How I Quit Coffee (and lost my mind).

I quit coffee for a coffee and almost lost my mind. (But it was great).

Last week I was going through some pretty rough fogging moments; I was constantly distracted, fidgeting with my phone and unopened books, scribbling to-do lists that I knew they would have never actually been completed.

I was a mess. I couldn’t really put a finger on what was causing it; I tried to grasp it while seated in a meditative state, it was always in the back of my mind during my shifts at work, and even though I was happy and life kept going, something just fell different, like a piece of puzzle that was made to fit in the wrong spot.

I have suffered from anxiety and constant mood swings for years, so I was used to that feeling of constantly missing your emotions; but this time was different.

I felt like I was getting chased by something that couldn’t quite reveal itself. It almost seemed like when you walk out of the door and you get this horrible sensation that something is going to happen, or that you might have left something important behind.

But I kept going. I ignored these signals; I fell through the cracks of a busy life, working, keeping my mind occupied with running, writing and just getting distracted with anything that could pull me away from the crushing weight of being a poor, stressed Millennial.

Then it hit me.

I was reading “Rising Strong” by Brené Brown – a fantastic book on vulnerability and the power of our emotions – when the lightbulb finally got on and I realised that my mind had been roaming wild like a nut horse in the countryside.

I was consuming my eyes from all the videos, articles, images that I was absorbing on my phone; my sleeping schedule was the one of a nursing-grad on their first week of placement. I was having the occasional drink or two, but every single night, so I was drinking a fair bit.

And then I was drowning in coffee. A lot of coffee.

And I am not talking about those milky, frothy lattes that only non-Italians love to sip with their meals. I am talking about double-shot espressos so strong that they could wake up your great-grandmothers from their graves and give you a slap right across your face.

 

I never thought I had a problem with coffee.

I have been drinking coffee since I was a toddler, stealing sips of that delicious bitter liquid that seem to make conversations among grown-ups flow so much easier.

Coffee in Italy isn’t just a boost, or a distraction in a plastic cup while you check your Instagram feed.

Coffee is either to be scolled like a shot of tequila at the counter of the local busy café, between a croissant and a panino (sandwich); it is to be accompanied with a conversation with a friend, or after a (huge) family lunch.

It’s a ritual, a tradition, that not even moving to a steaming hot, anglo-saxon country can break.

But when you are not at the bar, or with a friend sharing the latest gossip, and you reach for the coffee to find some comfort and repeat that four, fives – well, you realise that maybe you need to sort out this coffee drinking thing.

And so I did.

WHY I QUIT COFFEE

 

I’ll say it out loud and clear so all the health, spiritual blogs will widen their eyes and run off:

I DIDN’T DO IT BECAUSE COFFEE IS BAD FOR YOU. 

Coffee isn’t bad for you and there is tons of research to back me up.

But when you misuse anything – food, drink, activity, people – to escape from the utter mess that is living inside your mind, then you have to slap yourself in the face and change something.

And so I did. I savoured my last coffee for seven days before smashing my 12km run and I said ‘adieu’ to my beloved steaming drink.

I also said adieu to sleeping in, using my smartphone before going to bed, wasting my mornings like a zombie in search for something to do; and restrained myself from having the not-so-occasional drink with friends during the week.

WHY?

Because I needed to dig deep into my own thoughts and emotions; find out what the hell was roaming free inside my neurons, stopping me from achieving the goals I needed to smash. 

I needed to quieten my mind and actually face what I was running away frrom.

 


HOW I DID IT.

I woke up at 5:30AM every, single morning.

I talked about not being a morning person in this post, but I will repeat it again: I am the kind of not-morning person who can’t bring herself to say a word before, unless she has a coffee.

I have always envied my surfing friends who could jump out of bed into a wet suit at 4:30AM, while I hit the snooze button and continued being a warm burrito inside my bed.

But last week I thought: sleeping in and wasting my morning fills me with anxiety and stress, so I am going to try this.

I set my alarm at 5:30 every morning, and no matter how late I had gone to bed the night before, I dragged myself out of bed and turned the kettle on, hoping that some kind of magic spells could turn the hot water into coffee.

HOW WAS IT?

Terrible is an understatement. If you tell yourself that you enjoy waking up that early in the morning, then you are lying to yourself.

But it’s not as bad as you think it is.

The birds are already chirping on their trees and they are annoying, but there is this magic stillness and lightness in the air, as if you were stuck inside a Wes Anderson movie and life had a much deeper meaning than you think it is.

Without the adrenaline kick of caffeine rushing into your veins, all of your sense are absorbing your surroundings – the sound of the rain waking everyone up, a distant crying of a baby probably waking a mother up for the 5th time; the smell of the fresh, wet grass; your bones and muscles and still achey from sleeping.

It’s incredible and it’s crazy at the same time; but it’s worth it.

It’s worth looking at the clock and seeing that it’s 9AM and you have been up for so long already.


 

I drank YERBA MATE instead of coffee.

 

 

 

I don’t think I would ever been able to survive this week without a fresh pot of yerba mate waiting for me.

If you’re not familiar with yerba mate, you will be soon, because it’s going to be the next coconut oil, acai bowl, or whatever food/drink Western people wake up to once it has reached the popular Instagrammers.

No, but yerba mate is not a fad. It’s a South-American herbal blend that it’s been around for centuries, possessing medicinal properties, other than the fact that it’s a staple in many south-american cultures.

Yerba mate has been found to contain high amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and xanthine which act in harmony to creates sense of alleviated state of energy whilst keeping the body calm and balanced. It is used by many people around the world to help with weight loss and as a general supplement to support healthy metabolism and fight cholesterol build up in the blood. Yerba Mate seems to hold the secret to longevity and happiness and possess all of the main elements to prevent stress and anxiety in the 21st century

 

It has caffeine, anti-oxidants, an incredible strong flavour – and it’s just incredibly good for you.

I will drink any kind of water, but when it comes to hot beverages – give me the best quality, thank you very much.

So I packed my bag of yerba mate from Acento, an authentic seller of organic blend of yerba mate, owned by two inspiring and talented people, who have such a vast knowledge of tea blends from all cultures, in particular of South-American blends.

I was originally meant to switch to yerba mate for a whole month, but given the amount of coffee I have on a daily basis, I knew that I would have seen the results only after a week, and here they are:

 

  • Descrease in feeling like you just snorted a line of coke and partied with Paris Hilton in Ibiza for three days straight from all the coffees I’d normally have.
  • Better focus and increased sense of calmness. I could almost picture myself on ahead of a green Colombian field, sipping on my gouda like Pablo Escobar, overlooking my empire of new mindful thoughts.
  • Long-lasting energy. You don’t crash and burn like you do with coffee; yerba mate gives you a sweet ride. It soothes you into waking up and bring you the energy, without shaking you to your sense like a shot of espresso would.
  • Better health gut. If you are an avid black coffee drinker, you know what happens in the morning right after you have sculled that steaming cup. Yep, right on the toilet. Since yerba mate doesn’t dehydrate you like coffee, it has the similar effect of green tea – you are well hydrated, but you don’t have to run and lose 2kg and feel like your tummy is about to burst.

And lastly,

there is just something a bit badass about drinking yerba mate.

Maybe it’s the fact that it comes from a land that it makes me feel closer to my mother’s land (Dominical Republic), or maybe it’s because I desperately wanted to believe that it could turn into coffee; but drinking herbal tea that it’s good for you at 5:30AM makes you feel like when you come from a huge night out and you still remember to take your make up, brush your teeth and moisturize, before you tuck into bed.

It makes you feel like you have your shit together.

I am going to continue drinking it, as I find that coffee is now giving me the shakes after going off it for a week, but mainly because it’s just too delicious not to, not to mention packed with health benefits.

(I highly recommend investing in an organic, high-quality blend of yerba mate, as we all know how multinationals and massive corporations exploit small businesses and local productions in order to compete for the best price. I chose Acento because it’s a local, honest business that isn’t just trying to sell something because it’s cool, they really have extensive knowledge on their tea and are passionate about spreading South-American culture internationally.)


 

I meditated and wrote every single day.

Another thing that I wanted to start doing was to be able to sit in peace and meditate early in the morning, without falling back asleep and waking up an hour later from an intense back pain and achey legs.

This was probably the biggest challenge of all.

Sitting down with no caffeine in your system, your yerba mate brewing and seductively calling for you and a million thoughts playing squash ball inside your skull – it was hard.

But I refused to groan and dive into my own personal thoughts, and I told myself:

you need to do this for yourself, or your mind won’t keep up with your body.

And so I did. I played the same 3-hour-long track of Tibetan music, sat on my bed and just tuned in with my own mind.

Then right after my meditation, I wrote three pages on my journal and vomited all of those thoughts that I calmed down.

It was liberating and boring at the same time. It was like when you have to write that essay you have been procrastinating on for months, but no matter how hard you type those words, you are still jumping on YouTube to watch videos of funny cats again.

But daily journaling is meant to be good for an anxious and never-stopping mind like mine. So I took the challenged and transformed into Tom Riddle.

HOW WAS IT?

Scary and challenging at the same time. If your mind is constantly hijacked by anxiety and upswings, you know how scary it is to sit in silence and stillness by yourself. It’s like a ticking bomb.

But then every day it gets easier. The first few days were just complete fog; I could have landed in Silent Hill for what I could see through my mind.

Then it got easier. My muscles released more, my mind was jumping around the circle of peace that I tried to achieve, but I found that I could gently bring it back to centre, back into my own body.

Refreshing my mind without refreshing my Facebook feed made me calmer, more patient with myself than usual.

Writing three pages every day and letting my thoughts and deepest fears live inside three pages was liberating, like ripping a bandaid off.

The key lays in being honest to yourself; if you are not truthful to what you share, you are only cheating on your own damn self.

The other key is to be patient. Our minds are constantly challenged by external barriers like bad relationships, technologies, low self-esteem and fears of failure – we can’t expect to go from Trainspotting guy to Dalai Lama in a week.

I still have so long to go, but I know that even a tiny step is better than just not going anywhere.

I didn’t drink  any alcohol.

People called me crazy and a masochist when I announced I wasn’t going to drink on the week of Australia Day, the binge-drinking day by definition.

It was easy not to drink, because I didn’t want to partake into the celebration for my own moral views on celebrating a day like that; however, it’s hard to say no to drinks when your friends are showing them on your face, like your grandma feeds you that pasta.

The first hour of entering a social situation where everybody is drunk and/or drinking is crucial to saying ‘yes’ to that drink.

But then when I was finally reaching for that gin& tonic I stopped one second and I asked myself:

You don’t want to drink, then why are you doing it? What are you escaping from?

I realised that I wanted to drink because I was feeling uncomfortable about being the only sober person at a party; I desired that little extra kick that you get from two, or three drinks and you don’t feel so awkward dancing to Sean Paul.

But then I thought, FUCK IT. I didn’t proudly pass out at the cinemas watching Harry Potter with no shame and now feel awkward at a party!

And I didn’t crave a drink after that.

I found that I am equally as funny and full of dancing moves when I am sober, as when I am drunk.

The best thing though? Not waking up with dragon breath and your tongue dry like the Sahara.

 


 

WHAT NOW?

After a week of no coffee, I had my first coffee yesterday and I think I may have touched heaven. I missed sipping that semi-burn taste of energy, accompanied with a good book.

Adrenaline and caffeine hit me like a train and I think I could have run a marathon from all the energy that was rushing in.

But I am going to slow down, keep living these mornings as slow and still as I possibly can, trying to catch my thoughts into a net and filter them until they are not there to rot in silence.

Are you convinced now? Are you going to put down that skinny latte? (God, stop ordering skim milk).


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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