Why I Chose To Give Up Coffee

*Collective Gasp* [I know. Like.. Whyyyyyy would I ever willingly give it up?]

Truth be told, I didn’t even start drinking coffee until I was 23. I always thought it smelled soooo good, but the taste was so repulsive. And, in my more youthful days, no amount of creamer or sweetened syrups could trump that all-too-familiar bitter flavor.

I moved home from Chico the summer after my 23rd birthday. I was focusing way too much on my social life, and not nearly enough [read: not at all] on my education. Yeah, yeah, yeah.. I was your stereotypical Chico State student [BUT, let me take a moment to say that 99% (total guesstimate, BTW) of my classmates have done EXTREMELY well for themselves post graduation – props to all you guys. graduating from Chico State is definitely resume-worthy – talk about multi-tasking!]. After I moved home, I went back to junior college and decided it was time to get a job. There happened to be a local, family-run coffee shop who was hiring and within two days I had the job. I remember thinking, “This job will be perfect – I don’t even like coffee, so I’ll never drink the product and I won’t waste all of my money.”

Famous last words.

They always say that working at a coffee shop will convert you. Not sure who “they” are, but I never believed them.

Until I worked at a coffee shop.

Naturally, I became addicted to the stuff. Looking back, I probably had 3 -4 coffee drinks a shift. That’s not including anything I had after my shift or when I wasn’t working. Not only was it fattening [because I was drinking the shi-shi-la-la fancy drinks], but highly caffeinating. I have no clue how I ever went to sleep. Alcohol probably #truth #sorrynotsorry.

The coffee wasn’t the only thing I loved about that job, though. Because of the small, family run joint, we had so many regulars who also became family. I loved getting to know them and seeing their faces every day. It was a really great job, despite it being the gateway drug to my coffee habit.

The shop ended up closing after two years, but my caffeine addiction remained. I tried to give it up at one point, and the midday caffeine headaches were so bad that I immediately put a kibosh on quitting. What was it really hurting, anyhow? It’s a natural diuretic and seemed to curb my appetite in the morning hours [something every twenty-something female can understand the appeal of].

So for the longest time, it seemed to me that there was nothing negative about coffee. But after finally getting a real adult job a few years ago, where work actually became stressful and followed me home every night, I started to see the negative effects of it. My stomach would hurt if I consumed it before eating some food, I was so immune to the effects that I was drinking way too much for it to be healthy, and that eventually led to high stress levels that were getting to be more than I could handle [and, honestly, it really didn’t make me any more efficient with work or home projects]. I had also started getting migraines, something I’d never experienced before in my life.

Not seeing the link between caffeine and stress, I sought out an acupuncturist to help with the headaches and the anxiety. Our conversation:

Her: Do you drink coffee?
Me: Yes.
Her: How much, and how often?
Me: *sheepishly* Every morning, 4-6 cups.
Her: Maybe try switching to decaf, or cutting it out completely.

I almost had a panic attack right then and there. Give up coffee?! I couldn’t! I wouldn’t. There was no way. I relied on coffee. I loved coffee. It woke me up in the morning. It made me happy. It curbed my appetite. Coffee was my soulmate.

But with my health at stake, and with the realization that it could very well be the culprit of my recent anxious symptoms, I decided to give it a go. I could at least have decaf – that was better than nothing, right?

When I switched to decaf, I expected the dreaded afternoon caffeine deprivation headaches, but I never got them. It could have been the acupuncture, I’m not really sure, but I also didn’t crash mid-afternoon from the caffeine finally leaving my system. I felt better than I had in months, and didn’t miss the caffeine at all. I realized that part of my caffeine addiction was actually the physical action of having coffee in the morning at my desk while I worked.

It was a few weeks ago when I started to notice that I didn’t love the way that even decaf coffee was making my body feel. Every afternoon, like clockwork, I would feel like I was coming down with a cold or flu – my throat would get scratchy and mucusy [(<<< is that a word?) sorry, gross, I know], and my head would feel cloudy and feverish. It wasn’t a good feeling, and the only thing I could equate it to was the coffee, because I wouldn’t end up ever getting sick. It was around that time that I decided I would deplete what was left of my grounds and creamer and take a break from coffee altogether.

This last Monday marked my first day without coffee in the morning, and I have felt absolutely wonderful this entire week. I really don’t miss coffee at all. My body feels healthier, I’m more alert, I don’t feel sick every day. I do occasionally long for the flavor or the warm mug in my hands, but the effect it has on my body? That I definitely do not miss.

Will I give up coffee for the rest of my life? Probably not. When I’m up in Tahoe during the summer, I love sitting on the deck every morning with a hot cup of it and watching the sun come up and the world come alive. There are some instances, like that, where you just cannot replace your good ol’ friend, coffee.

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