How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? Let’s actually break down what a cup is. Is your cup 16oz cause technically that’s 2 cups. 1 cup is 8oz friends. I know things can get a little bit grey when you order a small, medium or large (or xlarge). And let’s be honest most of us don’t have our own or don’t always use our own measured mugs/containers.
Here’s the more interesting question: What is your relationship to coffee? Is it your friend you spend every morning with, enjoying the quite before the storm of your day? Is it your buddy that you sneak off with throughout the day to get a break? Or is it your life-line, the thing that keeps you floating (intentionally not swimming) above water? When we start to look at our habits as relationships we can clearly see almost a scary parallel to our physical human relationships. But mostly the relationship we have with ourselves.
So let’s continue on this coffee expedition. My relationship with coffee was based in a relationship contingent on instant gratification.
I didn’t care if it was fancy coffee or coffee that tasted like the bottom of an ash tray. When I wanted coffee I got coffee. But that coffee came at a price, literally. I was mindless when I spent money on coffee. It didn’t matter if I had $5 dollars in my bank account, I could always find a rationale. Even if cost $4.75. I didn’t really drink coffee throughout the day but I felt I deserved at least 1 coffee a day. And given the fact that I can mostly be quite a coffee snob that comes out to around $35 a week. Now let’s not forget the other forms of caffeine I felt I also could have; Matcha, Chai. So we’re really talking about $40+ a week just on beverages. And it’s not about the money even though this pattern roughly adds up to $2080 a year which could be used for 2 plane rides to Asia, 10.4 pairs of expensive jeans, 34 pairs of inexpensive jeans, 20 dinners with friends, 138 bottles of wine. We get the idea. The habit (ie coffee) begins to shed light on values. What matters to you? Would you rather spend your money on dinners with friends, pants that fit like a glove and make you feel like the sexiest person in the room, or daily coffee?
It’s hard to see the bigger picture when the relationship you’re having is one of instant gratification. The relationship doesn’t matter if you want the relationship tomorrow, it isn’t worried about how you’ll feel a year from now; when it itches it wants to be scratched.
And if we’re being completely transparent, that’s a relationship trend that exists in many aspects of my life. I’m incredibly good at making money quickly. I’m scrappy and always find a way to get by. It’s a rush, living off the tail of my coat and it’s made me super innovative for sure but it also made me feel like I had to spend as quickly as I earned. Never really thinking long term about the things that would truly give me fulfillment such as investing in a beautiful pair of pants or having money stored away so I could travel immediately instead of having to hustle to save up for it.
What instant gratification helped me achieve was an illusion of a life that I wanted but didn’t have. I wanted a life of ease but what I was creating was a life of co-dependency.
What defines you? What makes up the sum total of who you are? Would you say your religion, your gender? What you do for a living? How you spend your weekends? The type of workouts you do? Who you hang out with? The clothes that you wear? The kind of food that you eat? What political party you belong to? The role you play in your family?
What if all of those identities were taken away. Who would you be? What would matter to you? What identities would you miss and which ones would give you relief that they were gone? Could it be possible that all of these questions arose from one simple relationship change; my relationship with coffee.
And that’s where the anger came in. My detox phase lasted about 4 days and included headaches, exhaustion and mostly anger. I was resentful, frustrated and downright hateful. After a full day of sleep, I finally started to feel normal; normal not meaning the anger had gone away, normal in the sense that I could have a multitude of emotions and recognize them. I wasn’t just feeling angry all the time, but happy, sad, frustrated and joy. Essentially I was a multi-emotional human being. What was so painfully obvious after the detox had subsided was how much coffee was masking anger based in fear of survival.
Let’s look deeper into another important relationship. The relationship between our adrenal glands and our flight and flight responses. The adrenal glands which sit on top of the kidneys release hormones that make us ready to run away or fight; i.e. speeding up our heart rate and inducing muscle contraction. As coffee stimulates the adrenal glands your body becomes ready to go to battle or run long distances. That sounds awesome in theory. Let’s just pump our bodies with things that’ll help it work better, faster and stronger. But the body didn’t evolve to just boost your brain efficiently; your adrenal glands require your body to move; and if you’re sitting a desk all day or barely getting your 10,000 steps than that cortisol just stays and sits in the body. Think about the way you feel after a hangover. All that alcohol just hanging out in your body waiting for you to get rid of it. After a good workout or a few days off booze you start feeling normal. Now imagine you never gave your body permission to fully get rid of the excess junk? That’s essentially what was happening to me with coffee. Every time my body would start to get familiar without having coffee (essentially beginning to detox) I’d pump more coffee in, produce more cortisol and wondering why I was so f*cken tired.
Coffee is just the example. I could have done this entire experiment with sugar, alcohol or cigarettes but I choose coffee because it was such an obvious money drain. What I did not expect was the emotional reaction. I did not expect to be face to face with truly deep rage that had been laying dormant waiting to be heard. I did not expect to find myself re-evaluating my entire value system. And I certainly didn’t expect to question who I was in relationship. There’s a saying; how you do anything is how you do everything. And I think in this particular instance how I treated coffee was a direct relationship to how I treated myself.
Besides the underlining rage masked by the continual stimulus of cortisol, I realized that I had been consistently dehydrating myself. As a traveling yoga instructor, I would repeatedly forget to drink water throughout my commute only too arrive at a studio and sometimes not have time to drink water before I’d teach. On top of that, coffee naturally dehydrates you. Not making water (an essential part of sustaining life) a propriety shows me that I wasn’t valuing my day to day happiness. I was just rushing to get by. By making water a priority, I am now subconsciously telling myself that I deserve to not only survive but thrive.
Coming back to values and the life I’d like to have, I recognized a personality trait neglected by my instant gratification relationship. Playing games. I love games. I love competition and I love achieving goals. Nothing turns me on more than checking something off a list. As soon as I gave up coffee and realized how much money I could save I began thinking of money more as a game. I downloaded Qapital and Acorn, 2 apps that take your spare change and turn it into savings or investments. I even set goals and created weekly and monthly direct deposits of the same amount of money I would normally spend on coffee. I started thinking about water as a game. Making sure I hit my quota everyday regardless if I was sitting at home or running around the city. I started asking myself “what actually makes me happy.” Not instantly but consistently makes me happy. I wrote lists of things that would enrich my life long term, that way I can check them off, acknowledge how long it took me to get what I wanted and feel accomplished in my obtaining a goal.
As soon as I realized that I could cut coffee from my life and survive I started thinking of other things that I could cut. It wasn’t just financial; it became about cutting the fat from my life. The excess, the things I no longer needed. My workouts became harder and more focused, my food intake more nourishing and mindful, my relationships are clearer than they ever have been. People who are present and open are the people I want to be around. End of story. Once I feel like I have completed my re-entry phase of life without coffee, I’m going to play with other habits and see what I learn from them.
All the sudden, life feels less serious. Maybe it’s purely because on a neuro-hormonal level I am less in my fight and flight state. Maybe I’m just in a place where I’m ready to take control and accountability for every aspect of my life. Whatever the reason is, I think giving yourself a tangible non-threatening life change every now and then is as important as eating healthy food and working out. It changes up your neuro-pathways, makes you revaluate and gives you LOADS more choice on how you want your life to look. Though the journey was certainty non liner, and turned in ways I could have never imagined I feel truly anew from the experience and I highly recommend giving it a try. What do you have to gain?