I Broke Up With Caffeine and Lived to Tell the Tale
Those who know me well call me a coffee addict. And it’s true. In college my caffeine intake would hover between three and four cups a day. And it wouldn’t be odd for me to throw in a few green teas between classes.
Out in the real world, my love for coffee stays strong, but I’m definitely more conscious about how much I consume. Making and drinking my first cup of joe is my favorite morning ritual. I love to wake up early and put the kettle on right away. After I grab the paper from outside (yes, I still have The New York Times delivered in print) and chug a big glass of water, I pour Peet’s ground Major Dickason’s blend into my French press. The rich smell of coffee grinds brings a smile to my face, and I enjoy a mini steam facial as I fill the press with hot water. Then, for the first 10 minutes of my day, I enjoy reading the news and sipping on my delicious, home-brewed treat.
As an editor, and a generally health-conscious person, I find it important to monitor my energy levels. After recognizing several of the symptoms that The Wall Street Journal classifies as symptomatic of caffeine intoxication, I decided to detox. Cold turkey. On Monday, July 6th I took the plunge. I hoped that by eliminating coffee, green tea, and Diet Coke from my diet, my symptoms of restlessness, flush face, nervousness, and muscle twitching would dissipate. What unfolded was a mostly torturous, although ultimately rewarding, five-day caffeine detox.
All is right with the world. I wake up and hit the gym first thing. By the time I’m sipping on my green smoothie, my post work-out endorphins have kicked in and I’m so pumped for the challenge of my first caffeine-free day that I don’t notice the travel mug missing from my hand.
Then 3 p.m. rolls around and, out of nowhere, I get a searing headache in the back of my skull. It’s hard to focus at work. My temper is definitely on edge, and all I can think about is satisfying my craving. But I don’t.
It’s official. I am experiencing severe caffeine withdrawal. I feel lethargic to the point of immobility. Getting out of bed seems like a formidable task, especially without the promising reward of a perky beverage. The bags under my eyes look purple today, or maybe that’s just my bad mood talking. I’m trying to compensate for my lack of caffeine with a spin class, but nothing feels right. And then, in the middle of a sprint, my cleat comes loose and knocks me in the back of the shin. Hard.
After lunch I’m dreading the late-afternoon headache but am granted a little relief. I still have a headache but by late day two of my experiment, the severity of pain is nowhere near what it was day one.
It’s hump day and when my alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m., it’s surprisingly easy to jump out of bed. I feel a little lighter and less fuzzy than I normally do in the mornings. I’ve learned to supplement my day with lots of hot herbal tea and lemon water with ginger and turmeric. Keeping a warm tea mug on my desk gives me the comfort that would normally come from my coffee mug. No headache and a stable source of energy allow me to work straight through the 3 p.m. slump without thinking about it. And by bedtime, I’m so exhausted that I fall asleep before I finish a single page of my book.
I’m feeling like this caffeine-free lifestyle is the new me. My thinking is clearer, my skin tone is more even, I don’t have to chew mint gum to ward off coffee breath, and my body rhythm feels more constant and less subject to roller coaster highs and lows. I’m still pretty tired by late afternoon but the throbbing headaches have completely stopped. I've learned to mask my fatigue with cooling eye gel and a great concealer.
I wake up and beam with pride. Five days are nearly complete and this former caffeine addict is feeling good. I must say that this was the earliest I ever went to bed on a Friday.
If you love coffee as much as I do, do yourself a favor and taper off the dark brew. Don’t go from 100 to zero and expect to survive without a splitting headache that lasts more than a day.
Detoxing is always a good way to cleanse and restart your body. But my motto is everything in moderation. Since my caffeine detox, my daily coffee consumption has plateaued at one mug per day. If need be, I supplement with earl grey or green tea. Sometimes I even go for a decaf java. But, ultimately, I love the choice of enjoying my favorite 10 minutes of the day unrestricted.
Are you a coffee lover? Share your thoughts on whether caffeine detoxing is worth it in the comments!