Today is two weeks since my last cup of coffee.
I’m not a caffeine freak, one of those people who drains a gallon before noon — over the course of a week, I might have half a dozen cups total. I don’t own a coffeemaker or grind my own beans; we have a french press, but it was a gift and it’s buried in the back of a cabinet somewhere. To tell you the truth, it’s hard for me to really even tell if caffeine has a demonstrative effect on me.
I didn’t even start drinking coffee until a couple of years ago. Seriously. Yes, I have my diploma and a college degree. It is possible to get through 16 years of schooling without drinking coffee. (Though senior year of high school, before some exam, I was convinced I needed some caffeine and proceeded to down some Water Joe. Remember Water Joe?? Apparently, it still exists. But I don’t think it did much of anything for me.)
The only reason I started drinking coffee was because I was out with my husband and he had gotten a large french vanilla coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, laden down with cream and sugar. It smelled like heaven — so good, that I needed a sip. And from that sip, I never looked back.
It’s never been about the caffeine with me and coffee — well, maybe it has, if only as a placebo effect. Moreso, it’s about a tasty treat — a delicious warm beverage on a cool or rainy morning, or a bottomless complement to a breakfast out. It’s about feeling like it will wake me up even if I can’t directly link any eventual alertness to the consumption of said beverage. When I first started drinking coffee, it felt like a great social enabler. Now, I thought, I can linger in coffee shops and actually have something I can buy — that isn’t a succulent brownie or an overpriced juice.
Even the process of making coffee, preparing it just the way that suits me, is soothing. When I was little, on Sunday mornings, I would lay out my mom’s coffee materials to be ready for her when she woke up — “World’s Greatest Mom” mug, two packets of Sweet n’ Low and a teaspoon. Now, though I came late to coffee, I enjoy my own coffee preparation — skim milk and Splenda if they have it, whatever I can get if they don’t, adding and stirring until it’s just right. I also enjoy the places where I typically buy coffee — the Italian deli near my house, the Alexander’s convenience store near my office, the bottomless mug at Ball Square Cafe — for their atmosphere. Half the fun of getting a coffee at Alexander’s is overhearing the conversations of the Medford townies playing Keno at 8AM.
So, if I had grown so enamored with the coffee experience, why have I forsaken it? Because, well, it’s superfluous, and I’m trying to pare down the superfluous things in my life. So it seemed like 100-odd calories and $1.50 a day would be a nice and easy investment to recover by simply cutting out my morning coffee, which I probably get about half the time.
I was spurred to begin my coffee abstinence by a friend of mine in the higher ed world, who was starting his own caffeine boycott. Another person quickly latched on to the cause, and we regularly share support with one another on Twitter. It’s hard to lure people to sail under a caffeine-free flag, but we’re three strong for now, and that’s good enough for me.
So, two weeks in, I don’t feel more or less tired, really. I’ve been trying to eat healthier and get more exercise on top of dropping the coffee, so it’s hard to discern the health effects. The biggest challenge in giving up coffee has been feeling like I’m depriving myself of a morning treat. I realized how much I’d been depending on coffee as a sort of reward. “You had to get up early this morning, and it’s cloudy out! You deserve a coffee.” It didn’t take much. But I guess if that’s the worst part of giving up coffee, it’s not so bad. I shouldn’t have to give myself a special reward just for getting out the door in the morning.
I don’t think I’m going to never drink coffee again. But maybe it will be more of a special thing and less of a crutch or a morning default. When I was first getting serious about losing weight a few years ago, I would take month-long chocolate fasts (including, one month, an all-dessert fast *shudder*) as an exercise in moderation and learning that I didn’t need chocolate to survive. The lasting lesson from those fasts was that, in most cases, a small amount of chocolate or other sweets will sate the craving, and there’s no need to indulge on the level I was used to indulging. Hopefully, I’ll come away from my coffee-free period with similar insights — and maybe a few more bucks in my pocket.