Tagged: addiction

How I Gave Up Coffee Without Meaning To

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!

PLUS: Why not read my terrifying novella, The Diary of Natalya Zlota, now available on Amazon!

People are saying, “The author captures you by letting you find things to identify with, and she unfolds details in perfect time…Smooth and disciplined, a pleasure to read! Perfect for a journey. I would love to read more.” Buy it now!