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I had my last cup of coffee exactly one week ago Saturday.
And I have some things to say about caffeine withdrawal.
Because here’s the thing. I’m going through it. And hard. And it is awful. And it seems like I went into this idea completely ignorant of exactly how awful it was really going to be.
On the whole, I’m sitting here thinking that deciding to give up coffee, on a whim, was maybe not one of my better ideas. But I’m in it now, and there’s no going back, and so I have nothing left to do but write about it.
And maybe laugh about it later.
But probably not.
It started with this book, which I read in a total of 3 days.
I might sit down and write a more full review of it later, but suffice it to say, it was an excellent read and I do highly recommend it.
This author maps out a pretty good list of instructions to really get started, and includes a four-day-cleanse to kick things off.
Who doesn’t love a good skinny-white-girl detox?
Four days? Even I can do that, said me, still blissfully unaware of my caffeine dependent happiness.
A mere forty-eight hours later, I was Googling “caffeine withdrawal symptoms” and coming up very short on details concerning what in the fresh hell was happening to my brain and body.
(My brain was either imploding or physically consuming itself, and my body was perhaps suffering the secondary effects of that.)
I’m writing this post for posterity. But also for anyone who, like me, just needs some company for their misery.
Claire’s Caffeine Withdrawal Diary
Day 1: Sunday: 24 hours Without Caffeine
This is easy. No headache. No brain fog. Didn’t even crave a cup of coffee upon wake up. Made it through church on a damn bowl of fruit dressed in lemon juice and flax meal and wasn’t even abnormally hangry at 11:30, as I often am.
This is going to be easier than I thought!
Potentially related: Took a solid nap on the couch with kids running around from 1-3pm and I did not poop today.
Day 2: Monday: 4am
Awoke with a metaphorical pick-axe jammed into my left eyebrow. Blurry vision. Nausea. Hot and cold sweats. Chills. Everything in my body hurts and my hands are numb.
I stumble to the bathroom to pee and think, “I should take something for this.”
Excedrin, my go-to for this kind of headache has caffeine. Also, it has been so long since I’ve had this kind of headache that we don’t even have a single Excedrin in the house. I find a bottle of unopened Motrin and choke one down with water before returning to bed.
Guess what is the opposite of delicious before the sun comes up when all your body wants is a cup of coffee?
9am: After dropping off preschoolers, I return home and go back to bed fully clothed for 2 hours. John mentions, as I drift into my pain-induced coma, “Honey, maybe you are actually coming down with something.”
“Or maybe caffeine and crack are not-so-distant cousins and I was under the impression that I wasn’t as dependent as I apparently am. Go to hell, husband, I need to die.”
(Things I do not mean, but say anyway because it is impossible to stop myself.)
My headache alleviates from an 11 down to a manageable 6 in this time, which is enough for me to get on the Googler.
Noted: It is too late to taper off slowly, which I clearly should have done.
Noted: Headaches could last between 2 days and up to several weeks. This time span is entirely too broad, but upon seeing “irritability” further down the list, I believe I must be on the right track for diagnosis and my urge to throat punch Dr. WebMD subsides.
I take to the live-advice provider known as the Facebook Mommy Network and the consensus is to give it a full week.
Potentially related: There is a metallic taste in the back of my mouth on either side of my tongue, which feels swollen. I took another nap around 1pm and still fell asleep on the couch at 9pm. The headache fluctuated all day between a pain level of 6 and 11, and while that retched book encouraged me to eat leafy greens and more fruit, and drink lots of water, the only thing that sounded good was nothing.
I think I had some soup.
Also, I did not poop today.
Day 3: 72 hours Without Caffeine
Poop. Just before 11am.
So that’s a start.
Also, my appetite is moderately back, though because I’m doing this stupid cleanse, I don’t get to eat any of the things my body is telling me to eat, like coffee and donuts and coffee. Started the day with a smoothie because a big bowl of fruit, first thing in the morning, is difficult.
Also, I ate some form of protein every hour, on the hour, as well as three round meals as dictated by the book. I started putting fresh ginger in hot water and sipping on it throughout the day, which was weirdly satisfying on a few levels.
Headache was at a level 4 pretty much all day, though there were probably one or two moments where I wasn’t acutely aware of it.
Took a 20 minute hard power nap while the kids watched Thomas the Train. Was tired to the point of groggy all afternoon and evening. Irritability and patience levels were exactly as expected (DEFCON 2) and went to bed early again.
Potentially related: awoke at 6:30am ready to get out of bed. Of course, in that quiet half hour all I wanted was coffee, and nothing in me felt particularly good until around 9am, but I did not have the desire to keep sleeping.
Have felt mildly disconnected from reality all day and can distinctly describe a feeling of loss or emptiness. Unsatisfied. All day. It is also cold and rainy out, which doesn’t help.
I sure do miss my old friend Coffee right now, and I’m mildly in mourning.
Day 4: 96 hours Without Caffeine
Awake again before 7am, and feel rested. Still have a looming all-over pain level 3-4 headache. Have been adding turmeric to my smoothies every day for good measure. Nothing to note about that.
My bowels are finally self-regulating, a feat which I am still celebrating. It was disheartening to note that all these months of claiming magnesium as my newfound best intestinal friend, and I was completely ignorant of the help it was receiving from coffee.
I have to pause here and apologize about all this poop-talk, but here’s the thing: it is one of the best methods for measuring our overall health. As a mom I quickly learned that poop is a singular sign that anything is amiss with a baby who cannot speak, and the quicker I got over my Western fear of toilet bowl analysis, the sooner I started revolving meals around foods that seemed to be optimally healthy for my kids.
Admit it, young parents. You talk about poop far more now than you ever have in your entire lives.
If this is a regular measurement for the health of our kids, why don’t we use it on ourselves?
I went to the gym twice today. (This is strange by itself and unrelated to coffee.) I did a moderate weight routine in the morning, and later took a Pure Barre class that just happens to meet when my big girls are at piano down the road.
Felt fine through both, but the headache still has not gone away completely.
Drinking water is getting easier. Naps are not going anywhere.
Irritability is decreasing. I’m still sad and missing coffee and was advised to create a new routine that revolves around some really good tea. I’m having a hard time imagining such a thing even exists.
Four-day-cleanse technically ends today so I indulged in a ceremonial epsom salt bath, which was wonderful (as always) but did in fact bump my headache level up a notch.
Potentially related: I’m sleeping like a damn baby, and that is a feat in and of itself. Ever since having kids, I went from being able to fall asleep in my freshman dorm room at 10:30pm, still full of people and lights, and sleep through all the fun, to waking at the sound of a sneeze from an entire floor and two closed doors away.
Add to this sensitivity a husband whose resting body temperature hovers right around 200 degrees fahrenheit, sciatica, three kids who sometimes talk in their sleep, and one kid who continues to suffer from occasional “night terrors” and you can understand why I feel justified in sleeping until 10am every Saturday if I want.
And I do.
Day 7: Saturday
Though technically the cleanse is over, I’m not about to reintroduce coffee after suffering for 96 hours and not yet experiencing the supposed bliss at the end of the rainbow. And so I continue with this cleaner eating approach and no caffeine.
Days 5 and 6 blurred into each other and were much the same as day 4, with the exception that I did not take a nap and was able to stay awake until close to 11pm.
Today was by far the best day yet, though I can’t say I’m completely headache free.
I’m going to try to stick this out until I feel awesome or until I give up, whichever comes first.
I did not realize how much caffeine affects me as I never considered myself a heavy coffee drinker. And it is true, I only drink up to 16oz a day, and not even that much every day.
Also, I cannot consume coffee after 1pm and expect to fall asleep at a reasonable time, so I’ve been pretty good to completely cut myself off before lunch.
We do like our coffee strong.
And, I’ve been doing this for almost 2 decades.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not one for extreme habit changes as I find them to be mostly unsustainable. I’m not hoping that my life going forward is forever coffee-free.
But I could be sold for some better sleep. At this point, it is difficult to target if the improved sleep is related to the lack of caffeine or the lack of sugar in my diet, as I’ve cut out all refined carbs and all desserts this week.
I’m going to keep going. And you know I’m usually good about reporting back.
In the meantime, if you’ve stumbled here via random headache-induced Google search, feel free to leave me a comment. I promise to update when I can claim a day completely free of anything that even resembles a headache.