I wrote this post in August 2020, but for some reason never posted it. I guess in fear I’d relapse. After a year without coffee, it’s safe to say our relationship is over.
A while back I released a video discussing why I stopped drinking coffee, however, I think it missed a few of the crucial components for why this was so important to me.
I would have considered coffee to be a part of my identity. I was particular about the stores in which I drank it, the quality of the coffee and the ritual. Part of my ego identified with it, I would make judgements of people based on where they purchased coffee from and how they drank it.
But I wouldn’t say the connection I had with it was all bad. I made so many amazing friends all over the world by bonding over this little brown bean.
A few times in the last five years or so I have stopped drinking coffee, usually while I was sick or getting run down. I just completely stopped craving it. I started to wonder why it was that when I was run down my body actively resisted the craving for coffee? I pushed the thought to the back of my mind. In the months leading up to quitting I had felt completely flat. We were deep in lockdown and I’d been doing a lot of internal work through this time, and unfortunately coffee seemed to be the next habit to examine. A quick search on google gave a plethora of examples of people who had quit coffee and found tremendous benefit from ditching it.
Effects of coffee
Coffee activates your sympathetic nervous system, also known as the ‘flight or fight response’ this leads to:
- Anxiety (we know this, there are memes about it)
- Reduces blood flow to organs
- Reduces blood flow to the brain
- Increases blood flow to heart and brain = alertness
- Lowers testosterone production (which is already a massive problem)
- Creates adrenal fatigue which Inhibits recovery
- Digestion, effects on the stomach
- Increases your blood pressure
- Inhibits quality sleep
- More here
Some of these may not seem so bad, until you times that by that coffee or two you have every day for months or years on end. That’s a huge accumulation of stress on the body.
As I side note, I was recently informed of the vast amount of pesticides used in the production of coffee, many of which are banned in several countries and have strong health warnings from the WHO, so if you don’t plan to quit, maybe at least look into drinking organic.
“Once vice becomes a code of conduct, there ceases to be any possibility of cure”
Why I stopped:
- I had had a sore throat and a recent illness.
- My levels of anxiety had heightened and I was finding it increasingly difficult to feel grounded.
- Meditation was becoming difficult.
After my morning coffee:
- My ears would block during conversation and I would have trouble focusing on conversations I was having.
- Things I needed to do which required sitting and being focused I would put off as I couldn’t focus. Ironic considering, like many of us, I was drinking coffee to give myself the energy to do said tasks.
How I quit:
I have quit coffee before but always came back after a few weeks. In an attempt to find the source of why I felt the need to drink coffee and the effect it had in my life, I decided to do a small quantity of mushrooms and get my pad and pen out and journal it out.
I just want to stop here for a second, as I think it’s important to note that this isn’t a regular occurrence, and I left this out of my initial revision of the post. I was concerned with the way it would be received, but at the same time conflicted, knowing that I hadn’t been completely honest. I think the same results could have been achieved without them but I also don’t think that many people are aware of the benefits that can come from the use of mushrooms in the correct environment with the right intentions, and supervision. If you are interested to know more I suggest reading How to Change Your Mind.
Okay, back to it,
During the mushroom session, I began journalling and a few things became apparent. I’d been drinking coffee pretty consistently for the last 10 years and what I found was that I first started drinking it while working as a builder with my Dad after I left high school. It was a great way to take a break and get away from the building site, especially to avoid doing a job I didn’t want to do or get out of the cold. It was also something I associated with my Dad, we would go to cafes and bond over a mocha bowl (I know…). Then later, I went to university, it became a way to get away from the computer screen, socialise with my friends, or plan group projects ( read “procrastinate”). I noticed this as a reoccurring theme, even 10 years on I was using coffee as a way to avoid doing things I didn’t want to do and each cup took me back to spending time with my family and friends. Once I made these connections the answer seemed obvious, coffee was doing me no favours.
Effects of giving up coffee:
Oddly enough I haven’t missed coffee at all since I quit, however, the withdrawal symptoms were pretty savage.
The first few days I had mild headaches which I could handle, but for the first 10 days, I had progressively worsening muscle aches and pains in my legs and hips. The muscle and bone aches got so severe after the first week that I spent much of my day in pain and would wake up in the middle of the night in agony. On investigation this seems pretty common, something to do with caffeine no longer dilating blood vessels, I would assume as your body has to learn to take control again without the assistance of caffeine. I also experienced a lot of fatigue, tight muscles (to the point where my hips hurt as I bent to tie my shoelaces), minor headaches, and trouble focusing. I had an increased appetite (probably due to trying to fill the craving with something else), and generally quite poor sleep.
“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.
– Benjamin Franklin”
How I feel almost a year on:
- I feel far more grounded
- More focused
- Decision making improved (somewhat)
- I’ve become less reactive or affected by issues that may come up throughout the day.
- Sleep is slightly better
- I don’t wake up groggy and needing a coffee to function (which can make me a little abnoxious to coffee drinkers in the morning)
- Appetite is more consistent.
- Interestingly my facial hair is growing faster. (A recent blood test showed I had a healthy testosterone level)
- My memory is improving! something I’ve struggled with for years
- I don’t have to factor in a coffee stop on the way somewhere
- One thing I do miss is the manic motivation. I’m not sure I can directly link it to coffee, but I haven’t been as active as I was a year ago. Ofcourse that could also be linked to moving countries or a number of other things going on in the world, but it has caught my attention.
If you don’t want to give up coffee, maybe try:
- Ideally eating, but definitely having a big glass of water before your morning coffee. This is to help combat the acidity of caffeine of your stomach. Water also helps flush all the toxins for your body that your organs have been clearing over night.
- Ordering a single shot instead of a double.
- Ritualising your coffee consumption, taking time to savor the taste and smell, how it makes you feel. After all, coffee was regarded as a sacred plant in its origins before western society commercialised it, much like chocolate.
Will I drink coffee again?
I’ve tried a few times, just to see how I would feel, and every time I had to let it go to waste. I could feel discomfort in my body even after the first sip. I even tried decaf, but no luck. Now after all this time, I think it’s safe to say, my days as a coffee lover are over. I do miss it a little, especially when I’m at a nice cafe, but hey, my mental and physical health has improved. Honestly, I think the hardest part is not sounding like a douche bag when you tell people you don’t drink coffee. The ego loves it.
Next vice to let go of, swearing. This will be a real challenge.
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