I was sure that was how dying must feel like.
Until I was 16, I hated coffee. I wouldn’t go near the stuff. It tasted strong and bitter — especially the coffee my parents are used to make at home, and not even milk and sugar made it taste any better for me. But at 16, my relationship with coffee changed forever.
It wasn’t like I turned 16 and got brand new coffee-adapted taste buds for my birthday. No, I still hated coffee, but I started drinking it as if it were medicine.
I was in high school, and my classes started at 7:20 am on the dot. To get there on time, I had to take a van at 6:20 am, which meant the latest I could possibly be up and still have enough time to get ready was 5:45 am. Most days I would wake up between 5:20 and 5:30 am.
The high school I went to was very demanding, and even though I was completely exhausted around 10pm or so, I would often have to stay up until 11:30/ midnight doing homework and studying — only to wake up at 5:30 am again the next day. And again the next day. And again the next day.
So that’s why 16-year-old me decided to try the wonders of caffeine, so that I could stay up “late” studying. (Late meaning 11:30pm, mind you).
I would fill up my parent’s Italian coffee maker, pop a caffeine-based headache remedy (even though my head didn’t hurt in the slightest), and wash it down with pure black coffee, no sugar. I would close my eyes and drink it as if it were no less made-in-a-lab medicine than the headache pill.
And you know what? It worked.
I managed to stay up late studying when I needed it, and after a while, I began incorporating a cup of latte in my morning routine as well, to help me stay awake during those early morning classes.
Then Summer came, and I was relieved not to need any coffee anymore. Silly me.
Returning to a caffeine-free existence, however, wouldn’t be as easy as I expected. I would wake up at around 10am, feeling like a zombie, go through a very chill day, only to find out I was exhausted by 6pm. My body was feeling the lack of caffeine, hard, even though my taste buds didn’t miss the bitter stuff in the slightest.
It had happened: I had become an addict.
So even thought I was on vacation and could sleep until mid-morning, and didn’t have to study at all in the evenings, I incorporated coffee back into my routine, where it has stayed as permanent fixture ever since.
Flash forward 12 years.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but it did: I began to actually like coffee.
From the smell to the taste, everything about it was something to be enjoyed and celebrated. I began drinking it more and more, until I realized I was having 2–3 cups in the morning, an espresso after lunch, and another 2 cups in the afternoon.
Coffee became the answer to everything.
Just woke up? Coffee. Just had lunch? Coffee. Feeling sleepy in the afternoon? Coffee. Have some time to kill before a meeting? Coffee. Sat down to write? Coffee. Meeting a friend? Coffee.
One day I had so much coffee that by 2pm I realized my thoughts were fuzzy and I was actually shaking.
So I decided to try a coffee-free weekend. I didn’t even substitute regular coffee for decaf like a smoker might try to substitute a pack of cigarettes by a pack of 5 gum. No, I didn’t even keep the placebo version of the thing, I went straight-out cold turkey.
And boy, it was hard.
Breakfast without coffee felt weird.
I had a banana with some oats and honey, and a glass of passion fruit juice. For those who might not know, passion fruit has calming effects, it’s like the opposite of caffeine. The calming effect wasn’t what I was after, I just like the citric flavor of the passion fruit, so I took it without a second thought.
And despite missing my usual latte, I felt fine.
I went to the gym feeling as energetic as I could be. I ran 2.5 Km, lifted some weights, and went home.
Then, I became slow.
Coming back from the gym, I took I shower and got ready to run a couple of errands. By then, the morning burst of energy had faded, and I had become slow. My thoughts were slow, my speech was slow, my actions were slow. It was like the very air around me had turned into thick mud.
But I felt like I could still keep going, as long as I kept doing everything as slowly as possible.
After lunch, things really started to go downhill.
I really missed my after lunch espresso. That kick that comes just at the right time to prevent drowsiness and keep me functional through the afternoon.
About an hour after lunch I had to surrender… to sleep.
I couldn’t think, I didn’t feel like moving, and I sensed the beginning of a headache looming.
If only I could have fallen into deep sleep.
I ended up tossing and turning for a while, then slept a bit, only to soon wake up and toss and turn some more. Lying in my darkened bedroom in the middle of the afternoon, unable to find neither physical nor mental strength to read a book or even to watch TV, I had this strange idea that that was how all those ladies in the old novels must have felt like when they had to “lie down” for a bit, only their problems were caused by overly-tighten corsets and arsenic-based wallpapers.
Arsenic, as we know, will kill you. I’m here to attest that caffeine withdrawal will surely make you feel like you might be about to die.
So, at around 5pm, I made myself a nice hot cup of latte.
As I felt life being restored to my body and mind, I accepted my failure. Going coffee-free for a weekend was not going to happen — at least not cold turkey like that.
Today is Sunday and I already had two cups in the morning (but I skipped the after lunch espresso). I think it’s time to take it easier during this upcoming week, and maybe try the coffee-free experiment again next weekend. I’m not looking forward to feeling again what I felt yesterday, but I do have to say that behaving like a fragile Victorian lady does have its bit of charm every once in a while.
Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be in my room.