Maybe it’s all the talk of spring cleaning and new beginnings, but I am feeling the need of a serious physical overhaul. Or it could be that the many years of sitting at an office desk are finally catching up with me. In any case, I’ve become so accustomed to living in a state of general fatigue and lack of energy that it hasn’t even felt that unhealthy, till now.
Sadly, I don’t think I have ever felt a prolonged state of vitality, juiciness, and high energy. And I’m starting to see that if I want my life to be freer, more spontaneous, more joyful, and more loving, then the physical vessel which houses these feelings and experiences must be tended to in a totally new and more conscious manner.
It’s painful to admit, but I think coffee is one substance contributing to my lacklustre energy levels. Let me first say that I am seriously, seriously addicted to coffee. I love getting up in the morning and making a cup (or two) in my french press, enjoying the quiet around me as I sip slowly…it’s heaven. It’s the one constant in a day full of unpredictabilities. And it smells so freaking good.
Having one or two cups a day is not a big deal. For most people. Unfortunately, I am torn between my love for coffee, and the total havoc I suspect it wreaks on my body. My nervous system is so sensitively wired that even one cup throws me out of whack. But I am addicted, and here’s how I know why.
Last summer I had to give up coffee for two weeks for a detox of sorts; I couldn’t have any stimulants in my body. I was prepared for a difficult process, but I had no idea how mind-blowingly, body-pummellingly, head-poundingly hard it would be. For three days I was in a constant state of feeling hungover. I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. I would crash by 7pm. My muscles were sore and my body felt like it was moving underwater. I have never been so irritable in all my life. And the headaches. Oh, the headaches.
Scary. Before this, I’d had the vague recognition that my body was addicted, but to physically experience such an intense withdrawal was startling. It dawned on me that for over 15 years, I’d had coffee every single day. (And probably some other form of caffeine even longer than that!)
Having somehow made it through the difficult (to say the least) withdrawal period, I remember feeling quite good in the weeks following. I didn’t have boundless energy, but my reserves were definitely more even and sustained. I generally felt calmer and less anxious. And my sleeps were much deeper. In retrospect, if I’d had a meditation practice during that time, I’m sure that would’ve been a whole lot easier too.
In those early weeks of caffeine-freedom, whenever I remembered a reason coffee was bad for me, I would write it down, to aid me during moments of vulnerability and temptation. I still have the list:
- Coffee hurts your body
- It costs money
- It interferes with sleep
- Drains vitamins and minerals
- Inhibits deep breathing and makes you shaky and anxious
- Convinces you that none of the above are so bad, or true
- For most people it’s ok but not you. Trust your body. It’s harmful to you.
- It makes your head sick.
- It makes your heart beat fast
- It drains your heart force/energy
But alas, as you might have guessed, despite all my hard work (and that formidable list) my coffee-free life did not last long. I don’t know where and when the thread unravelled…but we live in a coffee culture and my city is particularly coffee-centred. It’s everywhere, and it’s social, and it’s celebrated, and it’s comforting, and…it tastes so damn good! (Oh, that first sip after my caffeine hiatus…I’ll never forget it.) The java beast turned out to be too big too fight, and tea drinking never did hold the same allure.
All this is on my mind because I’m doing another coffee detox in a few days. Given my previous experience, I am little nervous, and a lot dreading…but also teeny bit excited for the challenge, and to reap the positives. (Ask me again in a week.) I’ve planned it out as best I can: the first 2-3 days will be during a long weekend, so I’ll have minimal contact with anyone that could potentially irritate me; I’ve armed myself with some great quality chicory root; and I will stock up on some Teeccino tomorrow morning. (Teeccino is what saved me last time because it actually does taste a bit like coffee. And I can make it in my french press, so I still get the essential morning coffee ritual.)
Quitting coffee is just one step, but it’s enormous for me. And now I know the challenge is not just in those excruciating first 72 hours, but in the weeks and months that follow. But I’m not going to think too much about the long-term right now. All I know is that for the next few days, I’m going to savour each sip more than I ever have before. If that’s even possible.