I Gave Up Coffee And Tea For A Month – Here’s Why It Wasn’t Complete Hell…

Stephen Hussey

I’ve been trying out one of those teeth-whitening courses for the last month, one of the unfortunate side effects of which is that I have a “no-go list” of food and drink that aren’t allowed to pass my lips during this period.

The rules include:

  •  No coffee
  •  No tea
  •  No red wine
  •  No “colorful” foods

By far the hardest of these has been ridding myself of coffee and tea.

Although I’m not one of those people who find themselves unable to function in the morning without their daily caffeine intake, I am preposterously dependent on hot drinks for a warm pick-me-up-feel-good sort of pleasure.

It’s not a necessity. I just really like coffee and tea.

Chugging from a cappuccino or clutching a freshly brewed mug of tea is one of my small pleasures that gives the day colour and shape. I drink several coffees a day, a tea before breakfast, and often make a trip out to some local shop to get a latte just to break up long bouts of working at my desk all day.

Yet, when you’re actually forced to quit something you’ve come to rely on, you immediately notice just how much a part of your life it is.

Having a month of enforced abstinence made me quickly see that coffee and tea have served many roles in my working day: as a stimulant, a mood improver, a form of procrastination, a method for dealing with frustration.

Stuck on a paragraph? Go turn on the kettle. Worried about an email? Head out to buy a coffee to take my mind off it . Can’t be bothered to get start writing? Maybe one of those chai-tea-latte things will spur my motivation.

I suppose this vice is fairly benign as far as addictions go.

It could be worse. I could be the kind of person who slams down a beer or a glass of whisky whenever they feel the onset of stress. And yet, this Mad Men-esque fantasy has been quickly exorcised out of me after one or two afternoon experiments that left me with nothing but a headache and a pile of unfinished work that I was too sluggish to concentrate on. Caffeine remains the only drug I can consume in high doses and still remain in the normal world.

Nevertheless, being entirely without my old friends the bean and the bag (coffee and tea that is, come now) has caused me to feel some of the clarity of the former dependent, like coming out of a particularly obsessive relationship and only afterwards realizing all the unhealthy elements that you had come to use as a crutch.

Every time I’ve come to a point at work in the last couple of weeks when I would usually stop, become stuck, and then head to brew a quick cup of PG Tips (English tea brand), I’ve noticed that now something else happens. I just sit quietly. I pause. I think. I maybe get a quick glass of water then return to my desk. But more often than not I just return back to the problem. Turns out I never really needed caffeine or a hot fragrant liquid to solve these mental blocks. 

It just needed my attention. My willingness to concentrate. My mindful attention.

It is said that the Stoic philosophers, as a general practice, would deny themselves certain luxuries once a month so that they would be reminded of all the worldly luxuries they didn’t need. Some Stoics would sleep with the dog on the cold floor to show they didn’t require a bed. Others would eat simple meals of bread and water to wean themselves off luxury foods. My own form of this self-discipline has become replacing my favourite healing brews of tea and coffee with a bland cup of hot water on the occasions when I can stomach it.

Although my modest experiment with tea and coffee was basically been forced upon me, once I was over the initial headaches, twitching, and afternoon sluggishness, I found myself genuinely grateful for the insight it’s given me. All these years I thought I was drug-free, but it turned out I had my own great dependence on something that I knew could always give me a buzz of pleasure.

Without having the ability to jump to my go-to distraction of coffee and tea, I’ve learnt more how to be better at just remaining focused. I also sleep better (clearly I was knocking back the espresso way too late). I’ve even saved a surprising amount of money thanks to not paying for over-priced coffees every day.

I could tell you that all this means I’ve had some kind of Damascene–conversion, that I’m now in the group of the caffeine-free and will never touch a drop again.

But that would be a lie.

My name is Stephen Hussey, and I am an addict.

But maybe for my sleep’s sake I could do with closing the caffeine bar before 3pm in future.

* * * * * * * * *

Question of the day:

What’s one vice you would struggle to give up for a month?

Let me know in the comments below!

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Stephen Hussey helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.

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21 Responses to I Gave Up Coffee And Tea For A Month – Here’s Why It Wasn’t Complete Hell…

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  1. Kat says:

    Hi Matt,

    How are you? I tried to get in contact with you via your email address. What have you been up to? I’ve been following your videos ever since I was 15. It’s been a pleasure to see you grow over the years. I’m proud of the way you handle your business. Are you planning on coming to Australia some time in the future?

    Warm regards,
    Kat

  2. Kelly says:

    Caffeine for certain!

  3. lan says:

    this article reminded me I got to change one thing I thought I cannot change for a month, anything, things I don’t even need to change, just to show myself I can. cuz when you think of it, there’s nothing you absolutely need, you’re absolutely able to live like a slave if you have to, if you live in ancient Greece for example. just accept it, then get used to it, eventually maybe your body body get so used to it, it may even evolved physically in some way, maybe that’s how evolution progressed hehe.

  4. Kelly Terrell says:

    NO TEA? Coffee…I could see but no let green tea at least? If I don’t have my grande hazelnut soy latte everyday, my day is not complete. I could probably do no coffee, no tea? Not even herbal tea?

  5. emily yarbrough says:

    My vice is sugar. If I didn’t have a sugar issue black coffee and plain tea wouldn’t be a problem. :( When I do get away from the sugar I see how depressed and moody it makes me, How much better i sleep without it, and a multitude of health benefits. I usually depend on sugar in social or stressful situations. Lately, stress has been way too high on me mentally.

  6. Haiho says:

    That’s a great thing to do, tackle some addictions from time to time.

    Some habits are helpful, until they aren’t. The only way to notice is to stop them for a while. I’ve had habits I just quit for that reason for good, others I keep picking up again.

    First time I tried to go without coffee was in Thailand, a Chinese doctor (not a real one) recommended me so, and some peculiar rules of what not to eat regarding my body type (what’s wrong with mangoes?!).
    I didn’t really stick to it. I was 20 and naive, but still.. keeping some critical thinking never hurts.
    I tried the no coffee-thing several times in the next months, for cleansing (I admit it, I DID take some reiki classes and shit): Nobody told me about the headaches.
    I thought I’m gonna die!
    About half a year later I ended up in Myanmar in a Buddhist meditation monastery.
    The local monks told me about their ‘no fire’-policy and monastery rules some days in, after someone saw me having a cigarette on the site:
    No chewing tobacco, no smoking, no coffee, no food after noon.
    As I wasn’t applying to be a nun, I would’ve been allowed to get someone buy me coffee or tea in and didn’t have to adhere to the ‘only drink it when you’re offered it’ rule.
    But I was fine, with sleeping on the floor, going to meditation starting at 4am, and we got so much food morning and lunch I wasn’t hungry.
    I drank a lot of hot water with the nuns I shared my hut with – good stuff.
    My problem were the cigarettes!

    The meditation teacher proposed to me to TRY to REDUCE my smoking, like smoke half and then everyday one cigarette less of that – thus allowing me to break the rules of the monastery.
    It was for my benefit, me trying was more important than some rules.
    These are the sweetest, kindest, most tolerant people I’ve ever met on earth.
    It was all for free. I could stay for a day or 10 years, no judgement.

    ..when after two weeks I told them I didn’t know about the smoking part, and that’s not doable for me right now but I consider coming back one day when I stopped smoking I cracked them up for a good chuckle.
    ‘Come back, anytime!’

    I did some liver cleansing by Dr.Clark several times in my twenties.
    The best preparation is not to consume any coffee, alcohol, animal proteins or chemical medicine for one week prior to the cleanse.
    The only problem was coffee, again.. I love it and don’t want to stop.
    So I told myself it’s just for a week, after that I can go back to 6 cups a day – but my urge for caffeine, the whole habit was gone for several months after that. The cleanse is amazing for this and has many other benefits on the body.

    ..I’m back on square one, honestly not living healthy right now.
    I’m jobbing in a bar. A beer after work doesn’t even count as ‘drinking’.
    Last week I decided not to drink for a week.
    I told everyone, and then I had a beer on the third day. Kind of slacked from there.
    Also I told everyone too.
    My bad: A colleague who heard this told me he’s going on a 10 week abstinence starting this Monday. He’s 20 but when he gets smashed he can’t remember shit.
    He said I should join, he once did it for a month and it was great!
    We’ll need some rules. I might have to try a drop when I’m doing the cocktails.
    We need a reward for the winner. And a punishment for the loser. Something embarrassing and painful, personally and financially.

    He said let’s shake on it by the end of the night.
    And I did…
    We got drunk later, but hey it was Friday. The final countdown’s started.
    I know I still have MANY things I have to tackle to get ahead in life, and no idea on how to do it.
    Tony Robbins says If you can’t, you must.
    I don’t know how to apply this for most areas in my life.
    I’m just gonna start with this one. And catch up on the stuff I’ve been putting off. That’s another big reason why to do it.
    Plus the fact that this decision is such a big topic socially.
    And that I don’t think I can do it – all of that helped me say yes.

    I have a strong vanity regarding my teeth; time for my next appointment for a professional cleanse. I also want to get informed about bleaching and other options – and start saving for it!
    I’ve never heard about teeth whitening courses, would be interesting to know if it worked for you.

    Cheers from Switzerland

  7. Beth says:

    Sugar is my vice! I have found it gives me just enough numbness to deal with social situation (too much simulation being in public for too long). So my dilemma is how to find a guy in a social situation without scarfing down a box of donuts?

  8. Lida says:

    great idea! helpful. thanks

  9. Cressida says:

    Tea and coffee doesn’t bother me. If I am “stalling” or putting things off, I just make an excuse to myself to go and do something else instead!

    What is the definition of colourful foods? Do you just eat brown foods or something?

    I eat, on the whole, a vegetarian and sometimes vegan diet. No brown meat thanks!

  10. Helen says:

    Congratulations! Caffeine is a neurotoxin, the rush you feel is akin to the fight or flight response, your body is going ‘what the * is this, get it the hell out of me’ it acts by pounding your adrenal glands so that all your blood vessels dilate to flush the stuff out of you. Caffeine is very useful in competitive sports, as a stimulant but the main reason society has become so reliant on it is because we are undercarbed. Carbohydrate intake is falling whilst obesity is rising. Our bodies and brains run on glucose. In short: Sugar is not the enemy! Eat more fruit! and of course.. we have to take responsibility for the actions we take when we are undercarbed, like dependence on neurotoxins.

  11. Michiko Yeung says:

    Pinterest, defo.

    Mostly because when I’m on it, I can easily visualize the life I want to build/lead up to, and while it’s certainly a good source of motivation and DIY projects for my cat (yes, I have become that person) it can get distracting when I don’t reign myself in. I’ll have let an hour pass and not have written any content, scanned any receipts. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I do need to lighten up with the phone usage in general. That’s hard when you work from home.

    I was going to say Youtube, but that would mean not watching your videos, and because I’m starting up my own channel I can say it’s “for work” (har har)

  12. Sofie says:

    Hey Stephan :)
    I know how you feel.. I am fourcet to live without gluten, milk and sugar, dry fruit and fast food to kill something named kandida. I am not fat, so i am not doing this because i want to loose pounts…. Its so when i am finnished we have found someone who Can cure me from my allergic reactions. So i know the prize is big, but i Fall in sometimes, trying to find an replacement for the things i cant have.. And it do remind me of relationships.. So i figured, ud i Can be strong enough to avoid suggar when i feel most Down i must be able to handle anything… Its Nice to know someone Else struggles Whith the same thing… And thanku for that.

  13. Emily says:

    Facebook.

  14. Arianna says:

    You could always try hot water with lemon and honey! I know that is not the point of this blog, but it is delicious. :)

    Also, yay for slowing down/mindfulness!

    Hope you are well.

    Warmly,
    Arianna

  15. Elena says:

    Hi Stephen!

    Thank you for another amazing post! I always wait for your articles impatiently as they have already changed my life dramatically for the better! Each of them is a huge eye-opener and I’m amazed that there is someone so young who understood so much about life and is able to share his knowledge in such a easy-to-understand way.

    You’ve just described something that happened to me recently. All my life, a was a huge sweets and chocolate eater. I thought I couldn’t live without them and my mood and energy level depended on constant sugar intake. I would eat easily 3 100-gram chocolates per day, in addition to cakes, and other processed foods containing hidden sugars. I didn’t have much motivation to leave this habit because I always stayed fit, thanks to my regular workouts. However, I never liked the state of my skin and I always had an uneven energy level that spoiled my life seriously. One moment, I was ready to dance, another- I could only lie on a couch, got irritated if somebody wanted to communicate with me. This energy jumps happened within minutes. I thought that’s just the way I am and there is nothing I could do about it.
    Recently, I came across numerous articles and a book in the internet that explained how bad sugar is for our health. The articles stated that being a short-period mood booster, sugar destroys your health seriously in the long run and may cause an enormous number of problems. One day, I decided to cut off all my sweet treats, refined breads, pasta and chemicals-containing processed foods. Within several days, my skin became permanently perfect, and my energy level is even, my life and relationships quality have improved dramatically. Plus, I don’t even need to workout to keep a perfect body (but I do it for health’s sake). I feel incredible! I got my appearance and mood under control!
    I am sugar-free for 3 months now and I have no desire to return to the sugary diet again. When I look at myself in the mirror I think how sugar is just not worth losing all this beauty. I’m so sure about this that I can easily navigate between grocery isles full of sweets and not even want to buy something.
    Stephen, you expressed my feeling: I thought I was addiction-free. Now I see how strongly I was dependent on something that spoiled my life seriously.
    Thank you again for your sincere and thoughtful post! I can’t get enough of your articles!

    Elena

  16. Kathryn says:

    Wine, I’m in the process of trying to drink it with nice meals, more occasionally, buying more expensive bottles so I think twice about opening it!
    I’ve done the teeth whitening and I was laughing in agreement at your ordeal. The other good thing I’ve ever done, not by choice either, is sleep on hospital camp-beds and eat scraps of food, existing for days in the clothes you are standing up in. Your own bed, shower, the ability to eat nice meals, more appreciated for ever.

    • Kathryn says:

      I didn’t mean that to sound so serious, just to say I’m with the stoics, it works and enriches your life. I’ve had a comfortable middle class upbringing but I do now question how many luxuries I need in life and find importance elsewhere. I can begin, and only minutely begin, to wonder if I had to leave my home and head off to a new world with just a bag could I do it? More in touch, in some way, with humanity.

  17. Janice says:

    I would struggle to give up a cup of tea for a month.

  18. Heather says:

    Pre-packaged food

  19. Deanna says:

    Chocolate

  20. Vavavoom says:

    going for a walk. thats what I do. And that’s not a bad vice either.

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