A friend once described my personal brand as ‘coffee, books and cosy’ and she was not wrong. I’ve carried that with me ever since, assured in the fact I must have been so clearly demonstrating who I am as a person that she had me nailed in that one sentence. Because yes, if I’m not working you’ll find me cosied up in bed, reading a book, drinking a coffee, or doing some combination of all three.
So when my doctor laid out the parameters of my ‘sad diet of sadness’, it wasn’t the lack of gluten, the lack of dairy or the lack of sugar that had me panicked. It was the lack of coffee. The diet was brutal, I was essentially allowed meat, eggs and some vegetables, and that was it. So no coffee for three months.
Actually, strictly speaking, that’s a lie, I was allowed to drink black coffee, but try as I might I just can’t get on with it, so it was a caffeine free start to the year for me.
Pre-diet I was probably drinking two cups a day, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s something I relied on. Being severely anaemic, deficient in two dozen other vitamins and in the midst of recovering from a pesky cancerous tumour, that coffee was pretty much the only thing keeping me vertical day in day out. I relied on that coffee to get me out of bed in the mornings, and functional long enough to at least achieve one thing each day. It’s also worth noting that I’m in a long term relationship with my Nespresso machine, so we’re not talking a quick instant coffee boost here, we’re talking strong espresso based drinks.
The first week.
Was a blur. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried detoxing from sugar, starting a new diet, and withdrawing from caffeine all at the same time, but I 10/10 do not recommend. Had I been smarter about it, I probably would have cut things out in stages, but I was so desperate just to get the treatment protocol done, I wasn’t going to drag it out. I was mostly just tired, and I couldn’t figure out what was causing it. I felt confused in the mornings, and ended up chugging a lot of water to try and wake myself up.
I enjoy my morning routine of pottering out to the kitchen in my pjs, watering the plants while the coffee brews and oat milk froths, taking my coffee out onto the balcony, or over to the sofa with a book, and taking my time. Without it, I felt quite lost.
I also found myself dishing up bigger breakfasts than usual. Normally I’d have my coffee and then just grab a bagel or an apple in the morning, but it turns out that a cup of coffee spiked oat milk fills you up more than you realise, and I ended up cooking eggs with bacon or sausage and tomatoes every morning.
But other than hungry, tired and feeling a bit like someone had cut off a limb, I was okay.
Was absolute hell on the other hand. I lost 95% of the week to an absolutely banging headache and a raging mood from hell. I felt like I couldn’t see straight, and was either in bed with an eye mask on, or sitting in dark rooms with my glasses on, getting angry at EVERYONE. This is really when the withdrawal hit me hard. I drank a ton of water and complained about it, felt shaky and just knackered. Would not relive if you paid me.
Week three and on.
I was resigned, and miserable. I had no desire to get out of bed in the mornings (honestly, what’s the point of getting up if there’s no coffee to look forward to) and I missed everything about coffee. Not just the taste or the pick me up, but the social aspect of hanging out in my favourite spots with pals, or the comfort of coming home and cosying up on the sofa with a coffee and a good book. I tried drinking herbal tea but begrudged paying nearly three pounds for a cup of hot water and a teabag. Basically, this was when I started to just feel really frustrated and fed up with the whole situation.
I missed coffee ALL THE TIME. I’d walk into Starbucks with a friend getting a tea, and sniff the air like a mad woman. I once brewed an entire pot of ground coffee, just in the hopes that the smell of it would perk me up. At no point during the four months did the feeling ease off, every morning I woke up, and craved a coffee. I was surprised, I genuinely thought it would get easier.
Two and a half months in.
I caved and had a coffee. It was my 25th birthday and I woke up thinking ‘I’ll be damned if I don’t have a coffee today’. I took myself down to my favourite South Coast Roast with my family and Connor, ordered myself a delicious but diet friendly breakfast, and an oat milk dirty chai. My family knew how much I’d missed coffee, my mum was CONVINCED I’d take a sip and be repulsed, but they were all so invested in my diet, knew how hard it had been, that they were excited with me. How sad is that, I was positively GIDDY with excitement for that one coffee.
And my god was I right to be. You know how some moments, some meals, they just stay with you? I don’t think I will ever forget how good that coffee tasted. I felt like an addict given their fix, even now I can remember how good the mug felt in my hands, how that first sip made my eyes light up. And I felt better that day, more alert, more capable, more with it. Maybe it was placebo, but god I loved it.
And it gave me the renewed energy to push through the last few weeks. Before my birthday, I’d hit a real emotional low, I was struggling with the physical and mental side effects of my treatment, I was fed up, and I couldn’t see the point in carrying on. But I had that coffee and my faith was renewed. I’d lasted two and a half months, I could manage two more weeks.
So I did, and immediately went back to drinking coffee on the morning of three months exactly.
I’d like to say I eased back into a caffeinated life, that I learnt something or took something from the experience, but it would all be a lie. I love coffee, I missed coffee, so I’m of course drinking coffee again. In actual fact, I’m drinking MORE coffee than I ever was, it’s like I think I need to dose up in case someone tries to take it from me again.
Coffee is more than a drink to me, it’s a love affair. It’s a morning ritual that sets me up well for the day. It’s a social beverage shared with close friends. It’s the love I feel when Con makes me a cup of coffee without asking. It’s moments stolen in coffee shop windows, watching the world go by. So if you ever need something from me, just offer me a coffee and I’m yours.
Are you a coffee addict like me?