Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Leaded or Unleaded?

I've been pretty open about my addictions. You've seen my bead pieces, know I get all excited by acquiring new beads, and even join Internet beading parties or trades. You know beading literally saved me from my illness and many hospitalizations. 

I've been honest about my being an EX smoker--one addiction that nearly had me broken in two in giving it up. (I celebrate 2 years of non-smoking next week and I'm all about that!)  And if you have been around a bit, you know I decided for one of my New Year's goals  was to reduce my intake of sugar. That's actually going fairly well--although the first three weeks of forming this new habit was difficult. 

I wrote last December about our coffee pot experience.  What I didn't mention was my addiction to coffee. Before you even go there--no I'm not giving it up. They will have to pry my coffee cup from my cold dead hands; and even then, I guarantee it will be a fight!

I actually started drinking coffee as a kid. You know those occassional Saturday mornings when your mother would let you have a cup of the bitter brew that was loaded with sugar and milk. In fact, there was very little coffee--it was mostly sugar and milk. Our moms had a good idea that too much caffeine in us would ruin their entire day. 

But I didn't become addicted to the stuff until we moved to Turkey. My father was military and we were able to accompany him to Incirlik Air Force Base back in the early 70s. When we got there, we were on a waiting list for onbase housing, so until our number came up, we lived in downtown Adana in what I thought was the coolest apartment ever. Our Turkish landlord had a habit of having an evening cup of coffee in nice weather, along with either some Turkish Delight or dolma or other traditional Turkish goodies. He drank his coffee in those little tulip cups where the bottom of the cup was full of coffee grounds. The actual cup held maybe three sips of coffee total. 

He would invite me join in with him from time to time and have a cup of coffee. My parents didn't realize I was being super-caffeinated at 5PM. Our landlord told me that to be a true coffee drinker, one didn't have creamer or sugar added to the coffee. By the time we moved on base nearly two years later, I was a "true" Turkish coffee drinker. And I was sneaking cups of coffee from my parents--which was noticably weaker--ever since. 

Fast-forward to age 17: My mother finally approved of my having ONE cup of coffee with her in the mornings before school. It was our "grown-up time." She didn't realize I was getting two and three cups before school. 

Skip forward another few years:   I'm drinking a whole pot of coffee--or two per day--was pretty much my standard. All my friends were keeping sodas in their refrigerators, but I had coffee. Yes, I even drank coffee when I was pregnant with my son.  I never made the connection that my consuming pots of coffee during pregnancy would result in hyper child when he came out. I think his supercharged caffeination finally wore off when he was about 13 or 14 years old.

I tried for a couple of years to  switch to tea, but that was always my nighttime beverage. Ok--we're still dealing with caffeine but it was different. Anyone who drinks the stuff can tell you that the caffeineis gentler on the body than caffiene from coffee. I bought that too for awhile.

By the time I was 38 years old, I discovered bean coffee. I fell hard for bean coffee--the smell of freshly ground coffee beans was my absolute special treat. Every semester, I bought two bags of coffee beans. I would sparingly treat myself to bean coffee on those special occasions: I got an A on a paper or test. I got a B on a paper or test. I got a C on a paper or test. For midterms--because I needed that extra boost. After midterms because I got that far. For finals week because I was studying! After finals because I made it through one more semester! Wooooooohooo! Bring on the coffee! How 'bout an extra pot with those freshly ground beans because you--Cathryn--deserve it! Yes! Let's try the strongest brew there is! Go ahead--order the house cup with a shot of espresso for pure pleasure! Drink that bayou or cowboy coffee and delight in its robust flavor! 

D found how I am when he helped me move up to this beautiful place. The next morning I was snarling at him--Go get me a cup of coffee--PLEASE! That was said as an after thought. He insisted on showering and dressing and it would only take him 15 minutes. That was way too long for me.  He discovered that this normally nice woman transformed into the She-Devil without her morning cup or three or six. 

Then I turned 40. Suddenly, I wasn't able to sleep when I consumed a pot of coffee after--oh let's say 6PM. Or 5PM. Laying there all night long feeling your body twitch from caffeine-toxicity is not fun. I had vivid dreams of being stuck in the middle of some no-name city where I couldn't get a cup of coffee. I had nightmares about terrorists who confiscated the world's entire coffee bean supplies and were holding them ransom--and no government or rich person would make the deal. I refused to make the connection of the all-night twitching and the nightmares to that extra pot of coffee. 

REFUSED--do you hear me? I told myself it was stress. I was about to be married for the second time in my life after swearing I would never do marriage again. I told myself I was under pressure to complete my bachelor's degree. I chastized myself for believing I could do the same things in the same amount of time when I was 20---that I could not sleep for two days and all would be right with my world because I was finishing up a major paper. LOL The lies we tell ourselves!

In my last year of graduate school, I realized I couldn't deny it any longer. Coffee was no longer my best friend. I had to face the fact I was addicted to this very legal substance. I had to break my addiction or at least reduce my consumption before it was completely taken away from me. I told myself if I reduced my consumption, there was no reason to believe I couldn't drink 5, 6, 10 cups a day as I grew older. 

Stick with me here--it's about to get wild. 

My first forays into reducing my consumption was not easy for me and a total train wreck for those around me. I decided I couldn't bring coffee to my afternoon classes any more because I couldn't drink coffee after noon each day. Some days when I got to class, there were three cups of coffee waiting for my consumption. My classmates understood I was trying to cut back but I guess I was extremely difficult to be around during my reduction phase. So they bought me coffee. During my internship, my colleagues would bring in a cup or two of special java (espresso--oh how this sings to me!) for me just so they could work with me. They refused to let me deal with the public or answer the phone during this time. D would slip me an extra cup from time to time--just for his peace of mind. I know I was really, really bad. 

After three months, I reduced my intake from 2-3 pots a day down to half a pot--and we had a huge pot back then. Then I decided to reduce it even further. I'm now down to 3 cups a day on average. Occasionally, I'll have that extra cup in the morning. That happens may be once a month. Some days, I'm lucky to get two cups of coffee in the morning. 

When I was hospitalized, the staff thought they were helping me out by giving me decaffienated coffee. That was like coffee-flavored water and I refused to drink  it. That's actual standard practice of anyone going into the hospital with cardiac issues. Did you know they use formaldehyde to decaf the beans?!?!?! No thank you--I'm sticking to the full-leaded coffee! I gave up smoking but I'm NOT giving up my coffee. 

I believe my attitude towards my favorite drink has changed. I can  now get up and deal with all the other things first--feeding twining, meowling felines, checking students' emails, feed hungry birds, wash dishes or start a load of clothes--all before my first cup. I now savor my coffee instead of gulping it down like water. I know all too well that even this simple pleasure can be taken away, so I cherish it daily. I also left myself wiggle room in case I have to reduce my intake a bit more. *grins at you*


  1. What a trip down caffeine-aholics anonymous ! Loved this post,it was insightful but at the same time wildly humorous.

    I enjoy coffee but I always decimate it with so much cream and sugar that my hubby will ask me; "Would you like some coffee to go with that?".

  2. When I was young mom used to give me coffee before I went to school, elementary school LOL. It was like you said mostly sugar and milk and a little bit of coffee. I drink a lot of coffee during the day but I think of it as really not that bad. First of all it's instant, I only use 1/2 tsp. and I put milk in it. For years, I put 2 tps. of sugar in it, then a couple of years ago, I switched to Splenda and just recently I went with no sugar or Splenda. I could never get used to strong coffee or espresso. I think I'll always drink coffee just not REAL coffee ;0)

  3. lol, Catherine! You tell such an entertaining and humourous story! I loved it!

    I am forunate enough to be able to drink decaf. I have 2 cups in the morning and any other cups during the day are decaf. Didn't know about the formaldehyde though! Eeewww!

  4. Cathryn, your stories are so funny! I remember the 'big girl' coffee as a kid loaded with sugar and milk. My daughter has that now!
    ~ VioletUnderground

  5. I love your stories, Cathryn. I hated coffee when I was a kid and now have a very solid addiction myself. But with sugar? Shame on you! The good coffee. I just found it funny finding out that you lived in Turkey - Nick is American but has Greek parents - and while Turkish coffee is different from Greek, it is still a part of the culture that is quite similar. Cheers!

  6. Wow! I didn't know a person could drink that much coffee! It's so good that you are down to a reasonable amount now. Good for you! I am not a coffee drinker. I have about 3 small Starbucks Chai Lattes a week. I don't like regular hot tea at all and I've tried so many of them. I usually just drink water.

  7. Great story! I can imagine that Turkish coffee was easy to get addicted to, just like North Carolina sweet tea is easy to get addicted to :). Sounds like you've got your habit under control, though, and every girl needs her special treat now and then.

  8. I had "coffee" with my parents everyday starting at age 4. I looooooooove the taste of coffee. Still do. I like tea alot also, but it has to be strong.

    I'm a coffee addict. It has been 8 hours since my last cup. I'm with you, you can take all my vices, BUT NOT MY COFFEE!!

  9. We're pretty much at the same place smoking wise. It was the fight of my life quitting that weed, and I'm at about two and a half years free now. Don't think a day goes by that I don't at least once have a moment of giddy excitement realizing that I've finally won the fight and don't have that anvil around my neck any more.

    I'm so glad I don't mind decaf, or I'd have had so much trouble giving up caffeine. I'm not addicted to that anymore, but I'm still 100% committed to my relationship with coffee!

  10. I'm a fellow coffee addict
    Thank you for sharing your story
    I guess I've been lucky ,I don't crave coffee in the evening .
    But DO NOT talk to me before I've had at least 2 cups in the morning !
    If fact, Don't even look at me before I've had my am coffee !!!!!!! :D m.e.