Coffee Beans and Me

This next post is going to break from my “norm” here, so to speak. It’s going to be just a little less serious because, let’s face it, on this 18th day of January; we all could use a little light-heartedness.

I am powerless. That is our current mantra.

Today, I am powerless to caffeine.

My story is slightly different than most: I haven’t always loved coffee. Even as a double major in undergraduate, chemistry and forensic science, I didn’t once have a sip of coffee that wasn’t ladled full of sugar, cream, and heaping globs of caramel. I just didn’t need it to get through my day; I was naturally a morning person and had spent the better part of 4 years taking 8 a.m. classes.

Then graduate school happened.

If you’ve never met someone whose decided to pursue a PhD, let me let you in on a secret: it’s hell. Absolute hell. You think you know your stuff and frankly, you haven’t got a clue. I was juggling teaching, my own classes, studying like crazy, research, and the commute into inner-city Philadelphia every day. I was leaving my home in South Jersey at 6 am just to not get back home until 10 or 11, to start over again a day later. To say I was exhausted was an understatement.

So I started buying coffee from the lunch trucks (and yes, what EVERYONE in Philadelphia says is true, the lunch trucks are a way of LIFE). I never exceeded a cup, maybe two, a day…but the powerless-ness started almost immediately.

I am a long-time migraine sufferer, and caffeine has always been one of the few things to stymie them. I usually took it in pill form, or in chocolate…but the coffee in the morning would help as well. I noticed I got them less frequently and when they would come up, I’d run to the truck for my next cup and it would be fine. At least, at first.

At about my 4th year of graduate school coffee-drinking, everything started to change. I decided to start saving money and foregoing my coffee on the weekends. The migraines returned with a vengeance. If I woke up in the morning on a school day and didn’t have a cup within the first, oh hour or so? I was feeling awful by mid-day. The migraines would last longer than ever before and I wouldn’t be able to shake them. I would drink two, three, four cups a day just to get me through, and I started rearranging my time to make SURE I could have a cup every single day. I didn’t quite feel right in the morning if I made it to 10 am without the caffeine surging through my body. I also found myself needing the sugar as well…I would crash by midday if I just tried to have it black. I was a mess.

Let’s face it: I was addicted, and powerless, against caffeine.

Again, caffeine is a light-hearted post. How bad could it really be? Now, nearly a year out of grad school (that’s Dr. Joanie for you!), when I don’t have a migraine (which I now have meds to fight against, thank goodness), I can make it on about half a cup a day. I got a Keurig, so I spend significantly less money on those cups. While my coffee is ALWAYS iced (I HATE hot coffee, although I’ll drink it if I have to), I’ve cut back significantly on the creamer, and don’t even use sugar or caramel. I can function better, but it took a few extra years of work, a good bit of cash, and countless days of feeling kind of like crap.

In other words, I’ve taken a very real physiological addiction and made it manageable.

That’s not to say that for addicts, this is the case. Physiologically or mentally, just merely “managing” an addiction is usually not a cure, and not always healthy. A first step, surely, is the admittance that something is unmanageable, but adjusting it to becoming manageable is typically not the end-all-be-all. But for me, I acknowledged my powerless-ness over caffeine and worked to improve it. I am embracing the 1st step: and nearly every day I get a little bit better. Again, lighthearted, but true for the month of January: admitting your powerless to something is the first step to successfully overcoming it.

Do NOT get me wrong: I still love me some Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. I get a nice specialty coffee just about twice a month to quell the cravings and again, I have a half cup every day on my ride to work. But caffeine is my frivolous powerless-ness: what is yours?

-Joanie

P.S.: I only have a few more powerless mantras to discuss, and then we’ll be moving on to February’s 2nd step! I hope you join me readers…I won’t lie, every time one of you likes or reads or follows these posts, a part of me gets so RIDICULOUSLY excited. It means someone is actually out there somewhere…I promise I will try to write more on the steps, some more stories about myself (I feel like they are a great way to really explain why I’m doing this, and maybe help anyone out their struggling no what its like), and just keep up!

P.P.S.: A special inauguration day “powerless” blog is coming up….I’m hoping it’s my best one yet!

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