Three Weeks Without the Hammer: Caffeine Withdrawal

The sun escaping the fog

The sun escaping the fog

I know you are all dying for a caffeine update. Tuesday made three weeks without caffeine. Ok, I had one espresso shot in a Mocha last Friday. My goal was to make it 2 weeks totally without caffeine and then I could allow myself a little if I needed it. I did it. Honestly, it was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I read something a few days ago that advised giving yourself 3 weeks to get through the worst of it. I initially planned on two weeks, but the author of that blog was pretty much right on target. And … who knows … there may be more to come.

At any rate, I am feeling phenomenal this morning. It’s a cool day outside, I’ve walked my dog, sipped on my Teeccino and soy milk laced with agave nectar and done a little spiritual reading. I’m noticeably less irritable this morning. In fact, I feel totally calm and detached from all that is going on. This last week at work has been hell week in no uncertain terms. The gift in being caffeine-free: I’ve lost exactly one hour of sleep about it. In the past, I would have been staring at the ceiling several nights worrying about what I was going to do about the problems at work. Amazingly, the problems righted themselves yesterday without me spending all of those waking hours ruminating! Just shows me what a waste of time that is. This week, blessedly, I slept through most of it. I would wake up a smidge anxious, but I’d do a meditation, and it would shift. By the time I got to work, I was much more calm even though there was plenty of stress.

This is what I experienced:

Week 1: Total Freaking Hell!!!

  • Headaches (intense)
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • More level energy throughout the day but pretty low energy. The swings were less intense, but the lows and highs were lower than normal.
  • HIGH irritability
  • Intense sugar cravings
  • Deep, deep sleep with very wacky dreams
  • Dropped 3 pounds in two days
  • Mild to intense depression

Ideally I would have started the withdrawal on a weekend, but since I did it on a whim, I started on a Tuesday. I don’t actually know if doing it on the weekend would have mattered because the withdrawal was intense for two weeks. I thought naps would help, but I honestly couldn’t fall asleep when I tried. I wasn’t really sleepy, I was fatigued on a muscular and intellectual level. I was getting more than enough sleep at night.

Week 2: Moderate Hell

Same of all of the above but with a little less intensity. I also started to notice how food (heavy lunches, heavy food) impacted my energy level. I was allowing myself more natural sugars and some refined sugars just because I was going through so much that I needed some kind of drug. The worst thing for me that second week was running. My legs were dead. I felt like I was dragging two logs along almost every time I ran. One run I felt amazing, but then the next run it was back. I did find that when I exercise in the morning, it helps my energy to drink a small glass of coconut milk with about 1/2 tablespoon of cane sugar mixed in. Just that little jolt of sugar and fat really helps. Plus it’s like dessert! I tried all kinds of recommended supplements to give me energy but nothing gives a quick fix like caffeine.

Week 3: Sporadic Hell

I thought things would level out this past week, but they really didn’t. I still had days of being tired. Sundays have been the worst. I’m not sure if it’s because I have slept in on Sundays, but, I’m depressed, lethargic and irritable — all three Sundays. I took a 2 1/2 hour nap this past Sunday. I had to abort my run because my legs and body would not move another inch. I was glad for Monday to get here just because Sunday was so bad. I’ve still been mildly irritable, but the headaches are blessedly gone for the most part. I still have a tiny bit of one every now and again, but it’s nothing. The sugar and carb cravings are much less intense, and I’m not nearly as hungry as I used to be normally. In fact, food seems almost like an inconvenience now more than a real pleasure. I am much less dehydrated than I used to be, and I don’t have to drink as much water. Everything you read about caffeine being a diuretic must be true … at least for me.

So, I’ve settled into this luxurious routine in the mornings of drinking either decaffeinated coffee or Teeccino, doing a 30 minute yoga nidra for some deep breathing and focus and practicing yoga or exercising. I ran yesterday at 5 AM, and I felt amazing. Sucking down that sweetened coconut milk was yummy! I’m continuing to fill my body up with nutritious shakes, fresh fruits and veggies and plenty of downtime. The article I mentioned earlier recommended clearing your calendar for 3 weeks if you are attempting to detox from caffeine. I concur. You will not feel like tackling anything out of the ordinary, and some days you may want to cancel everything and curl up with your teddy bear. I’m glad allowed myself to do that. I let the past three weeks be a pampering vacation. If I wanted it … or wanted to do it … unless it was caffeinated … I did it. This whole experience has reminded me how dependent the body can become on substances, and I hate being dependent on anything. Now, if I go to Starbucks and spend my $5 on a drink, I do it because I really want it …. not because I have to have it to function. My mornings are sweet and relaxed, my sleep is peaceful and deep, and I want to keep it this way. Even my animals seem a lot calmer and cuddly. They react to us, don’t they?

 

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