Sometimes a voice in my head tells me: "To hell with giving up coffee and the many benefits that come with it."
Don’t get me wrong, somewhere within me is a person who wants healthier, whiter teeth, less debilitating headaches, more money saved, lower blood pressure, better sleep just as badly as the next guy.
All these rewards from quitting the habit, however, mean zilch the second I smell coffee’s strong aroma and its promise of energy and good vibes. It’s all I need to survive a hectic day.
I’ve always been crazy about Café Americano and Caramel Macchiato for as long as I can remember, but a cheap instant coffee is fine by me, too. I’ve become quite opinionated about everything related to the heavenly hot brew that I’d flip, for instance, whenever my friends order iced coffee. To me, it’s just a confused beverage that tries badly to multi-task, which only makes it neither refreshing nor energizing.
My relationship with coffee started when I was a college freshman. My cups of joe got me through the ups and downs of pursuing an undergrad degree— from the countless all-nighters spent reviewing for challenging exams to handling demanding part-time jobs and dealing with horrific weekday hangovers. Now that I’m a bit older (but none the wiser), coffee remains my go-to ally in combatting the daily horrors of adulthood.
Whether I wake up early or late, I make it a point to greet the new day with tall servings of coffee in hand. A warm cup is also a prerequisite whenever I have to stay up late to either work on my deadlines or binge-watch a new TV series or two.
At my most wired, I’d willingly trade sleep for three to six cups of liquid energy on sunny days and a maximum of fifteen cups on much colder days. Regardless of the meal I have on my plate, I always prefer to wash it down with my absolutely indispensable go-juice. I once paired it with a hot noodle soup in fact and the condemnatory stares I got for doing so were intense AF, but I didn’t care.
Despite all this, please don’t think I hardly acknowledge how my excessive coffee intake has made me physically and emotionally dependent on my potent pick-me-up of choice. I've had days when palpitations and hand tremors were persistent and downright worrisome. Extreme exhaustion and relentless anxiety attacks also have become too hard to ignore amid the high-speed, caffein-fueled adrenaline rush I was perpetually on.
But for the first time in my life, I have reason to believe that what I had first thought of as a little, harmless habit have turned into an addiction.
This realization had me reflecting on how badly caffeine has overpowered my system. Because I wanted to re-establish control and not further give in to its pull, I decided to go on a seven-day coffee fast recenly. I'd like to think of the decision as a most productive and rational way to spend the first week of my first real break from work in years.
Although I didn't expect to permanently eliminate caffeine in my system in a week, I set out to fight the temptation at all costs so I could better understand how to break a habit. I treated the experience as journey of self-discovery, an opportunity for me to regain power over my body so I could practice drinking in moderation, if ever decide to enjoy a cup or two again later.
I've kept a journal to record what was happening to me to keep things real—and, boy, did it get real and harsh very quickly.
Day 1: Brutal thought No. 1: Seven days without coffee makes the week go by so slow.
I didn’t think it was possible to despise Mondays more until I had to fight the urge to weep over coffee. I ate a full breakfast, and instead of coffee, I prepared myself a decent cup of green tea. I had foreseen that this day was going to be unbearable without my usual coffee fix. It didn't take long for me to be proven right. Around 2 p.m., all hell broke loose. Tension formed right behind my eyes, leading to an irritating headache. Although a bit hopeless, I was too competitive to quit so I took an acetaminophen and wolfed down a bowl of ramen to ease the pain. I went to bed at 10 p.m, but didn’t fall asleep until 4 a.m. Thankfully, the headache was gone by then. Still, I was too restless and uncomfortable that I felt I was half-asleep throughout the night.
Day 2: Headaches, headaches, headaches!
I felt a lot worse because I woke up cranky and irritable. I've never been so frustrated because I wanted to write something—without a single cup of coffee beside me to provide inspiration. It was the most unthinkable act I never thought I would have the courage to do—but I did. Next thing I knew, a foggy and intense headache struck by late afternoon so I took another acetaminophen to relieve the pain. After a few hours, I watched a couple of episodes of Running Man to brighten my mood and made matcha green tea before writing again. I slept at around 1 a.m.
Day 3: The aroma was everywhere.
Though worn out, I went out to meet a friend. It was only then that I finally said out loud how frustrating coffee fasting has been so far. We arrived in a busy shopping mall and the scent of coffee emanating from various coffee shops was inescapable. I tried my hardest not to be jealous of people enjoying coffee. This day, the headache was quite manageable. I bought fresh milk, green tea, and Yakult. A few hours into our stroll, I started to be annoyed at every person I saw for no apparent reason. I wished I had just stayed at home.
Day 4: Toughening up a bit...
My first thought in the morning when I woke up was, “I’m not going to lose this battle.” I had no plans to go out so I started my day exercising before doing some watercolor painting right after. Then I sat down in front of my laptop with the clearest head I've had all week. I drank my alternative cup of tea and continued writing. I felt all betrayed when a crippling headache came out of nowhere at around 6 p.m. It was acetaminophen time once more. I slept way too early today, but I woke up around 3 a.m. My body clock was kinda showing off.
Day 5: Energy started to pick up.
This day was the first time I didn’t feel any withdrawal symptom. I might have experienced slight dizziness later that day, but I think it was the result of me binge-watching episodes of Running Man again. I noticed I was quite energetic today. An afternoon nap only made me feel even more refreshed. I realized I haven't felt extreme exhaustion for the past few days. Gone too were the palpitations. I felt grateful that this little assignment of mine's paying off.
Day 6: Lead me not into temptation.
The second to the last day was a grind, but indeed the most thrilling. Seeing my mom making her coffee made me look forward to drinking it in moderation again. The aroma was absolutely tempting, but I easily kept the urge at bay.
Day 7: Achievement unlocked.
I felt unbelievably great and at peace for the first time in quite a long while. I hardly felt anxious. No tormenting thoughts and fast heartbeat to deal with. I also noticed a significant improvement in my attention span. This day, I sat comfortably and read a book without fidgeting and without continuously thinking of other things do.
Here’s what I know so far: We’ve got to learn to admit our issues, relax, and break out of our rut and routine when we start to become slaves to our habits.
It was undeniably a meaningful seven days. With a nary a single drop of coffee consumed, I have discovered that I like myself better when I'm in control of my life. I still like coffee just as much as when I did this challenge. But I'd like to think I know better now. My physical and mental health should always come first.