I woke up with the worst headache of my life. It was a throbbing pain, right behind my earlobes. I drank a glass of water and took some Tylenol, and my brain shrugged off the suggestion that there was anything I could do about it but wince in pain for a few hours.
That's the bad news. After swearing off coffee for an entire month as an experiment, I ended up discovering some wonderful benefits. In the end, I'm going back to the magic elixir for one major reason which I'll explain in a moment, but I'm here to report that you do not, in fact, need to worry too much if you decide to abstain from the stuff for a month.
For many of us, when we hear "abstain from coffee" we get a little nervous. There's an ethos involved, a social structure, a vibe. It's the smell. The taste. The Caribou gift cards we received over the holidays, begging us to use them.
Honestly, if you follow my social media feed, you know that coffee is not just my hot beverage of choice for waking up in the morning (with Folgers in your cup). It's a way of life, a part of my workflow. It's baked into my consciousness.
So why abstain?
It's not because of any health reasons. I'm not going to lecture you about what it might be doing to our kidneys. Also, I'm a bit incredulous about a recent podcast that mentioned how coffee is a carcinogenic. There are some side effects, sure, but all of them are helpful in the workplace. Heightened awareness, fast fingers on a keyboard. Without coffee, I'm a groggy mess of indecision and confusion. It's not pleasant for me or anyone else.
And yet--I had to wonder. How addicted am I to the stuff? I've been drinking coffee every morning, afternoon, and into the evening for years. It's a serious habit. Could I really abstain? And, assuming I didn't need to sleep all morning, could I keep working?
After three days of constant migraines, the "fever" broke. (Note to anyone who might try this: I've heard it's better to wean yourself off coffee, then switch to decaf.) My plan was a little impulsive: I quit cold turkey and decided to only drink water. (I also decided to eat only fruits, vegetables, and nuts but I'll cover that in a different article.) For at least one solid week after realizing the headaches had gone away, I was still groggy and tired.
Then, something changed.
I decided to combat my "illness" by jumping on a bike trainer and pedaling for 30 minutes every morning at 6AM. Fortunately, I'm testing a Wahoo Kickr Snap Indoor Trainer and a Diamondback Century 1 bike. I setup the bike near my desk and used a widescreen monitor running the Zwift app, which shows my speed, distance, watts (power output), and time on the bike. You bike in a virtual world. It's a bit mesmerizing--tunnels under the ocean, small towns populated by digital citizens, and other cyclists constantly zipping past.
I was fueling my body and soul, minus the caffeine. It worked.
For a solid three weeks, I woke up each morning and jumped on a bike, pumping energy into my brain in a way that I've never quite experienced. After a quick shower, I was ready to tackle the day with a newfound vigor. It was really weird. I didn't need the coffee, the headaches were gone, and I sipped a cup of hot water each morning. You don't die.
But, you do miss it.
The reason I'm re-joining the fraternity is because of the social aspects.
One of my favorite activities is to "go out for coffee" and talk with my wife, a coworker, or someone else who obviously appreciates the finer blends and the mood lighting at Starbucks. Turns out, I don't need coffee, but I like coffee--I like coffee people. It fits my writer personality. A part of my identity disappeared for a time, like I lost my car keys for a month and couldn't figure out what was wrong. This week, I will taste the nectar again.
I'm still planning to stay on the bike trainer, and to eventually start commuting again in the real world when the weather warms up. My destination will likely be a coffee shop.