Stop Being a Slave to Starbucks - How to Quit Caffeine
I finally quit drinking coffee three weeks ago.
It's not something that I particularly wanted to do, but I did it. And now that I have, I'm actually really happy about it. I feel liberated, I feel healthier, and I have already saved myself quite a nice sum of cash — cash that used to go towards black gold of the Starbucks variety.
Now, I'm not one to advocate for a boycott of caffeine or anything. But, if you're already thinking about quitting caffeine, here are some reasons, and methods, for doing so.
Let's get something straight
OK, let me first address some of the accusations that will doubtlessly be thrown at this post:
- No, I don't think that there is anything WRONG with drinking caffeinated beverages.
- No, I do not hate Starbucks. I actually quite like Starbucks. I know that the title of this article sounds like I want Starbucks to go down in flames, but that's not the case at all. I still occasionally go to Starbucks, and I like their breakfast quiche.
- Yes, I realize that caffeine has been shown to have some positive health benefits.
- And no, I'm not advising anyone to quit. I'm just offering advice for people who already know that they don't want to consume caffeine anymore.
We good? OK.
Why would anyone want to quit?
Well, there are a number of reasons, but everyone has a different one. Some people freak out when their teeth start to stain. Some people want to save money, others have health reasons. For me, it was sort of a combination of all of these. I have stomach problems, and caffeine only exacerbates them. One cup of coffee in the morning felt like I was drinking a cup of lemon juice. The burning pain was simply too much to deal with.
Also, drinking coffee just got to be a pain in the butt. Traveling somewhere where good coffee is scarce was a hazard (small towns in Nevada, especially). Oddly enough, I have never dated anyone who drinks coffee, so those cute couples that stumble down to Cafe Vita on a weekend in their PJs to share foamy lattes over the Sunday Times? That was never me. Solitary trips to Starbucks aren't nearly as fun as the ones you can take with a fellow caffeine addict.
But most of all, I really hated being a slave to caffeine. I hated the fact that I had to consume at least a cup of coffee within an hour of waking up to stave off a splitting headache. I have a lot to do in the morning — dogs to feed and walk, gear to prepare — it takes me a good hour and a half from bed to door, and that's without much fussing about appearance. A trip to Starbucks made my morning routine that much longer.
Sure, I could brew a pot of coffee, and I often would, but then I'd just drink that much more.
For me, the decision was clear, but it took me a long time to make it, because DAMN, I really love coffee.
Oh, I like other caffeinated beverages as well — Diet Coke is SO good with Indian food. But I could give those up fairly easily, and besides, they don't offer the energy and mental clarity that coffee does. Not even Red Bull has as much caffeine as a cup of drip coffee. Everyone knows that caffeine is a drug, but its effect is so useful, and its side effects so mild that we don't really care. A little nervousness here, some heartburn there, maybe some insomnia — but the sheer energizing potential of a cup of joe makes it seem worth any little needling problems.
Usually. But for me, it simply got too bad. Stomach pain was a major factor, but there were others as well. In any case, once I realized that I had very little choice other than to quit, quitting was fairly easy.
How to quit
I have quit drinking coffee (and other caffeinated beverages) twice, but the first time didn't last. Interestingly enough, the first time I quit, I did it gradually, by simply drinking a little less coffee every day until I was just drinking decaf, and then slowly reducing the amount of decaf that I drank. I managed to stay away from caffeine for a few weeks, but eventually fell off the wagon, as it were.
This most recent time, I quit cold turkey. Just plain stopped. I let myself have a cup of decaf if I was feeling like I might crack and go back to swilling espresso, but mostly I just soldiered through the withdrawal symptoms.
Here are some tips for quitting:
Start on a Friday
It takes anywhere from 4-11 days to be free from caffeine cravings. If you start on a Friday, by the next Monday, you'll be at least 1/3 of the way through.
Drink plenty of water
The faster you cleanse your body of caffeine, the better off you will be. Drinking clean water will purify your blood, help cleanse your liver, and make your body function better. If you want, you can drink some detox tea, but you don't have to. It'll just clean you out a bit faster.
Get the extra sleep that you want and need
Plan ahead and realize that you'll probably need 2-4 more hours of sleep per day while you adjust to a caffeine-free life. You can take it in the form of naps, or just get to bed earlier. But if you don't set aside this time, you will have a very difficult time quitting — you'll be dragging along at 1 p.m. and just NEED a cup of coffee. I know it's difficult, especially with a busy schedule, to find a way to sleep more, but it's an important step.
Get those painkillers ready
Have a headache from withdrawal? Take some ibuprofen or whatever it is that you normally take to get rid of the pain. An ice pack on the forehead or the back of your head can help, too.
Don't be afraid to have some decaf
Yes, there is still caffeine in decaf, but if you need your fix, you might be able to stave off a complete relapse by having a decaf version of your favorite caffeine source.
Discover another energy source
When I'm groggy, I take a quick walk around the block while listening to The Ramones. By the time I'm back at my desk, I'm refreshed and perky. Well, as perky as I get, anyway. An apple is a great replacement for my afternoon coffee.
LifeHacker readers offer some good tips for quitting, too.