I can’t believe I’m quitting coffee. I never thought I’d say that because I love my mochas and other frou-frou coffee drinks. But in January I participated in a 21-day detox which included no caffeine and no sweets. When the detox was over, I celebrated with a cup of coffee and boy was it delicious! Such rich, bold, flavor doctored up with my favorite flavored creamer.
As excited as I was to enjoy drinking coffee again, I quickly realized how it affected my body in ways I definitely was NOT excited about. But first let me tell you what it was like to quit drinking coffee.
Quitting coffee was painful. I drank Starbucks VIA instant coffee at least once per day, sometimes twice. I know that’s not a lot compared to some people, but it was enough for me. Giving it up came with a week of headaches, low energy, and lack of motivation. I read Steve Pavlina’s blog post about how to give up coffee and it was pretty compelling. He actually turned me on to Teeccino, a caffeine-free coffee alternative.
The Teeccino helped me quit coffee by giving me a warm cup to hold in my hands. It wasn’t as bold as the coffee I drank and never gave me the kick I relied upon to start my day. I found it hard to want to drink this stuff each day, even though it tasted and smelled very good. It just wasn’t the same.
I slipped up once or twice during the 21 days when faced with a strong urge and peer pressure. I tried a decaf cup of coffee at my in-laws so I could enjoy the coffee chats like I always did.
I was addicted, let’s face it
During the detox I realized how addicted I was to coffee. I really began to rely on it to motivate myself to do my work. Even though my work was enjoyable and the projects were ones I assigned to myself, I depended on the boost coffee gave me.
I eventually settled into my routine and I felt good about my balanced energy levels. Once the initial withdrawal wore off and I didn’t have headaches anymore, I started to feel normal again. This took about a week and a half.
As the detox got closer to the end, I really started looking forward to being able to drink coffee again. And when the proverbial whistle blew, I was ready with a new packet of Starbucks VIA Italian Roast and my Girl Scout’s Thin Mint creamer. Mmmmm.
After the Detox
I enjoyed the energetic buzz of my first cup of coffee immediately. I ended up working really intensely on my book and checked my email with extra enthusiasm. (hello LONG replies!) But after awhile I realized I had been sitting on the computer, without moving, eyes locked on my screen, body tense, for HOURS. I had been so intensely focused that I lost track of time. I forgot to go to the bathroom. I forgot to eat. I worked through lunch.
I finally got up to make some food and my body was weak, jittery, and shaky. I still felt like my mind was hooked on the tasks I was trying to do before I got up. It’s like it took a ton of energy just to take a break. As I rushed through my lunch, I was back on my computer. Everything felt hurried and rushed.
This isn’t normal.
everything is urgent
I did not like this feeling. Everything was urgent. Every idea I had felt super important. Every time I felt a delay (like when saving a file or a web page loading) my racing mind had new ideas and my fingers instinctively opened new tabs. I dove down rabbit holes of research to explore these new ideas. I felt like redesigning my website. I felt like starting a new blog post. I felt like answering my coaching clients. I felt like doing EVERYTHING all at the same time.
The “everything is urgent” was totally annoying. I couldn’t prioritize. I noticed this when talking with my wife, I was extra chatty because every thought felt important enough to say. I wouldn’t shut up! I was hyper active. Not to mention anxious and jittery. I couldn’t turn off this turbo charge! All from one little packet of Starbucks VIA. Fuck that.
The next few days
Over the course of the next week, I woke up and instinctively went for my coffee again. I knew how it made me feel the day before, but I thought today might be different. I actually WANTED to feel hyper again because I knew it would make me extra productive. I noticed how my heart started racing with excitement before I even finished pouring the instant coffee into my microwaved hot water. I had to flick the packet to make sure every last crumb was in my cup otherwise it wasn’t going to be as good.
I enjoyed an hour of positive energy and productivity as expected. But after that I started feeling the anxiety and jitteriness. It was so annoying! I couldn’t turn it off and felt a combination of being exhausted yet unable to sleep. I laid down on the couch and just felt horrible. I didn’t want to work. I didn’t want to do anything. My mind wouldn’t shut off. My arms and legs felt urgencies to move. I ended up shoveling the snow from my driveway just to get rid of this energy. Which of course, it didn’t work. I felt physically tired afterward, but buzzed out and restless.
Coffee No More
I did this same routine for several more days before I decided I had had enough. I stopped drinking and said I’m not going back. I started feeling this strong intuition that caffeine is hijacking my personality and my priorities. My true, authentic self, with my natural rhythms and genuine desires, was being aggressively overruled.
That is not who I am. I trusted this intuition and stopped drinking coffee the next day.
That was until I was out at the Medina Ice Festival in the freezing cold and stumbled into a bakery with an in-house cafe. They had a delicious selection of espresso drinks and I just had to have one. I allowed myself to indulge and bought a “peanut butter pretzel mocha” and it was totally amazing. I loved it. But I realized while driving home that I was artificially energetic and happy. I had a case of verbal diarrhea and wouldn’t shut up. It wasn’t natural.
So I vowed to stop again.
The next day I had a scheduled meeting with a client at a local coffee shop. I told myself I would get something without caffeine in it, but when I walked up to the counter, I couldn’t overcome the urge to get what I always do. A mocha. Just this once, I said.
As I sipped my mocha during the meeting, I noticed I felt extra chatty and outgoing. I knew this was mostly due to the caffeine, but I accepted it. I thought, “I’ll only get coffee in social settings.” But later that day I was hit with an intense migraine headache that made me unable to stand up straight. I felt horrible and all I wanted to do was lay in the bed and sleep. Bright lights killed me. There was a heavy, throbbing pain behind my left eye.
That’s it, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.
My intution says that coffee is holding me back and it’s making me feel horrible. I just can’t do it anymore. It’s just another addiction that I can quit. By quitting, I’m eliminating another synthetic dependency. By quitting, I’m aligning myself more to my natural, organic path. The one that is my true north.
I am done being artificially influenced by corporate America’s drug of choice. I started realizing that coffee is so widespread because it keeps the worker bee buzzing. Nose down and focused on the task. It suppresses the natural desire to take breaks. It allows people to work on unpleasant tasks for long periods of time. It hampers the intuition and ability to discern what is important. It makes it harder to tell the difference between your genuine desires and conditioned desires.
I started getting a strong intuition that caffeine is legal because without it, the synthetic matrix we live in just wouldn’t survive. The economy would collapse as workers could no longer drug themselves into “enjoying” their work.
I saw businesses like Starbucks more like a corporate drug dealers. And how insanely unfair it is to peddle addictive substances. It just didn’t seem right to me.
So I quit.
Synchronistically, I saw this scene in an episode of Maron the other night.
I hate the idea of being sold energy in a can or coffee mug. The cultural obsession with productivity and “success” and “achievement” is a big player too. There’s a lot of pressure to perform and these “performance enhancing drugs” don’t sit well with me. I must be some kind of purist. I don’t want to rely on a drug to be able to feel happy, feel outgoing, get my work done, etc.
When you’re “on” caffeine, you are more willing to do things you don’t genuinely want to do. Which doesn’t seem right to me. By eliminating caffeine, what you lose in jittery energy, you gain in clarity and balance. You gain the ability to know when you should take a break. You gain your own autonomy and independence. You no longer are a slave.
How long will I be able to keep this up? I am willing to bet I’ll order a mocha from time to time, and I’ll be mindful of how it affects me. I can’t realistically say I’m done forever, but I refuse to be addicted.