The hot, steamy, spiritual truth on why pulled the plug on my coffee maker
Originally published on Medium.
I have been an avid coffee drinker since I’ve been 16. I’m now 50. Even my special ed math kids can come to the approximate conclusion that I’ve been drinking coffee for 34 years. A more traditional learner such as yourself could equally surmise I’ve been drinking it for more than 50% of my life.
Just scroll through the internet and you’ll find a ton of writers citing case studies on why coffee is great for you. Benefits include everything from anti-oxidants to pre-work out boosts and extra go juice for late night work and study sessions. Plus there’s the whole “focus” and “way to jumpstart your morning” deal. Bottom line: this wonder drug has no limits!
But here’s the problem with this no limit stimulant: humans have limits, and I’m one of them.
Why Give Up Coffee After 30 years?
They say that as you get older you get wiser. I am far from being a saint, but it’s a fact that I’ve gotten much closer to my true self these past few years. Wisdom and faith were hard earned. I searched and found. And along those lines of finding, it became all too apparent that although I love the taste of coffee, I found that my authentic soul didn’t really need all those extra stimulants via my delicious expresso.
Maybe other people can handle it better than I can, but I had to wave the white flag. After drinking up to four cups/day (very strong cups, I might add) I still lacked the energy I needed to get through the day. It was as if I needed a cup of coffee to boost me awake after the inevitable let down of the last cup of coffee.
Then there was the fact that I caught myself thinking about it all the time. “When was my next coffee break?”… “Happy about that new client? Drink coffee!” … “Sad about not getting that new client after all? Drink coffee!” … “Need something to get you through the online zoom day teaching? Drink coffee!”
As a sober alcoholic, I know that java isn’t such a big deal compared to drinking a bottle of two buck chuck per day, but it still caused its fair share of problems:
Problems from Drinking Coffee
- Last minute bathroom runs: Yes, coffee made me do my business in the morning, but it would also sneak up on me when I was in traffic. Or taking a jog around the block. Or on a train downtown during the Women’s March when I had to exit my group of gals to beg a Kaiser facility to let me use the girls’ room.
- Crankiness: I am high strung to begin with. Adding caffeine into my day in large quantities was like revving the motor on my inner bitch button. I don’t want to be on edge, but coffee took away the space between “I’m going to give that person a piece of my mind” and “Hmmm… maybe telling your family member the best way to live their life when it’s none of my business is not such a hot idea.”
- Bad breath: My dog has breath that could start a car, but on coffee I could start a semi truck. Herbal tea is much kinder to my husband when he wants to sneak a last minute kiss on his way out to work, and while I now drink 8 cups of that instead of a decaf/regular coffee combo, at least I’m not filling up my stomach with more acid than a Costco battery pack.
- Dependency: After giving up wine almost 5 years ago, I just don’t covet the idea of having to have something to get going in the morning. Like Merlot, coffee worked until it didn’t. When it became more of a “have to” instead of a “want to” I had to kick it to the curb.
Where Have You Bean All My Life? Close By, Baby
So I’m not gonna lie — giving up coffee has been one of the difficult things I have ever done. I love the smell. I love the taste. I love the feeling of a kiln fired mug in my hands and a thick dark coffee waiting inside. So many of my happiest childhood memories are traced back to my parents drinking coffee and laughing with good friends in the kitchen… studying at Nordstroms with girlfriends at UC San Diego where, as broke college kids, we could get unlimited refills of Joe for 25cents.
Coffee to me is what smoking is for others. It’s sexy. It’s late nights at dim lit diners after seeing an amazing piece of theater. It’s writing scripts at the counters of old delis and vintage pie shops. It’s long distance road trips. It’s sitting around the campfire and swapping ghost stories. It’s waking up on Christmas morning and that lovely anticipation of opening gifts while eating a slice of last night’s pumpkin pie. It’s a handsome man taking me to a bistro and sharing a brownie with me over an Americano just so we don’t have to say goodbye.
Just typing that out is making me yearn for it. But… like with wine… it started becoming an idol. Like the Kenney Chesney song, “One was one too many… one more was never enough.” A better way to put it is like this:
When I controlled coffee, I couldn’t enjoy it. And when I enjoyed it, I couldn’t control it.
Some of you might say, “Oh, for God sake, lighten up, Andrea. You already don’t drink. Give yourself a vice and enjoy your life!”
And friends, that’s what I told myself for years. And while I found my relationship with it starting to fade, I still found I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than anything else out there. And that kind of sucks. For me, that looked like building my life around coffee and not the other way around. Ex: I didn’t get a kick out of parties that didn’t have coffee the way I like it. (Yes, dumb, but true.) I wouldn’t go to certain restaurants that didn’t serve it the way I liked it. (Super dark with rich cream.) Even my own coffee, unless it was thick enough to start a car, it wasn’t worth drinking, and then I’d be cranky.
I once switched to decaf for a year, but that only left me drinking 6 cups of thick decaf each day which was the same as one cup of regular coffee anyway + dry skin to boot. #addict
This kind of mental back flips toward the end over something I used to enjoy so much had end. I felt in my gut — where the God of my understanding lives — that it was time to release this ridiculous obsession to make room for new pleasures in my life.
Pleasures that didn’t cause me stinky breath, emergency pit stops and gobs of money at every Starbucks in town.
Immediately after that last cup I felt amazing.
I was depressed. For about two weeks. I still am, mildly.
Giving up the coffee was akin to giving up a toxic boyfriend who once was so delightful. Sure, I’d miss its company, but it no longer served me. It had to go.
The Spiritual Side of Less Caffeine
There are some perks (no pun intended) to giving up the mud. In slowing down, thanks to lack of caffeine, I started having insights that I never would have had thanks to the dopamine high I was so used to experiencing. The main one was that, despite many years of work on myself, there is a piece of me that is consistently restless, irritable and discontent. Oh, sure, it doesn’t drive the bus like it used to, but it’s ready to take the wheel at any time. Giving up coffee, and allowing God into these moments of discomfort, has forced me to look at things I haven’t wanted to for a long time.
I am not into self-deprivation (though it might appear to that living without alcohol and coffee now) but there is a place for stopping distractions… to letting our souls fill with the God of our understanding instead of always turning for the next fix.
Do I think I will give up coffee forever? I don’t know. But I do know this: I’m going through a very holy period of my life right now. I have never seen so much change. It’s like living in Upside Down Land at times. There is simply not enough coffee to make me feel like it’s all going to right itself back again. But… and here’s the big BUT… I’ve had an epiphany since giving up the brown juice:
Life before coffee was never ideal. It was just life, like cream in my java, a mixture of good and bad mixed together. I saw it through a lense of steam…a projection of what I wanted it to be rather than what it really was.
Letting go of my favorite escape is helping me to get my daily fixes with God as I know Him. It’s causing me to sit in my discomfort and realize I’m not going to die.
A New Tradition — Holidays Sans Cafe’!
Tonight I sat at my kitchen table with my Covid bubble. This includes my friend, her two littles, her sister and her family and, of course, my family. While my teens played Among Us with a few friends socially distanced outside, the adults planned our Thanksgiving dinner.
My chosen family is El Salvadorian, and I was delighted to hear that this comes with new recipes I have yet to try, plus I won’t be making the turkey! (Let’s get real… my husband won’t be making it. I rarely cook.) Instead, mis amigos will bring the bird, complete with soft bread and tomato sauce.
As for the after dinner extravaganza, I might not get coffee with the Cheesecake my friend is bringing for dessert, but I’ll have a delicious cup of decaf Stash Chai Spice. And, remembering that experiences trump idols every time, I’ll be sure to say an extra prayer of gratitude that I followed my gut to unplug my coffee pot… and my over caffeinated brain… to settle down and appreciate the new pleasures this season has to bring.
Until next time —
I’m a published TV, blog, magazine and book writer who also coaches moms and grandmoms to write books rooted in wisdom, spirituality and humor.
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