I am not sure exactly how or why it happened, but a few weeks ago I decided to stop drinking coffee. If you know me at all, you understand that not drinking coffee is a big deal. Every morning I would have two large mugs of coffee with breakfast. Usually I would make enough in the morning so I could have at least one mug in the afternoon as well. If I was studying at Panera I would have three or four cups. I learned from many sleepless nights not to have too much in the evening, but I loved my coffee. And yes, I have a Starbucks gold card.
It would be a stretch to have called me a coffee connoisseur, but I enjoyed trying different roasts and looking for the subtle differences in the flavor. I drank my coffee black, like the Lord intended it to be, no matter how dark the roast. The fanciest I ever got with brewing it was with a French press travel mug I would use while I worked at camp over the summer. Coffee was not an art for me as it is for some people. I just liked it.
And then it happened. One day I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if I just stopped drinking coffee. So I did. That evening I made a trip to Walmart and bought a box of English breakfast tea and the next morning I drank tea instead of coffee. My hope was that the smaller amount of caffeine in the tea would at least prevent a major headache throughout the day.
That first day was a Monday, and it went by very slowly. I felt lost in a fog for a large portion of it, but I somehow survived. Each day after that was a small improvement. But progress, no matter how small, is progress. Soon I had survived an entire week without any coffee.
As a celebration, I made some coffee Saturday morning. One teaspoon of coffee grounds to one cup of water, just as I liked it. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee drifted through the kitchen as I waited patiently for the pot to fill up. I poured the steaming liquid into my mug and brought it over to the table where the rest of my breakfast was sitting. Bacon, eggs, toast and coffee. The perfect breakfast.
But as I drank the coffee, I started to realize that it wasn’t quite what I had remembered it to be. It was thick and bitter, a stark contrast to the black tea with honey I had become accustomed to. At the end of my meal I found my mug still half full with no intentions of finishing it.
It’s been a few weeks now and I have had one or two cups of coffee since I stopped drinking it regularly. And each time I drink it, I feel the same way about it. I have found that I actually prefer tea over coffee. Maybe all I have done is replace one addiction with another, but I think there is more to it.
I think my coffee habit was a crutch, or an excuse. If I was tired or couldn’t focus, it was because I didn’t have enough coffee. I used coffee to convince myself that staying up an extra hour or two wouldn’t be a problem. I could just drink an extra cup in the morning and get on with my day. While I thought it was making me more productive, I think it actually made me lazier.
I don’t have coffee as an excuse for being tired anymore. I have to go to bed at a responsible time, which means I have to be more productive to finish everything I need to during the day. There isn’t a crash in the afternoon after the caffeine wears off either, so I find I am more focused actually. And I am starting to wonder what other crutches I have in my life disguising themselves as good things.
You should, too. Maybe it’s someone you consider a friend who you spend too much time with and they are influencing you in all the wrong ways or adding unnecessary drama to your life. Some people are just toxic. Maybe it’s low self-esteem or a fear of being inadequate for what you are being called toward. Maybe it’s an inability to forgive or too much pride.
Let’s not be afraid to weed out the habits, people or mindsets slowly choking us. Let’s cultivate seeds that will flourish and help us, and those around us, to grow into something beautiful.
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Erik Johnson is a senior journalism major and columnist for Cedars. He competes on the track team. Follow him @walkingtheedge9.