What no one tell you about quitting caffeine.
Why aren’t there better decaffeinated drinks?
91 days ago, I quit drinking caffeine.
It was a long time coming. I hadn’t gone more than a few days without caffeine over the course of fourteen years. It was hard to remember a single day that I hadn’t had a Diet Coke or a caffeinated tea.
But it was the mood swings that did it. The mood swings and my inability to calm down as a person in general.
I felt trapped in the body of someone ten years younger than me—in a terribly immature way.
So I decided to quit. 90 days of absolutely nothing, then maybe once a week after that.
Though I have to say, now that I’ve returned to having it in my life, I really wasn’t missing much. I’m so glad that I detoxed.
Caffeine isn’t evil. I’m not going to make decisions for the rest of my life when I’m through just over a quarter of it. If I want to be the yerba mate-jacked lady in the nursing home, I reserve the right to be that.
Overall, it’s been a universal net positive quitting caffeine. In fact, I can’t believe I didn’t do it earlier.
It is just as hard as people say it is. If not harder. But dealing with PMDD gave me some unique advantages in tackling this beast. So I thought I’d give you all a leg up if you’re aiming to quit.
To start off:
Everything you’ve heard about the headaches is true.
It hurts. They suck. You will feel bad. The blood vessels around your brain are expanding back to a normal state. What did you expect?
But they don’t last forever. Mine were gone by day 9, and now they only pop up occasionally.
The headaches are the initial test of whether or not you really want to quit. Your body’s just asking if you’re in it to win it.
Also, not to be that person but: Meditation helps.
You will want to sleep. A lot.
If you take a stimulant regularly for years, suddenly cutting yourself off will make you feel much sleepier than your baseline state. Imagine that.
Sarcasm aside, quitting caffeine will put you in touch with how much damage you’ve been doing to your body over the years. One of those harmful things may in fact be building up a sleep debt you’ll now have to pay off.
This is where PMDD came in handy—I already knew not to fight it when I needed extra sleep. My sleep debt was backed up to age 14. I was due.
Hydrate or die.
What’s the difference between a successful caffeine detox and an excruciating one? Hydration.
I’ve probably never drank more water than I did when I detoxed from caffeine. I guarantee, you will probably never feel thirstier in your day-to-day life again. Your body is searching for a liquid fix.
You may also have to do a serious assessment of the foods and drinks you have available to you. There are few caffeine-free beverages available for purchase that an adult can sip with dignity. Kombucha is one. Teas are another. I like an A&W root beer when I’m rolling dice on Saturday.
Consider your options before you begin and include alternative beverages in your detox plan. Not drinking your calories will become difficult.
If you can avoid it, don’t revert to caffeine-free versions of your favorite drinks. Your body will not be fooled. In fact, your addicted head may just pound on you for the next hour.
You will look back at your overcaffeinated self and cringe.
I won’t pretend for a minute that detoxing from caffeine is anything like detoxing from hard drugs. It’s not. It’s inconvenient and painful, but I’m not hallucinating or in danger of dying.
That being said, I see now just how much caffeine affected my state of mind. My capacity for long-term thinking and emotional control was vastly diminished compared to my sober self. I was mentally stuck in my teenage years.
Caffeine consumption also helped to cover up the most uncomfortable of my PMDD symptoms. The first times during my detox I really craved caffeine was right in the middle of Demon Week, when I was so grounded in my body I felt disgusting all the time.
I wasn’t confronting my body or emotions during my periods of high caffeine consumption. That was a problem I now had to heal from.
Also, wow, my face was so much puffier.
Constipation. It’ll happen.
This is one I feel honor-bound to talk about because I didn’t see it coming based on anything I had read.
I expected weight gain (didn’t really happen), depression (a tinge), and craving more sweets (pre-existing condition). I did not expect it to suddenly become much harder to take a shit.
But this is one of the unexpected effects caffeine has on the human body. It moves things along because of it’s stimulant nature. But people don’t recommend consuming coffee long term as a solution for the problem anyway since caffeine can also have a dehydrating effect.
So avoid both problems: Hydrate.
Everyone will have an opinion.
Dear God, protector of all that is good and holy, deliver me from health douchebags with a new obsession.
Even though I’ve written about my sobriety and turn toward health, I don’t consider myself a wellness or optimizationjunkie. My body’s just a tool used to write books.
The moment I talked about quitting caffeine, the people in my life that are obsessed with healthy living came out of the woodwork. They recommended teas and drinks of various herbal origins. People assumed I needed their help, and their mushroom-barley-nutritional yeast concoction was just the thing to make me forget the taste of Guayaki Yerba Mate Orange Exuberance.
Spoiler: Nothing can. It’s liquid sunshine.
That was annoying. But I preferred them to the people who talked about how they couldn’t picture their lives without caffeine. It seemed so essential to their daily routines and their own perceptions of success. Going through their day without their coffee or tea seemed impossible.
It made me sad for them.
Now, I’m someone who works from home with a supportive partner and a Hydro Flask I can fill up with water anytime I need. I’m set up for success more than most people.
But I refuse to believe that people successful while consuming caffeine will cease to be successful when they go off caffeine. That drug did not build your habits, your career, or your support system. You also might experience diminishing returns from all that caffeine you’re drinking, rendering it utterly unhelpful.
If this is you, please consider detoxing. I’m serious.
It will take longer than you think.
Even though I’m through the worst of it all, I still occasionally get headaches or need the occasional nap.
The half-life of caffeine varies from 1.5 to 9.5 hours. That may sound like a long time. But if you’re a consistent caffeine user, you’re replenishing that amount of caffeine regularly. It doesn’t have time to break down.
Overall, if you’re thinking of quitting caffeine you should absolutely do it. You’ll have a clearer head and won’t depend on inanimate liquids to start your day. You’re worth the joy of establishing a life, work, and demeanor without relying on substances.
Just be prepared. Take time out to detox effectively. Let yourself nap. And for goodness sake, buy some True Lemon packs so can hydrate and not feel the urge to kill anyone.