I Didn’t Leave Coffee. Coffee Left Me.
Coffee is Good. But Let’s Not Loose Focus.
I started eating non-veg when I was 8 years old.
I started masturbating when I was 12 years old.
I had my first date at age of 21 and first time I got laid I was 25.
I have no idea when I started drinking tea and coffee.
My earliest memories of having tea are when my grandma would boil milk with black tea to make it more palatable. I might be 9 or 10 at that time.
Sharing tea is ingrained in Indian culture. I grew up in a family with lots of dos and don’ts but one thing that was always a do was drinking tea. No one ever objected to it or ever discussed its impact on health (not that I think there are any if taken in moderation.)
In 2002 I moved to United States for Masters in Computer Engineering. One of the first things I added to my pantry was a box of Taj Mahal loose leaf tea. I would make it the same laborious way it is made traditionally in India.
But a busy class schedule made it difficult for me to have tea whenever I craved it. That is when I got introduced to one dollar coffee from vending machines scattered on USC campus.
I bought my first coffee maker in 2008 and started having coffee on daily basis. I don’t recall how I evolved from once in a while cheap coffee drinker to drinking it daily, made in a french press with organic beans imported from Africa and South America.
For next 10 years I drank at least one, sometimes two and on rare occasion three cups of coffee each day.
My first coffee breakup occurred when my wife was in her first trimester of pregnancy. For few weeks I couldn’t shove a sip of coffee down my throat. But I kept trying and eventually I was able to convince my body that coffee is gooood!
That incident revealed to me the disconnect between my mind and body. It seemed what my mind wanted was not always the same thing my body desired. I started paying attention to my coffee cravings for the first time in my life.
I noticed that I craved coffee more when I was tired or when I had a heavy work load.
I also noticed that I had to have a pastry with my hot cup of joe. Otherwise my tastebuds didn’t always find it appealing.
For the first time I questioned my rationale for having coffee. For the first time I felt that perhaps I drink coffee not so much for enjoyment it but because it helps sustain a way of life that my body couldn’t bear on its own. For the first time I didn’t want to be a coffee drinker anymore!
Quitting a habit is often not easy because it has become part of one’s identity. It is how we describe ourselves. Out habits often help us create bonds with others who have similar habits.
Over the years coffee had become part of my identity. I socialized with friends with a hot cup of java. I reduced my coffee intake by only having it when my body craved it as well — like on a cold winter morning. I also stopped having desserts along with it to reduce sugar intake.
I was content with these changes. I didn’t want to start a battle with the part of me that loved coffee by forcing it to quit it and exhaust my willpower to a cause that I didn’t really believe in.
But there was another cause that I believed in. And that was to fully express my creativity through writing (blog posts like this), building computer programs/websites and teaching. I had noticed that I feel far greater fulfillment if I have expressed my creativity in the course of the day.
Most days I would struggle to do what I loved as I have a full time job. At times when I did manage to take some time out for my creative endeavors, my productivity won’t be satisfactory. I had no idea what I was doing wrong.
Turning point came when I answered a question Quora — Are we psychologically driven to try to solve problems? My assertion was that humans are driven to be focussed and concentrate. Problem solving takes us to that zone of flow that allows our innate talent to manifest.
Voila!! That was the insight that radically shifted my perspective and my relationship with coffee.
At a visceral level I understood that reason for my lack of productivity was because I had a hard time getting into the zone of focus and direct my attention to a single task. The reason I had trouble concentrating was because I had been consuming 16oz dose of the most fashionable stimulant known to man.
Imagine how one would perform at game of darts as he is being shaken from behind. That is what coffee had been doing to me. It stimulated my nervous system so I would stay awake and alert. But at the same time it hurt my ability to focus and my sleep patterns. The worst part was that I was dependent on it.
As soon as I realized how crucial is focus to productiveness and to my dream of being an abundant creator my mind simply gave up coffee. Without asking for any justification, convincing or engaging in elaborate habit breaking rituals my mind stopped craving coffee. Just like that.
It has been 5 days since I had my last cup of java. It is cold and raining outside. I feel nostalgic about how I used to go out on a cold day like this, enjoy a hot drink and come back refreshed. But I am not craving coffee anymore.
If you asked me what I would do if I started having coffee craving again?
Well then, I think I will have a drink!