I Gave Up Coffee for a Month

I Gave Up Coffee for a Month

I gave up coffee for a month.

You read that title right. I took a MONTH, a whole month, off of coffee. But don’t get me wrong, it was not by choice. Currently, I’m finishing up a round of summer classes as a part of my graduate degree in Counseling, which includes a certain amount of electives. As one of my elective classes, I chose to take an Addictions Counseling course. Little did I know that this course would require me to attend to open addictions support group meetings and abstain from a behavior for 30 days as a part of the core assignments for the course. This class was online, so I assumed that it would require of little investment, consisting of readings, a few quizzes, and some annoying discussion boards. BOY WAS I WRONG.

I’m writing to you at the end of the assignment. Tomorrow morning I’ll be able to strut myself across town and purchase a venti, no, let’s make that a trenta, vanilla iced coffee and enjoy all the shakiness and headaches that I assume will ensue. I can’t accurately describe to all of you how excited I am for that moment.

However, through this past month, I’ve realized a few things about myself and the overall concept of battling any kind of addiction.

1.Addiction is never purely just a physical dependency.

This is probably one of the most prominent themes I encountered throughout the past month. I hardly had any physical side effects from giving up coffee: no shakes, no headaches, and no withdrawal symptoms. But what I did experience is a social withdrawal. Typically if I hang out with a friend or want to go out to have some quality time with myself, I go to a coffee shop. In this case because I couldn’t drink coffee, I experienced a fear of missing out. I also had to rework my day after realizing that drinking coffee is a habitual practice throughout my daily life: I start my day with coffee, I usually grab an iced latte as a midday pick me up if I’m struggling, I spend time with Jesus over coffee, etc. Initially, I was super overwhelmed by how much of my life coffee had taken up in some capacity; in order to survive those 30 days, I had to rewire my habits in order to avoid it entirely.

2. I don’t need coffee as much as I say I do.

Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t experience any physical withdrawal symptoms from a lack of coffee. I know some individuals who have given up coffee or have tried to cut down and experienced incredible headaches, shakes, and even flu symptoms. I’m thankful I didn’t experience any of that! However, I sure am good at whining (and I whined the entire month), yet other than being a little more tired in the morning, I don’t need coffee nearly as much as I think that I do. Realizing that this habit was all in my head, I was able to reframe the experience as if I were training. I push through the hard parts of training, the pain, exhaustion, lack of motivation, so why couldn’t I do that with changing a habit? When I made it a competition with myself, the burden became much more motivating.

3. I use coffee as a way to bandage my need for rest.

With number 2 being said, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t using coffee as a means of a negative coping skill. I noticed throughout the times this month that I was craving coffee the most, I wanted coffee as a way to keep going throughout the day. You’re probably thinking, “Ok, Ashley. What’s the big deal with that? That’s why most people drink coffee.” Exactly. People drink coffee as a way to ignore the fact that they need to rest. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes we have to buckle down and chug along. In these chases, drink that coffee, girl! BUT, doing this all the time, ultimately, removes the opportunity for us to listen to our bodies and acknowledge, “I need a break.” Thus, this month has required me to be more in tune with my mind and body, and to set aside time intentionally to rest and recuperate.

As for a takeaway, I challenge you all to be attentive to why you do the things that you do, even the little things like drinking coffee. Are you sacrificing rest for productivity? Are you striving in order to avoid the uncomfortableness of the quiet that rest entails? What are you running away from in your time of stillness? Be brave enough to sit in the stillness. Allow rest to renew your soul, heart, and mind.

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