a less caffeinated me

I love coffee. The sound of my coffee maker and the smell of coffee brewing, cradling the warm cup in my hands, and the first taste of the morning–these are the loveliest parts of my morning routine.  Perhaps because the act of making and drinking my morning coffee involves nearly all of my senses. It’s no wonder that I feel more cranky and out of sorts on days that do not start with this simple ritual.

Although I love coffee and have no intention of eliminating it from my morning routine, I also have to admit that I don’t like the effects that not having my daily dose of caffeine has on me.  For a while now, my morning routine has included two cups (24oz) of coffee.  Brewed coffee–not a latte or a frappuccino or a mocha.  Just the dark liquid gold of drip coffee with a heavy-handed splash of cream.  Don’t get me wrong–mochas used to be my drink of choice and then I transitioned to lattes and have now made the final transition to brewed coffee.  What I didn’t know was that there’s actually more caffeine in brewed coffee than in the average two-shot espresso drink.  This is important because whenever I try to substitute a latte for my morning coffee, it doesn’t have the same impact.  But, I’m digressing.

Like I said, until recently, I was a two-cup-a-day person.  I had to have two cups or else.  If you’re a long-time caffeine addict like me, you know what is followed by that “or else”–feeling more tired, crankiness, short attention span and an inability to focus, impatience.  At least, this is how I perceived my response and changes in behavior when I had anything less than two cups of coffee.  So when I say that I don’t like the effects of not having my daily dose of caffeine, these are the effects I mean.  More precisely, though, I don’t like knowing that I’m in withdrawal, and I don’t like being in withdrawal (obviously).  But I can’t (read: won’t) give up coffee.  In the decade and a half since I started drinking coffee and espresso drinks, I’ve given up caffeine entirely at least twice that I can remember.  I know I could give it up again if I wanted to, but I don’t want to.

However, I do want to drink less caffeine.  I sleep much better when I take in less caffeine, and somewhere deep inside I know that I manage my stress level better when I’m not drinking two or three cups of coffee in a given day.  To this end, I’ve started stepping down my daily coffee intake.  I have to be honest–the actual start to this goal sort of happened by accident.  It was a Sunday (11 days ago to be exact) and I had a commitment early in the day.  I woke up later than planned and only had time for one cup of coffee.  After I got home I crashed and took a long nap, but when I woke up my head was pounding–classic symptom of being in caffeine withdrawal.  I figured that that day was as good a day as any to start the withdrawal that would inevitably follow stepping down from two cups to one.  I also thought that if I was going to make this change, I should do it before school started.  The beginning of a semester is stressful enough; I certainly didn’t want to add caffeine withdrawal to the mix.

So, it’s been 11 days so far with only one cup of coffee.  There was one day where I had a minor slip–I went to the coffee shop in the afternoon a few days ago and ordered a latte.  I didn’t even realize what I was doing (i.e., having a second cup) but it didn’t derail all the efforts I’ve made to not have a second cup in the mornings.  I won’t lie–I still crave a second cup, and I’m not sure how long it will be before I don’t have that craving.  This morning when I got to the bottom of my cup I was really sad and wanted more, but I managed to say no.  I’m hoping this change will stick and that I won’t relapse once school starts and the pressure of the semester begins to mount.  I have always subscribed to the conventional wisdom that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, but I recently read an article saying that that wisdom is more anecdote than proven fact.  Looking back, when I made the transition from mochas to lattes, it took about three months for the craving for a mocha to cease, so perhaps the smart thing is to alter my expectations based on that previous experience. Either way, if I can make it through 21, 30, or even 60 days, then I’ll know that I can sustain the new normal of one cup a day.

Then maybe I’ll stop being so obsessed with my coffee drinking habits…

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