Sixty-four percent of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee a day, with an average of 2.1 cups per person. I drink anywhere from eight to 12 cups of coffee a day. Like many 9-to-5’ers, I depend on coffee to get me through each daily cycle. From within minutes of awakening till clocking out the end of my workday, coffee gives me the strength to trudge along the path of redundancy. But what if I gave up coffee for just one day? How would its absence affect my routine and progress?
Out of curiosity, I decided to conduct a self-experiment by going an entire 24 hours without drinking coffee and logging my experience. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t pretty.
Upon waking up to my usual 6:30 a.m. alarm, the morning fog blanketed my cloudy brainwaves. Slightly disoriented, I stumbled downstairs and into the kitchen. Instead of turning on the coffee pot that I prep the night before, I just sat there at the table, staring into the hazy void before my eyes. Minutes later, I sluggishly began to move about the room, digging through the pantry in search of a cereal box. Retrieving the box, pulling the milk from the fridge, assembling a bowl and spoon, and putting my breakfast together became an arduous task without caffeine in my system. All I could see were spilled milk droplets and Cheerios surrounding the bowl the cereal was meant to occupy.
After finishing breakfast, I felt more alert yet struggled to properly dress myself. Upon catching the train to work, every bit of noise and motion became more prominent and clamorous in my headspace, causing a developing headache. I felt as if I was undergoing a hangover.
The first few hours of work were hell as I struggled to focus on tasks or accomplish minor goals set for the day. I felt lethargic. Eventually, the fog over my head partially lifted with the help of multiple glasses of water and eating lunch, but I still wasn’t my typical, productive self. Habitual coffee breaks at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. were left abandoned and the day seemed to drag on. My emotional stability was crumbling and I was snappy toward my co-workers.
By 5:30, upon my commute home, I fell asleep on the train, which I’ve never done before. Dinner energized me enough to watch a half-hour of TV before I called it an early night.
One thing was clear — I was addicted to coffee and I wasn’t fully aware of it. Without coffee, I felt worthless. Its vacancy in my day was a disruption to my routine and general productivity.
Our chemical addiction to caffeine isn’t new. We voluntarily participate in our usage, and it’s natural to encounter withdrawal symptoms only 24 hours after ceasing to consume the drug. So, why is it OK to be addicted to coffee?
While too much consumption of any substance is bad for one’s health, coffee has numerous benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke), type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, uterine and liver cancer, cirrhosis, and gout. The American Heart Association also reported that coffee consumption was associated with an 8 percent to 15 percent decrease in risk of death.
Although I’m grateful for coffee’s nutritional rewards, I don’t drink it for my health. I drink it so I can function. I’ve reached the point of no return in my dependency. I owe much of my career advancement to coffee — personal relationships, too. If there were no coffee to share among friends, I would probably have few friends. Above all, my days would be dull and listless.
Raj Tawney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.