How To Kick The Caffeine Habit

I typically don’t chat about non-web subjects on this blog, but for the 100th time in the past 5 or 6 years a friend asked me “how did you kick the caffeine habit?” Basically I have been caffeine free for like 7 years. That does not mean I don’t drink decaf and it also does not mean I don’t eat chocolate. It just means that I don’t drink regular coffee.

If you knew me back when I was drinking 8 cups a day, you would never have guessed that I would be caffeine free like this. Years ago, I was a coffee junkie, and when the urge comes to drink regular caffeine I feign, because I remember the headaches, urge to wake up in the morning and worst of all the half a day spent going home early from a serious migraine and spent the afternoon in bed under a blanket.

My Coffee Legacy

In the early 90s I started to drink an average of 4 or 5 cups of coffee a day. I had a job back then which put me on a plane every week or every other week to a different city, so getting up early at 5:30AM to make my plane flight at Newark Airport in New Jersey could not happen without a cup of coffee. There would be a cup or 2 before I left for the office. These were the days before Starbucks, so we made the coffee ourselves. Of course this was worse for us compared with Starbucks because we drank it in pots. I mean volume! We all had a cup in our hands at all times, at meetings, outside, at our desks. Today, everybody does a run to Starbucks or they have that one cup at a time machine at the office. Plus, we are talking straight regular American method made coffee, not Expresso drinks or Fraps or whatever.

At the office, at Bell Atlantic Mobile, where I worked at the time, we would sip coffee all day long. When I would make a trip to Pittsburgh for work, in particular, there was a coffee bean grinder downtown where I could get freshly roasted coffee smell the roaster and stare at beans being processed in bulk. For the first couple years of drinking coffee I did not notice any problems. I even drank coffee Saturday nights after a night out drinking and would go to bed within an hour.

In the mid nineties, when coffee shops started to have open mic nights, I would go down to the local shops in New Jersey and do some of my own readings on stage. These local shops introduced us to a variety of coffees and flavors and this was about the time Starbucks entered the scene. I had even started writing coffee reviews for a short-lived online coffee magazine called, started by an early web designer.

Signs Of A Problem

The first thing you will start noticing beyond the cravings, is a migraine when you don’t have your caffeine by let’s say 10:30 am. Got a call from my brother years ago around noon time saying he was dying of a headache. I asked him if he had his coffee. He said “I have not had one yet today”. I had to explain to him he was addicted. Yes, coffee has caffeine, a drug in it, and we get addicted. Even when you miss it and you have it later on, it is too late, and then you end up with a migraine that can go all day long. In fact, the next stage after years of drinking was an occasional chest tightening pain. No heart problems. Had that checked. It seemed the caffeine started to impact my heart a bit. The final straw was the once a month, I have to go home and crawl into bed impact. A super migraine would occur, not brought on by missing my coffee, it came on after tons of drinking coffee for weeks on end. A super migraine would impact me at the end of the week, and I would feel nausea and would need to go home and lay in bed.

God Gave Me A Sign

Around the time I was having chest pains and super migraines there was a story in south florida I watched on the news about teenagers taking caffeine pills. One girl took just 5 pills, as a way to get high, and she had a heart attack and died. These five pills were equal to 25 cups of coffee. The most I had in coffee was about 10 in one day, but I was almost halfway there. That story was what made me try to stop. I did not want to be that girl, and I was feeling it in my chest. I was about 40 at the time, so maybe it is an age thing. I just couldn’t handle drinking one cup a day. Either I got off coffee or I was in trouble.

So How Did I Do It?

The first thing is I limited coffee at home. I purposely started going to Starbucks to limit how much I drank. With a pot of coffee, I would feel I had to drink it or throw it away. It was an economic issue. At Starbucks, I could control with my spending and time how much I could drink. First I started to ask for a 50% caffeine, 50% non caffeine coffee. I did this for about 2 months. Then I asked for a 75% decaf. I did that for about 3 months. Then I finally went for it and said, give me a decaf. I never went back, and I never had a full regular cup of coffee again.

My Decaf Is My Methadone

So, since I switched, I have drank decaf exclusively. It doesn’t taste as good as coffee, I know that. But theoretically I stop drinking decaf, and I will be back on the regular stuff. It has been 8 years since I quit, and I have no regrets. I wake up in the morning generally rested and go right to work. I have no urge for caffeine. I have no crashes at the end of the day or days curled up in a ball in my bed. I have 2 young boys, so I have to be somewhat awake around them. Now, there was a big side effect. I suddenly because drawn to chocolate like I have never been drawn to it before. Specifically dark chocolate became an obsession for awhile, because it has caffeine in it, but no where near coffee. I have even lessened this obsession and become relatively caffeine free. Yes, decaf has a tiny bit in it, but there is the rub, I am just one step away from falling off the wagon.