Because I could.
Just kidding. It’s obviously not that simple.
Here’s the slightly more complex version of how I came to quit coffee*
*As I started to write this, Leo** began making coffee for the first time in weeks, ironically tempting me in a way that hasn’t happened in…weeks. How fitting.
(**Another vice of mine is continuing to live with my ex after the break up. That’s next on my list…)
Like most other people, I got roped into the coffee drinking scheme somewhere in my life, though I don’t remember when or how I started doing it. But I liked it (or maybe I worked up to that point) and it had its place in my life. Mostly, I used it for writing and working out. With either one, I would time it so that I could get the most writing or working out done, while I was still on the mental and physical high. It was like surfing a wave. If I missed it, I just had to wait till the next buzz, usually the next morning. (Real bummer.) However, eventually my tolerance increased, so the more I drank the less effect it had on me. Sometimes drinking more would actually make me tired. That was fairly annoying.
I took it black, and preferred it on an empty stomach. Any additives only seemed to dilute the effect. Once in awhile I’d make it a “meal” by adding cream or milk and a sweetener. It would help keep me full and sometimes helped with cravings. It also helped keep me regular, which I know is important to a lot of people, though I’ve never had too much trouble in that area (or maybe I just don’t pay enough attention to that area of my life).
There are some other good things about coffee, too. I like the smell of it in the morning, afternoon, and evening. The smell of coffee is one of my favorite things in the world. I’ve always loved it, long before I ever wanted a taste. In fact, I think it smells a million times better than it tastes.
But besides those things, I appreciate the tradition of coffee. Like being in a yoga pose, you can literally feel the history, thousands of years (?? I’m shooting in the dark here) of people bonding over cups of hot brown stuff that promised to lift their spirits and give them a momentary boost of energy.
Additionally, I never fully bought the idea that coffee is unhealthy. In fact, the research is so mixed, as often it is, that I don’t think anyone knows for sure whether coffee has an overall positive or negative effect on our physiology. I’ve heard so many conflicting stories, I finally ear-muffed myself on the subject. Not to mention, we often don’t give enough credit to direct observation and experience. More likely, we find ourselves googling strangers’ perspectives on the very thing we are, or should be, the best expert in the world on: our body, how it feels, and what works best for it.
Lastly, it provides some sort of pleasure, or it wouldn’t be such a popular form of socially-acceptable crack (by the way, I still think it’s light-years better for you than sugar). Like those people who see someone smoking in a movie and it makes them want to light up, that’s how I was with coffee. It just made me feel like a part of humanity. Unlike going out for lunch, dreaming of my wedding day, working at a corporation, getting my nails done, living in a big city, binge drinking on weekends, watching Honey Boo Boo, Jersey Shore or the Kardashians (I just don’t understand) it was something I could actually be “in on” with the “normal” people.
“Want to go out for coffee sometime?”
“Love to! It’s already a habit plus I can actually afford it!”
It was my one widely-accepted vice. Meanwhile, riding my bike everywhere, waking up early, preferring solitude and fresh air to parties and air conditioning, and not wearing shoes unless absolutely necessary, these other vices I had were not always widely embraced.
By the way, are those vices? I think they must be. 😉
When it came down to it, I never felt extremely motivated to quit coffee (and thereby cut my single last tie to all of humanity). So why did I bother? (Good question. And thanks for asking, or this whole post would have been for naught…)
There were a few reasons, the first being I was finally starting to take my spiritual practice seriously. And I wasn’t sure why, but I’d heard through the grapevine that coffee could interfere with your ability to listen to your inner guidance, and that it strengthened the ego. It seemed to me most spiritual leaders weren’t downing cups of joe. And it also made sense; I’d witnessed my “monkey brain” on coffee, and without, and it was always much more active when I was drinking the brown stuff. That could only interfere with meditation, and I’d learned through experience I felt much happier the less thinking I did (yeah, I realize that’s not something you usually want to say to a group of strangers). So although I’m usually an advocate of not watching what other people are doing, and just doing what’s best for you, it seemed like there could be something to it, in terms of a spiritual link and helping my practice.
Perhaps an even bigger reason than that, however, was this:
Because I could.
It was helpful that I never felt much of a physical addiction to coffee. I liked it, and I had a bit of a habit with it, but it wasn’t like I was getting headaches or any of the other strong withdraw symptoms when I didn’t drink it. Maybe I was more tired for a day or two, but it wasn’t anything I had to rearrange my life around. Mine was more of a mental, emotional addiction, so it mostly required a change of perspective. And that’s just what I did. I realized I wanted to quit because it seemed like the logical next step toward gaining a bit of freedom back. I knew I could do it, so why not, then? It would be one less thing to worry about.
And when I think about it, that just might be the single reason to quit something: just because you can! If it’s something you can quit, it means it doesn’t need to be there. It means you can exist, and probably have existed, without it before. And it means that to do so, will simplify your life.
Because in the end for me, it comes down to the concept of freedom. To being tied down to a substance–or not. My life right now is about gaining space and freedom, and I didn’t see being tied down to any substance on a habitual basis, as helping my cause.
So if you have the choice, wouldn’t you choose to be free? If you know you can quit, why not do it? You really can feel good without coffee. Seriously, kids have been doing it for years. And they can still run circles around most coffee drinkers. The biggest difference is that instead of highs and lows, you feel more stable all throughout the day. You don’t come up, so you can’t crash. It’s actually pretty nice. And oh yeah, you feel good because you don’t have to think about making or obtaining coffee first thing upon waking. You can even go on a week-long hike in the woods and pack a pound of pot instead of a pound of coffee. Just kidding.
When it came down to it, it wasn’t about coffee or whether I drank it or not. It was about undoing a tie I saw no need for in my life. We so often throw around the word “freedom” like it’s something that we want. And most people, if not all people, do. But what they don’t always realize is that oftentimes they’re slaves to their own creations. They have so many chances each day to expand their freedom, but it’s easier in the short-term to focus on something that someone else “did to you” or an excuse as to why you can’t be fully free.
The simplest way I know to become free in your life, to really experience freedom, is to give up all your addictions. If you think it’s impossible, well I don’t know what to tell you except, if it’s something you have ever lived a day in your life without, you can probably get back to that place. I’m not saying it’s always as easy as how I quit coffee (cold turkey, by the way), but I know it can be done.
The greater the hold a thing (cup of coffee, toxic relationship, poor spending habit, whatever) has on you, the greater the incentive to give it up. In fact, I’d venture to say that the only better reason to quit something than “just because you can”, is “just because you can’t”. If you think you can’t quit something, then you have even more to lose by not quitting and much more to gain by doing it. If you honestly undertake that task (and please believe I know it’s not easy– I’m in the process of quitting sugar, which is my own personal kryptonite) then when you succeed, you will experience freedom way beyond the physical space created in your life. You will know what it truly feels like to be in charge and responsible for your body, your thoughts, your decisions. It’s a feeling of peace you can’t put a price on, not even for all the Starbucks in the world. (I know that’s a lofty statement, but I stand behind it).
So ultimately, it all comes down to the fact that I quit coffee because I could. Oh… So I guess it really was that simple all along.