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CoffeeIt 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.

Heather du Plessis-Allan

Heather is a Jafa who's called Wellington home for seven years and counitng. The wind still drives her crazy, but the bucket fountain still makes her smile. She's running around Oriental Bay and learning to surf Lyall Bay. Her day job is reporting for TVNZ's Seven Sharp.

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