In my matriarchal family, coffee is the Queen.
There is a long line of jittery, anxious, talkative women on my mother's side whose family traditions have always been coffee, pie, and Scrabble. My first cup of joe was long before it was trendy. Way before there was a Starbucks on nearly every corner.
As a firstborn and the first grandchild, I often traveled with my Mom into the hills of Kentucky to visit my grandmother and my great aunts. I pulled up a chair and played card games with them, but I also wanted to partake in the beverage of my people. I was twelve when I first stirred cream and sugar into the bitter brew. I've had countless cups of coffee since. It's the way I start every morning, and sometimes I go to bed excited that I get to have it. It's my favorite part of the morning.
It's in my DNA.
Fast forward to last month when I participated in an immersive wellness program that required caffeine depravation along with ridding my pantry of alcohol, eggs, dairy, gluten, and processed foods for 21 days. Of all the foods I love the most (potato chips, anyone?), I missed coffee like I'd lopped off a limb. I took the steps suggested to kick the caffeine habit before I started and weaned off my favorite drink in a week. Once I started the program, I was permitted to have green tea which has a fraction of the caffeine, but no beloved coffee. Not even half-caff. And who the hell wants decaf? Not me.
After a few weeks of whining about my plight, (No coffee! I'm dying!) something funny happened. I noticed that my mind was calmer. My fidgeting while sitting at my desk less so. I still missed my morning java, however, so I cheated. "It's my program, dammit, and I can do whatever I want!" So I drank some. And... I noticed a difference.
If you are one of those souls who can "drink coffee before bed and still sleep" or can "have an entire pot and not feel wired," I know you wear that badge with honor. You're the superhero of addictive substances! You've conquered what us weaker-willed folk cannot! ...Either that or your adrenals are blown, honey.
NOW HANG ON, LEMMONY...
Calm down. I'm not going to tell you to stop drinking coffee.
Oh. Very well. Continue.
BUT. If you can't remember the last time you went without a precious cup, and you, like me, laugh in the face of challenge, you might want to let it go temporarily and see what happens.
After my whining and moaning about how I couldn't have anything nice, I gave in and drank the coffee. And, like I said, I noticed. I noticed my anxiety shivering on the edge of breaking the surface. I noticed being uncomfortable at night and not being able to sleep as well. I noticed that I'd formed an unhealthy string of habits: drink coffee throughout the day to wake up and wind down with a glass of wine at night.
I was leaping from substance to substance to get through my day. An upper to help me write in the morning. A downer to put me to sleep. Only it didn't work the way I'd hoped, because often the coffee/wine combo during the day meant my jolting awake at 3 AM.
So, here's where I am now, and it's working. In the morning when I wake up, I drink water. (If I'm really good, I have lemon water, but not always!) Then after I'm downstairs, I ask myself the pertinent question. Do I want a hot beverage? Sometimes! Other times, I'm ready for a fresh-pressed juice or a smoothie. Sometimes I put on the tea kettle for a cup of green tea (or two!), and sometimes, friends, I make coffee. But I play with it now. Coffee is no longer my controller, it's a game. I might have half-caff made with Bulletproof Decaf because it's seriously the best tasting decaf I've ever had in my life... or I might have Teechino, a coffee-like, caffeine free beverage you can brew in your coffee pot. Sometimes I cut it with a scoop of espresso powder; other times, I drink Dandy Blend instead.
My morning routine used to be a rut and I didn't even know it! Now in the morning I check in with my body's needs to see what we can handle. Some (cough) "hormonal" times of the month I can't handle caffeine as well. On those days, I often notice too late, once I'm inexplicably angry or anxious to the point of not being able to concentrate. The point is, I notice. And once you're not addicted, it's easier to view things as they are rather than how your PSL tells you they are.
I didn't know I had a "coffee conundrum" until I was mourning the loss of my family tradition paired with my morning happiness. When I took a big step back I saw that it could still be a tradition and still make me happy, but it didn't mean I had to sacrifice my well-being for that to happen.
In short, I discovered coffee didn't love me as much as I loved it, and now that we have some healthy boundaries, we're much better together.
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