The Playbook For The Modern Man

What It’s Like To Give Up Coffee For A Week… As A Caffeine Addict

Don’t tempt me.

Honore de Balzac once wrote, “Were it not for coffee one could not write, which is to say one could not live.” The famous French novelist, who was rumoured to drink 50 cups of java a day, went on to say, “As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move…similes arise, the paper is covered.”

“Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.”

While I can’t hold a saucer to Honore’s writing, I’m not far off his espresso habit. And even though our black juice addiction isn’t quite in the same vein as a true junkie, like every other coffee head I know, I dread the feeling of purgatory that takes hold if I miss my first cup of the day.

I wasn’t always bent to the bean lord. I tried sachet Mocha when I was fifteen and hated it. I didn’t try it again until I was 18. From there I spent three years on flat whites, settling on a healthy average of two a day. Then I went to France.

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Two became five and, unable to figure out my residence’s vending machine, I ended up hooked on the most saccharine sweeter you’ve ever spat out (noisettes are for pretentious expats). To cut a rambling ‘stereotypical exchange student’ story short, I tried to sort by affairs (and my waistline) upon my return and made the leap to soy flat whites (developing lactose intolerance after 20 years of honing your dairy addiction really sucks).

 

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4 minutes of bliss @jaboukie

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However, turns out soy can be worse for your stomach than milk. So now I’m tongue over credit card with long blacks. Iced, warm, instant: you name it, I’ll drink it. And if I don’t get my four a day my productivity goes cliff diving.

On that note, despite my self proclaimed role as an ~experiential~ journalist, I’ve never considered giving up coffee for a week. But as I came down with a virus last week (I never fancy coffee anyway when I’m sick), I figured this could be my only chance to go cold turkey. So with a cheating advantage already in favour, I set out to begin the task: me the tortoise, my addiction the hare.

Here’s what it’s like to give up coffee for a week as a caffeine addict.

 

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Day One (Tuesday)

Woke at 7am. Texted work. Went back to bed until 12. Went to doctors. Forgot medicare card. Bought antibiotics. Went home. No desire for coffee.

Day Two (Wednesday)

Home again sick. Skipped both my normal 8am and 10am coffee slots by being asleep. Coffee vaguely crosses my mind while I eat my 11am breakfast, only to be quickly met with disgust. I slurp an English breakfast tea and get on with my Netflix. No further cravings to speak of.

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Day Three (Thursday)

Back to work! Peeling my eyelids open is like removing the plastic tab on a bottle of Heinz after having just cut your fingernails. Fall out of bed and attain semi-consciousness in the shower. Feel guilt and pride as I walk past my barista without stopping. Arrive at work five minutes early. What sorcery is this? Even better, as I’m still crook, I’m able to navigate the dull sense that something is missing from my desk with yet more English breakfast tea and panadol. Cravings beginning to return.

Day Four (Friday)

 

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My last brain cell is doing its best OK (@levijedmurphy)

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I congratulate myself for skipping the caffeine withdrawal stage while sick (two birds, one stone) and leave for work with 5 minutes to spare. However, as I walk past my barista, my heart stops – and not because of his low lying scoop neck. Anyhow… I sit down at my desk and try to write. Nothing comes out. Green tea gets me over the hump, but I still feel like a Dell laptop from 2008.

I also find myself missing those little moments in the day that came with coffee. As Gertrude Stein put it: “Coffee gives you time to think. It’s a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself.”

“It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”

Day Five (Saturday)

 

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I wake up at 7am feeling a strange desire to get out of bed. In other words: it may have ruined my mid-week productivity but it seems switching coffee for tea has done wonders for my circadian rythm. Problem is, now I feel good, I want to celebrate with a coffee. Like, really really. I suppress the urge and go for a walk, only to find the rest of civilisation enjoying the pleasure I sought to forget. I make it to the end of the day and, sure enough, I’m out like a light (considering I’m usually a raging insomniac this is no mean feat).

Day Six (Sunday)

The desire for coffee continues to grow. But as I don’t need to be on the ball today, it’s not too bad to ignore. Mild headache too, but that could be from the obscene amount of junk food I end up binging.

Day Seven (Monday)

 

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It’s official: my coffee cravings have caught me. I am finally 100% healthy but I’ve never felt so listless. Minor tasks are like dragging a boulder uphill, and I can’t summon the energy to open my inbox. Not only am I anxious, but my slow processing power is making me more anxious. Before I know it I’m asking myself: why do I live in this area? What am I doing with my life? Does my barista miss me? Why did I start drinking coffee in the first place? Tomorrow can’t come soon enough.

Day Eight (Tuesday)

Bliss. I enjoy a regular long black, then read a quote from American author Dave Barry (“it is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity”) and resolve never to fall into that state again.

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Day Nine (Wednesday)

 

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Deadlines loom and my promise slides. But damn it’s good to be fast.

Conclusions

While some may have the patience to give it up, I’m a sucker for the mental clarity, motivation and mini-breaks associated with going and getting a coffee at least a couple of times a day.

I also find the physical drawbacks of such an addiction are outweighed by the solidarity you get from being hooked on the same substance as everyone else.

Much like someone who gives up drinking without ever having been an alcoholic, to anyone I meet who doesn’t drink coffee I have to ask: who even are you? I know it sounds glib but, unless you’re an elite athlete, why the hell wouldn’t you drink coffee?

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