This week’s quitting has to do with coffee. No, I’m not cutting it out altogether; I’m no Bolshevik for crying out loud. 

“A cup and a half, two cups at most.” That’s what he said. The crinkly tissue paper crinkled as I repositioned myself and said “Okay.”

What a moron. Not the doctor, me, for agreeing to this but then again I’m nothing if not agreeable, usually. I think I was just eager to have something to go on at that point. Having a slight pain in your chest for three or so weeks will do that to you. So will five hours in the Emergency Room and a stress test a few days later. All of it was negative, so of course the obligatory follow up and the edict from the guy with the letters after his signature.

Now I don’t mean to alarm, it really wasn’t much of anything but the pain had come and gone and then returned and when you’re 52 and diabetic and it’s right at your heart you figure, maybe…. But then it was nothing. The E.R. tests (and there were a lot of them and they were hella expensive) ruled out heart attack, irregular beats, valve issues and whatever else all to the tune of $1,400 an hour and still counting. The stress test ruled out blockage but still the occasional pain or discomfort… so back to the proclamation that started this whole tale.

I suppose I should be thankful and I would be if I believed the diagnosis. See, I’ve had reflux for years, bad enough that when you take that first drink of water in the morning some days you can feel it washing that acid (sorry for the graphic) back down. This ain’t that. True it’s something to try and true, it’s probably a good idea. My addictive tendencies and 16 year-old mentality (“If a little is good then a LOT should be great!”) had me drinking four or five cups of coffee a day sometimes (and yes, I fudged and told him three). They have a term for morons like me in the medical field, it’s non-compliant and my spouse tells me it’s going to get me fired as a patient. Maybe so.

I realize that so much caffeine is probably not the best for me anyway. If you factor in the acidic stomach, the ulcer-like pain, gout, arthritis and just general dehydration cutting back is a good idea. But, oh how I’ll miss the zing. I’ll miss that snap you get in the morning, where your head is clear and you get mounds of work done and tear through the day’s tasks. I’m not a coffee drinker that likes the taste so much but I love the effects, a bit like drinking I imagine. The fact that I quit that not long ago should give me encouragement I suppose. There are some parallels. Both have short term benefits but long term liabilities and both are overall not great for your health. If you factor in that addictive personality thing, well it’s for the best. The other encouraging thing is what I’ve learned over the past weeks as I’ve quit things. Measurables are easier to handle than immeasurables (keep reading, I’ll explain).

Here’s what I’ve found to be true at least for me. The things I’ve quit that are tangible: pop, candy, drinking, television are measurable. You either drink pop or you don’t. You either watch television or you don’t. The tough stuff to quit is the intangible junk in your melon: anger, expectations, control of your life/priorities, those are the difficult ones. When you think about it those are the things that led you down the path which culminated in your need to give up the measurable, tangible things and if you don’t cut them out you’ll find other vices or habits to take the place of pop, candy, drinking, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll miss the extra coffee but it will be easier than giving up or changing behaviors or ways I think. You can measure numbers of cups of coffee and those types of things but how do you measure your expectations, anger or why you’re doing something to make sure that you’re doing it for you and not someone else? That’s really sort of out there and requires at least daily examination, something that a lot of us (me included) would sometimes rather not do.

We’re coming up to the time of year where people make resolutions to lose weight, eat better, work out, etc. As miserably as we all fail at these I tell you these are the easy things to quit. The tough stuff to quit is the stuff that got you to the fat, poorly nourished, out of shape state you now find yourself and let me tell you I count myself in this lot too. And don’t get me started on self-deception or lying to yourself; I’m a master at that!

So, do I expect to be able to quit having more than two cups of coffee every day? Absolutely I do. Do I think I’ll have to substitute something in its place? Perhaps. Let’s just hope that’s not crystal meth or sniffing the company rubber cement.

And YES, I’m joking! Or am I? There was that whole lying to your doctor thing earlier…


What’s your experience with quitting tangible versus intangible things? How have you been successful or what were the pitfalls? I’d like to hear your story if you’re willing to comment below. 

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