On our podcast ‘Tales That Tethr’, tethr Founder & CEO Matt Zerker interviews entrepreneurs, experts, thought leaders, and regular people about what is means to be a man, the challenges that modern men face, and how to overcome challenges and live life in a more connected and authentic way.
This guest blog post is an exploration of the connection between caffeine and coffee by Coach Kyle Rushton. It is a peer share and does not contain medical advice.
It’s 12pm… time to get up. My mind is conditioned to get food as soon as I open my eyes, so I make my way to the kitchen. My friend tries to have a chat and say good morning; I respond with a head nod. In my mind, I have it that I am incapable of operating until I have food. I eat, feeling like I need a big meal because I am going to head to the gym. I don’t have coffee yet because I know I will have pre-workout soon – I’m excited for the pre-workout. I know it will give me life.
It’s 1:15pm. I woke up late because I was at work until 3am. Again, I get up and head straight to the kitchen to make food, but this time, I also make coffee. I am also making it for my girlfriend this time. I present the coffee, but I still feel low energy and my actions and lack of speaking reflect that. But I feel good about making coffee for us. I eat, still with the knowledge that even though I had coffee, I was still going to have pre-workout soon before I go to the gym. I know it will give me life.
Not sure what time it is. I wake up, and today, I head for the coffee first. It seemed to help the lethargic feeling more than the food. I still eat, but while I cook, I drink the coffee. I am slightly annoyed because I ran out of pre-workout – this is not helping my mood. But I know I can stop at the convenience store located right next to the gym to get a can of red bull. I feel better, and sure enough, I buy a red bull before my work-out. Later that day, I prepare for work. The pre-workout has diluted, and now I am feeling slightly tired again. I have to work in an hour and want to make sure I feel energized for the long shift ahead of me, so I stop at Starbucks and grab a Grande blonde roast, the most caffeinated brew they have. I know it will give me life.
Today, I woke up early. It’s my day off. I am excited to not have to work, but I still feel tired. I make coffee, head to the gym with my pre-workout, but before I head home, I stop at the Starbucks that is right next to the gym to get a coffee. I go about my day cleaning and running errands, but I feel lost and slightly anxious. This makes me feel tired, so I get a double shot of blonde espresso from Starbucks. I feel better, but only slightly. That night, I ended up staying awake until 3am. I blame the late nights at work and do my best to get through the struggle of falling asleep. In the morning, I know I will wake up to coffee. I know it gives me life.
I am sure you can see the pattern here which to be clear, reflects a much longer process than a few days (although for some, it doesn’t). One by one, day by day, my idea of what caffeine meant to me elevated to the point where I saw it as the only way to feel energy. This was also reinforced in my mind by the societal idea of the importance of daily coffee. As I continued down this road of consistent caffeine intake, unaware at the time of the psychological impact it was having, I started to feel anxious. It was light at first, with a bit of timidness and stress. Then it escalated to full body debilitation. And before I knew it, and in fact I didn’t at the time, I started to become depressed. It was as if nothing in my life was good enough anymore, which is wild to think looking back because I had an unbelievable girlfriend as well as my best friend living with me, I had a stable job as well as a car to transport me, and the beginnings of a life coaching business on the side. But even with all of this, I just couldn’t seem to get a grasp on my own mental aptitude. I couldn’t seem to muster up the energy to feel good, that is, without the influence of some sort of caffeinated drink.
Sure enough, the cause of my actions created their effect: I lost the girlfriend, I almost lost the best friend, and I was forced to find a place to live on my own. Even still, I didn’t fully understand what was going on. I believed myself to be a great person. I believed myself to be worthy (or at least I thought). I believed that I was capable of change (and I am), but at the time, I wasn’t self-aware enough to see or know what needed to be changed.
What I came to acknowledge in the space of my deep, dark, painful lonesome was that I was relying heavily, and almost fully, on external things to make me feel better, which in this case was caffeine. I thought that if I had caffeine, my energy would rise, and I would feel better, think better, and act better. And in the moment, I did. But what I didn’t know at the time was that I was reaching for this spike of energy all the time because of my unhappiness with where I was in life, and more specifically, my unhappiness with my level of perceived “success.” What I failed to acknowledge was that if I was constantly receiving spikes of energy, that would put me on a high, and with high highs come really low lows. As we seek to try and remain in the realm of ecstatic, we start to misinterpret what peace feels like.
Peace is the middle ground. It’s a state of contentment, grace, and gratitude. It is what I would consider now the most important place for me to be, although before that, I thought “middle ground” sounded unappealing. Of course I still hope for feelings of ecstasy, but rather as a result of being elevated from my state of peace and NOT because I am in a state of low. While life is considered a rollercoaster, what I had to learn the hard way was that I have the ability to control how high and how low I allow myself to go. The hilarity of it all is that in the slow progression of daily caffeine intake, I felt completely out of control. Turns out that was because I gave my own innate power of personal energy and vibrational frequency away to something outside of myself, when, the entire time, it belonged to me.
Needless to say, and this is hard for me to admit – caffeine was my vice. One could say I was addicted to caffeine, but in reality, I was addicted to the feeling caffeine gave me and not the caffeine itself. As it turns out, this idea of what caffeine gave me was counterproductive because although caffeine has been said to have antidepressant properties, in the reality of it all, it only placed a band-aid on my inner wounds. Instead of facing the struggle, I faced the caffeine. Instead of finding the energy within myself, my own thoughts, and the power I possess at all times to feel great about life, I gave it away to the pull of a white monster or double espresso.
Coming full circle to where I am today, none of that is the same. I don’t reach for food or coffee in the morning anymore. Instead, I reach for tools and practices to help me fill my own cup like stretching, cold showers, making my bed, watering the plants, and journaling. There was a small moment when I went back to my job in-between lockdowns and found myself reaching for red bull again… and I did. But it started to feel less like an energy boost and more of a shot at my own personal integrity. And once I feel like my integrity is being challenged, my entire body responds and I know I need to make a better decision. This was also a testament to the fact that even though we feel like we have defeated something, given the right environment, it will try to creep back in.
For some people like me, the vice is caffeine. For others, it may be alcohol or hard drugs. And while I do still drink coffee today, it is now a conscious decision rather than a conditioned pattern. I also got rid of my automatic coffee maker and I now buy coffee beans, ground them fresh, and use a pour-over system. The entire process takes approx. 8-10 minutes total to brew.
This was not an easy journey with many slip-ups, and it took over a year to finally be where I am today. However, I tell you this story with pride because it is on rare occasion now that I feel depressed, I am much more capable of handling my anxious moments, and I no longer seek coffee to fill my own energy cup. Instead, I search within myself and lead my life knowing that I have the power to shift at any time I so choose which is something I never thought was possible. I go for walks, I read a book, I meditate, I stretch, I go for a run. Because the biggest lesson I learned through this was that energy is not found outside of myself – it is always found within.
I hope this serves you well my friend.
With strength & grace,
Coach Kyle is a Life Coach, Speaker, Podcast Co-Host, mens group facilitator, and aspiring author. More at coachkylerushton.com - Learn More about Kyle on our recent #tethrtalks in app or on IGTV.