I’m about a week and a half in to cutting out alcohol and caffeine. Do I miss good beer and good coffee? Absolutely. Was truly good beer and coffee harder to come by that I wanted to admit? Absolutely.
I cut caffeine and alcohol out cold turkey. I wouldn’t say this is a New Year’s resolution. It’s a product of travel for the holidays, and one of the benefits of travel is getting you out of some of your routines and re-evaluate them (and hone your judgement).
I’ve already noticed some benefits. It’s very easy to stay hydrated, and I get tired when I’m dehydrated, so this offsets any perk I got from caffeine. Sleep is a little better but not all that much – it’s probably too early for much of a benefit. No caffeine and alcohol saves me money (duh), and it saves me time – no nursing a cup of coffee in the morning, no planned afternoon break. My energy levels are way more smooth through the day.
The second biggest benefit of cutting out caffeine and alcohol is the stress of planning it all. Coffee in particular involved a lot of logistics. And when I traveled it was a stressor – where will I get coffee in the morning? In the afternoon? We need to have fun – where will we go for drinks to have fun? And if I got sick, I was stressed about how long I had to wait to have caffeine or alcohol lest I prolong the illness.
As Getting Things Done explains, any task that resides in your mind is a source of anxiety. Getting coffee and alcohol (and, importantly, factoring in the rehydration needed) are two sources of anxiety I’ve now dropped. Releasing that anxiety has been very satisfying.
The corollary point is that cutting out caffeine and alcohol simplifies your life. Cutting out, say, bread or dairy has its challenges. But caffeine and alcohol are things you go out of the way to consume. Simplifying my life means more space to take on other challenges.
But maybe the biggest benefit is the sense of satisfaction from the control I’m exercising in my life. I really disliked the sense of needing to have something, of losing that control over an inanimate object. You’re telling me hot bean water runs my day? Hell no. It gives you tremendous momentum to add other good habits to your life. Good habits compound.
And bad habits compound. Alcohol obviously pairs with lots of bad decisions, for me primarily calorie-related. I also really like my sleep, and I can’t wait to get to my next conference and never have to endure “one more round” – sorry, I don’t drink, I’m off to bed.
Downsides: coffee and alcohol are easy ways to compare cities, socialize with friends, and they have their own satisfying rituals – watching the cream burst through the cold brew, hearing the satisfying hiss from the bottle opened. But if you can’t have a good time with a seltzer in your hand, maybe you’re not all that fun anyways.