At the end of the summer, I realised I’d become an addict. Three to four cups of coffee a day, interspersed with a few cups of tea, and I noticed that I was easily prone to headaches if I didn't drink my caffeine. I don’t like having addictions for numerous reasons, but as I'm on the quest have a healthier lifestyle, I knew something had to be done. Cutting cold turkey in my busy lifestyle of a mum and business woman, sounded miserable and it was not an option. So I made a plan. I looked at the next two months and decided that by the end of it I would go caffeine free for several weeks before introducing it again with only 1 cup a day here and there. Of course, I normally drink water and herbal teas on top of my caffeine intake so I made a choice to increase this as well.
Week 1 – I invested in quality decaffeinated coffee and tea. At home I made a coffee mixture of half caffeine and half decaffeinated and switched to this. I didn’t worry about it if I was out at work or social situations, but that first week, my three cups of coffee were now a mixture except for one normal coffee in the day. I did the same with tea and by the end of week one, I replaced half my tea with decaf or herbal tea.
Week 2 – I was really busy this week with travel so I stuck with week 1’s plan but when I was out, I ordered herbal teas instead of coffee. It was hard. I love my coffee and being in a Starbucks or Costas just doesn't feel right without ordering a real coffee. But I stuck to it trading peppermint for the Americano. I had a few mild headaches that week but it could have been hormones, stress or caffeine? I wasn't sure.
Week 3 – I'm pretty bothered that I'm THAT dependant on caffeine so I got a bit more rigorous this week. For some reason, decaf tea tastes the same but decaf coffee doesn't. So I replaced all tea with decaffeinated options. My coffee was still half and half except for one cup a day. By the end of week 3, I was down to the equivalent of two cups of caffeine a day.
Week 4 – I still didn't have the gumption to fully cut out caffeine – I realised it wasn’t the hot drink that felt comforting, but rather the thought that if I felt dragging or sleepy, my coffee would ‘wake’ me up. Hmmm. So this week I managed to do all decaf except for one cup of coffee a day. It was good to see that long term this would be my goal: 1-2 cups a day but not every day. I think my biggest battle is psychological.
Week 5 – I needed to take the plunge but do it slowly. I decided before fully leaving caffeine for a few weeks I would a) make sure when I’m completely free I would have at least three low-key days just in case I had side effects and b) I was drinking more water than normal. This week I stuck to one full cup of coffee with full caffeine but replaced several hot drinks with hot water. It was a bit weird at first, and I was in several situations where others thought I was weird - until I said I was detoxing, and then they thought I was cool. Sort of. Week 6 was my new goal for being free from caffeine as I knew I had a long weekend where I could relax and drink extra water to flush out my system.
Week 6 – The first part of this week honestly was rough. For two days my joints ached and I had headaches, including two migraines. I definitely used ibuprofen. This is after I had spent the last six weeks avoiding withdrawal symptoms. I'm not sure if all my symptoms where from having no caffeine but I was determined to stick it out. By day four of being fully free, including no decaf tea or coffee just in case there were traces because I had heard a rumour, I was starting to feel better. I had more energy and most of all I was very proud of myself for making it through. My goal was two full weeks of NO CAFFEINE before introducing it in small amounts.
Two months later and I drink a lot more water than I ever have before, either plain, hot or as an herbal tea. I try to stick to only one coffee a day and one tea, but less if I can. To be honest, it’s more the social/work situations that tempt me versus being at home as sometimes that can be the only option for a hot beverage when I am out. But the result is that I don’t have the dependence, and I feel less fatigued than I did from before I got free from my addiction. It was quite the journey breaking a habit that formed over 10 years since my being pregnant with my son, but I am really glad I persevered.
I’d love to hear others thoughts on their experiences from caffeine addiction to freedom!
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