Coffee: What’s Your Poison?

by Larry Hehn on August 13, 2010

coffee drinkerAre you a coffee drinker?

I started drinking coffee two decades ago out of boredom. Business was slow. My employer came up with some very creative ways to keep me occupied. For hours each day I applied double-sided tape to sample chips of anodized aluminum, peeled the backing from the tape, and then pressed the swatches into neat little rows on our company brochures.

It was a mind-numbing, unbearably boring task. To break the monotony – and keep my sanity – I had to think of an excuse to leave my desk every hour or so. One of the few reasons I could find was pouring myself a cup of coffee.

I was first drawn to coffee by its aroma. The macadamia nut flavored coffee was very enticing! I was disappointed when the flavor didn’t quite match. That was probably a good thing, though. If the taste of coffee were as appealing as its smell, I’d be drinking twelve pots per day. Still, even though I didn’t enjoy the flavor, I soon fell into the routine of drinking three to five cups of coffee per day on weekdays as a temporary escape from my boredom.

With no reason and no desire to make or drink coffee on weekends, I started to experience intense headaches on Saturday and Sunday as my body went through caffeine withdrawal. Once I recognized the source of my headaches, I dramatically cut down on my coffee consumption. Yet the habit stuck.

I continued to drink coffee for the next 20 years without actually enjoying its flavor or its side effects, but simply giving in to my habitual desire for the “coffee experience.”

And then one day it hit me. While some research suggests there may be beneficial properties to coffee, I find that coffee upsets my stomach, dehydrates me and – if caffeinated – puts me on edge. In fact I can’t think of a good enough reason to continue drinking it. So why do I?!

At the beginning of this year I finally decided that I would no longer drink coffee, period. Was I successful? For about six weeks I was.  And I was amazed at how much better I felt when I went without it. Instead of drinking coffee, I drank water or occasionally green tea. My stomach was no longer upset, I was no longer dehydrated, and I found that I was less likely to “snap” from caffeine-enhanced tension.

Today I’m back to drinking just one or two cups per week. I’m still working on getting rid of coffee completely. Some habits die hard. It’s that darn aroma…

In his book Addiction & Grace, Gerald May defines addiction as “any compulsive, habitual behavior that limits the freedom of human desire.” He says that “the psychological, neurological, and spiritual dynamics of full-fledged addiction are actively at work within every human being.” After reading his book – and still drinking coffee after 20 years without actually liking it – I agree with him.

What compulsive, habitual behavior has its “claws” on you?

What’s your poison?

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