After over 25 years together, I recently started taking steps to break-up with coffee.
Coffee and I first met back in high school. I pulled my first all-nighter writing a personal epic for tenth grade English. I remember brewing a pot of coffee and drinking it black (I am not a milk person and didn’t know better) and feeling shaky and wired, but I was able to stay up and get my work done. I truthfully don’t remember when it became a daily habit but know the discovery of the deliciously disgusting CoffeeMate flavored creamers made coffee all the more appealing as did its ability to curb my appetite. Coffee soon became the first thing I drank each day and for a long period in my 20s, everyone knew not to talk to me until I had some. For a while, I even drank coffee to relax, if that tells you anything.
As I got older and more intrigued by wellness and nutrition, I started to question my dependence on coffee. The first time I was struck by the co-dependent relationship we had was when I did my first cleanse. While cleanses can vary, one pretty standard rule is no caffeine. And if you have ever gone through caffeine withdrawal you know how painful it can be. Not only are you tired and sluggish, but the headache that comes with caffeine withdrawal is this painful, piercing headache that pulses at your temples for at least two days straight with no relief. But then, on the third day, it goes away, and you feel great. That said, pretty much every time I did a cleanse, I got through my three – five days without coffee but then went right back to it like the bad boyfriend it was.
After a cleanse I did last year, I made the decision that while I wouldn’t give up coffee, I no longer wanted to be dependent on it. I still enjoyed the ritual of drinking coffee but wanted to wean myself off my addiction to caffeine. So, when my cleanse was over, I started drinking decaf or half-cafe and have been off my caffeine addiction for about a year. But, while I no longer need coffee for the caffeine, I am having difficulty getting over my attachment to the ritual.
I very much remember during the first course I ever took on Ayurveda, the teacher explaining her own journey to get off coffee and how it took her many, many years as she, like me, has a lot of Pitta in her. She told us how Pitta’s very much identify with their habits and their habits become a part of their identity. This resonated to me SO much. For my entire adult life, I have thought of myself as a coffee drinker –-it is a part of me – how can I give it up?
This past winter, I had an issue with my bladder. All is well and nothing to worry about, but it turns out I have some chronic inflammation there. No surprise, foods that are inflammatory to your bladder are Pitta aggravating ones – things like alcohol, spicy food, night shades and you guessed it, caffeine and coffee. In addition, my body was no longer digesting my early morning coffee like it used to and it was causing me pain and discomfort.
I felt it was time for me and coffee to more actively break up. I remembered hearing that if you want to give up a habit you have to replace it with a new one. So, I started by going back to making Chai and drinking that in the morning after my warm water with lemon. I even make it without tea, I just like the warmth and comfort of the spices.
I did pretty well without coffee for a few weeks but I will admit, I have since fallen off the wagon. A few times I did and didn’t feel so great, making it easy to get back on. Lately, it’s been cold and I have been grumpy and coffee has greeted me like an old friend, making me question why I did this whole thing in the first place.
So, what I am realizing is that instead of going for a full-on break up, coffee and I are going wean off each other and see if we can learn to be friends. We are going to hang out less; I certainly will no longer be addicted and make it the first thing I do or consume each day; but we will hang out when I feel like it and it feels right. I know we are better off not being in a long-term, committed relationship and time will tell if being friends is a possibility. Do you think I can be friends with coffee or should I just call the whole thing off?