Note: The word coffee will be referenced many times in this post.
For one third of my adult life (ten years), I have relied on coffee as a pick-me-up, a concentration-enhancer, and mood booster. I had this idea that coffee ‘pulled me together’, assembling the working parts of my brain into a super slick mechanical instrument that would efficiently enable me to power through all the tasks I was required to perform on a given day. Every morning, I feverishly anticipated holding that hot little cup in my hand and breathing in the rich aroma of a fresh brew. I drank a coffee in the morning, and a coffee in the afternoon, but these were not your standard coffees. I heaped many tablespoons (teaspoons are for wimps) of the stuff into my cup, and the resulting coffee was very, very, strong indeed. So much so, that I could only take small sips at a time, because the taste was so bitter. But I kept heaping that stuff into the cup. If I didn’t have time to step away from my desk and make a fresh one, I would happily drink it cold. I won’t deny that coffee was helpful in increasing my ability to concentrate. When I had work to do, coffee assisted me in pouncing on top of the task at hand. And having a coffee is very much intertwined with the working world; we drink coffee to look busy, we drink coffee as we bond with our colleagues, we drink coffee as a welcome relief from a task that is mentally strenuous. Those are all good things. And coffee meant even more than that to me. Coffee time was a ritual escape from the flurry of daily activity that is so much a part of modern life. Plus, I’m not much of a drinker, so my idea of good old-fashioned bonding time with a friend was to meet for a coffee.
So, why have I stopped drinking it?
On a handful of occasions, I’ve made myself quite ill as a result of drinking too much coffee. Recently, it happened again. I organised a hen party for my best friend, well-known Galway milliner Mary White, and we went for a delicious Afternoon Tea. I’d just arrived after a lengthy journey in a hot car, and was feeling pretty groggy, so I ordered a large cappuccino with an extra shot. It revved me right up, and I promptly ordered the same again. That, combined with platefuls of sugar-doused treats, ushered me into a semi-transcendent state during which I felt like I was having an out of body experience. I also had trouble feeling my own arms. (This was after I’d polished off two scones, several macarons, and multiple slivers of tasty sandwiches). Later that night, as I lay in my bed, I experienced a heightened anxiety, the likes of which I have never experienced before. I was wired and miserable, my heart was thumping erratically in my chest, and the horridness lasted for about forty-five minutes.
I like to pride myself on taking reasonably good care of my health, but this was unjustifiable. I told myself that it was really unhealthy and unnatural to feel this way. After that night, I felt a physical reaction every time I passed a coffee shop, or smelled coffee, or saw someone enjoying a coffee. My body said nope, nope, nope. My stomach seized up, and said nope, nope, nope. Even when my mind said, “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to go and take a break now and have a coffee?” my entire system said nope, nope, nope. The days passed, and then the weeks passed, and now there’s a powerful bodily aversion to the bean that is just not letting go. When people told me they’d given up coffee, I was semi-envious, as I assumed I would be unable to do the same thing. Sometimes you have to have a really bad experience with your substance of choice before you are ready to walk away from it, and before your body intervenes and says nope, nope, nope.
What’s different now? I definitely feel different. This sounds very alternative, but I believe my energy is different now. Instead of experiencing peaks and lulls of energy, my energy level is more stable throughout the day. I feel that life is moving more slowly, though of course that’s not the case. Instead of the pointed ability to concentrate that you gain with coffee, I feel a more ‘rounded consideration’ of matters at hand, if that makes sense. And my day is not punctuated with the urgency of needing to run for coffee. I’m chilled out. Surprisingly, I had no physical symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. I hope this is a permanent change, and I feel that it is. At the very least, I have experienced an extended phase without coffee, something that hasn’t happened since I was a teenager. If I’m honest, however, I’d still be heaping that tablespoon if I hadn’t overdosed on caffeine that day in May.
I’m feeling rather sociable. Let’s connect on Goodreads!
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