Today’s post is brought to you by a fellow Movement member, Piers McCarney from Perth, Australia. Lucky bastard. Enjoy!
“Life as an Addiction”
It’s funny how things align sometimes. With Dave’s recent article on this site, Am I A Coffee Addict? Are you?, I was prompted to move forward on some lines of thought I’ve been having recently and it seems it was just the jolt I need for some breakthroughs. (Thanks, Dave!)
The article dealt with people’s perception of addiction and particularly that to the substance of caffeine or coffee. This much loved yet much maligned substance shows up in many of our lives. For me, (as even Dave himself referenced in the comments before I even made it there) coffee is a source of great joy and relief from stress. Many, however, do not view it in the rosy light that I do, citing anecdotes of other people or themselves suffering from addiction to coffee and not wishing to succumb to such a state.
The thing is though, this seems like a very surface level assessment, to me. There is a problem for many people in drawing the line between habit & addiction, enjoyment & obsession or respect & worship, amongst myriad other things.
“The Release of Ritual”
Near on every morning, the first thing I do after passing my infant daughter from her cot to her mother to feed is go downstairs and grind coffee for the drip-filter machine loyally waiting in the kitchen. Then I return upstairs, change my daughter’s nappy (or diaper for the Americans) and dress her, then take the nappy downstairs (reuseable of course!) to return with delicious fresh fair-trade organic all-that-good-stuff nature’s-love-made-physical coffee.
I then share this with my dear wife and enjoy a quiet ritual of the day’s beginning.
Would I feel worse if my day didn’t begin like this? Yes, definitely!
Sounds terrible, right? How could I let coffee control my life like that?! I should cut it out right now!
“Coffee As A Controlling Drug”
Caffeine is a drug. We all know that. How do we know that? Well, we ingest it and it changes our body’s chemistry and our psychology. I’m gonna give you a Big Thought here… So does everything else we put in our mouths. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need or desire to eat or drink.
I’m not going to argue that it isn’t tempting to continue on consuming coffee if you try it and have a taste for it.
But is that an addiction automatically?
If you consumed some spring water and found you had a taste for it and desired to drink that water every day, would that be an addiction?
What if you became irritated when that water was not available? Addiction then?
What if you were prepared to pay more and more for the water?
“Human Habit = Addiction?”
So, it seems a habit can resemble an addiction and an addiction can resemble a habit. Even people who are accepted as having chronic addictions often represent that their actions are merely habit and as such they could not only “stop whenever they like”, but they shouldn’t even have to if they don’t want to. I know many people who attend casinos every single weekend who would protest that it isn’t an addiction, though I may believe otherwise.
Hell, the nice way of referring to a drug addiction seems to be a “drug habit”!
So what is it that matters when the line is drawn? Why is “habit” a nicer term than “addiction”? My personal thought is that it’s probably perception of cost.
“At What Cost?”
I spend “way too much” on coffee. About $44 for the whole beans I buy a month, plus usually about $8.50 for two espressos near on every time my wife and I go to the shopping center. Often I will spend $6 or so on 2 espressos during one shift at work because I can’t stand instant coffee any more. So it wouldn’t be unusual for my expenditure on coffee to eclipse… I’d say at least $80/month.
So coffee is costing me $80+/month plus the time it takes to organise it/buy it.
Coffee MAY be also costing me my health, if you believe some sources. To be honest, I’m not going to bother digging through the internet here as some people would (more power to them) for sources on the good and evil of the actual substances in coffee. I’ve probably seen about as much positive as negative (perhaps even leaning toward positive), but I’ll admit that there are positives and negatives of some weight.
So these are the areas in which it costs me to maintain my habit.
But what is the cost of cutting it out?
1) Every morning, I lose that ritual and the associated positive state/stress relief. So this could affect my relationship with my wife in a negative (albeit minor) fashion and also reduce my capacity to endure stress during the day, by increasing my stress levels the moment I wake.
2) I lose whatever the chemical effects of caffeine and the other compounds in coffee are. So this could be positive or negative, but I see no problem with my function under the influence of these substances. I also have tested a significant period (6+ months) where I limited intake to 1 cup or less a day and found no positive correlations in blood measurements, fatigue levels or sperm count or motility (yeah, really).
3) I lose the social aspect. Coffee has 2 levels of consumer: the drinker and the appreciator. As wanky as it may seem, I fall into the latter category. I do not see this as “snobbish” or “elitist”, I actually see it as a positive. When I consume coffee, I focus upon and revel in the experience, allowing it to relieve stress and bring simple pleasure far greater than if I were simply swilling down instant to kill a craving. When I encounter people with similar leanings, conversation can be exciting and pleasant, just as with any hobby or similar interest.
I’m sure there’s more, but this is getting very “tl;dr” already and I don’t want to waste Dave’s valueable blog space! I think you can see already that I think the costs of maintaining are worse than the costs of cutting the habit.
“But What About Control?”
Just briefly, I can picture people thinking “Sure, but addicts can’t just cut their addiction, that’s why it’s bad”.
Think of all the habits you have in life.
What order do you usually use to wash yourself in the shower?
What flavour of chewing gum do you chew?
What hand do you write with?
What meals do you often eat?
What websites do you enjoy visiting?
What phone applications do you compulsively check?
Okay, thought of a few things? Now… instantly change them, forever!
Ready to draw the line yet?
Piers McCarney has recently launched his own blog at McCarneyPT.com about life, movement, & tips to improve them both. He is the first to say that it is amateurish and ‘looks like crap right now’. However, if you cared to look, drop him a line or especially follow him on Twitter @McCPT, he would be eternally grateful.
Don’t Miss Your Chance
I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.
Then I took control.
You can too, and it starts right here.