“People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.”
I’ve always been complimented on my positive attitude and cheerfulness, at times even called perky (which always makes me feel like Elle Woods). This character trait is 50% nature and 50% nurture, given that nurture actually means coffee. My mother loves to tell the story of how I was basically born to drink it. Apparently she spent a good chunk of my toddler years keeping me away from her morning mug, until she found Postum, a caffeine-free, coffee-flavored alternative. Thus, my addiction was born.
Coffee suits my Type-A, multi-tasking, ambitious personality quite well and allows me to access the kind of energy needed to deal with 22 small children daily. Life with coffee was grand, until the summer of 2008 when I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. (It’s a long story and the short version is: I have chronic ulcers on the walls of my colon.) Since the diagnosis, doctors have insisted it would be best to cut coffee out of my diet, and I’ve tried many times. Without fail, though, I end up back in line at Starbucks. Oh, Starbucks… Of all the forms of caffeine available there, the Pumpkin Spice Latte (now “PSL”) is absolutely, without a doubt, my hands-down favorite. It’s one of the reasons I adore Fall (along with the start of school, baseball’s postseason, and leggings with boots). I am certain that given the choice between an evening with Michael B. Jordan and a grande PSL, you would find me happily sipping the latte. Unclear as to why this should be a difficult decision? I submit this as evidence. There is a slight chance I would choose the coffee over the amazingly talented and beautiful actor because I imagine I would end up behaving like Emma Stone on a date and never be able to leave my house again.
I digress. Each time I’ve attempted to quit daily coffee consumption, I find — or create — an excuse to fall off the wagon. It is always the same: wake up one morning with the urge to stop drinking coffee every day because I know it really would be the most beneficial life choice, look at the calendar and choose a break from school I think I would be most likely to be spending at home curled up on the couch anyway, and then tell all of my friends that I am quitting coffee. Encouraged by rounds of “You’re so brave!” “I absolutely support you,” and “Good luck with that!” (Perhaps not so encouraged by the last one…) I stock up on green tea and Tylenol. After a week or so of getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night (did you know that going without coffee will make you realize how much you need 8 hours of sleep? I was surprised, too.) I wake up one morning — usually after a tough day or a night of less than 8 hours sleep — and say to myself: “Oh, I really need a coffee today. One won’t hurt me. I’ll go back to No Coffee again tomorrow!” Famous last words. Three months and goodness knows how many lattes later, I am looking at the calendar to find the next ideal break, during which I will definitely quit drinking coffee. The vicious caffeine-laden cycle is my own personal Groundhog Day. (Groundhog Life?)
If you have some version of this playing out in your own life, then you understand the frustration and confusion I feel: I know what I want, I know it’s the best thing, and yet… I’ve lost count of how many times I have tried and failed. There are so many other areas in which I can exert the kind of willpower needed to quit coffee: why is this so hard? Perfectly capable of saying “No” to people and situations, I find myself unable to turn down this hot liquid. What?! In the past few months, I have pushed myself to accomplish things I never thought possible. Every day with my students I repeat the phrase “We grow our minds, we push ourselves, we take the lead!” Suddenly (and inspired by this post), I feel more ready than ever before to push myself and come out on top: only drinking coffee when I want, instead of needing it. And, maybe, by sending this confession out into the vast sea of the Internet to be seen, read, and possibly chuckled at by anyone, I’ll find a new network of support and accountability to reach my goal.
This year, I am participating in No Excuses November, and I will stop drinking coffee. No More Excuses (NoMoEx): “There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.”
Join me, won’t you?
2 thoughts on “Guest Pep Talk (Amie Lamontagne): Giving Up Coffee– the Groundhog Day of Bad Habits”
This is so well thought out and expressed. I am curious, if you didn’t have the colitis, would you still want to stop? Is the colitis the reason, or is it the overall slave to a substance that bothers you. Remember, its not about “good luck”, it’s more “hang in there” Love and miss you!
Thanks, Uncle Bill! I think it’s a toss up between both — I should stop and I don’t like that it feels so necessary that I can’t seem to stop easily. Love you, too!