Wednesday, December 31, 2014


It's not coffee, but it's closer than you might think
For the last five years I've given up coffee  (all caffeine) as part of my New Year's cleanse. Years ago alcohol would have been the hardest for me to give up, but now it's coffee. And I don't even drink that much coffee -- I try to keep it to two cups a morning.  Lately I've been drinking three.

Like millions of other coffee drinking adults, I make coffee as soon as I get up. I really look forward to it, and I don't even drink "great" coffee. I drink Nescafe instant. This is Mexico. A lot of coffee is grown here, and these day Starbucks is making inroads, but Nescafé Clásico instant coffee is still a very popular drink. When I'm in the US, I brew coffee. All that is besides the point though. I get addicted to my morning coffee, regardless the type, and I have to wean myself off over a few days or a I get a wicked headache that lasts all day, maybe longer.

So for the last few days I've been drinking a cup of hot water with lime first thing. Then I have my coffee. Today I had one cup. Tomorrow, I might take a few sips of my husband's coffee, but that will be the end of coffee drinking for at least the next three weeks.

Why give up coffee? I hate being addicted to things. It's that simple. And, contrary to what the 30-billion dollar coffee industry says, I don't believe caffeine is harmless/good for you even at low levels. Why would it be so hard to get out of your system if it was?

One trick that helps me give up coffee is having a warm cup in my hand of some other liquid. Hot water plain, or hot water with lemon or lime squeezed in, or herbal tea works.  Honestly, it's the hot cup as much as the flavor.

The same goes for alcohol, by the way. If you're having trouble imagining giving up alcohol, think of a non-alcoholic drink you like, and have that in the same glass instead. I like lemonade in a wine glass. It's not the total answer if you're a habitual drinker, but it helps more than you might think. I call this the mechanical component of addiction and this is how I know about it:

My father, a life-long smoker, got Alzheimers in his late seventies and lived the last few years of his life in an assisted living facility. Of course they didn't let him smoke there. But even after years of not smoking and after he lost his ability to speak coherently, he'd get a lovely smile on his face and a faraway look in his eye and you could tell he was about to tell a story or joke the way he always used to. But before he started to babble, his right hand would float up to an invisible pocket on his left shirt front, and he'd gracefully pull out an invisible cigarette the way he had his entire adult life. It was a gesture I'd seen a million times growing up. This taught me not to underestimate the mechanical components of addiction.

So that's what I employ when I give up coffee. Once I've got that hot mug to carry around with me through my morning routine and to sit next to my laptop, I forget there's not coffee in there. Really. It's true.

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