Coffee: What’s Your Poison?

by Larry Hehn on September 4, 2011

coffee drinkerEvery Sunday in August, September and October I’ll be tweaking and sharing some of my favorite blog posts from the early days of Christian in the Rough – when the proverbial trees were falling in the forest but there was no one around to hear them.

It’s my pleasure to share them here again…for the first time.

Are 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 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. 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?!

Last 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 you in its claws?

What’s your poison?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Leanne Shirtliffe September 4, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Good post. I’ve never drunk coffee but I do love me a cup of tea. I can go without caffeine (and have for over a year at times), but I am addicted to the warmth of tea. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing; it doesn’t take much time or hurt anyone that I know of.

But my computer. That’s likely my downfall…
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Larry Hehn September 4, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Ooh yeah, I hear ya, Leanne. I tend to make a beeline for the computer as soon as I wake up or get home. My wife has gotten very good at helping to peel me away from the screen.

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Juan Cruz Jr September 4, 2011 at 5:57 pm

“Work” is that compulsive, habitual behavior, I just can’t shake. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I Drink coffee as well. I believe I started drinking coffee at the age of 11. At one point I only drank coffee during the winter months only, because it was too hot during the summers. Then I want through a summer where I only drank tea. But now I drink at least a couple of cups during the day, every day. The funny thing is that once in awhile I get replused by coffee, and I can go on for at least 1 day without drinking any coffee.
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Larry Hehn September 4, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Yeah, that work thing just keeps popping up, doesn’t it? 😉

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Ellen September 4, 2011 at 6:37 pm

YAHOO!!!! I too have given up coffee over a year ago. I drink more water and sugar free juice, diluted with water. Green tea is very nice too. I really don’t miss drinking it. My family all drink coffee, and when I am there visiting, its a bit weird for them when I say “no thank you” to coffee. I drank about 10 cups a day of Starbucks French Roast. I am so thankful to not have to do that anymore!!! Good for you Larry!!!

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Larry Hehn September 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Wow, 10 cups is a lot, Ellen! Did you have trouble sleeping?

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dunlizzie September 5, 2011 at 8:06 am

I LOVE coffee. My family and friends are convinced I always have a cup in hand and worse, that I am addicted. The truth is for the years I was teaching, I drank it while at work, but never drank it at home even going decaf in the summer months without a single problem. Because of health issues, I have been strictly decaffeinated since New Years, with only a couple of cups a month in just the last three months. Because it was never an issue for me to leave it behind, it wasn’t hard this time either as I am a big water drinker and also enjoy herbal teas. My family however seems to be taking it very hard, assuming the worst and commenting with shock and amazement at my mere survival! But then again, I think I may be one of those rare ones, unlike you, who actually only ever drank coffee solely for the taste, strong and black with no sugar. Go fig.
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Larry Hehn September 5, 2011 at 10:55 am

Ah yes, you are a true coffee drinker in my book, dunlizzie! I’ve never understood those who add three creams and three sugars to their beverage and still consider it coffee.

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Suzanne September 5, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I love this story – the reason you started drinking coffee. I actually like coffee, but I think I started drinking it because it’s how my parents always started their day. Possibly addiction, or maybe just a habit, but I continually pick up my phone and look at it. Like you with your coffee, I don’t even like it most of the time. It’s irritating. Unlike coffee, I can’t live without it, but I have to be more disciplined.

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Larry Hehn September 5, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Hmm…that is an interesting dilemma, Suzanne. Maybe schedule “phone breaks” like you would a coffee break?

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Charlie's Church of Christ September 7, 2011 at 2:19 am

ah coffee. Never touched it til I graduated college (man it would have helped those 4 years [and probably cost me a ton of extra money I didn’t have]). I’ve since switched to mochas I make at home. I can rarely drink just coffee – super dehydrates me too and gives me the jitters.
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Larry Hehn September 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Next time I’m in town, I’m definitely dropping by for a homemade mocha!

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