I've been a daily coffee addict for the past 15 years, drinking up to 2-3 cups a day, and until recently the idea of kicking the caffeine habit was simply inconceivable. Why suffer unnecessarily?
But my upcoming plans to do a seven day raw foods trial required me, at least temporarily, to face down the withdrawal symptoms and end my caffeine addiction.
As it turned out, kicking the caffeine habit was far easier than I expected. What follows is a three day, rapid-weaning schedule that can free you from coffee addiction with an absolute minimum of pain and suffering.
Photo credit: Ballistik Coffee Boy
Before we get started, three quick preliminary notes:
1) Supplies: to follow the Speed-Weaning schedule, you'll need to have a small supply of decaffeinated coffee and a small supply of your favorite caffeine-free tea.
2) I'll show the process in two parts: The first part simply contains the three day schedule with basic instructions on what to do each day. If you follow these steps, by Day 4 you should be entirely free of any physical addiction to coffee or caffeine. Below, I'll share more in-depth thoughts on my experiences while I went through the process. Your mileage may vary, obviously, but after reading both parts of this post you should have a clear sense of what to expect if you decide to try this yourself.
3) Optional but strongly recommended step for Day T-minus 1: The day before you begin this schedule, try this extra step: make an extra strong, extra big pot of coffee--and then drink too much of it. Enjoy the pleasurable caffeine buzz, but also pay close attention to the scattered and nervous activity of your brain when under the influence of too much caffeine. This preliminary day of coffee overindulgence will help you handle the psychological aspects of caffeine withdrawal. For me, it was similar to how a night with too much alcohol makes it easy to not drink the next day.
Okay, let's get started:
The Three Day Speed-Weaning Schedule for Ending Caffeine Addiction
Day 1: For your first day of caffeine weaning, make a pot of 3/4 decaf and 1/4 regular coffee, and enjoy 1-2 cups over the course of the morning. After 12 noon, be sure to avoid all caffeine.
Day 2: On Day 2, make a pot of all-decaf coffee, and drink as much as you want. You will feel sleepy and foggy today, and you might experience a mild headache (optional: take one aspirin tablet shortly after waking up to address headache symptoms). Don't fight the fatigue, accept it: this is just your body adjusting to a new, non-caffeinated reality.
Day 3: Congratulations--you've made it through one full day with absolutely no caffeine! Now it's time to seal the deal and break the coffee habit once and for all. Today, when you wake up, you will drink only a cup of hot water or non-caffeinated herbal tea, and you will avoid caffeine the entire day. By tomorrow the physical symptoms of addiction will be entirely behind you.
Day 4: Welcome to the first day of your new life as a person entirely free of caffeine addiction. Enjoy it!
My Experiences With The Three Day Speed-Weaning Schedule
I'll be the first to admit it: I was expecting a much more difficult process, with stronger and longer-lasting withdrawal symptoms. This is how each day went for me:
1) I had no caffeine withdrawal headache on Day 1, thanks to the small amount of caffeine in the 3/4 decaf coffee. However, I was quite sleepy during the bulk of the morning and I didn't really break out of that fatigue until noon. What was interesting, however, was how much better I could concentrate despite my tiredness. I did a substantial amount of writing during this day. It goes to show that although coffee often makes us feel more alert and alive, it can badly hurt our ability to focus on cognitively demanding work. If anything, that's a huge reason why it's worth considering going off caffeine from time to time.
2) The worst disappointment of this entire three-day process occurred during my mid-day run on Day 1. It was the worst run I've had in years. My arms felt like they had anvils attached to them, my breathing was shallow and out of rhythm, and my running form was absolutely terrible.
3) I recommend doing Day 1 of the Speed-Weaning schedule on a Friday, since it allows you to use the weekend to execute Days 2 and 3.
1) If I could only describe for you how I dreaded this day: a day where I'd have to drag myself out of bed and pour myself a flaccid cup of pansy-ass decaf coffee. But as it turned out, this day was actually easier than yesterday. Despite the fact that I compounded matters by dwelling and thinking about how bad I'd feel, I never really felt that bad. My advice: don't think about it so much. Don't get all wrapped around the axle on how bad you think you're going to feel, just let the experience come. It won't be as bad as you think it's going to be.
2) Here's the key reason I suggest spending one day on decaf coffee rather than going cold turkey: a cup of decent decaf carries most of the smells, tastes and other sensory inputs that we addicts associate with coffee. This helped me manage the psychological as well as the physical aspects of caffeine withdrawal.
3) I took one aspirin immediately after getting out of bed. I still had a mild headache for part of the morning, but it was nothing serious. I also felt somewhat mentally foggy, but by afternoon the fog had totally passed.
4) One quick note about decaf coffee: many decaf coffee brands state on their labels that they are 99.7% caffeine-free, which means, mathematically, you could get the equivalent of one cup of regular coffee by drinking 333 cups of decaf. Do not attempt this.
1) I have never made a practice of discussing digestive functions here at Casual Kitchen, so let me address the following subject with oblique delicacy: If you are the type of person who depends on a morning cup of hot coffee to, uh, stimulate certain digestive processes, you will be surprised how you can achieve the same results with just a cup of hot water or herbal tea. Try it, and you'll see what I mean.
2) Once again, I was a bit tired and cognitively foggy in the morning, but even so I was still able to do quite a bit of focused writing. And by the time I finished my mid-day run, I felt perfectly normal.
Day 4 and beyond:
1) On Day 4 I experienced no physical withdrawal symptoms at all, and aside from an occasional desirous thought about coffee once or twice during the day, I experienced no psychological withdrawal symptoms either.
2) Over the next several days, I felt occasional passing thoughts (perhaps once or twice a day) about how nice it might be to have a cup of coffee. These passing thoughts turned out to be very easy to resist, and I never really had anything that I could describe as a craving at all.
You Can Do it Too!
Until a few days ago, I was as addicted to coffee as I've ever been in my life. Now that I'm totally out of my prior profession as a Wall Street analyst (where the stress and excitement obviated the need for extra caffeine) and I spend most of my time at home writing, it's become beguilingly easy for me to drink cup after cup of joe all day long. Despite this, I was still able to shake off my coffee addiction in three short days. I was shocked at how easy and fast this Speed-Weaning process turned out to be.
With the caveat once again that your mileage may vary, the bottom line is this: if I can do it at a time in my life when I was deeply addicted to caffeine, you can do it too. Try it--you can kick the caffeine habit!
Readers: have you ever tried to break your caffeine addiction? What were your experiences, and did you succeed or fail?
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