I’m sure you’ve all seen a post or two by now, but I switched to decaf… Yes, the man who once sold his own brand of coffee doesn’t even drink caffeine anymore! It seems a little crazy, but trust me, my love for coffee is still the same.
How is that even possible? Well let me start back at the beginning for you…
The choice to quit caffeine
I was addicted. Yes, it’s that simple… I was addicted to coffee. Part of the addiction was obviously the caffeine and the effects that it had on me. More than anything though, I was addicted to the ritual.
There was this feeling of comfort that came with every cup I bought, brewed, or sipped. And after acknowledging this, I realized that my ritual went all the way back to my deployment in Somalia.
It started because coffee reminds me of my father, who drank coffee more than anyone else I’ve ever met. Not a day went by where he didn’t have it. So in stressful situations, I used coffee as a comfort, remembering my father. It became my crutch. Soon enough, anytime I wanted to escape something, I would divert to coffee.
Tired of working? Go get coffee. Stressed out? Ignore it, go get coffee.
I would regularly avoid situations that required an effort from me by going to get coffee! After acknowledging this though, I was able to make the necessary changes.
My decision to switch to decaf coffee
I didn’t jump straight from caffeinated coffee to decaffeinated, I actually quit caffeine cold turkey!
Instead of weaning myself off and slowly switching over to decaf, I went about four weeks with no coffee at all. Even though the caffeine may have been addictive, what I really needed was to deal with the things I kept avoiding, and understand why I was avoiding them. Coffee could no longer be the escapism and avoidance I had let it become.
Once I felt that I had truly dealt with the avoidance, I was able to accept that I still loved coffee. Now though, there was no ritual attached to it and I was able to enjoy it for the taste! That’s when I went decaf!
At this point, I knew what I had allowed coffee to become, and that I wouldn’t let it become my escape again! Going decaf, I knew that I would need to enjoy the coffee for nothing more than what it is… coffee. No more ritual, no more crutch, and no more escapism.
Benefits to Quitting Caffeine
Without ever realizing it, this “system” I created to keep myself from feeling stressed, angry, overwhelmed, or bored, was the same “system” that was hurting me.
It took quitting for me to realize the effect that caffeine was having on my body. Since quitting I have had better nights sleep, more energy, and better mitochondrial response than I did before! I first thought I would have less energy, and for a little while I did. But after the side effects wore off, I was left with more natural energy than I ever imagined possible! And because of that I have a more natural sleeping pattern and typically sleep through the whole evening!
Caffeine is a substance, and I was dependent. So quitting caffeine has also allowed coffee to become a choice, rather than a need. Which subsequently led to me having more sustained levels within my mood!
Before quitting, I would go through swings in my mood, typically when I was in need of more coffee. Removing the caffeine has allowed my mood to be stabilized!
More than anything though, it saved me a ton of time! Have you ever timed how long it takes from the point you leave your house for a coffee to the point that you return? I’m sure it’s much longer than you expected! For me it was around 30-40 minutes every trip!
Now that it’s no longer a need, I have the power to choose whether I have enough time to go grab a decaf coffee, or not!
Tips to Quit Caffeine
The big question though… how did quitting cold turkey work out for me?
Well, I knew that what I really needed to work on the most was the ritualistic behavior behind it all. So quitting without weaning myself off was the move to make. I don’t necessarily recommend it for everyone though! And let me be clear.. I am not a doctor, so anything I say is personal experience/opinion. You should always consult a professional when making big shifts in your life!
Personally, I didn’t have that many side effects. It was mostly irritability as my body adjusted to no longer having the energy from caffeine. Along with the irritability, I experienced mild headaches, a lack of energy, and a slight lack of motivation.
These side effects were all present while I was “going through the storm”, and they only lasted about three weeks. The hardest part was the first three days as my body adjusted to the major shift in habit! Luckily though, I never experienced any jitters or shakes.
In order to combat the headaches without taking any medication, I would chug 12-16oz of water every time I got one. I also took cold showers every morning to wake myself up and throughout the day whenever I felt too sluggish. I made it through, quitting cold turkey, with the cold and hydration!
Like I said though, I don’t recommend that method for everyone. If you are looking to quit, another method would be to wean yourself off caffeine over a period of time. For instance, you could start by doing 1/2 caffeinated and 1/2 decaf, or whatever ratio you’d like, until you are used to that (usually about a week or two). Then you just decrease the levels of caffeine as time goes on until you too are caffeine-free!
No matter which method you choose, if you want to quit caffeine, you need to do just one thing… you need to make quitting a priority!