I have given up coffee. It started out as a summer project, but as the days have unfolded, it’s become something I realize weighs me down, literally and figuratively, so I can’t see it making a grand entrance back into my world anytime soon.
I started drinking coffee in law school and through the subsequent twenty years kept myself to approximately one sixteen-ounce cup daily. Of course, there were days that screeched for more, like the day I took the bar exam or the day I pulled my first professional all-nighter in the dot com bubble days. On those days, I could almost feel my body twitching from the caffeine overload, but generally I was pretty low on the total caffeine consumption scale.
That all changed about three years ago when both my husband and another family member suffered health setbacks. In order to become more of a caretaker for those who needed it, I gave up my job as an in-house attorney. That’s also about the same time that we started to notice what a college professor of mine used to refer to as the fecal ventilatory moment approaching with my husband’s ex-wife.
That’s when I started drinking three or four sixteen-ounce cups of coffee … daily. That’s when I stopped working out, stopped having the time to take care of myself the way I always have. That’s when the headaches began. That’s when my sleep patterns went from fairly regular to abysmal. That’s when my weight started to creep up from the consistent line on the scale it had occupied since I struggled back from the dangerous weight loss precipitated by the implosion of my first marriage.
The worse I felt, the more coffee I drank. At last year’s annual physical, I noticed that the number on the scale was something I hadn’t seen since my first trimester of pregnancy. I vowed to whip myself back into shape and drop those extra pounds.
It didn’t happen. In fact, life got more stressful. My father-in-law died and then the fecal ventilatory moment did, in fact, arrive; the ex-wife, in what can only be described as a kamikaze move, backed my normally passive and non-confrontational husband into a corner. So I drank more coffee.
When I went back to the doctor this year for my physical exam, the number was stuck in the same spot as last year, despite my having reintroduced regular exercise into my routine over the past year. I also discovered that I was, in all likelihood, menopausal … at 45. Feeling mildly sorry for myself for a moment, I sat at a table outside Starbuck drinking my beloved coffee.
As I mentally ran through the past three years, I realized that I was on my third twenty-ounce cup of the day. Oh my God! The problem wasn’t the coffee; the problem was the stress overload in my life and the volume of coffee I was drinking as a comfort mechanism. The more stress I internalized, the more coffee I drank. The more coffee I drank, the better I felt at that moment, but the worse I felt overall.
So I decided to stop. I haven’t had coffee since July 1, and although I’ve spent a lot of time being introspective and facing my fears, I’ve found that I don’t really miss it. I’ve amped up my workouts, started enjoying more restful sleep, as it’s unaffected by caffeine, and noticed that my body is starting to feel better, less knotted up and rigid.
I’m not saying I’ll never have another cup of coffee, but I know that as I start to feel better physically, the stressors around me affect me much less, allowing me to focus more on the blessings and beauty of my life, and less on the beasts that circle the perimeter.