espresso in Paul Maloney cup

My drug of choice when I want a creative buzz


Yep, it’s a drug folks, and if you have a serious coffee habit then all you have to do is go cold turkey for a couple of days to realise how powerful it is.

It was my husband who introduced me to good quality coffee years ago. (Before that I was a tea-drinker; like all good Irish people. Kids are weaned on milky tea over here.) Actually, back up, that’s not true, I was introduced to coffee once as a teen, which is why I didn’t drink it again for a long time.

I think I was twelve or thirteen, and I was with my mother visiting a friend. For the first time an adult offered me a choice between tea and coffee, and wanting to appear sophisticated and grown-up, I asked for coffee. This was in the era before coffee consumerism, and most people had never heard of espresso and didn’t know you could get anything else except Maxwell House. I added milk, and sugar to the steaming mug, but on the first taste decided it was vile. Quite right. I wouldn’t serve that kind of crap to first year students desperate to keep awake to cram for exams.

When I was starting my coffee habit in my twenties I took it with lots of milk and a sugar. Soon I was fond of cappuccinos and lattes, and ditched the sugar quickly. Once you discard sugar from coffee or tea it’s impossible to drink it that way again. I still drank tea, but introduced coffee into the mix.

It was when I took a job as a Systems Administrator that I first got the hint that you should moderate coffee intake. There was a steady supply of coffee and a couple of weeks into the job I copped on that I was drinking 4-5 cups of joe a day. Far more than usual. I decided to cut back.

The results were horrible: headaches, mood swings, and irritability. It was my first lesson in drug management: either control your intake or it will control you.

Then a number of years ago my health was in a bad way. I went on a detox to discover what food intolerances I had and removed tea, coffee, sugar, wheat and refined foods from my diet (and keep in mind I’m a vegetarian!).

I thought I would die. I wished for death I felt so awful. My body was fighting a number of addiction withdrawals and I realised what a junkie felt like. That’s when I realised how many food substances we eat or drink are drugs.

For over two years I didn’t drink tea or coffee, but I became a herbal tea junkie. At least that’s not addictive, I could give it up any time, honest.

Nine months ago I decided to drink coffee again, but only occasionally. And wow, did it feel like rocket fuel after the long absence. I’m no longer a fan of cow-juice, and since I can’t always get soy milk, I decided to drink coffee black. No more frothy lattes for me. It’s either plain joe or – my favourite – an Americano (espresso with extra water). I had my first black espresso while in NY; it felt like someone shot me. I don’t know how people can stand the strain to the heart!

I use coffee wisely now. I know when I should avoid it, and when it’s useful.

Coffee is an excellent stimulant for the mind. It fires up my intellect and imagination, and gets ideas sparking and buzzing. It’s especially useful if I’m working on ideas for stories, or if I’m writing.

Yet, I don’t drink it frequently; perhaps twice a week, maybe three times on occasion. A couple of cups a week can quickly turn into a couple of cups a day if I’m not careful.

I respect coffee. It’s a powerful drug, and one whose properties are useful to me.

I just don’t want to fall under its thrall again.

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