Why I Gave Up Coffee for a Bit


So I had finally booked all of my Australia trip and was printing out confirmations and attachments when I noticed something shocking: The spa I had booked for two days and really, really wanted to go to listed caffeine as “contraband” and not allowed. WHAT??!!  I really had to question myself at that moment. As some of you know, I am a lifelong coffee aficionado (i.e. ADDICT). Was I really willing to give up coffee for the first time in 25 years just for a two-day spa visit? Oh, the headaches!

I’ve been drinking coffee regularly since I was 16. Black. Always black. I gave it up once when I had my first job in Washington, DC. And after a few weeks my boss told me I needed to start drinking it again. Without caffeine, I had sort of lost any interest in speaking to anyone, basically, and with a job in PR, that really wasn’t cool. So I got back on the coffee train, and all was right in my world again for another 25 years. I love my coffee. The morning ritual of it all. The bitter taste. The buzz. It’s the rocket fuel that has enabled me to accomplish so much in my life.

Who would I be without coffee? No, seriously, I realized I didn’t know who I was as a person without coffee in my life. Would I still be funny sometimes? Would I still be able to run? To write? I realized I needed to know.

So began my monthlong weaning. First to go: the afternoon cup. Two days of headache helped by Advil. Then, I began a gradual decrease of the morning cups: from three to two and a half, down to two, then one and a half. By the last week, I was going inch by inch. The good news? No headaches! The bad news? Those last few days of a few gulps down to one were very unfulfilling. But no headaches.

Who was I then, after coffee? A very tired person. A person who, given freedom, would have taken three naps a day. I was still able to communicate, although with a little less enthusiasm.  After a few days, I started to normalize a bit, but life wasn’t really normal. After all, I was getting on a flight to Australia (4½ hours to Dallas and 16 hours from Dallas to Brisbane). The morning of my flight I went for my first caffeine-free run. I did it! It was slow, but I think that was more because I hadn’t run in a few weeks than anything else.

And then, a funny thing happened. I realized I didn’t have to manage my addiction anymore. I didn’t have to do complicated time formulas to figure out when I needed caffeine even though it was the middle of the night on Aussie time. I didn’t have to worry about waking up in a strange hotel in a strange country and wonder desperately where I was going to get a cup of coffee three hours before anyone else was awake. What a strange new sort of freedom for me!

So here I am, my first morning in Australia. It’s 4:30 in the morning here (2:30 in the afternoon in Pennsylvania—coffee time in my old life), and I had a good night’s sleep. Instead of venturing out to find coffee in the strange darkness (it’s pretty wild here!), I am sitting comfortably in bed writing a blog for all you. It’s a lovely sort of freedom!

I still have a day and a half before I get to the spa, clean from all addictions that I am aware of at this time. But the big question I have is whether I’m done for good with coffee. I can’t really imagine that possibility. Soon I’ll be in Sydney and Melbourne, where the coffee is flowing freely at all times. I mean, can I really come to a new country and not taste its brew? I think there are even coffee plantations near where I am staying right now. I’ve heard that a “flat white” is a must-have.

I don’t know!!! How about if we take a vote? Tell me what I should do! Of course I will always make my own decision, but I’d love to know what you think and get your advice.

G’day! (Still haven’t heard anyone say that yet).

How long shouldd I stay off coffee?

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17 Responses to Why I Gave Up Coffee for a Bit

  1. Paula March 21, 2013 at 6:43 am #

    I don’t know anything for sure about foods and beverages and chemicals and addictions, but I do know that what we put into our bodies affects how we function. I also know that everything ingested or otherwise imbibed in affects everyone differently (which only makes sense, I guess). In any case, “using” coffee, cigarettes, sugar, alcohol, starches, and on and on to improve our experience of life is fine, I think, until we go to extremes in that our daily schedule is run by thinking about when and what we will drink, eat or smoke. Awareness, mindfulness and such are crucial here (and in all areas of our lives) to help us realize when enough is enough. And everyone has their own “enough”. A piece of wisdom from my husband’s Grandma (and many others, I’m sure) is that you can enjoy whatever you want, but maybe not as much as you want. So quit when you want and start up again when you want, just guard against excess. Isn’t there an ancient Greek philosophy in this vein?

  2. Hillary Kwiatek (@hillarykwiatek) March 21, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Coffee is one of life’s nearly 100% harmless addictions and if it brings you pleasure, you should enjoy it! I love coffee, though I don’t do it black, and while I weaned myself down to one cup a day when I was pregnant, I pretty much refuse to live in a world without coffee.

    Enjoy the spa!

    –Hill

  3. Ren Wilson March 21, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Coffee, it’s an acquired addiction and a very useful companion. Here’s my two cents, drink a small strong cup of coffee, but drink it in the afternoon, strong and with some stevia and raw cream. Then take a break, a siesta so to speak, so very un-American and such a refined habituation. However, here are the rules, free-trade organic coffee only and for goodness sake loose the Advil!!! Peace, Be Well Always!

  4. Melissa March 21, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Only the good stuff in moderation!

  5. Sheila March 21, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    I am very grateful that I do not have much experience with addictions so I can’t really comment on that. However, I do have experience traveling in Australia and especially in Melbourne. I love love loved the Flat Whites and they shouldn’t be missed. Life offers so many beautiful experiences and enjoying a Flat White on Acland St in Melbourne, only steps away from the ocean is one of them :-) I live in NYC and when I returned it was a mini- mission of mine to find a “Aussie” place that offers flat whites and I am happy to say I have found 3 wonderful places I can stop in every now and then for a taste of Australia. I am soooo happy for you to be exploring one of my favorite places in the world. Enjoy every moment of this beautiful experience! I love your blog about this journey. Enjoy the spa!
    Sheila

  6. Nikki Lindqvist March 21, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Why would you want anything other than complete freedom?!?

  7. Kae March 21, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Like you, my coffee love is deep and lifelong. I’ve taken breaks from it, but never total withdrawl as you have done. I drink an average of 3 cups a day, all before 2 p.m. and that seems to work just fine. In your position I would drink the coffee of Sydney. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that white stuff sounds so cool! Enjoy!

  8. Alicia March 21, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    I’m a tea drinker. Mainly of herbal tea with zero caffeine though I have been branching out to discover black, green and white teas.

    A friend of mine once told me she had developed breast lumps and her doctor attributed it to her regular intake of caffeine through coffee. I don’t remember if this was before she had her daughter or during her pregnancy.

    I hadn’t researched this for myself until recently (she told me this story a few years ago) and I found that the American Cancer Society connects breast lumps to caffeine though indirectly due to how caffeine affects the hormonal balance of women. This makes me think of how you described your enthusiam level dropping without coffee.

    Why not give it up for good? Or at the very least make it an occasional and infrequent occurrence, every few months or during special occasions, like drinking alcohol. Moderation is always the key. This way you can treat yourself to a new brew of coffee because you know you haven’t been guzzling several cups a day thus far.

  9. Miriam March 21, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    I have been coffee free for 1 1/2 months and don’t plan on going back. My skin is better and my mood is more stable. And I have more energy!! I do miss coffee and plan of having one for my birthday in July. My teeth look/feel so much cleaner too. Also coffee is very acidic which is NOT good for us. Stay away from it if you can.

  10. Crystal March 22, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    I gave up coffee for about a month last spring after being given a homeopathic constitutional remedy. Coffee in particular counteracts it. I felt pretty good. I didn’t completely go off caffeine. I still drank green tea and black tea, nothing like the super strong single cups of coffee I would make. Through the rest of the year, I gave it up off and on. I would always come back to it, though. At the beginning of this year, I decided to go without it for the whole year, no cheating. Sometimes I do feel like I am a duller person without it. I am also more patient with my kids and husband (third kid.) In general, my energy is more steady throughout the day. We’ll see how I feel at the end of the year. I think I would drink it on my trip though if I were you. After you get over the jet lag!

  11. Donna in Delaware March 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    Everything in moderation. Go for it!

  12. VMaryC March 26, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    You must try the flat white! You have already accomplished an amazing goal. And if you return to the pleasure of the aroma and the ritual, I will bet that you will drink less, savor more and find that you have rediscovered your coffee experience.

  13. L March 27, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    I think a ‘long black’ would suit you better! The coffee is a must try in Oz!

  14. Mary L. March 27, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    I gave up caffeine 14 years ago…I’ve never regretted it. I never really enjoyed the shakes, palps and nervousness it gave me later on in life, so I switched to an organic decaf (gradually, of course). I feel great, still get to enjoy the flavor and taste of coffee, just don’t have the side effects. After about 3 or 4 months I started to get the “natural” energy back instead of the caffeine induced energy. It feels quite a bit better. I hope whatever you do, you feel good about it. If you can handle the caffeine than don’t worry about it…continue to enjoy. >^.,.^<

  15. Marty March 27, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Coffee is good for you, unless you are a red republican!
    For some moderation, for others a pot a day keeps the doctor away!

  16. Joe July 27, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    Life without coffee I don’t think so. It is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Too much yes can be a little much but in moderation it is wonderful. I have a cup of coffee in a cafeteria everyday with my best friend. Recently I told him I may give it up. His reply was what are we going to do. His response gave me my answer. Years from now I will look back and remember those precious little moments and the great conversation we had all over a cup of coffee. Life is great and coffee even makes it better.

  17. Lonny Izlar September 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    I Love a good cup of coffee but like anything, moderation is the key. It sounds like you had an addiction to coffee more than the average person experiences. I find that drinking a cup of coffee more slowly, even after it has cooled is helpful in preventing the caffeine rush and hot flashes. I just get the mild pick me up and leave a cup unfinished as I start to feel good with my energy. Also I ultimately drink less or only two cups a day and don’t have any problems sleeping at night.

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