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?


6 Comments on “Three Weeks Without the Hammer: Caffeine Withdrawal

  1. I really appreciate finding and reading your article. I am entering week 3 of no caffeine and drastically lowered added sugar intake. For easily 10 plus years i drank coffee daily and ate sweets daily. I recently went to the ER for heavy menstrual flow (mine have always been heavy, but this recent one was truly frightening and exhausting). I came to find out that i am severely anemic and have have fibroids. Right then and there I changed my diet. No coffee, black or green tea, chocolate, and have had one dessert (Rice Dream Mint Chocolate icecream sandwich) 5 days ago. I blend fruit and veggies juices and make all my meals at home now. It is day 14 of no caffeine and I was wondering why I still felt so tired. I feel far less anxious and more clear minded when i speak to people, but the fatigue really hits by noon well into the late afternoon. I thought I would be feeling like a million bucks by now. Glad to know to give myself a bit longer. I wonder if age plays a part as well and the longevity of the addiction. Thank you so very much!

    • Yes, hang in there. It really took almost a month for my body to start generating its own energy. I’m not as clean as I was back then but I’ve stayed with it for the most part. I never want to be addicted that bad again. Good luck and keep me posted. I’d love to hear of your health improvements.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing. I gave up caffeine two and a half weeks ago and am still dealing with a heavy body. I drank two cups of Irish breakfast tea in the morning and a coffee some afternoons. I had read that for light caffeine users, which I considered myself, are usually over the hump after two weeks. Maybe my consumption wasn’t so light! I’m wondering how much caffeine you drank before quitting? So relieved to hear it took you three weeks to get over your withdrawal.

    I have even noticed, in the past when I was drinking little to no caffeine, that if I had a coffee in the afternoon, the next afternoon around the same time I would feel tired, like a mini-withdrawal. Before quitting I didn’t drink caffeine during the first three days of my cycle, which usually provoked some headaches that would go away by day three; I quit for good the first day of my cycle and I swear it seemed like the day I would normally go back to my teas the withdrawal ramped up. It seems as though the body can remember even these longer cycles of intake and habituate to them!

    • I agree. It’s funny you posted today. I’m back on tea again and am trying to get off it again. You gave me some more motivation. I wasn’t drinking a ton of caffeine the first time I quit but I had literally NEVER been off it. It’s been easier for me in subsequent attempts. I also know how much better I feel and how much better I sleep when I’m off it. Let me know how it goes for you. Good luck!

  3. Gosh, I am so glad I found this post. I have only been off the caffeine for a week. I usually do a detox once a year, but this time around it has hit me the worst. I was seriously contemplating going back to some form of caffeinated beverage but I’ll hang in there for a little longer. The fatigue, no matter how many hours I sleep… that really gets me. Thankfully the headaches are gone. I am still craving sugar. How did you tackle that?

    • Well the sugar cravings come because your body knows it needs a hit of energy. Sugar has a similar effect. I’ll be honest. Sometimes I caved. Other times I ate fruit or just ignored it because I didn’t want to reinforce the craving. They will go away. In fact if you get off the sugar and/or caffeine, hunger in general goes way down. Good luck!

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