It was sunny. I can’t say for sure, but far into the depths of my memory the days are almost always sunny, so I’m going to roll with it.
Nothing was particularly different about that day, that I can recall. I probably woke up at 6:30, as was my custom then, took a too-long shower, and bumbled down the stairs to the changing room. I was fourteen and the world was an enormous library, the shelves lined with promising new adventures and experiences.
I walked to the kitchen and opened the door of our 1970s manilla refrigerator to take stock. To the left, through the corner of my eye, I saw the ever-present remains of my father’s daily pot of Maxwell House coffee, and something inside me clicked. It was time.
These first tastes of adult vices through our teenage years seem to amount to some western version of a tribal initiation ritual, sans the fire ants. With each first bitter taste of beer, throatful of smoke, and mouthful of hot, leathery coffee, we take one step closer towards that distant, unreachable horizon. Adulthood.
Though the first samplings of drink and smoke were still some ways off, coffee was step one in my imagined guidebook to adulthood, and it was time to get moving. So, without thinking too long about it, I snatched a John Deere mug from the cupboard and filled it halfway with the store-brand drip coffee, which had been sitting on the burner for two hours, at least.
As soon as the sludge hit my tongue, I was overwhelmed by the bitter, scorched flavor. It was like nothing I had ever tasted. Though it was hard to keep down, it felt exotic, forbidden–as most good things seemed then.
Revved like an Aston Martin, I headed to school. I had never felt so alive. Tuesday morning felt like Saturday afternoon, and in those days, there was nothing quite as uncapturable as a Saturday Afternoon.
I’ve been a coffee junkie ever since.
. . .
Now, almost ten years later, I’ve gone four days without coffee–the longest since that very first taste.
In preparation for this challenge, I read a few articles by others who had quit drinking coffee for some period of time, for one reason or another. Invariably, they likened the experience to the greatest pain and hardship, something like being on the wrong side of the Spanish Inquisition. Needless to say, I was scared. Fine. I was terrified. But on Monday, Advil in hand, I took the jump.
Now I’m as big a fan of war stories as anyone else, so I’m sorry to report that, well, it really hasn’t been that bad. To be fair, I have been drinking a bit of tea, so I can’t claim to have truly faced the pangs of caffeine withdrawal head on, as many others have. Still, I expected to yearn for the familiar flavor every morning; to crave that mid-afternoon splash of jet fuel with a smoldering passion. Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss it, but life goes on.
The best lesson I’ve learned from the challenge thus far is the power of less. Before I started One Week Without Coffee, I was having four, sometimes five cups each day; whenever one cup wore off, it was time for the next. Now, though I’m still getting a bit of caffeine from a cup of tea in the morning, I’ve reduced my total caffeine consumption by a factor of ten. And it’s not so bad, rather, the day is much smoother, without the tremendous peaks or valleys I used to experience.
Regardless of what happens at the end of this challenge, and I’m still a ways off, the one thing I won’t do is go back to consuming caffeine constantly throughout the day, it just isn’t worth it.
So, four days down, three to go, and I’m still going strong. For the next half of the challenge, I’m going to try to wean off of caffeine even further, nixing the tea and the occasional splash of Diet Coke from the fountain at work. Wish me luck.
may we all get better together.
Start your own One Week With/out challenge! Begin here.