Home > Health, Parenting, Reflections > Coffee and history

Coffee and history

Giving up coffee has wreaked havoc on me the last three weeks.

The last time I gave up coffee for a few weeks, I felt amazing. I was walking on sunshine within a few days!

This time around, I have felt the ache of its absence in virtually every waking minute. I’ve missed its smell, its taste, the buzz I got from drinking it, the way it gave me enough nervous energy to keep getting through things I’d otherwise not have nearly enough energy to tackle.

In the vein of J.D. from Scrubs, I’ve envisioned grabbing peoples’ mugs and laughing maniacally as I drank from them at a run while they stood behind, coffeeless and baffled as to what exactly just happened.

I’ve had to face the fact that, though I wasn’t pawning my possessions for another hit of my drug of choice, I was–am–deeply, scarily dependent upon coffee.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had to face some fundamental, hard truths. 

The last few years have been stressful as hell, from
mystery health problems following exposure to environmental toxins
to having to eat a restrictive diet to counter those health problems
to learning the second pregnancy is way more stressful than the first
(seeing as you have all the exhaustion and another kid to chase around,
and can’t just sleep your way through kid-wrangling and
working and commuting, no matter how exhausted)
to learning that having two kids is seven thousand times more stressful
(because you must give up even more space, time, energy, and money
while the kids are awake, and make double the decisions,
and cook and clean and do more of everything when they are asleep,
before you get to spend a few minutes quietly with yourself, if
there aren’t 907 more non-parenting choices to make with your partner) and that
stress is redoubled by both scary neighbors and the fact you hardly see your friends anymore
(thereby benefiting by none of the stress-relieving properties of their presence,
while they stop inviting you to things because you’re just a boring parent now)
to changing jobs three times in a year and a half while juggling everything else
to feeling painful echoes of childhood poverty and fear in
my husband’s not-working between shows and exhaustion at having to carry
his home load when he is working show biz-long hours
to feeling profoundly the physical distance between me and my siblings,
who have always been the best medicine to counter my distress,
and the sadness of how our cumulative finances make necessary real-life hugs impossible
(because virtual hugs, though helpful to the brain, don’t settle the heart or soul
the way that do at least two arms wrapped around you)
to a million other stressors I thought I’d overcome
simply because I’d put calendar days between me and them.

Thanks to coffee, I was able to hide from myself the cumulative stress the last few years have showered upon me.

I was able to say, “Yeah, that was hard, but it’s over now … now on to the next thing!” and not look too hard into whether any of it really was over, or whether I’d just shoved it aside for future handling.

Without the coffee, I’ve been able to finally acknowledge and understand how bone weary I am. When I’ve said “no,” more and more emphatically to many more things and people, it’s because I haven’t–without coffee–even had enough “yes” for all the things I actually have to do. Each “no” has been–and will be–a self preserving act to protect what scant resources I do have.

I’ve seen that coffee doesn’t actually make things better so much as it makes everything else more enticing to look at, and that calendar days don’t magically make the distress caused by stress disappear.

I’ve learned that I have years worth of distress to actively, consciously, conscientiously heal, and that I can’t fix a problem years in the making with a few short weeks of coffeeless clean eating.

I’ve learned that no matter how exhausted I am, all the stress hormones coursing through my brain from coffee and history can still leave me so wired that I sleep only three hours despite utilizing a dozen different calming techniques over the course of five hours, and that the day that follows will likely be a crapfest because sleep is the fuel I’ve really needed all along, and I just can’t buy that good stuff in a cup.

In the short term, being coffeeless is wrecking me. The fact it’s wrecking me so intensely actually makes me more insistent on leaving it behind. I don’t want dependency, or a pseudo-cure in a cup anymore. I want real cures that come with time, persistence, patience (as often as possible), and kindness toward myself as I work it all out.

I can’t fix the problems I hide from myself so skillfully I don’t recognize they’re problems.

And so, I write this to remind myself that, though I short term want a cup of coffee, and another one after that, and then another,
I don’t really. Why?

Because I long term want to feel better, a feeling that comes not from consuming external resources
but dedicating myself to developing positive internal ones.


Today will likely be one of those days:
one of those days where I’m tired, and sad, and struggling to stay awake,
and wondering how on earth I’ll make it through all of those hours and tasks before bedtime.

But like all of those other some-days, I will make it through, and the fact I make it through
will be a reminder on other such days that I am a warrior, and I–
as much as the light–am worth fighting for.

light hands

  1. March 29, 2016 at 6:07 am

    Coffee, false trickster, release thy poisonous grip from my friend or I’ll loose the full might of the kingdom against you. You’ve been warned.

  2. March 29, 2016 at 6:48 am

    As I’m still struggling with the effects of giving up booze, I feel for you.

  3. March 29, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Oh sweet deliciousness in a cup…in which we both say farewell. I feel your pain dear. Truly. I too am trying to kick the habit…while my hubs is not. We own a Keurig, two French press, a traditional coffee make, and an espresso machine, and of course a Starbucks reward card which is loaded with a free drink. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
    I started using Calms, by hylands. It’s for nervousness and tension release, also sleep. I have found that it lessens the tossing and turning as I fight for sleep and helps my heart to beat just a bit slower in times of stress. It’s not a cure, but when I stopped taking it, I realized how much good it did for me. It doesn’t work for everyone. I have noticed when I eat more healthfully, it works better. I got it on amazon. I buy two bottles at a time, because I get anxious about running out lol…go figure!
    I’ve been wearing my boring parent costume for years…and I’m cool with it. If my friends ditch me for someone with no kids, it just means I get a nap in on Saturdays, and no late night coffee. I do miss thrift store shopping with my girlfriends though…so very much. I hope your day is chill rather than exhausting, but if it is you won’t be exhausted alone💜

    • March 30, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      I’ll look into Calms! Right now I’m up against the fact that the longer term solutions will take a little while to implement, so that aome shorter term interventions could be helpful to get me to the longer term.

      Previously, eating clean alone–with a cup of coffee!–was enough to get me to feeling great. In a way, I’m kinda glad that the diet/coffee changes alone didn’t do it, because it flagged for me that there are bigger issues draining me. Eating clean and ditching coffee will take me part of the way, but I need these bigger adjustments to get me the rest of the way … and I am willing to make them! I just wish they’d work a little more instantaneously, you know? 🙂

      Big hugs & lots of well wishes. ♡

  4. Holly
    March 29, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Replace coffee with diet coke and that’s me :/ I gave up alcohol for good a few years ago,, and I’ve never smoked or done drugs, surely it’s OK for me to keep drinking soda, right?

    (not right, unfortunately…or at least not for me)

    • March 30, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      That is such a hard one! For me, coffee was my I’m-giving-up-everything-else-but-at-least-have-this, until it couldn’t be. 😦

      I think it’s important to balance physical considerations with emotional ones. While coffee is out for me, as is most caffeine, a celebratory chocolate cupcake here and there is important for me, emotionally and psychologically. 🙂

  5. March 29, 2016 at 9:31 am

    I don’t have half the stressful stuff going on that you do but I still am having a hard time with giving up coffee. The first few days were easy and then it got harder and harder… I did have a little chocolate at Easter – real chocolate, not candy bar type. Made my headaches yesterday that much worse, but it was worth it.

    Good luck. Let me know if/when it gets better so I have something to look forward to 😉

    • March 30, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      FWIW, yesterday went a whole lot different than expected. Despite persistent lack of sleep, I felt invigorated … and not remotely tempted by coffee. I’m in the same place today! So maybe that’s a light? 🙂

      (Maybe I had to write this post to get there? Not sure, but perhaps!)

      • March 30, 2016 at 1:01 pm

        Good, maybe there’s hope. My sleep seems to be getting worse.

  6. March 29, 2016 at 9:49 am

    Giving up coffee sounds horrendous, I really hope things start to get better soon.

  7. March 29, 2016 at 10:40 am

    oh I can very much relate to this. Especially as a mom, I go through spouts where I realize I’m using coffee as my crutch to function on way less sleep than I should be relying on. And it always catches up with me and is not fun at all when it does. Good luck and hope you feel less bone weary soon.

    • March 30, 2016 at 12:47 pm

      Thank you! I read a book on adrenal fatigue last week. I immediately adopted some of its suggestions for self soothing, which I’m finding more and more beneficial by the day. Doing those practices doesn’t change the external circumstances, but it does give me more internal resources to manage the circumstances. I expect that’ll be the topic of my next post. 🙂

  8. March 29, 2016 at 11:03 am

    I hit the link to the scary neighbors post and it chilled me to the bone. I know what it’s like to live close to scary, dangerous people. Just that semi-helpless feeling caused me so much stress. Thank goodness my daughter was grown up and living on her own when that blew up. I don’t know how I’d survive with the stressors you live with now on a daily basis.

    I wish you peace, emotional space, in-person hugs, freedom from coffee, and all the important things you need. I understand much of what you’ve written here because I’m having my own battles with similar stressors — not getting the sleep I need, encroaching poverty. But I really understand the stress of knowing that your children are often targets. My daughter is mixed race, black and white, cafe au lait skin and curly hair with a hint of frizz. Some white folks had ‘problems’ with her the way they did with her black mother, but I’d forgotten how some black folks would also have ‘problems’ with her — she was even targeted by her kindergarten teacher. I still feel guilt for not recognizing where my daughter’s stress came from until May of that school year. So much time that awful teacher (also a drunk) tormented my baby and I couldn’t figure out what was stressing her so.

    I’m sorry this comment is so long. I just wanted to say I understand. Sending good thoughts and love your way through the ether. ❤

    • April 8, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      Your comment about neighbors gave me a lot of food for thought. The scary neighbor moved away about a year ago, leaving me feeling somewhat more peaceable about the place, but it’s never quite returned to feeling safely like home since. I think that background unease has had more of an impact on my stress levels than I understood.

      (And to think I thought the problem was coffee! Both a symptom and an independent contributor to growing the root problem.)

      I have things I want to say in reply to your comment that I just can’t find the words for: all kinds of images and feelings that don’t align with words I know, or can recall in this afternoon’s tiredness. The best way I can think to express the totality is to thank you for your compassion, and to wish you all the anti-stress resources you need to rise into comfort and then peace. I’m rooting for you from here, and sending much love your way, today and every day. (I’ve thought of you every day since I read this comment, though it took me a week and a half to actually reply.)

  9. March 29, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Yay to saying no. To acknowledging your needs. And finding space, and energy for healing.
    Are you familiar with the spoon theory? . It is commonly used for people with disabilities but I think it is increasingly relevant to so many busy, overworked, overwhelmed lives.

    • April 8, 2016 at 5:05 pm

      I am familiar with spoon theory! I went through a period where I thought it only applied to my social energy. I now recognize it applies much more broadly, and that it sucks to spend all my spoons on irrelevant things to then return home and have no spoons left for the best of all. I’ll get the balance, someday hopefully soonish. I feel the incremental progress by the day.

      *hugs* & thanks

  10. March 29, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    As I write this, I am about to spend an evening watching my nearly three year old grandson.

    I left work early yesterday, came home, changed my clothes, sat down, and slept four hours. A few hours after that, I went to bed and slept seven more.

    In my case, when I am *that* tired, it is either go to sleep or end up in the hospital. I’ve handled it both ways; the people in my life prefer me to just sleep.

    I really feel for you and your husband, because, there is no easy magic answer, except to follow your instincts and take care of who matters.

  11. N.
    March 29, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Giving up coffee (or tea) is something that I honestly don’t think I am capable of 😁 So kudos to you for sticking to it for 3 weeks! That’s a long time to be caffeine free!

  12. March 29, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    I made it a month without coffee once when I did a cleanse. I felt great and didn’t miss it but somehow I slid back into my habit. I’m also sensitive to environmental toxins. I have multi-chemical sensitivities. My health had been severely affected and if I could also stop sugar I know I’d feel better but somehow I slipped back into that too. Sighs

  13. March 29, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I know how rough I feel when trying to kick Coca-Cola (which has only 1/4 of the caffeine compared to a serving of coffee), so I can only imagine how tough things are right now, with the life stress on top of it. I hope things improve soon. ❤

  14. March 30, 2016 at 8:18 am

    Oh, I feel you in my heart I feel you. I wish there were words of wisdom or simply words of love and uplift I could give to you that would make these days easier. Is it enough that I do love you and am sending you a shoulder to lean on? I hope so. ❤

  15. March 30, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    My sister gave up coffee a long time ago, she asked on a mall trip once, she started bouncing off the walls, I think they made an error. She became quite manic. Then crashed that evening, we don’t realise how strong these things are. Good luck, I couldn’t do this.😉

  16. March 30, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Hello, my warrior friend. ❤

  17. March 31, 2016 at 7:31 am

    Oh my… I haven’t tried giving up coffee – but understand your struggle wit getting to sleep and staying asleep as I am having that exact same problem. I’ve tried tapping…and all the other many options out there. I won’t give you any new avenues to try as you’ve probably all ready tried them. Wishing you success and hoping your sleep improves quickly. Take care!

  18. April 2, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    I admire your determination – I’m the same with tea – I refused to work a night shift because there was no tea bags at work – I had to drive and get some before I agreed to stay 😨

  1. July 3, 2016 at 8:29 am

Please weigh in--kindly!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: