Give It up? Never. Well, maybe. No, never.

June 1st, 2010

I have a manuscript that’s due tomorrow and two kids graduating this weekend (one from elementary school, the other from high school) and several relatives descending and a party to plan . . . so here I am posting.  It’ll be short, but I needed a break from everything else.

This classes up the blog, doesn't it?

This weekend we visited with friends who are about to move to the east coast, maybe for a year, maybe longer.  I’m jealous of them because they’re making a change and sometimes I just want a CHANGE, especially if I think I might end up somewhere I’d like better.  Anyway, we were talking, and the husband was telling me how his wife has recently given up all caffeine and alcohol and, as a result, feels like she has much more energy.  It was a tough adjustment, he said, but once she got over the hump, she’s never felt better.

First I said, “Wow, I should do that.”  And then I thought about it and said, “But I’m worried I wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning.”  He said, “Oh, it takes a couple of weeks, but you get used to not having caffeine.”  “It’s not that,” I said.  “I just wouldn’t see any reason to get up in the morning.”

I’m not that bad an addict, I swear.  Well, maybe I am.  I don’t know.  I love coffee.  I gave it up when I was pregnant and will skip it when I have a stomach bug, but other than that, I’ve been a non-stop coffee-swiller ever since my high school days when I used to dilute it with tons of milk and sugar.  (Now I like my coffee the way I like my brownies: black and hot.)  If a doctor said to me, “You have to give up coffee,” I think I could gradually substitute decaf for the real stuff and make the adjustment–a lot of what I love is the warmth and the taste, and decaf still has those.  But I do have this superstitious faith in coffee, a belief that a small cup before I sit down to write will make me work faster and better (and there’s a lot of scientific research that suggests it’s not entirely superstition, that nothing works better than caffeine at raising alertness).

Giving up alcohol would be more complicated because alcohol is more complicated.  I can easily go a day or several without having a drink–from that standpoint, it would be easier to give up than caffeine, which gives you instant withdrawal symptoms.  But it would be very hard for me to walk into a big cocktail party knowing I couldn’t have even a single glass of wine.  Again, I think my belief that it helps is more superstitious than well-founded–in fact, I know it is, because I can look back and think of more stupid things I’ve said after having a glass of wine than before.  And yet . . . and yet . . .

There’s a reason they call it “Dutch courage,” I guess.  No, actually, I have no idea why they call it Dutch courage, but I do get that alcohol gives you a kind of social courage.  It makes all that hard social stuff–and for me, socializing is hard, hard work–seem a little easier.  Other people’s living rooms seem so much more welcoming after a glass of wine.

Which for some inexplicable reason reminds me of that wonderful and very famous Dorothy Parker poem:

I like to have a martini,
two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.

  • Claudia says:

    I loved this. And I am so happy as I just decided I’m not an alcoholic because if I had to give up one of them, I’d give up alcohol. So now I can go pour a second glass of wine as I’m so relieved to have had you put this in perspective!

  • milkfever says:

    I’m like you, sure I could give up coffee, but I don’t want to. Same with red wine. I don’t have a lot, but I sure do enjoy it. I think that’s the key; indulge with pleasure never with guilt.

  • Katherine says:

    I love this post. I also know someone who gave up caffeine and alcohol and claims to have all this energy. I think about these things often and wonder what I am doing to my body. I like my coffee hot and black and to have a glass or two of wine at night. Not every night, but I would if I wasn’t worried about the health issues it might cause. I think I am going to hang that poem on my wall 🙂

    I have always said alcohol is honesty or truth serum, I’ve never heard it called Dutch courage.

  • Dawn says:

    Claire, it’s not time for you to give up anything else just now..you must save something to give up later, when you feel the urge more strongly. You absolutely need your coffee and it’s anti-inflammatory properties to keep your liver healthy. Also, the anti-oxidants found in red wine are certainly worthwhile for a healthy mind and body. I’m saving these minor vices to possibly give up when I’m older, I also plan on taking up knitting or golf.

  • Claire says:

    Thanks, all. Yes, Dawn, you’re right–hold onto the vices as long as you can, because you CAN. I’m taking up gardening in my old age–I’ve already decided. But then I knit already (and I think golf is boring).

  • Julie Winn says:

    I saw a hand-made sign in a Louisiana restaurant once on “Are You a Real Dipped-in-the-Bayou Cajun?” and one of the questions was, “If your doctor told you coffee causes cancer, would you rather take your chances?”

  • Cathryn Michon says:

    Please, don’t give up anything else. Or if you must, why not commit to taking up something new (smoking crack, say) then give it up in advance, so you can have the moral victory of having conquered the new vice (crack) without the lifestyle interruption of the new vice (crack).

    And speaking of all this, when are we getting together for coffee? Or wine? (But not crack).

    • Claire says:

      Yes, I think it’s wise to keep a few vices on tap just so you can give them up and feel good about yourself. I’m going to start eating licorice. I never really liked it anyway.

  • rachelhamm says:

    I could totally give up coffee and alcohol. Mainly because I very rarely drink either and enjoy them on even fewer occasions. BUT ask me to give up Coke or Pepsi and I might punch you in the face! haha, okay, it won’t be that extreme, but I think you get what I mean.

    Have fun at your kids’ graduations! Don’t forget the tissues!

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