I love coffee. I really do. I love the smell, the taste, the way it goes down. But I realized something this week; coffee does not love me. I had the flu two weeks before Lent began and I couldn’t stomach coffee. During that fourteen day period, I abstained from drinking my regular cup – or 10 – of “Jo” every day. By the time Lent rolled around, I thought I would piggyback on my two-week fast and stay strong for another 40 days. At least I had already detoxed!
I discovered during that time that I actually liked tea, and I started enjoying it more and more, slowly forgetting about coffee. When Lent was over on Holy Thursday, I had my first cup of coffee in over fifty days on Good Friday. I went back to my old habits right away and started noticing a change in how I was feeling. My stomach started becoming more sensitive again and more recently I started getting mild anxiety.
Anxiety runs in my family; I started getting panic attacks when I was in my mid-twenties. Even though the anxiety would be cyclical and come in waves, I always found a way to control it. Somehow, I managed to eventually get the attacks to subside, but about a year ago, I lost it. I found myself in the hospital emergency room on three separate occasions within a two-month window. I was convinced something was wrong with me. I finally went to the doctor and told her I needed something to calm me down. The whole time, I was certain I was seriously ill or that I would need major surgery; I went to a Cardiologist and had every test in the book. I was in perfect health but my anxiety was fooling me and I needed medication to stop it.
For those who have never suffered from anxiety, it is real. Very real. The symptoms manifest themselves in tangible ways. Heart racing, full-body sweats, trouble breathing, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea…. you may experience any or all of these symptoms. In trying to understand my anxiety, I read a million times that coffee could really aggravate it. It is not uncommon to be told to stop drinking coffee altogether to ease the effects of the disorder. But I am stubborn, and life is short, so I ignored the signs. I told myself I could still enjoy coffee and that I would be fine.
But God works in mysterious ways. It just so happened that I got sick with the flu a few weeks before Lent and cut out coffee due to aversions. It also, “just so happened” that on Ash Wednesday, when I was fasting and at Mass, I decided I wanted to give up coffee this season – my first Easter season celebrating as a devout Catholic who attends church every Sunday. I gave myself to God in ways I never imagined and He opened up my eyes.
I wrote a few days ago about my renewed focus on eating healthy and exercising, and I am proud to say I am doing well! Granted, it is only Thursday and I made myself the promise to be better just on Monday, but we have to celebrate the little things! I started yoga too, and I am feeling changes already.
Because I am on this be-better kick, I am going to apply that to every aspect of my life. I have been telling myself for a week now that drinking coffee is affecting me. So, starting today, I gave coffee up for good. Sure, I may choose to drink a cup sporadically, but I am not going to allow it to interrupt my daily life.
I may or may not miss my morning date with coffee moving forward; up to this point, I have been your typical mom that practically needs coffee intravenously to survive. I am hoping that God will give me the strength, as he did during Lent, to get past those desires that may creep in. Not only the desires that may come up for coffee but also the ones that tell me to have that dessert or skip my workout. I know that I will feel a lot better for it.