Experiment #1: No Coffee or Alcohol

May 10, 2015

I enjoy caffeine and alcohol for their symbolic as well as chemical effects, but giving them up for six weeks wasn’t as difficult as I’d imagined, and even felt good.


From February 18 to April 5, 2015 (the Lenten season’s 46 days), I did not drink coffee or alcoholic beverages. I wasn’t so rigorous as to avoid caffeine entirely (I enjoyed an occasional cup of tea) or all mood-altering chemicals (I consumed sugar, which certainly counts), but my morning and evening consumption rituals were very much different.


I was pretty informal about my observations: simply noting in my journal when I noticed or felt something interesting. (For the next experiment, I’ll try to keep a more meticulous log.)

A few days in (Feb 21), I noticed that what I missed about alcohol wasn’t so much its chemical effects, but its symbolic significance:

During the workday, I catch myself sometimes thinking “Man, this is hard, I can’t wait to have a drink tonight.” Perhaps I never noticed before because the thought would come an go, without being interrupted by the follow-up “Damn, I can’t have a drink tonight.” But in many ways it’s easier not drinking. Before, I would be tortured around 4pm: should I have one of those beers in the office fridge, or not? Now, it’s not even worth thinking about. “Not for me” is a powerful thought. It clears up all sorts of ethical quandaries.

Two weeks in (March 5), things were a bit more difficult:

This was definite harder than the first week, not least because it was a rough week at work.

But just a few days later, I noticed some positive effects:

I have more energy in the afternoons (no coffee crash) and evening (no wine crash).

The following three weeks went pretty smoothly, and by day 46, I didn’t particularly crave coffee or alcohol. That said, upon completion of the experiment, I did go back to my morning coffee and a drink with dinner most evenings. But at least I had a greater appreciation of what they really meant to me, and their cost in energy.