So, I made my re-entry back into the world of coffee without much of a glitch, save a bit of shame for being such a hypocrite, telling the world I would never drink “the crap” again. I had originally quit because of headaches and a near-complete dependence on the stuff, a la a pure substance abuse. I couldn’t wake up without it. I couldn’t get through my day without a second hit. And I didn’t feel a part of American culture if, like everyone else, I couldn’t have a tall soy latte in my hand while coursing my way through an intersection.
But hey, I made it an entire month without it, and felt pretty good, despite some migraines the first week, for which I needed to see a doctor. I substituted with green Kombucha tea, Yerba Mate and red rooibos–all of which did weird things to me. But, soon enough, I felt cleansed, unpolluted, alert, and mostly, free from the shackles or addiction and of course, the ritual of having to hunt down a Starbuck’s at 3:30pm, no matter where I was, so as to recharge and make me feel part of the human race again. But my digestive tract had become so dependent on the caffeine (from roughly 300 mgs per day down to about 25 mgs or less) that for the entire month, horribly unmentionable things were happening to me. OK, I’ll mention them: burping, belching, farting, constipation, IBS and so on.
But here’s the hitch. Without my daily caffeine fix, I craved bad foods. Usually my diet is very healthy: slow-cooked oats for breakfast, salad for lunch, chicken, veggies and a starch for dinner. Every once in a while I’d have a sweet. But when I stopped drinking coffee, there was that nagging toxic sensation of needing to “fill the void” well known to love addicts, and so…as if I had this Get Out of Jail Free card I started eating mountains of burgers, fries, potato chips (something I NEVER eat), cookies, and other junk. It’s as if there was this yin and yang within me…pulling at me to do something bad to counteract all the good I was accomplishing. I mean, let’s be honest. There’s only so much green tea and Andrew Weil a girl can take, you know. I was too cleansed, too pure, too unpolluted. Not to mention all my friends were on my case, insisting that I needed at least one vice. “Live a little,” they said. As if drinking coffee, and vices in general are the mark of a satisfying life.
But, in a way, they’re right. Unless we are holed up in a monastery at the top of a mountain in Nepal with virtually no human contact, we need to experience the world in all its divine and no so divine glory. And we’re talking coffee. Occasional sweets. A shopping spree here and there. The lighter side of addiction that doesn’t rob you completely of your soul. As addicting as it is, a cup of coffee in the morning is something I can live with. Coffee, I suppose, keeps the bad girl in me alive. It keeps me a little sullied, a little uninhibited, a little wild, without stripping me of my dignity and my values.
My sis-in-law was over last night and we were discussing the documentary “Babies.” She was saying that too much care can cause an individual to weaken. Too much hand sanitizer, for example, can keep us over-protected from being able to build up an immunity to viruses and bacteria. In that sense, I’d like to think that my coffee addiction keeps me dirty enough that I can actually exist among society.
But the truth is, I’ve decided to try quitting again, after the summer, when I can spend a month or two alone, isolated and insulated from the rest of the world. Detoxing is a slow, meticulous process, which needs time and patience (a metaphor for love addiction recovery perhaps?). And the fact of the matter is, that despite my addiction to it, I feel better without it, physically and mentally. And though I’m sure to substitute my bad girl coffee habit with something equally bad (shoplifting? loitering in front of the “No Loitering” signs around town?), at least I will no longer be a slave to the ritual or dependent upon a substance that has a little too much control over my life.
But for now, the coffee maker is brewing my usual french roast and my Starbuck’s card is fully loaded and ready to be swiped.