Even though my sleep was not the best last night I woke up feeling refreshed and energized for my day. I quietly slipped out of bed, taking care not to wake my husband still sleeping, and I went into my office to meditate.
This is becoming a new normal for me. Waking up and not dragging energy wise. And I must say that it feels THE BEST. I say that because for years now I would wake up feeling exhausted. I'd shuffle to the kitchen like a caffeine feening zombie to make coffee in my french press. My conversation skills at this time of day consisted of inaudible mumbling with a don't talk to me until I've had my coffee vibe.
So what changed for me to suddenly wake up with energy? I gave up my sweet sweet coffee and caffeine completely.
I waited to share my story now because I'm finally feeling the benefits of giving up caffeine and not stuck in the detox vortex feeling helpless. This change came about slowly and it felt like hell at times so I won't be sugar coating the process, but I did want to share when I could also talk about how amazing you can feel afterward.
So how bad was my caffeine addiction?
Well first of all coffee loving Brooke would have denied she had an addiction to caffeine. I just craved the morning ritual and loved the taste of it. That's what I would say.
I would drink coffee pretty much daily and I could drink it all.day.long.
I identified as a coffee lover and prided myself on my ability to drink coffee in the afternoon and be able to fall asleep at night. I pretty much decided at age 8, playing "Office", that when I was an adult I'd drink coffee. My friend Mandy and I would take our breaks and sip "coffee" (coke in a coffee mug) and smoke cigarettes (Pentel Markers with the caps on) when we pretended to be office workers.
Side note, after my 14 years in an office environment I think my 8-year-old self was crazy for wanting to play pretend office.
I started drinking coffee as a teen. My friends and I would frequent the Front Street Cafe (RIP Front Street) and sit on the deck drinking cup after cup of coffee. We felt cool, adult like, and the sugar caffeine high we got made us super hyper. I remember visiting my sister at college for a week when I was 16. I would hang out at the on campus coffee shop journaling and drinking cup after cup while she was in class. This is when I discovered honey as a sweetener.
I lived in Finland my junior year of high school and would often ditch class to go to the nearest coffee shop. That may sound bad, but high school there was more like college where attendance wasn't as heavily monitored. Plus I was a teen from a sleepy island going to a school in downtown Helsinki so I had to seize the opportunity to explore right? Right.
Then college hit and I became a fan of instant coffee for my broke ass. Holy hell is that the crack of the coffee world. Many all nighters pulled that were fueled by Folgers.
Post college I actually calmed down on my coffee consumption. I didn’t purposely go without, but I had way less. I didn’t make any coffee at home so would only get my fix on weekends.
I really ramped up again and continued to rage on for 15 years when I began working in an office environment. Sitting inside in front of a computer all day really can sap one’s energy. I took to drinking coffee pretty much the entire time I was at work during these years. I was known in one office for my “turbo” coffee (my double strength batch). I started drinking it black and wore that fact like a badge of my toughness. Now it seems really silly, but at the time my ego really felt proud.
Why give it up?
Now that we all know my level of addiction to coffee let’s talk about why I chose to give it up. I mean you’re probably wondering why by now.
I started noticing I could be pretty defensive in conversation. Most of the time without realizing it or intending to be. This character trait came on slowly and all of a sudden one day I saw it was an issue for my connection with others. I began noticing a strange energy within me that felt intense and it came through me and I no longer wished to carry it with me.
It dawned on me that coffee was the culprit. I didn’t come to this conclusion from documented research, but instead from my intuition. I could feel that coffee wasn’t serving me anymore like it once had. I had gone through many inner changes over the years, focusing on softening my energy within and coffee clashed with my new inner environment.
It wasn’t until I quit coffee that I realized how addicted to it I was. In drinking coffee throughout the day I was chasing a buzz so to speak, a caffeine buzz. Where I’d feel energized, talkative, and motivated. The only issue with this was, like chasing an alcohol buzz, I’d never be able to stay at that sweet spot by consuming more.
While not liking how I felt in my body or mind with coffee is the main reason I quit, I also wanted to quit because I didn’t like feeling so dependent on the substance where it’s the first thing I think about in the morning.
I’ve tried cutting down on coffee in the past, but never went more than a month and had caffeinated tea during those times. I guess I thought at first coffee was the problem and not caffeine in general.
So what shifted this year? I don’t know for certain, but I was feeling really depressed and down on myself in general over the holidays. I needed a change and felt that this was one that would be beneficial. I had heard stories of others in their spiritual journeys quitting coffee and so it felt like a natural progression for me as well.
In the first week of January 2019 I quit coffee for good, without realizing it. I guess I thought I would take another temporary break because I didn’t mark the date down on the calendar. It was around the 4th or the 6th though and there were 3 instances that month where I had earl grey tea and a decaf latte (way less caffeine, but still caffeine).
I wish I could have a clear number of days I’ve been without caffeine to share here with you, but life doesn’t always come in a neat package and that’s okay. The fact that I can count the number of times I’ve consumed caffeine since the new year on my hand is huge for me.
The Detox Phase
Like I said above, I won’t sugarcoat this phase. It was pure hell at times. It’s reported that only 50% of people giving up caffeine will feel the effects and I was of that 50%. I had all the classic withdrawal signs:
- Headaches that won’t quit
- Intense fatigue. The thought of doing even one chore or errand exhausted me.
- Depression. I was already feeling seasonal depression and it only intensified.
- Irritability. Thought I was defensive before? Ha!
- Brain fog.
- Heart palpitations and anxiety attacks. One night I woke up with my heart beating so fast I thought it would pop out of my chest and I was drenched in a cold sweat.
I couldn’t believe giving up caffeine made me feel this way so I was googling coffee withdrawal symptoms like it was my hobby to see if this was normal. It was.
Did you know that since caffeine is a stimulant withdrawing from it is legitimately considered a drug withdrawal? It’s considered a disorder medically speaking.
I mean it makes sense when you think of it, but since stimulants are freely distributed, encouraged, and an ingrained part of our society I guess I shrugged off the seriousness that a withdrawal effect could have on my body. I thought I’d just be cranky and sleepy for awhile.
Some of these symptoms dissipated in a couple weeks (headaches and extreme fatigue) while others lasted about a 4 weeks (depression, irritability heart palpitations, anxiety attacks, brain fog).
There was a week in February where I drank decaf earl grey. It has 2 - 6% of the caffeine in regular earl grey (around 50 milligrams). I missed the taste of black tea and thought I could get away with the tiny amount in the decaf. Turns out my body could feel even that small amount and it messed with my anxiety. It’s been 3 weeks without a drop of caffeine (except for the occasional chocolate brownie) and each day I feel better than the day before.
What are the benefits I’ve noticed?
Like I mentioned at the start of this article I find myself waking up with energy. Natural energy that is generated from within me without having to ingest it. It’s been years since I woke up without needing a caffeine fix and is probably the most amazing benefit I’ve gotten from this experience. It really sets the mood of your day right when you wake up energized.
I’ve found that I fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly through the night. Which I’m sure plays a part in feeling more awake in the morning. I’m also less reactive and defensive though I have a ways to go in ridding myself of those energies completely. Caffeine may have made me defensive, but over time it formed a character trait, a habit if you will. While it’s less severe I do require more time to let go of this one. I’m headed in the right direction though so I feel hopeful.
My newest benefit is one I’ve felt just in the past few days (almost two months since I first began). I feel calm within myself. Relaxed and at ease for no particular reason. It dawned on me that I had been living with low level anxiety in my chest for years and one day it left me. I didn’t register how bad it was until it was gone. While I’ll have days where I feel my anxiety my intuition is telling me it won’t ever be so intense and everyday again.
Tips while detoxing.
Whether you’re in the middle of a detox of your own or thinking about it for the future I wanted to share some tips that helped get me through the rough patches.
1. Find a new morning ritual.
I know I’m not alone in loving the ritual of drinking that morning cup of coffee. I missed it the most and non-caffeinated teas just weren’t doing the trick for me. After some trial I settled on drinking Dandelion Root Tea. It looks similar to coffee and if you add some creamer (almond milk coconut creamer for me!) to the tea it can trick your brain into thinking it’s coffee. It’s like a placebo effect and has really helped me out. Now I love the taste of it plus I get awesome side benefits from the dandelion root.
2. Be easy on yourself.
You’re going to feel like crap during this process and that’s okay. Be kind with yourself and remember that you feel bad because your body is ridding itself of this stimulant toxin buildup. It may feel never ending, but it will indeed end and you’ll slowly start feeling better. I went cold turkey, but you can also gradually decrease the caffeine over time if you need to.
3. Plan accordingly.
If like me you suffer from seasonal depression or are going through a rough time already maybe save this for when your life feels better in general. I haven’t had that severe of depression in years and it was scary at times to feel so low. If you need extra support with therapy or medication do so please. I went through my patch on my own, but I was very close to going on medication during this time.
Also don’t quit if you’re in the midst of a big work project where you need your brain power to be on point. You will feel fatigued for no reason and the brain fog is intense. I watched all the seasons of The Great British Bake Off in a 3 week span in the thick of the detox because doing anything else was too much.
4. Google it.
I would google so many articles about why my body was feeling like it was in detox and read others personal stories to help me feel better. There’s comfort in knowing you’re not alone in feeling really bad during this transition.
5. Move your body.
Exercise, walk, go on hikes, stretch your body. Do little active things to move the energy within your body. If all you can do today is walk in place in your living room for 3 minutes that is great! Any activity that gets you out of your head and into your body helps to distract from the detox symptoms.
Life post caffeine.
Overall I’m very pleased with myself for giving up caffeine. I can honestly say two months later that I don’t miss it. I never thought I’d be able to say this. I’ve also cut down on my non-caffeinated tea consumption and some mornings get by only drinking water. While it was one of the hardest things I’ve attempted in my life, it’s also been one of the most beneficial. Seeing how my body reacted made me realize how damaging caffeine can be and I never want to go back.
Thanks so much for reading my story today. If you are a coffee addict yourself and have been thinking of quitting the juice I hope you find some parts of this piece that resonated and inspired you to go for it!