Short literary fiction is one of my areas of writing interests, so I dabble in composing short stories and flash fiction from time to time.
Cup of Coffee
Memoir 2: Foreword by Graveyard Whistler
This memoir journey of the previous now late owner of the Stone Gulch lit works has garnered some responses—some thoughtful and some horrendously ignorant. I swear, some people are just barely capable of eking out meaning from any text.
For example, one person wrote: "To (sic) bad your (sic) quitting coffee. Theyve (sic) now said that coffe (sic) its (sic) good for you. Guess you turned out to be quit (sic) a dumbs (sic) ass!" I have left all the inaccuracies—most of which are identified with "(sic)"— so you can see what I have to contend with. For as technically riddled as that one example is, it misses the whole point by thinking I, your humble writer, am taking this journey to a caffeine free life, instead of Stoney. I personally never bothered with caffeine—don't like its taste, never really felt the "buzz" or pick-me-up it's supposed to deliver. But this illiterate who felt the need to castigate me, simply demonstrated the old adage: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt." Of course, I did get comments from people who can actually read and write. Some interesting, most rather bland.
Again, I want to thank Stoney's husband for allowing me to use his works. And again, RIP to my old generous buddy. I miss your emails, really enjoyed our literary chit-chat. Taking up the narrative seven years after Coffee Memoir 1, Stoney's second installment continues his little tales about his attempt to quit the caffeine habit. Enjoy!
September 20, 2002
The year is 2002. I just reread my 1995 essay about Coffee, which I shall now rename “Coffee 1” since I’m in the process of writing its sequel. The first upchucking coffee-quitting experience of 1995 was followed by two repeats; one is mentioned in “Coffee 1.” The last such experience was October 8, 1997. From that date I went two years without drinking any coffee, but since 1999, I have had some from time to time—never letting myself get totally hooked. But I know that I am tempting fate every time I let myself indulge.
I do feel that I will never be caught in the habit the way I have been in the past. And I’m making a concerted effort through determination to cut out the coffee habit once and for all. Coffee is truly my alcohol. For just like the alcoholic who must forgo even one drink, lest s/he fall into the old habit, I must now totally stop coffee—including decaf, because decaf always makes me want the real thing.
This year had been going well. I had not had any coffee or decaf since Christmas of 2001—then Edison and I visited his mother and grandfather in Louisiana. They drink only decaf now, and they offered us some. And so I indulged. That was August 17, 2002; today is September 20, 2002, and I’ve been indulging in decaf almost every day since that August day. Plus on Wednesday, September 18, I had the real thing, and today the real thing. Both days I buzzed like crazy, had tons of energy. It's easy to understand why coffee addiction is so pervasive throughout the working world.
Now I’m prepared to pay for that indulgence. I threw out the rest of the decaf, packed up the coffee makers I use, and I am making a solemn vow that I will henceforth never again swallow another mouthful of coffee—including decaf. I’m having a cup of peppermint tea to celebrate.
All those times I described in “Coffee 1”—the times of quitting I’d throw out the remaining coffee I was drinking. One of those times—I threw out all the coffee-pots, except the one Edison uses (by the way, he went back on caffeine and has never looked back. He has no intention of giving it up again.) But anyway, I threw out all the pots and that cup I loved, the one that had been used by a monk. Why would a monk be drinking coffee anyway? Even a Catholic monk?
But this time is it, and I know I will have to pay, with a headache and some drowsiness. It won’t be nearly as bad as those earlier times. But it won’t be great. It will take several weeks to feel free again. But this time, I am determined to achieve that freedom. And this time I will not look back. I will not allow that second negative thought—the one that says, “But other people drink it. Doesn’t Edison’s coffee smell so good in the morning? Don’t you wish you could enjoy what everyone else enjoys?”
Those voices will be crying my ear, but I won’t listen. I want my freedom, and I am determined to earn it.
In breaking a habit the goal is to get to a place where you no longer want to do the act. Before you start taking steps to overcome a habit, you do feel that you no longer want to continue the habit, but after you have taken the beginning steps, you start to crave your habit again, and every day the thought of the habit creeps into your mind. You wish you could have a cup of coffee (or a beer, or a cigarette, or whatever habit you’re trying to break). But your new resolve says no. Still the thought continues to creep into your mind, and you have to fight it. That’s what you want to get rid of at this step—you have to not want to do the act. But how can you accomplish that? It’s one thing to say no; it’s a different thing to not be tempted so you don’t even have to say no.
This morning (the day before my birthday 2003) my resolve to quit coffee was severely tested, and I made myself a cup. I drank about a fourth of it, and just as the buzz was starting, I decided I did not want that feeling, and I poured the coffee out and made myself a cup of my herbal coffee. Before today my last cup of regular coffee was 14 November 2002, which means I was off the stuff almost two months. Then yesterday at my birthday celebration at my good friends' house I had about a half a cup of decaf. Decaf always makes me want regular coffee, so the thoughts of coffee overcame me, and this morning I gave in.
Right now as I write this I feel that the temptation is less because I was able to realize that I don’t really want that coffee buzz. However, I don’t know if that situation will last. (Health reasons don’t prompt me to continue; they motivate me to start, but my habit-mind takes over after a while, and I start craving the habit again. The real reason I want to quit, however, is for spiritual reasons: stimulation such as that experienced after caffeine ingestion, is incompatible with my spiritual goals.) At this point I can say only that today I do not want to drink coffee, and I would not have known that had I not tried some. Before I drank that fourth of a cup, I did not know that I would drink only a fourth and not want the rest. So I assume that I did the right thing because now I definitely feel that I do not want to feel the coffee buzz. I do feel that buzz slightly, but I look forward to having it end. And I furthermore assume that now I have evidence to support my belief that I truly want to live caffeine-free.
I recently read Stephen Cherniske’s Caffeine Blues, which reports all the mischief that caffeine causes in the body. The book is quite convincing, providing lots of research evidence to support Cherniske’s claims. However, there is another book that I want to read, before I decide to accept all of Cherniske’s claims; that book is The Caffeine Advantage by Bennett Alan Weinberg and Bonnie K. Bealer. At this point I’m very skeptical of the latter’s claim, but I want to keep an open mind. After I have read and compared the two views, I’ll report my findings.
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Afterword from Graveyard Whistler
This installment is the second of three. The next one will wrap up this issue. I am so sorry that I did not have the opportunity to discuss this issue with Stoney before he passed. I have no idea if he managed to quit the habit he so wished to break. Perhaps I will ask his husband, if we manage to stay in touch. I know his husband is a pediatric nurse and has little to no interest in literary studies, so the likelihood of our striking up a conversation is not very. Still perhaps he might not mind sharing just an answer or two about his life-mate. I'll keep y'all up to date on my whereabouts! Blessings for the day!
aka The Graveyard Whistler
Some good whistlin' goin' on!! Enjoy!
© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes