Despite the fact that I don’t go to church anymore I still observe Lent. It’s my Just In Case Catholicism. I figure, if I find myself at the pearly gates and St. Peter is looking to help a brother out and not send him instantly, directly to hell, he can say, “come on, guy, give me something,” and I’ll have a few years of Lent observation up my sleeve. So, yeah, I didn’t go to Easter mass but I didn’t eat meat on Fridays! I also gave stuff up!
Well, I used to.
I used to give up alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee. A few years, I made it all the way through. Other years, I broke after a few days. Alcohol is not hard. When in social situations, drink a club soda with a lime and realize that you feel like going home far earlier than normal with more money in your pocket. Cigarettes have been permanently quit, so, that’s no longer an issue. But coffee. Oh, how I always miss the coffee.
I drink coffee every morning (and afternoon). I enjoy the ritual and the buzz. You’ve gotta love socially acceptable, low grade drug abuse. On days when I don’t want to go to work, coffee is the bribe that gets me on the train. Coffee makes a Monday morning bearable. “It’s not so bad being here at work, I’ve got my coffee.”
And yet for some reason, I feel the need to hit the reset button on my caffeine intake, which is why I would give it up for Lent. And, to be clear, I was giving up caffeine because, like a good Catholic, I can recognize cheating when I see it and the amount of Coke and chai lattes that I could drink would render the exercise meaningless.
I haven’t done it for a few years, though. But I wanted to do it this year, just to make sure that I still could.
But for Lent? Lent is 40 days. Well, no, that’s a lie. Lent is from Ash Wednesday to Easter, which is 46 days because for some Catholic technicality you don’t count Sundays. 46 days is too long. So, like a good lapsed Catholic, I decided to do February, the shortest month of the year. 28 day. 4 weeks. I can do that.
It immediately sucked. So, as a coping mechanism and a distraction, I started writing down some observations.
You know, the smell of decaf chai really is lovely. The smell of decaf chai reminds me of early spring. This is going to be good. I’m tired but the headache is not bad. It’s just like a reminder that I’m exercising some self control and I bet I’ll sleep like the dead tonight. And hey, only twenty-seven more days. Wait. Oh for Christ’s sake, it’s a leap year isn’t it? Yes. Dammit. Yes it is. God dammit! Twenty-eight more days.
Still have a headache, it’s a little worse than yesterday but I can handle it. You know what? This is great. I’m testing myself. I’m really becoming aware of what it is that I’m putting in my body. I think I’m going to exercise tonight. Yeah, totally, I’m going to exercise because if I’m changing maybe it’s time to adopt some new good habits. Exercise. This is great!
When will the headache go away? Twenty-eight more days, including today.
There are 672 hours in twenty-eight days. If I sleep eight hours a day, that’s a 192 hours. So, I will have to be without coffee for 480 hours. That’s not bad at all.
Dear Lord, what have I done?
They left an unfinished Dunkin’ Donuts Box ‘O Joe in the office kitchen. Who the fuck did that? I want names.
Also, totally didn’t exercise yesterday.
Okay, well this is funny. So, it turns out that the only thing I liked about being alive was drinking coffee. Love, relationships, art, science, nature, spirituality? All filler. It was just the coffee the whole time.
I had a tea after dinner during the Super Bowl.
One week down. Another Monday in the office without coffee. Okay, getting used to this. I think I can handle it. Sleep was good last night.
So, here’s the thing about giving something up: I want time to pass faster. I just want it to be March now so I can have my coffee. But shouldn’t I live in the moment and just realize that in this moment I don’t happen to have coffee and that’s okay? Also when March comes, will returning to coffee possibly be as good as the anticipation? Jesus, maybe I never truly enjoy anything. Is happiness an illusion? Why does tea suck so much?!
I’m drinking a fucking ginger ale.
I am officially over halfway done. Telling myself that this decaf black tea is just a weak coffee DOES. NOT. WORK.
I went to get my haircut early this morning. One of the barbers brought a cup of coffee for my barber. It was in a mug. I could smell it. I heard him take sips. First thing in the morning in this old Brooklyn barber shop, sipping coffee. Oh, you beautiful beatific son of a bitch. You enjoy the shit out of that coffee. And yes sir, the back looks great.
A friend told me over the weekend that if you have a Starbucks gold card then your refills are free. Last night I found my Starbucks gift cards in my apartment. My gold card is still valid and it has $1.08 on it! The other two were empty so I just loaded them both up with $10 each. I don’t know why I did that. I have 11 days left.
I feel like a coke addict polishing a mirror.
My co-workers went out for an afternoon coffee. They’d never done that before. Bastards.
Fuck tea. I don’t get it. Entire continents grow it and consume it. It’s part of religious teachings and ceremony. It played a significant part in British colonialism. Tea. Maybe caffeinated tea good? What am I missing? Something must be wrong with me to be this out of step with humanity.
You know what I miss? Weekends with coffee. Lazy mornings with coffee. Coffee is like cigarettes in that just one is not that satisfying, it’s the continual consumption. It’s the daily routine of it. Breaking that routine is hard but it can be done. I have a choice now. I could just never drink coffee again. It would get easier and easier and, at a certain point, I wouldn’t even miss it.
I mean, I assume so. But there’s no way in hell I’m not going back.
Two more days.
One more day.
On March 1st, I went to work and waited until 10:30 to go out and get my first morning coffee in a month. It was magical. I even took video on my phone of my first sip and sent it to my girlfriend.
Post Script – Diary of a month without Alcohol
I also gave up alcohol in February, here’s what I learned.
That “what the hell was I talking about last night?” feeling that I have most mornings is not cured by sobriety.