It took another city to expose my addiction. It wasn’t because Christchurch is on the decaf. It’s because Christchurch had an earthquake. It was the day after the shake, 9 in the morning. The city was in ruins. People were queuing for drinking water. I was on a mission to find caffeine. I’d been searching for an hour already by the time I spotted a motel along a main road. In the worn-out dining room, a crappy machine filtered out brown water. It barely passed as coffee, but finally I could think straight and start working.
That day I decided to kick cappuccinos to the curb. I’m now a born-again anti-caffeine crusader. I’m on a mission to turn you off the mocha. In the tradition of all good self-denial fads, we’ll dedicate a calendar month. We’ll call it OcSober, because, let’s be honest, coffee is the equally powerful twin of liquor.
Whiter teeth, fresher breath, more money. Just a few of the benefits of forgoing the flat white. But, be prepared. Sobering up is tough. Caffeine withdrawal is now listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Sounds serious. Experts strongly advise against giving up cold turkey. No one told me this.
On the day of the quake, I was only “moderately addicted” to caffeine. Five out of ten is what I scored in an online questionnaire. I might’ve lied a little bit to skew my score. Lying is common among addicts. Anyway, I was only drinking a couple a day. I rationalised my habit for weeks after the quake. Then, I binged on three espressos in an hour and nearly fainted. The next day I quit.
I tore up my ‘buy ten get one free’ cards. I tipped my bag of organic, single-origin espresso blend down the sink. Within hours my mind was a thick glug of coffee grind I couldn’t think through. Everyone around me started acting like dicks. I retreated home. I found more dicks there. The next week was a slow marathon of depression and dicks. My sad eyes and drawn face made Gollum look healthy by contrast. I had no energy, my muscles ached, my head throbbed. Then one day it was done. I bounced out of bed and raced through the day. I went to the gym and sprinted 10 kilometres in half an hour (I think I just lied again). I slept soundly that night and have ever since.
This month, let’s remember the Women’s Campaign Against Coffee of 1674. Those brave English women began this battle against Beelzebub’s bean. Alone every evening — their husbands cavorting in London’s coffee houses — they united and wrote a petition. Why, they cried, were their men determined to “run a whoring after… a little, base, black, thick, nasty, bitter, stinking, nauseous Puddle-water”?
This OcSober I’m 44 months clean. Sort of. I have fallen off the wagon a few times. But can you blame me? This is a difficult city to live in if you want to stay off the joe. There are 17 coffee establishments along Lambton Quay alone. And there’s the smell. On a cold Wellington morning nothing smells — or tastes — better than a cup of puddle-water.