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Thread: On giving up caffeine

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    On giving up caffeine

    Work's slowing down for me in the lead-up to Christmas, so I'm sharing an article I wrote on my trials giving up caffeine over the past year or so.

    Back in November 2018 on the advice of one of our members I cut my coffee back to 50% caf-free / 50% regular, but later decided to go the full mile and cut caffeine out my life completely. Since doing so it feels like I have a super-power, thoroughly more productive, balanced, calm, even energetic. Anyway, here's the article:

    As of 2019 I'd been drinking coffee for 15 years. A long time. And for most of that time I couldn't see much reason to give it up. But as I had been working on other habits over the past decade - diet, exercise, alcohol, tobacco - I wondered: 'what would happen if I was able to stop drinking coffee?'.

    So I spent 2019 cutting back, eventually cutting it out of my life completely. This is the story of how I did it, the transition, and after effects.

    How I Gave up Caffeine

    For years I'd been on a spin-cycle. At first I'd drink more and more coffee as my tolerance grew. Then when I found myself drinking too much I'd cut back, experience some headaches, and start the cycle over again.

    Occasionally I'd try to go cold turkey but couldn't handle the withdrawal. Then in late 2018 I realized there was an easier way.

    That way was simple - I started mixing the regular coffee beans I bought with caffeine-free ones. There were some hiccups along the way, but for the most part I'd cut the caffeine content in my coffee 2-4% each time I purchased more, and I did this until the mix was completely caffeine-free.

    Because I stepped down slowly I had an easier time adjusting to each new level. And by the time I managed to eliminate the caffeine content I wasn't missing it anymore.

    Why I Gave up Caffeine

    I've always been someone who moves fast. I walk fast, I eat fast, I work fast, I think fast. But it had never dawned on me that the reason I do these things quickly is because my mind moves fast.

    Eventually I realized that caffeine was making my mind move even quicker, so quick that it was giving me anxiety. And because caffeine had been a regular part of my life for so long, I missed the connection. I just thought anxiety was a part of who I was.

    But after eliminating it from my diet that anxiety dissipated almost completely. My heart rate entered a new even keel, and I felt much more balanced than I had in years.

    What Happened as I Quit

    When I reached a mix of about 30% regular, 70% caffeine-free coffee it had a profound effect on my day-to-day life. I found myself more grounded, calmer. My observational skills improved markedly, and I was experiencing less anxiety.

    I started noticing the little things around me more often, subtleties I had missed while spending so many years overthinking. I started making better decisions, as it was easier to quietly deliberate without reacting spontaneously. With a clear mind I also found it easier to carry on conversation.

    I even started enjoying my life more. I found it easier to sit down and focus - whether on TV, books, music, or company - and actually appreciate those things now that my mind wasn't racing.

    Later as I tread closer to completely caffeine-free I started sleeping more soundly and regularly, and it became easier, not harder to wake up.

    Even stranger I found that I had more energy, not less. Except it was a balanced, calm energy, rather than a frantic over-caffeinated one. I wondered if this could actually be possible?

    The Science

    Up until I went to university I'd never been a coffee drinker, and some how I'd gotten on fine without it. So how could it be that as adults we're convinced that caffeine is a necessity?

    In my experience breaking different addictions I'd tend to believe that I truly needed and enjoyed what I was dependent on.

    But addiction is a chicken/egg problem. We consume caffeine because we're reliant on it, and we're reliant on it because we consume it. The consumption perpetuates more consumption, and the kicker - desire.

    Where in reality the body is naturally adapted to deal with day-to-day life if you let it do it's thing. It has hormones to wake itself up, hormones to put it to sleep, and for everything else it needs. So in truth caffeine only interferes with what the body does naturally.

    And in my past experiences once I broke the addiction I broke the desire too. When I was no longer dependent on a substance, my body started doing that thing naturally, and I stopped craving whatever it was.

    After Quitting

    After giving up caffeine coffee culture looks strange to me. People spending money on something they don't need, and feeling worse because of it; harder to wake up, harder to get to sleep, stress, and at a greater expense.

    And since I've eliminated it from my diet I haven't felt better in a long time, I won't be going back.

    Ultimately, caffeine and similar are personal choices, but I share these thoughts because I can now see how unnecessary a caffeinated lifestyle is. I can also see how many have the mistaken assumption that we need it to manage our lives.

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    Senior Member Tharmas's Avatar
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    Very interesting read, Rousseau.

    I myself have been a coffee drinker most of my adult life, say fifty years plus I've never thought of myself as "addicted." On the other hand I've never really tried to quit, the longest stint I can remember being a three-week trip to Russia, where it turned out the coffee was terrible and I substituted black tea, which was excellent throughout the country.

    I don't suffer from anxiety or high heart rate or many of the other symptoms you describe. However I don't like the thought of being addicted to anything. So I'm entertaining the idea of cutting back, to see what changes I notice about myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tharmas View Post
    Very interesting read, Rousseau.

    I myself have been a coffee drinker most of my adult life, say fifty years plus I've never thought of myself as "addicted." On the other hand I've never really tried to quit, the longest stint I can remember being a three-week trip to Russia, where it turned out the coffee was terrible and I substituted black tea, which was excellent throughout the country.

    I don't suffer from anxiety or high heart rate or many of the other symptoms you describe. However I don't like the thought of being addicted to anything. So I'm entertaining the idea of cutting back, to see what changes I notice about myself.
    I suspect that I'm a bit of an outlier here. Addictive personalities run in my family, so where most normal people have their token coffee in the morning and at lunch, I've always struggled to curb my consumption. It also didn't help that I'd been drinking premium, strong coffee for years. So it wasn't coffee as much it was too much coffee.

    For many there likely isn't a real problem, although I'd imagine that the anxiety it causes is more prevalent than usually given credit for.

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    Formerly Joedad
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Tharmas View Post
    Very interesting read, Rousseau.

    I myself have been a coffee drinker most of my adult life, say fifty years plus I've never thought of myself as "addicted." On the other hand I've never really tried to quit, the longest stint I can remember being a three-week trip to Russia, where it turned out the coffee was terrible and I substituted black tea, which was excellent throughout the country.

    I don't suffer from anxiety or high heart rate or many of the other symptoms you describe. However I don't like the thought of being addicted to anything. So I'm entertaining the idea of cutting back, to see what changes I notice about myself.
    I suspect that I'm a bit of an outlier here. Addictive personalities run in my family, so where most normal people have their token coffee in the morning and at lunch, I've always struggled to curb my consumption. It also didn't help that I'd been drinking premium, strong coffee for years. So it wasn't coffee as much it was too much coffee.

    For many there likely isn't a real problem, although I'd imagine that the anxiety it causes is more prevalent than usually given credit for.
    Both parents used coffee like speed. They used it a lot and were pretty dependent on it. That was primarily how I used it for 33 years before deciding I was better off without it. And it wasn't just the energy it gave, I actually enjoyed the taste, the smell and the ritual associated with making it. A fresh cup of hot coffee on a hot summer day was no problem. Interestingly, however, when out of town or on another backpacking adventure coffee was a luxury that I could do without. During those times I don't remember ever having any serious withdrawal. It would just be a matter of starting again at home.

    A friend who quit smoking said the urge to smoke never left him, and that's how the coffee is with me. But it's not like that all the time, the worst times are when I'm particularly tired. Kicking the addiction certainly added quality to my life, however, absolutely no doubt about that.

    Folks who have a cup in the morning and that's it for the day are not addicted to the stuff, they're not representative of the coffee drinkers I knew growing up.

  5. Top | #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by T.G.G. Moogly View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Tharmas View Post
    Very interesting read, Rousseau.

    I myself have been a coffee drinker most of my adult life, say fifty years plus I've never thought of myself as "addicted." On the other hand I've never really tried to quit, the longest stint I can remember being a three-week trip to Russia, where it turned out the coffee was terrible and I substituted black tea, which was excellent throughout the country.

    I don't suffer from anxiety or high heart rate or many of the other symptoms you describe. However I don't like the thought of being addicted to anything. So I'm entertaining the idea of cutting back, to see what changes I notice about myself.
    I suspect that I'm a bit of an outlier here. Addictive personalities run in my family, so where most normal people have their token coffee in the morning and at lunch, I've always struggled to curb my consumption. It also didn't help that I'd been drinking premium, strong coffee for years. So it wasn't coffee as much it was too much coffee.

    For many there likely isn't a real problem, although I'd imagine that the anxiety it causes is more prevalent than usually given credit for.
    Both parents used coffee like speed. They used it a lot and were pretty dependent on it. That was primarily how I used it for 33 years before deciding I was better off without it. And it wasn't just the energy it gave, I actually enjoyed the taste, the smell and the ritual associated with making it. A fresh cup of hot coffee on a hot summer day was no problem. Interestingly, however, when out of town or on another backpacking adventure coffee was a luxury that I could do without. During those times I don't remember ever having any serious withdrawal. It would just be a matter of starting again at home.

    A friend who quit smoking said the urge to smoke never left him, and that's how the coffee is with me. But it's not like that all the time, the worst times are when I'm particularly tired. Kicking the addiction certainly added quality to my life, however, absolutely no doubt about that.

    Folks who have a cup in the morning and that's it for the day are not addicted to the stuff, they're not representative of the coffee drinkers I knew growing up.
    I'm finding I'm the same way. Now that I'm no longer dependent I don't miss the caffeine, but three weeks after finally kicking the habit I started buying caffeine-free coffee again. Like you, I enjoy the flavor and ritual.

    It was the same when I gave up alcohol earlier this year, too. I completely abstained for a while, then eventually landed on the happy medium of non-alcoholic beer. Turns out it's difficult to drink nothing but water or tea all the time.

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