I drink coffee so you like me better, and whiskey so I like you better

At the company that fired me last year I picked up the reputation of a serious coffee drinker — enough that at the holiday party, when they handed out silly awards I won Most Caffeinated. That really tickled me.

Currently caffeinating

At that point I was drinking about a pot of coffee a day — half of that before I drove to the office.

I was also known as a whiskey drinker. That company had occasional happy hours where they provided wine and beer. I’d mingle, but seldom drink, until someone asked me why. When I told them I was more a whiskey man, a bottle of brown spirits appeared at future events.

I used to tell them, jokingly, that I drank coffee so they’d like me better, and whiskey so I’d like them better.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that through the unbelievable series of unwelcome and unwanted life events my family has lived through the last three years, I was drinking shots of whiskey every night to come down off the day so I could sleep.

A few months ago I realized I was falling into a deep hole so I cut out alcohol entirely. Immediately, sleep came with difficulty and sometimes not at all. I had just started to find regular sleep again when I took my new job. It triggered three solid weeks of insomnia.

So I went to the doctor, who prescribed something short-term to take the edge off. It works great. I’ve also started seeing a therapist for support.

The doctor arched her eyebrow at how much coffee I drink, so I’m trying cutting way back on that, too. Instead of half a pot of coffee in the morning I now drink three cups of black tea. I like the experience of sipping a warm liquid as part of my morning ritual of breakfast and blogging, and I worried that if I went all the way to decaffeinated coffee the headaches would be debilitating.

At work I allow myself one cup of coffee. In the afternoon I try to cut out caffeine entirely, but if the craving is solid I’ll allow myself one more cup of tea.

That cuts my caffeine intake in half — and glory be, my body is less often edgy-anxious at bedtime. I need to pop the prescribed bedtime pill far less often now.

I have tentatively tried a little alcohol again over the last few weeks. Margaret and I drank a couple bottles of wine while we were in New Harmony and on our wedding anniversary here at home, and I’ve had a few cocktails while out with friends. What I’m not doing anymore is pouring a tall bourbon or scotch and sipping it in bed, and another and another or however many it took to put me to sleep. This is an experiment and we will see how it goes. As I said before, if booze won’t stay in the box I put it in, I’ll teetotal forever.

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26 responses to “I drink coffee so you like me better, and whiskey so I like you better”

  1. J P Avatar

    So . . . we won’t like you as well and you will now barely tolerate us? :)

    I am a 2/3 of a pot guy, 3 large mugs in the morning and 1 after lunch. If I do coffee later than that I go to decaf or else sleep is a long time coming when I turn in. And yes there are nasty headaches when I don’t get my allotment.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s right. It’s a lose-lose for everyone, except that I’m sleeping better! ;-)

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Back in the 80’s, I went to the doctor for massive neck aches; happened almost every week to ten days. I used to swim a lot, and a life guard once told me he could see my neck muscles like ropes! I was drinking a pot of coffee a day in my studio, maybe a pot and a half. When the doctor found that out, he said to stop, so I stopped “cold turkey”. Yep, massive withdrawal head aches for a week! After that, never had a problem again! Had zero caffeine for about twenty years, but now drink one cup of half-caf a day, seems OK for now…

    Feeling bad with booze, is unfortunately a product of sinuses! I can’t drink enough to make me tipsy without getting a terrible sinus head-ache! Ach, old age!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wonder why there was a link between caffeine and neckaches! But the boozy headaches, I understand. It’s why I wasn’t much of a drinker at all in my young days.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        I was told the booze/sinus thing is a product of preservatives and sulfides. Hmmm

  3. George Cooper Avatar
    George Cooper

    Hi Jim, normally I use to drink a full glass of Bourbon before sleeping, and believe me, I sleep like a little angel until morning. I’m retired, so…..
    Actually my dreams are populated with my last love….Leica cameras.
    Take care….

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I got to the point where bourbon was pushing me off to sleep … and waking up between 2 and 4 am not to be able to return to it. Fail!

  4. OverniteJoe Avatar

    Jim, Thanks for following my blog. I am now following you. Thank you for the advice too. When you work the Overnite shift like I do you live on coffee. I have a few cups ever morning (afternoon) when I get up. Then about 4:30AM. Halfway though my work day. (Nite) On weekends I am more of a beer & cigar guy. Sometimes when I get home in the morning I have a shot of Seagram’s Gold with my 7Up or Mt Dew. In the afternoon with breakfast a little vodka goes nice with my OJ. Everything in moderation. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. JOE

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My hat’s off to anyone who can live on the overnight schedule! I’m trying to find that right moderation point with booze and caffeine. Not quite there yet but still working.

  5. tbm3fan Avatar

    Yep, too much coffee. I only drink two 6 oz. cups a day when at work and that is black French Roast. Now I have never had an issue with having a cup late at night in my younger years. Today, if I don’t have any after 7:30pm then I am still fine from what I have found. Dinner at 8:30 always means one 12 oz. beer or 6 oz glass of red wine. Maybe, only maybe, there might be half a shot glass of bourbon to sip at 9:00. What does keep me awake at times is simply too much thinking as I am a planner and need to shut that down before bed.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m a worrier. When my brain is keeping me awake, it’s always worry.

  6. eppaar Avatar

    Tea is not caffeine free. On the average 2 cups of tea equals one cup of coffee.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh yes, I know. Through tea I’ve managed to about halve my caffeine intake, and it’s made a big difference.

  7. Roger Meade Avatar
    Roger Meade

    Jim- Just after I retired I calculated how much coffee I had been drinking on work days, which started at 2:30pm and almost always ran to 2:30 am with a 45 ” drive each way. It came out to about 24 cups each day. That was a hard habit to break. What we have hit on is a morning pot of 1/3 caffeinated 2/3 good quality decaff. It seems to work and still tastes right. The only time I drink full caffeine is restaurant coffee.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Holy WOW 24 cups!

      I’ve considered going the partial-caff coffee route. I’ve yet to find a decaf that I think tastes good enough. Though, I haven’t tried that hard.

  8. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I have cut down considerably on my coffee consumption in the past year. From about four or five large mugs per day down to two small cups. I sometimes have a cup of hot tea in the late morning if I am having a rough day. Now wine…that is a different story. Living in Napa, I love my wine…but I gotta cut that down too.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You live in the winelover’s mecca!

      I’m trending toward your level of coffee consumption. It’s time.

  9. N.S. Palmer Avatar

    It’s nowhere near Roger Meade’s record, but in grad school I drank about 12 cups a day and hardly ever slept. I’ve cut down a lot since then.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hardly ever slept? How did you function?

      1. N.S. Palmer Avatar

        You can get away with a lot when you’re 20. And I’ve always considered sleep to be a very annoying waste of time.

  10. Heide Avatar

    It can be a vicious cycle, can’t it, this business of using caffeine to perk oneself up and alcohol to mellow back down. Good for you for having the self-awareness to recognize what was becoming a destructive and unhealthy pattern — and for being able to stop it, too. Bravo, Jim.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks H! I can always count on you to bring a word of encouragement.

  11. Victor Villaseñor Avatar
    Victor Villaseñor

    I had to manage my coffee/caffeine intake, my heartburn was causing me to cough up small hints of blood, yeah, blood. Tea works wonders, specially after eating something. Why dont you try green tea next? or as suggested above, mix it up, start with some black tea in the morning and move on to “decaf” green tea later, you can reduce the caffeine intake even more, while keeping the sipping warm beverage ritual that we both seem to need.

    As for the late night bourbon…. why not replace it with some good fantasy books? Helps your mind break off from the stressing day time reality, even if just subconsciously, prepping you to sleep, with no side effects, well, maybe just a tad addictive ;)

    Happy to hear you’re doing good Jim!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I wish I liked tea better. It’s ok. I tried half regular/half decaf in the coffeemaker this morning and it was good to have the familiar flavor back. But I do enjoy green tea, especially jasmine green tea, on its own, especially in the afternoon.

      I haven’t been much of a fiction reader as an adult. I was as a teen, but somehow in my adult life I’ve switched to history and self-help as my main genres. Who knows, maybe it’s time to pick up a novel again.

      Thanks Victor!

      1. N.S. Palmer Avatar

        Jim, if you want the best of both worlds, here’s the book. It’s absolutely terrific:


        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Thanks for the recommendation! At the moment I’m in the middle of reading a book about belief, written by this fellow I know.

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