My story with coffee starts when I was just a little girl. My Mom, a coffee drinker since before I’ve been alive, would always drink her coffee outside on the patio when the weather was nice. During summer vacations and school breaks she would give my sister and I each a mug of hot chocolate to enjoy while she sipped her coffee. Eventually the hot chocolate becaume these International Cafe drinks, which eventually become coffee.
I was never a heavy coffee drinker, just a cup or two each morning. Nothing about my coffee habit seemed unhealthy. I wasn’t getting a Mocha or Caramel Macchiato every morning, just a simple, regular cup of coffee. I never added sugar, just a splash of skim milk. It was just a warm drink each morning, really. Which would make anyone wonder, why coffee, then? Why not a cup of tea or hot chocolate? Or even decaf coffee? I do enjoy coffee. There is truth to that. But that major reason I had to have my cup of coffee each morning, couldn’t miss a day or switch up my warm drink, was the caffeine.
I’ve tried quitting coffee a few times in my adult life. It would usually happen on a day where I had a particularly busy day and had gone most of the morning without having a cup. I’d think to myself “Hey, maybe I don’t actually need the coffee” and purposefully skip the coffee. Then, around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon the dreaded coffee headache would hit. It wasn’t horrible, but it was annoying. I knew a cup of coffee would fix it and I gave in every time.
Then, a few months ago, we decided to do a Daniel Fast. We’d been thinking about it for a while. I’d done a good amount of research on what the fast entailed and it seemed clear that the only drink allowed was water. I LOVE water, but the idea of not having coffee for days was really daunting. I figured that I would just suck it up for a couple weeks, deal with the caffeine withdrawal, and then go back to my coffee drinking following the fast. The first day of the fast arrived and I replaced my morning coffee with a big glass of water. I knew the headache was coming so I prepped. I made a big pot of Lemon Lentil Soup so I would have something to warm and soothing to eat. The day progressed fine. Actually, around 2pm, when I still didn’t have a headache I was wondering if I was going to get one at all. I thought that a little too soon because it set in about half an hour later. I laid down on the sofa, feel asleep, and when I woke up the pain was much worse. It hurt to walk or move at all. Steve tried to comfort me with the whole “drink water, it will help” but I wasn’t having it. At one point the pain was so bad that I was vomiting. I thought I was going to have to go to the ER.
Somehow, I survived. After a little bit of food and water I was able to peacefully go to sleep. One good thing about caffeine withdrawal is that it also makes you very tired, so sleeping through the pain is an option. I woke up the next morning, still with a headache, and realized the whole cold turkey thing wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t exactly in line with the fast, but I decided to slowly cut my coffee consumption back over the next few days. I still had headaches, but it was the dull ache-y type. I could function like normal, for the most part.
In all of the pain I came to the realization that, although I love coffee, it isn’t good for me. I decided to quit caffeinated coffee. I know there are studies that say coffee is good and I’m not disputing that. I don’t think it is good for me, or anyone, to have such a severe dependency. My violent reaction to missing just one cup of coffee showed me how bad my addiction was. Feeding my coffee addiction each morning wasn’t making me sick or having a negative impact on my daily life but it was an addiction nonetheless. Why would I willingly allow myself to live that way?
Now, a few months later, the nightmare of coffee withdrawal is over and I feel like it was worth enduring. Each morning I have a cup of tea or decaf coffee. Decaf is such a great compromise! It still is everything I love about coffee but I’m not going to get a killer headache if I miss it one day. I love having the peace of mind that I don’t NEED to get my coffee fix. When we travel I don’t have to endure lousy hotel coffee (or worse yet, airplane coffee) or pay some absurd price for cup at Starbucks. Someday if/when we decide to have kids and I am pregnant I won’t have to worry about giving it up or negatively effecting the health of my baby. And, say any other health matters came up that prevented me from having my morning dose of coffee, it wouldn’t be complicated by the already miserable caffeine withdrawal.
If you have wrestled with your coffee drinking habit and are thinking of quitting here are some tips:
1. Don’t quit cold turkey. The pattern below worked for me. My withdrawal symptoms were done on day 8. I did not consume any caffeinated beverage until Day 21, so I had a two entire weeks of no caffeine. Then, I let myself have one or two caffeinated coffee or teas each week, but never on consecutive days.
- Day 1: 3/4 cup coffee
- Day 2: 3/4 cup coffee
- Day 3: 1/2 cup coffee
- Day 4: 1/2 cup coffee
- Day 5: 1/4 cup coffee
- Day 6: 1/4 c weak coffee
- Day 7 and beyond: No coffee
2. Drink lots of water. It’s not going to cure your symptoms, but it helps some and honestly, is at least a bit of a distraction.
3. Supplement with herbal tea and decaf coffee. Don’t drink soda or other caffeinated drinks!
4. Sleep through the pain as much as you can. The lack of caffeine will probably make you feel much more tired than usual. Use this to your advantage and sleep whenever possible. It will give you a break from the headache.
5. Let your family and friends know what is going on so that they cane support you. When people know what is going on they have the opportunity to extend grace to you.
6. Be gentle with yourself. Your body is going through a big change, so don’t add any unnecessary stress to yourself!
Important Note: I’m not a doctor or medical professional of any type! This is just what I did to quit drinking coffee that worked for me. If this doesn’t seem right for you or you are having really rough withdrawal symptoms please check with your doctor. If you have another tactic that worked for you, please share in the comments!
I know there are lots and lots of coffee fans out there, so I hope I haven’t offended any of you! Truth is, I still love coffee! I just want my body to be able to function perfectly normally whether I have my morning coffee or I don’t!Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net