I took a break from coffee. I did it because I wanted to see if I could de-acclimate myself enough so that when I started again I could get high, the way I used to feel when I first started drinking coffee. It was also the end of the year which obviously is a time when we lie to ourselves and pretend we can flush things out of our system and “start fresh.” So I put it to a vote for my shareholders.
I’ve never been especially sensitive to caffeine but have been reading this book, Why We Sleep, and the two biggest antagonists to sleep are caffeine and alcohol. And I love to sleep! I was curious to see if after five days of no coffee, there would be a difference. So I woke up after the vote passed and didn’t drink any coffee.
Right away I noticed that I had far less of a desire to be on the computer. I associate computers with productivity, because a computer is an extension of the brain. Not having coffee killed the feeling I needed to get on the computer. I hated that feeling for all five days.
The first day I had a bad headache that started right when I would normally be having my first cup and never went away. The second day is was more of a steady, distracting throb. And the third day the headache had gone away but it was replaced by a spaciness and inability to focus on things.
So I spent five days mostly sleeping — I was getting between eight and twelve hours a night, plus a nap — and the most productive thing I did was watch the first two seasons of The Expanse.
I came to a startling realization. Coffee is more important to me than the internet. Writing that feels like a betrayal, but it’s true. If I only had the internet, the potential would be there to use it but I would probably just watch TV. But if I have only coffee, I would still do things.
Coffee is foundational to my sense of self. Coffee allows me to operate closer to what I think of as my own personal ideal version. I didn’t choose to be a tired person who needs to sleep so much, I was just born that way. But with coffee I can live my life feeling energetic, motivated, and optimistic. I choose to do creative projects and coffee enables me to choose that better life.
One of the things this experiment has made me think is, “What is the effect of alcohol on my system?” If my whole sense of self is based on stimulants, maybe alcohol is destructive to who I am. Maybe the real lesson here is not about the effects of coffee, but about the effects of downers like alcohol. The only way to know is to try another experiment…