Monday, May 11, 2009

Quitting Caffeine

I don't remember my first experience consuming caffeine. My parents let us kids drink soda of all types, and that included colas. They also smoked around us and covered our house in artificial wood paneling. Ah yes, the lovely 70s.

As a teenager I drank lots of coca-cola with my buddies. I remember putting away 2-liter bottles. Was it then the energy of youth, the caffeine, or the sugar that made us jumpy afterwards?

During my early teen years I also started to work in restaurants. At my second job one summer I came in once after a 17 hour day and just felt dead. The Sou-Chef felt sorry for me and poured me a big coffee, dropped in an ice cube, and covered the result with fresh cream. I woke up after that and in the process, got hooked on coffee.

So it was back in my heady Java days of 2002 that I decided to quit caffeine. I had already kicked sugar for health reasons. Alcohol was something I only drank on special occasions. I decided I could be totally vice free. I don't remember my process, but I do remember being rather proud of myself. Then I got really sick. I drank lots of tea, forgetting somehow that the tea I was drinking was caffeinated. And I was hooked again.

As the years went by I would time when I would drink caffeine. I knew I had to drink it every 12 hours to avoid withdrawal. Coffee in the morning, soda at night. I had an addiction. I periodically gave thought to quitting, but the habit didn't seem so bad.

For the past six months, I've actually reduced my caffeine intake. Between smaller portions and longer intervals, I felt like it didn't rule my life anymore. For the past two months I've gotten it down to coffee in the morning and diet coke when I eat away from my desk.

Then, for health reasons, several months back my co-worker Katie Cunningham had to quit caffeine. Suddenly I felt awkward every time I drank coffee or soda around here. The same way I feel when eating meat around a vegetarian Hindi or pork around a Jew or Muslim. I'm not sure why I feel awkward that way, but I do.

Recently I've been making a lot of changes in my life. I've stopped watching television entirely, become a neat nick (I'm not that messy to begin with), and quit caffeine.

Considering how infrequently I drink caffeine quitting it wasn't that hard. I had my last bit of soda on Saturday morning. The only symptom I suffered was last night I went to bed with a headache; a headache that might be allergy (high pollen count here in Virginia, US) related.

I think I'm vice free now. Well, almost. I do drink alcohol socially. And if I run into insomnia I will have either red wine or a beer if I can't find any wine.


Anonymous said...

Congrats! I had to go off caffeine for a while when I went on the 'Fat Smash Diet' (highly recommended) a few years ago. I recommend it to anyone curious about getting the monkey off your back, you can live without it! Same with smoking. Although unlike smoking, the diet eventually allowed me to consume caffeine again ;-) Fortunately, the health risks when used in moderation are low…

kcunning said...

I'm such a trend-setter ;) But good on ya!

Reinout van Rees said...

"I knew I had to drink it every 12 hours to avoid withdrawal": what kind of withdrawal effects were you seeing? I also drink coffee regularly. But I believe there have been days where I didn't drink any without noticeable effects. So am I missing (or not...) something? :-)

Congrats on beating the habit, btw.

pydanny said...

Reinout, my withdrawal symptoms including agitation and headaches, plus cravings. When I was heavy on caffeine the headaches were monstrous migraine affairs.

If I kept busy I would forget about the cravings. The agitation and headaches just haven't been an issue for a while.

Anonymous said...

A huge number of people are calling poison centers and showing up at hospital emergency centers because of caffeine intoxication. Most people have no idea just how much caffeine they consume daily because caffeine is in everything -- energy drinks, vitamin water, cold medicine, candy bars and even chewing gum and potato chips! Ethic Souop has some excellent articles on caffeine and its health risks at: