Why I Quit Coffee Part II: How I went from seven to zero cups of coffee in 5 days

15 Oct

The day my doctor told me to try giving up caffeine to relieve my GI and vocal symptoms, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I mean, I knew caffeine is an addictive substance. I knew also that quitting such a substance would produce real, physical withdrawal symptoms.

I knew it would be hard. But I didn’t think it would be that hard. My little bro (the one with h pylori) gives up coffee periodically just to make sure he can. He doesn’t like the idea of being dependent on anything outside himself. So it’s clearly possible. Of course, I never asked him how long these coffee-free periods last.

I decided against cold turkey. I’m not a glutton for punishment.  I didn’t really have a plan to taper off, but I knowing me, if I planned too much I wouldn’t get around to actually doing it, so I dove right in. With the information here, if you ever have to (or want to) give up coffee, perhaps you can make a plan of your own.

Note: if you don’t want to read through the nitty-gritty, you can skip to The Takeaway at the bottom.

The First Day

I woke up a little under the weather, another attack of the upper respiratory crap/fall allergies. This would normally suck balls, but in this case was sort of a blessing. I usually don’t even feel like drinking coffee when I have postnasal drip.

So I began the day with a small cup of hot chai tea and honey. Black tea contains caffeine, but not as much as coffee, especially if you don’t have a tumbler of it. I spent the morning intermittently working on projects and researching this so-called caffeine allergy.

tea

I don’t always enjoy colds. But when I do, it’s when I’m trying to quit caffeine.

By 11:00, it was clear one cup would not do. I didn’t have a headache, at least not yet. But I felt very groggy. I made another cup of tea with honey. Something else would be necessary.

Meditation! That would be so totally zen of me. I’d found this Binaural Beat Meditation a few weeks before I’d been wanting to try out. (I sort of got into meditation after reading this book). Plus I had these two tea bags! I could put them on my eyes and lay on the couch (lotus position is for suckers). Because that’s another thing–I’d been noticing lately that I had visible pouches under my eyes all the time, regardless of how much sleep I’d gotten. I suddenly remembered that they can be caused by allergies. You mean…like caffeine allergies?

In the later part of the afternoon, I developed a bit of a headache. I was fully expecting it so it was no surprise. What I wasn’t prepared for was the tiredness–the absolutely bone crushing fatigue I felt the whole afternoon. Also, I was starving. I kept snacking on little things every hour–a piece of cheese, a strip of roast chicken, a cup of strawberry yogurt, hummus on a cracker. I chalked it up to the bit of nasal sumpin’ sumpin’ I had going on.

I was so tired and cruddy I couldn’t manage my daily workout. I tried to imagine that the zen I was getting from the binaural beats was, in its own way, just as good for my body–which was clearly involved in some kind of battle at the moment. I crashed into a dark stupor after two pages of reading around 11 PM.

Day 2

The next morning I still felt a little cruddy. Thus it was difficult to determine whether the dull headache pulsing against my skull was from withdrawal or sinuses. Trying to head it off at the pass, I had my first cup of black tea as soon as I arrived at the office with my breakfast, and the second shortly after.

The headache persisted quietly. I began craving coffee, like, the actual taste of the drink, in the late afternoon too. But it was nothing compared to the hunger. Within less than two hours of eating, the pangs would return.

I did some deep stretching in the evening along with a huge glass of white wine. I felt I deserved it.

Day 3

The third day was a Saturday, PRAISE. Until now I’d been avoiding coffee entirely–even though my doc said switching to decaf would serve the purpose fine–because I was really curious about whether caffeine or coffee was the true culprit. Anyway, we know that decaf still contains some caffeine. But this morning I broke down and had a mug of decaf Starbucks with cream. It was divine.

Later that afternoon my throat burned and I felt extremely bloated. But it was hard to tell if it was from the decaf, or from the postnasal drip, or from the huge decked-out froyo I had for lunch. I tried to drink extra water but I’m here to tell you–water is not coffee.

Day 4

This was the first day of trying an entirely new hot drink substitute: Teeccino.

teeccino

Teeccino is billed as an herbal coffee alternative. It’s completely caffeine free, non-acidic and allegedly nutritious. It’s even supposed to give you a natural energy boost, but without the stimulant effect. The reviews on Amazon were pretty good so I ordered one pack to try it out.  I purchased the vanilla flavor, but only because that was the only one sold in a single pack. I didn’t want to commit to something I might not like.

You put it through your regular machine like coffee. It looks quite a bit like coffee when brewed. It smells nothing like coffee. The taste? Well, it’s hard to describe. It’s full bodied, definitely sweeter than coffee, which makes sense since because what isn’t? It’s rather nutty overall. But it’s not at bit like tea, which is what comes to mind when you hear the word “herbal.” My first impression was that a) it would take some getting used to, but b) I could definitely get used to it.

The only real caffeine I had was a few swallows of P’s sweet tea. We went white water rafting in the afternoon, which as it turns out, is a great distraction from headaches, hunger, bloating, or anything else that ails you.

I went to bed very tired.

Day 5

For the fifth day in a row, I was starving. I began to suspect that my body, so used to be sustained with caffeinated glory, was looking for a replacement energy source. The Teeccino was slowly growing on me. I was able to work in some squats and planks in addition to my deep stretching (I’m finally set on achieving my splits, now that I’m in my 30s–as if one lofty goal wasn’t enough).

We had a work reception that day and I mentioned to a group of people that I’d gone off caffeine, and they all took a step back like I might bite them. So are you super irritable? They asked. I stared back at them dully. I wasn’t grumpy–that would take way too much energy.

I fell into bed utterly exhausted, about 30 minutes earlier than usual. I didn’t realize until the next day that it was my first day completely and totally caffeine-free.

The Takeaways

Decaf, sigh…just not quite the same.

So what can you expect if you decide to break your own caffeine habit?

  1. The headache is not bad. If you taper off instead of going cold turkey, and replace your coffee intake with another liquid (even icky water), headache shouldn’t be a problem. I’m almost certain that what little headache I did experience was the result of having a cold.
  2. You will miss coffee. Make no mistake. no matter what sub you use: decaf, herbal tea, hot cocoa, or my new fave Teeccino–this is like breaking up with a good friend. And like a break up, every time you accidentally run into each other it will be a little painful.
  3. You will be starving. Lock up the Doritos and gelato and stock your pantry with healthy, filling foods that you can grab quickly, like nuts, beans, bagged salads, avocado, popcorn, hummus, peanut butter, protein shakes, whatever your thing is–because the hunger machine is coming and it’s sucking up everything in reaching distance. If you drink your coffee with cream and sugar, expect the sweet tooth to come out swinging as well.
  4. You will be tired. I think the thing that surprised me the most in that first week was realizing how heavily I leaned on caffeine for daily energy. I have never felt so tired in all my life, and I’ve had walking pneumonia. It ranged from being a little slow on the uptake to all out head-on-the-desk sleepiness. And, as you will see in the next installment, this symptom lasted the longest.
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One Response to “Why I Quit Coffee Part II: How I went from seven to zero cups of coffee in 5 days”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why I Quit Coffee Part III: Wrap Up | Cushion Cut - November 6, 2015

    […] they were able to squeeze me in quicker than anticipated–my initial appointment was during that first week of tapering off. I wondered if this would hide or highlight any damage to ye olde singing […]

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