Shall We Meet Over Coffee? And other social rituals centered around chemical addictions
I've recently discovered the joys of color-correcting my DSLR photos to give them more of an Instagram aesthetic and playing with type to flex my design muscle. So I'm now going to attempt to write posts based on my imagery. True story: During the month of September, I completed the Clean Program, a 21+ day cleanse that involved giving up alcohol, caffeine, dairy, wheat, refined sugars and a plethora of other foods like bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, eggs and peanuts, to name a few. I felt that the beginning of the Fall was the perfect time because it's always symbolized new beginnings to me. The purpose of the cleanse is to feel more energized and learn which foods one is intolerant to. A food intolerance is not like an allergy but like building a tolerance to alcohol. When you drink regularly, alcohol may effect you very little but there are subtle, unnoticeable side effects like fatigue or if you drink too much, liver damage. But if you were to stop drinking then go back on, your body would lose its tolerance and you'd get noticeably drunk or even sick. The world of intolerances versus allergies can get quite confusing and I don't think many traditional doctors even know how to diagnose these problems because often blood tests are of no help.
The first three days were brutal. I didn't realize that my two to three cups of caffeine (mostly coffee) were such an addiction. Coffee stays in your body for over five hours and it can take a few days for the caffeine to completely leave your system. And it left with a bang. For days I felt completely listless, unable to concentrate or even stay awake despite having multiple important interviews on my plate that week. On the third day, I woke up with my entire body aching, like I had just gone on a long, intense run on hard pavement - another unforgiving withdrawal system. Finally, on the fourth day, I felt energized and was able to even choose green juice over tea or coffee before my interview.
For the rest of the cleanse, I felt like my energy was steadier than it's ever been before. I lost about five pounds and ended up weighing less than I've ever weighed since early high school. I rarely felt hungry and I mostly just felt happy. But the hardest part was navigating social situations. Since I'm not dating anyone, that part was easy. But how would things have differed if I chose to date? I couldn't have a first date over a drink or even coffee. Would I get to know the person even better over a walk in Central Park? Day trip to a museum? Was catching up with my girlfriends over lunch just as satisfying as it is over dinner and a few glasses of wine? Even harder than navigating social situations were the rituals associated with my addictions. Could I permanently give up my regular visits to coffee shops where I had not only made friends but often found to be a great place to work? Would I feel like a member of the "coffee tribe" ordering herbal tea? Could I give up the feeling of sophistication and cultural indulgence that comes with ordering a nice glass of red wine? But more importantly, why are so many of our social interactions done over chemical addictions? Is it because the excuse of catching up makes our addictions socially acceptable - like ordering dessert only after your friends do?
It's been at least three weeks since I've gone back to my regular eating habits. I drink less coffee and don't feel I need it to wake up. But until my friends prefer catching up over a run in the park versus an indulgent meal at Ditch Plains, or networking events start serving green juice instead of wine and healthy restaurants start providing wifi, it looks like I'll have to learn how to indulge in moderation. Because what good is being healthy and feeling energetic if you have no one to share that energy with? Perhaps I'll just stop ordering dessert.