Until recently I had no idea how much coffee and anger were fueling my days (and nights). I always considered myself a “Type A” go-go-go person. I had things to do and if I was a little more anxious and hurried than other people, it just proved I was more motivated to get things done.
Until two years ago, I had spent nearly my entire adult life planning my day about around having enough time to get in line to “grab a cup of coffee”. I also planned my afternoons and evenings that way. Morning cup of coffee. Afternoon cup of coffee. Evening cup of coffee. I’d even perfected how to take a Power Nap after drinking a cup of coffee.
This behavior started long before coffee become an obsession in our society. For me, it started in 1987. I was living in Seattle and working for an advertising agency making $12,000 a year and working 90-hour weeks. I would get to work at 7am for a staff meeting and work straight through until midnight, sometimes 2am, before sleeping a couple hours and doing it again. I also did this while being sexually harassed, but that is another story. The point is, I was overworked, extremely stressed, and relying heavily on caffeine to muscle through a horrible situation making less than half the going minimum wage for my efforts.
With Caffeine And Anger All Things Are Possible
At this point the caffeine in a cup of coffee was the only way I could endure the grueling nature of this situation, but it was also enabling me to continue down a path I should have stopped on. But even in hindsight, I don’t know what else I could have done besides get in a time machine and pick another career. I needed both my coffee and anger to fuel me in those days.
Quitting was not an option. Over 1,000 people applied for my job. I knew the minute I quit there would be a flood of people wanting to take my place and I’d be competing with those people for another job. I had no bargaining power. And I was young, straight out of college, ambitious, and willing to “pay my dues”. It was during this time I started afternoon and evening espresso drinks. I remember clearly the first time I wandered across the street to a coffee shop and bought an afternoon drink and how I was energized straight to midnight. It was eutrophic. And a revelation.
It’s not like I had never had a cup of coffee before. It was Seattle and Starbucks was already well known and coffee shops were everywhere. But it was the first time I realized that I could feel awesome being hyper energized and if I set up a schedule of getting a cup of coffee more often I could really get things done. And that coffee schedule just accelerated.
Warning Signs I'd Gone Too Far
Now honestly, over the years, there had been times I had let this schedule get out of control and my doctor would always be the one to tell me caffeine was a problem. The red flag was always fibrocystic breasts (lumps in my breasts). The doctors would say the same thing: “I’ve never seen so many lumps in breasts before”. They would ask about caffeine and determine I could have the lumps from caffeine but it might be something more serious. They would want to do a biopsy. That would scare me and I would plead for a few weeks to quit caffeine and see if lumps would go away. They would give about a month and schedule another follow-up. If the lumps were still there, it was time to schedule a biopsy. I would run home, and muscle through caffeine withdrawal and return a month later with breasts that were miraculously clear of ALL lumps. This process repeated half a dozen times over the last 20+ years and I never had the lumps there on the follow-up. But looking back that was not the only thing caffeine was doing to me.
Over the years I have been on and off several anti-depressants. Not because I’m depressed. My doctors have all said I am low on the depression scale but high on the anxiety index. I’ve always blamed my jobs which have remained high stress. And I say I’ve been on and off anti-depressants because I hated how they made me feel and I would invariably go on some extreme diet that cleanses something and coffee was usually dialed back in the process. Another miraculous healing and I’m feeling good. For a while. The caffeine would gradually creep back into my routine I’d feel bad again. But it is only in hindsight that I see too much caffeine as the nexus of so many of my issues. I had no idea that caffeine had been linked to anger so how could I even try to fix that?
I had many more symptoms that I had no idea had anything to do with caffeine. I would pound on keyboards when the computers froze up. I’d scream at stoplights that made me wait. I had random muscle twitches. I had trouble sleeping and took over the counter sleeping aides for YEARS. I’d even had Ambien prescribed (but I hated that too). I was angry and irritable at a lot of things that now seem trivial. I jumped when people would walk up behind me. I blamed stress, but it was really too much caffeine. I can say that with certainty because all those things that used to be so maddening, irritating, and inconvenient, are now just minor nuisances to me. Now, I fall asleep easily. I sleep soundly. I wake up feeling refreshed and I don’t need a cup of coffee in the morning to feel better.
Giving Up Coffee And Anger Without Giving Up Caffeine
Feeling Good Without Feeling Bad
My life is far from perfect. But I’m okay with that. It feels manageable. I do still drink an occasional cup of coffee. Because I want to, and not because I feel like I need to. And when I say occasional, I mean every few weeks instead of every day. I used to spend over $200 a month at the coffee drive through. I have not been to a coffee shop in almost 2 years and I don’t miss it. I sometimes think “should I stop and get a cup of coffee?” And the answer is always “nah, I’m fine.” I’m not depriving myself. I’m not trying to set an example. I honestly feel fine and feel like I don’t need it. That’s its not worth the cost of beverage and it’s not what I want. That in itself is hugely liberating but it just a small part of feeling better after finally getting my caffeine consumption under control.
And I’m calmer. So much less angry about little (or even big things). I find I can just overlook most things where before I would fixate on things that made me angry. While I still might drink an occassional coffee I’m never paring coffee and anger. Cutting back on coffee has stopped it from triggering anger.
Feeling calmer and in control is the best benefit of all.
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