How (and why) I Quit Coffee

January 11, 2013

Bellocq1

Bellocq2
Spoiler alert: by drinking lots of tea. 

MY HISTORY WITH COFFEE
I’ve been trying to remember when my love affair with coffee began. Neither of my parents were coffee drinkers when I was a kid (we were more Coca-Cola people) – so coffee wasn’t a familiar thing I grew up around. I think it was in highschool. My best friend’s mom was a nurse who worked the night shift and kept a large pot brewing at all hours of the day. But she also kept pints of Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream in the fridge. I knew I liked the smell of coffee but I didn’t like the taste so much until you loaded it up with cream, sugar and transformed it into a desert.

Then I went through a phase in highschool where I would hang out at The Kettle – a 24-hour truck-stop style diner – with all of my brother’s trench-coat-wallet-chain-wearing friends. They would chain smoke clove cigarettes and drink black coffee until 4AM. In order to not be the kid sister falling asleep in the booth I ordered coffee. And of course, I loaded it up with packets of tiny plastic tubs of creamer and sugar.

In college I would frequent a local French bakery after my art history class with a few friends. We would order mocha lattes (with banana syrup) and bagels. I also continued my love affair with coffee ice cream when Starbucks came out with their own line of frozen goodies. I would eat tubs of the stuff while watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It wasn’t until I got my first job out of college that I understood the need and delight that a simple Americano, with cream and no sugar, could bring. Jeremy and I eventually got our very own French press and started grinding our own beans. Every morning we would enjoy two cups of coffee with breakfast while we read our RSS feeds and watched the sun wake up. Life was good.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END
About 3 or 4 months ago I was hired by my now friend Claire to do some branding for her brand new juice cleanse company. And because I love supporting my clients, and because I’m somewhat of a masochist, I decided to try a guided 3-day cleanse. So the day before the cleanse I ate as much as possible and had not just two cups of coffee but four.

The morning of the cleanse I was feeling pretty self-righteous about spending the next three days flooding my cells with green juice goodness. And then around 11AM the headache began. At 3PM we went and saw Finding Nemo in 3D with our nephews and I thought I might die. I’ve blocked the rest of the day from my memory.

But I do remember waking up the next morning feeling like I was quite literally dying. I looked at Jeremy and he looked like he was in some pretty serious pain too. Now, I’ve never tried heroine but I felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in Basketball Diaries coming down off a serious addiction. I went to the kitchen and made a spinach, avocado and banana smoothie and a large batch of French pressed coffee. We instantly felt better.

Now, Jeremy is usually in charge of making our coffee in the morning. And at that point he decided that we had a problem and that one cup of coffee in the morning was perfectly acceptable. For the first few weeks I was sad and grouchy when I got to the bottom of my first, and only, cup of the morning.

I should also note that at some point within the last year we switched from half-and-half to putting coconut milk (from the can) in our coffee. I think this is a key component to how we quit coffee – as you’ll read later.

THE END OF COFFEE
Claire announced that she would be hosting a one-day juice cleanse and workshop in the New Year just as I was coming down from a holiday binge of caramel popcorn and cookies. I had already committed to my second Whole30 but thought a one-day cleanse would help detoxify my system quite nicely. This time I wasn’t going to make the four-cups-of-coffee the day before mistake. Claire made me promise that I would ween myself off caffeine altogether before she would even allow me to sign up for her cleanse.

I gave myself 5 days to quit caffeine. It looked like this: 
Day 1: One cup of black tea in the morning / green tea in the afternoon
Day 2: One cup of black tea in the morning / herbal tea in the afternoon
Day 3: One cup of black tea in the morning / herbal tea in the afternoon
Day 4: One cup of green tea in the morning / herbal tea in the afternoon
Day 5: Herbal tea only
Day 6: Juice cleanse (herbal tea only)
* I enjoy each cup of tea with coconut milk – it helps satisfy that coffee craving a bit. 

At the beginning of the week I suffered from headaches. They became more mild as the week progressed. The day of the cleanse I was headache-free and it was significantly easier to manage fasting on juice when I wasn’t also having serious caffeine withdrawals. The next morning we had a cup of herbal tea and since then we’ve enjoyed one cup of caffeinated tea (either black which has more caffeine or green which has less) a day.

It wasn’t until the headaches went away that I realized I actually felt better without my morning coffee. And I never imagined being one of those people. But the truth is, I feel more hydrated (which is one of my resolutions), less anxious and more even energy. And the cleaner I eat and the more I deepen my yoga practice, the more sensitive I become to the signals my body is sending me.

I learned that more than anything, I took comfort in the ritual of having a hot mug in my hands every morning – but I still get that with tea. Multiple times a day, even! Leo Babatua (one of my heroes – the author of Zen Habits) is a big proponent of slowing down and staying present with a cup of tea. He even says something along the lines of “nobody is fighting wars when sipping on tea.”

Just typing this is making me mourn my coffee a bit (so I got up and made another cup of tea). I really wasn’t even planning on quitting coffee when I did. And I think I’ll still treat myself to a nice cup of joe every now and then. But for now, tea is where it’s at.

Have you ever quit coffee? How did you feel afterwards? 

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