longer than one day in my presence knows that I am not exactly the most…er….balanced individual. I’m well versed in the fact that I am actually insane. I have mood swings worse than any lady going through menopause and while I might be offering you consolation and a head massage one minute, it’s possible that I will bite your head off in the next. I have difficulty staying positive day in and day out, and my sleeping patterns have always swung to either side of the pendulum. Well, it’s time I believe to put these negative characteristics by the wayside, now that I am looking to be a little more steady, advance further in life, and settle down, in a manner of speaking. When I want to write, be funny and witty, wake up my brain to work all day, feel happy, find the perks in life, or decide that I am going to do an all day workout marathon, I simply chug a cup of coffee and let the effects slowly drizzle throughout my blood stream. The beautiful cup of perfectly brewed coffee melting into my mouth and awakening my spirit, my mind, and every blood cell. Coffee understands me. It gets me. It doesn’t judge me. We have a connection.
Then the crash, and the jitters, and the feeling like I need to run 35 miles ASAP or I will burst! I have all these ideas and can’t sit still enough to do them all! I want to be everyone, everywhere, wonder woman, but all the while I can’t leave my house because my heart is pounding and I have to pee every five minutes for the next two hours! And I start using exclamation points like they will be eliminated from the English keyboard this year! I add the phrase to my resume, “I can also type 90 words a minute”!!!!!
If I drink coffee after two in the afternoon, the night will inevitably involve running laps around the lake, or requiring some sedative to help me tone it down. I tell myself it’s good for me, like it is for everyone else: it helps prevent Alzheimer’s, people who drink coffee are more creative, more alert, have less diabetes, eat less, better athletes…not to mention, it makes your pee smell like coffee which is totally awesome!
But there are some people who can just simply not handle it’s effects. Caffeine, by any other name is a drug, a “mildly addictive stimulant” and it’s important to monitor how much you’re letting yourself have, lest the associated RISKS outweigh the fun. Tremors, irritability, insomnia, increased cholesterol (for French Press or non-filtered versions), increased blood pressure, increased risk of osteoporosis, dehydration. Everything in moderation, I know it’s true, but for some people moderation means ZERO. Or maybe once a week, tops, from the little free coffee sample cart at Trader Joe’s.
So it begins, I started my coffee quitting on a Monday. A terrible day to stop drinking the very stimulant that gets you through the workday. I was cranky, and tired to say the least and I wanted to sucker punch at least ten people throughout the day. I didn’t recognize my face in the mirror, and I had a pounding headache that lasted the entire day. Every bone, muscle and joint in my body felt like I was the grandmother of ten. Despite this fact though, I managed to make it through the day sans-poison, and I even walk-ran around the lake after dinner, at which time I was hoping to burn off all of my mortal desires.
A successful day one, although I would NEVER recommend to anyone either of the following two actions:
1. Quitting caffeine unless it’s absolutely necessary (ie. pending death, pregnancy, or inability to access it for an extended length of time)
2. Quitting caffeine on a day you have to work and interact with other human beings.
Tune in tomorrow for the next update where I share my mental breakdown, observation of results, and fresh resolve/ie. game plan.