As vices go, coffee isn’t really a bad one. I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, I rarely drink, and I barely even take any medications. Caffeine was the one truly addictive substance that I put in my body daily. Tons of people do the same thing, so I felt pretty secure in my coffee habit.
The only problem is that I’m not exactly the best at moderation. If I stuck to 1/2 cup of black coffee in the mornings like my mom does, we wouldn’t be having this conversation (and by “having this conversation” I mean “writing this blog post that you’re now reading”). My one cup in the morning morphed into a 28 ounce thermos in the morning, followed by an occasional cup or two in the afternoon and, of course, a cup after dinner while writing or freelancing.
So, yeah, things got intense. I was up to a Gilmore level of coffee intake, which is a place no human ever wants to be. I quit or reduced my intake a few times in the past couple of years, but coffee always came back into my life with a vengeance.
Logically, I knew that the headaches I got when I skipped my morning thermos or when I was visiting the home of someone who (horror of horrors) didn’t realize I needed caffeine within an hour of waking were not normal. I got that. But I didn’t want to stop, and not for reasons that had anything to do with the physical pain that came from stopping. I didn’t want to stop drinking coffee because…well, I love coffee.
I love the taste of it. I love the smell of it. I love the way it looks in my Dear Sugar mug. I love coffeeshops and coffee culture. I hate this one pretentious pour over coffee shop in Columbus but that’s BESIDE THE POINT. Hanging out in a coffeeshop is one of life’s great joys, and I was not in any way ready to give that up.
But there’s this little problem I have. I’ve mentioned it before. Maybe you have it too. It’s called anxiety. In general, I can keep my anxiety in check by eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and staying away from too much caffeine. So…is basically an entire pot of coffee a day “too much”? Sure, technically, that’s a lot. Like a frightening amount. But I was feeling good until I wasn’t! The thing about anxiety (or about mine, anyway) is that it doesn’t need a reason to happen. It’s just there, like a heavy feeling of dread on my chest that makes me constantly feel like I’m a) forgetting something important or b) ruining something important or c) dying, probably. And right after I had about three cups of coffee one morning, it hit me. The worst anxiety I’ve had in awhile. Suddenly I was consumed with worry over various things I have no control over. Are my parents okay? Is everything in my house turned off? Maybe I should check it all OVER AND OVER. And I guess I should work but I CAN’T CONCENTRATE ON ANYTHING! And why does life feel so completely hopeless?
And that’s when I realized…I had to quit drinking coffee. Like, immediately.
I felt so terrible that I wasn’t even sad about it at first. It helped that I told myself I’d be able to go back to coffee, slowly, after a couple of weeks. But it’s been about a month and guess what, guys? Although I have the occasional cup of tea, an occasional Coke Zero (truly my guiltiest of pleasures…those chemicals are so disgusting and so, so sweet), and some sort of weird, blended “superfood” drink with caffeine and, like, acai berries last weekend, I haven’t had actual coffee AT ALL.
If you’re a big coffee drinker and you also have a lot of anxiety, you might not want to keep reading this, because I can guarantee you don’t want to hear it. But I’m going to say it anyway…giving up coffee really reduced my anxiety. By a lot. I know, it sucks. This is the WORST news. I still get sad when I see pictures of coffee. And I still sort of feel like I might slide right back into my highly caffeinated ways. But so far, so good, so much less existential despair!
Don’t get me wrong, quitting coffee wasn’t like some miracle cure. I still have to exercise if I don’t want to feel like complete shit, but my heartbeat feels a lot more normal (I know) and I don’t just sit around and worry as much. Which is nice! “Sitting around and worrying” should not be an activity in anyone’s life.
So here’s my advice if you want to quit coffee: Do it cold turkey. Get some fancy tea. I like Yogi tea because it gives me weird hippie affirmation on each tag. When my tea says “You are infinite,” I’m just like, “Wow. Okay. Thank you. I needed that.” Even the most caffeinated tea still has less caffeine than an entire pot of coffee.
Will I drink coffee again? Probably. When I can trust myself to stop at one occasional cup, then maybe. But right now, this Yogi green tea is really speaking to me. It has antioxidants, you guys. They keep me young, which I will need if I want to continue getting carded for R-rated movies into my 30s (I don’t).
Have any of you guys ever quit coffee? Do you occasionally miss it with frightening urgency? Do you feel better? Have you considered decaf? Reader, I have considered decaf.
Image via Patchwork Printshop