Addicted to Coffee? Same, Ditto, Me Too. How to Wean Off of It

(Without giving it up entirely)

05.09.16
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Have you ever sat down for breakfast with a friend and judged the F out of them for ordering tea or juice in lieu of coffee? Sometimes I feel like I drink coffee because I’m afraid to become one of the seemingly holier-than-thou, I’ve-figured-out-life’s-secret non-coffee drinkers. They extoll the virtues of natural energy and explain how “centered” and “focused” they feel while I nod my head, partially in agreement and also because my adrenals are on fire.

Going cold turkey sounds enticing: I like feeling centered. Focus is great. But a sizable body of research constantly reiterates that coffee consumption is perfectly fine for our health and may actually prevent disease across a growing spectrum that already includes diabetes, Parkinson’s and cancer. But given what we know about our aforementioned zen friends and the world — which is to say, anything that tastes or feels good, or worse: does both, will likely kill you — can this really be true? Early iterations of Juice Press’ iced latte bottle had a warning on it that read, “Coffee should never be confused with a healthy drink. It’s acidic and contains theobromine which is essentially a poison the body must filter,” for heaven’s sake!

A note about my relationship with coffee: I wake up in the morning and the only thing that gets me out of bed is the Nespresso machine in my kitchen.

If I don’t have espresso capsules, what gets me out the door is the coffee shop down the block from my apartment building. If I don’t have time to stop at that shop, what gets me to wherever I’m going is the promise of a warm, dark beverage waiting for me upon arrival. And look, I’m no expert, but as far as I can tell, that sounds like addictive behavior and grounds to break a bad habit.

I know myself well enough to know that a hard stop is just not going to work so I’ve spent the past couple of months thinking through what it is I like so much about coffee: the ritual, the energy spike, the taste when paired with almond milk, but more than anything, it’s the conviction that I feel when I’m on my way to either make a coffee or to get one. That sense of relief, longing and most importantly, anticipatory excitement that overcomes me in the moments before I’ve determined that I deserve a coffee.

So for the past three weeks, I’ve instituted a time stamp. No coffee before 12 p.m. Part of my reasoning that 12 p.m. was the magic hour comes from an excerpt I read of a book called Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond. The author, who credits changed eating habits for the termination of a long-time digestive disorder and migraine headaches, recommends eliminating coffee from your diet altogether but notes that if you can’t quite do that (thanks, Harv), drinking it past 12 p.m. is a good second option. (This is because your lymphatic system is working its hardest during the first five hours that you are awake and thus your body should not distract itself with more difficult-to-digest forms of nourishment during that time period.)

Beyond the health stuff, though, what I’ve noticed is a curiously increased level of efficiency — that convicted, enthusiastic walk to the shop has become a full morning of Getting. Shit. Done. Coffee is now my reward for going to work and doing what I need to do. The more I think about it, the more I realize that once you’ve gotten past the delight of buying yourself that coffee and reaping the benefit of its artificial energy, you’re kind of left dilly-dallying with this pent-up energy, incapable of focus and trying relentlessly to extract water from an empty reservoir.

Don’t get me wrong, the “habit” is far from broken. I’m still exhibiting addictive behavior specifically because that “happy drug” feeling coffee tends to provide is only further amplified when you wait to drink it. And once 12 o’clock comes around? I jet out the office like a kid with diarrhea, but at least it feels more like I’m drinking it on my terms. Like I don’t need it, I’m just having it because I can.

SheBee rings, Arme De L’Amour cuff; photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.

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