While America runs on Dunkin, Starbucks, and K-cups, I run on divine energy. Over 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world each day. I used to be a part of that population, but now you can count me out. Caffeine, the main ingredient in coffee has been studied and proven to increase alertness and energy. I’m here to demystify your habitual obligation. I am not disputing caffeine’s innate benefits or likening it to the 5 hour energy scam but I hear me out I am not anti-coffee, I am simply, anti-dependence. The World Health Organization recognizes caffeine dependence as a clinical disorder.
My iPhone is the only addiction I’m willing to live with. But, even that is going to have to stop soon.
There was a time in my life where I was commuting five hours back and forth to a job in Brewster, New York. To New York City-folk, Brewster is considered “Upstate NY” even though it’s just 1 hour and 20 minutes driving distance. Commuter transportation adds another hour.
During that time, I had I just graduated from college and was in the trenches job hunting. I had finally secured a part-time position as a Dental Hygienist. Working so far from home was never on my wish list, but desperation called and being choosy wasn’t an option. Rent needed to be paid and Sallie Mae was impatiently waiting. While the salary was pleasing, the commute was less than desirable.
Although I slept most of the train ride, I had to be alert for an 11-hour workday. Working as a Dental Hygienist requires you to be friendly and engaging. It would be super awkward to look so drab while instructing your patient to lie down while straddled between your legs and a stool. Even more awkward is having them open their mouths to begin cleaning their teeth. Clearly, good rapport goes a long way in dentistry.
Besides that, it’s poor bedside manner to be a Grinch in healthcare. After a few days of faking the funk of “I’m awake and happy to see you”, I decided to begin drinking coffee.
As I said, the part-time salary wonderful, but the commute was mentally draining. I had to wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning to get to my job by 8 AM. My shifts were 7-11 hours and I was working three days a week.
My Morning Routine
5am: Wake up & Get Ready
530: Walk to 6 Train
6:00 AM – Arrive at Grand Central
6: 15 AM – Board Metro-North
7:35 AM – Arrive in Brewster
7:45 AM – Taxi Ride to office
8:00 AM – Arrive at Office
8:30 AM – First Patient Scheduled
6:15 PM – Last Patient Scheduled
It was 10 pm by the time I got back into the city. Being a defiant night owl, I opted for a 1 o’clock bedtime, giving me only give me 4 hours of sleep.
As far as I was concerned, coffee would be the real MVP to hold me down throughout the workday.
I reserved coffee drinking until I arrived at work so that I could catch up with sleep on the train. The taxi driver dropped me right in front of the dental office, giving me 30 minutes to spare before my shift.
The office was situated in a plaza strip mall with McDonald’s, two restaurants, a bargain outlet and most importantly a coffee shop. I crawled to the shop like a Zombie to purchase the largest cup of coffee money could buy. I consumed 12-ounces of liquid energy in about 10-12 sips.
The roof of my mouth forgave me for the temporary burn because I needed that fuel. My taste buds thanked me for the creamy hazelnut that graced their surface.
I had never been much of a coffee drinker, but the flavor and energy boost made me a believer. Within two weeks of this new habit, I was feeling invincible…. until I wasn’t.
During the third week of my new 12-ounce life, I started experiencing a mid-day crash. It was the worst feeling ever. It felt like somebody had just, drilled an inconspicuous hole into my skull and sucked out all my vital nutrients.
I felt dizzy, agitated and TIRED. Initially, I brushed it off and assumed it was due to getting less sleep the night before. When it occurred for the second and third time, my coffee-loving- friends confirmed what was happening.
I had become so dependent on the morning coffee that I started having withdrawals at work. My brain was craving caffeine, but I couldn’t supply it, especially in the middle of a patient appointment.
The timing of the withdrawal symptoms wasn’t the problem. Caffeine dependence was the real problem.
Within a few days, I made drastic life changes.
My plan consisted of an earlier bedtime, willpower, and remembering who the hell I was before my coffee addiction.
When I awoke the next morning, I felt a little tired as usual. I completed my usual routine up until arriving at the entrance of my job. My hands were shaking and my body was itching for caffeine. In my peripheral vision was the doorway to the coffee shop with fresh-smelling brews mixed with an aura of chocolate croissants.
Alex, can I have tunnel vision for $ 500?
The temptation was real.
Not today Satan.
At 830 AM, I called in my first patient who greeted me with a lively “Good morning, how are you?”. I reciprocated the greeting.
One patient down.
While looking at the computer to review the rest of the patents for the day, I could hear a little voice, telling me, “you got this!”. Sooner than I knew it, it was lunchtime! I treated myself to a taco bowl at the Mexican restaurant next door. Upon returning from lunch, I felt boost energy to finish out the remaining 5 hours of the shift. I can partly credit that to the complimentary flan from the generous waiter.
And…. Finally, my shift was over! I powered through. Yes, there were a few moments where I had to fake the funk and hold a smile over 60 seconds, but I made it through. In the following weeks, I continued my 2.5-hour commute without a morning coffee. In fact, I was doing so well that I eventually was offered a full-time position and relocated!
As a full-time employee working 46 hours a week, I managed to get through every day without a morning coffee. Currently, as a full-time medical student (PS – I switched careers lol), blogger, and Youtuber, I get through my day without a morning coffee.
I am not disputing research of coffee’s stimulating benefits, but listen to this. If you are a dedicated employee or student, coffee isn’t necessary to carry you through the day. It’s important that we remember the things in our lives that keep us going rather than placing so much power onto a 12-ounce drink.
What fuels you daily, weekly, monthly, yearly? If caffeine is the only thing that comes to mind, I think it’s time to reevaluate some things.
Do yourself and don’t fall for the 5 hour energy caffeine scam of compulsive habits and trust yourself that you will get the job done.
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