Caffeine is a drug that I was unknowingly addicted to until recently. I went 28 years of my life with having maybe one or two encounters with caffeine per year, to drinking ever-increasing amounts up to 6-7 strong cups of coffee EVERY DAY for the past 5 years.
I am now over 4 months caffeine free and feel better than I have in years.
My caffeine consumption began as I started a new job in an office based environment. The training program with my new employer was very intense. During breaks most people would walk automatically straight to the coffee/tea machines. I’m hearing people saying things like ‘I really needed that coffee to keep me focused’. At the age of 28 I was full of energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. I recently graduated and was working out 5 days a week and just secured a new job. Life was fantastic. During the intense training I didn’t feel as if I ‘required’ caffeine to help me through. I remember a colleague (Who I am now very good friends with) asking me during one of the breaks ‘How come you don’t drink coffee or tea?’, with a look of surprise on his face. I didn’t actually have an answer other than I didn’t really like the taste. After a few more days of training I had decided to try a coffee for no reason other than it being available and knowing at the time ‘It is only coffee, there is no harm in coffee’. I don’t particularly remember if I felt fantastic, euphoric, more focused, more motivated after that first coffee, which some people report. What I do remember is that from moment coffee became a habit on each and every break. This is a habit which lead me to over use, abuse and eventually suffer excruciating withdrawal symptoms 5 years later.
In the beginning I only drank coffee during work (Mon-Fri), shortly after coffee became part of my weekend routine, my holidays, my studies, my workout routine, my life! I would strategically time my caffeine consumption with events in my life. For example, at my job if Monday mornings meeting was at 9am I would make sure I would have a coffee at 8.30am, however on Tuesday if my meeting was at 10am I would make sure to have a coffee at 9.30am. If I was working out I ensured to have a double espresso 30 minutes before I began. If I was at a social event I again, made sure I had coffee before to ensure I was ‘perked up’. In reality this behavior is similar to drug addiction and abuse.
During my years of consuming caffeine I didn’t recognise any adverse effects at the time. I’m sure this is common with a lot of readers. It wasn’t until I stopped that I realised I was more than just a coffee drinker, I was a caffeine addict.
The day I gave up caffeine
I gave up all forms of caffeine 4 months ago after noticing negative effects after consuming, what i would consider, a large amount of caffeine. It was a Friday and i had just endured a 36 hour trip back from Australia I was jet extremely jet lagged, sleep deprived and lacking energy. I was to begin work on Monday morning and with a lot on my plate and a big social event on the Saturday. I handled this by doing what I normally did for the last 5 years – turn to coffee to fight off fatigue. For the next 2 days I lost track of how much coffee I consumed. On the Sunday morning I was severely fatigued. I made an extra strong coffee. Following this I experienced jitters and vomiting. I felt like I was having a panic attack. This left me shook up.
After this event I reflected and realised that I had consumed a large amount of caffeine and this had contributed to how I felt. I decided at that moment to give up caffeine for fear of the event repeating.
Caffeinated vs Caffeine Free
It wasn’t until I gave up caffeine that I had realised that it had a very strong hold on my life. I was exhausted on many occasions and used caffeine to get me though. This is essentially abuse of a drug. Now that I am caffeine free I realise that I was suffering from negative effects of caffeine without realising it. These symptoms didn’t occur right away, they took years to appear.
I thought my sleep was good until I stopped consuming caffeine. With the exception of withdrawal period, I now sleep deeper and wake up fresher. I didn’t realise that my sleep was often interrupted with a bathroom break and laying awake with mild anxious thoughts. This no longer happens.
I never realised how many crashes I had during the day. I thought this was normal but now acknowledge that caffeine gave me a lift followed by a crash several times a day
Mood and emotions
I can definitely say I am much more level-headed now. My emotions were never out of control on caffeine but I definitely know now that I reacted differently in certain situations while consuming caffeine. Sometimes I would get easily frustrated and other times would feel very ‘robotic’ in certain aspects of my life. I have a much more relaxed and open-minded approach now. This is helping me in my career and in my personal life.
Having a more relaxed approach which allows me to make better decision. Decisions are not rushed and I feel I can control the outcome of situations much better than before.
Again, this is something I didn’t realise was happening until I stopped consuming caffeine. I was always up for travelling, having fun, going on the big rides at the amusements, trying something new. Over the past 5 years I noticed myself gradually becoming more and more anxious when it came to flying, rollercoasters, trying new thing out – something that had never happened previously. I thought I was just part of getting older. Now that I have stopped caffeine these fears or anxious feelings are gone. On my recent holiday I flew without any issues. It was quite a relaxing experience. If you suffer from anxiety Ashwagandha is a great product I used during caffeine withdrawal to easy the symptoms. It did wonders – Click here to purchase organic Ashwaghandha from Amazon
Productivity in my life is much better. Now, I know this is different from what people expect as caffeine often increases productivity. The reason I say productivity is better is that I was previously multitasking to a detrimental effect. I was lacking priority, my mind was jumping from task to task without actually completing anything. Once something popped into my mind another tab on my browser would open and I would be focused on something else…. until the next thought popped into my mind and so on and so on. My mind was frantic. This lead me to take on a lot more work than I was able to handle. I took on projects when I had a ‘spur of the moment’ thought. Before I knew it I was fully committed to something that I had very little time to work on. Now my productivity is ‘different’ but improved. I can multitask much better while completing more work. Being relaxed without a racing mind has really benefitted me. Also I have been able to spend my evenings being productive since giving up caffeine. Something that hasn’t happened in years. I am studying again for the first time in 4 years.
Being caffeine free is not a miracle cure for everything. It does not mean you will sleep perfectly 8 hours per night, it will not give you unlimited energy and will not totally get rid of any anxiety you have. It will however improve multiple aspects of your life if you are suffering from negative effects. The improvements are worth it.
When giving up caffeine you will suffer some sort of withdrawal. The caffeine withdrawal process was without a doubt the most difficult time in my entire life! For such a level-headed person, I felt like my life was falling apart. I almost quit my job and thought I was going crazy. I couldn’t believe until now that the symptoms I had were due to caffeine withdrawal. It took me 3 months before I felt normal and 4 months before I experienced the true benefits. Everyone will be different in their recovery.
Day one – I had my last coffee at 3pm the previous day. I took the cold turkey approach, no forms of caffeine at all. The first morning wasn’t as bad as I expected. Yes, I was tired, groggy and a slight headache but nothing more than that. Headache intensified as the day went on. Slept normal that night.
Day 2-7 – I literally had no energy, concentration or enthusiasm for life. I started getting dizzy spells and an anxious. Sleep wasn’t great.
Week 2 – Symptoms started to get worse. Fatigue had really set in. I had sensitivity to light, waves of intense anxiety and intrusive thoughts. At night I would wake up with tremors and sweating. During the day I felt nauseous and dizzy. Going into crowded places made the dizziness worse for some reason. I was tempted to drink coffee again to see if these symptoms would disappear but with the anxiety attacks I feared this would make things worse.
Week 2-4 – This is where I almost quit my job. A job that I had worked so hard to get. I believed that caffeine was the reason for my success at work and without it I would no longer be capable of performing. I had zero energy, motivation and enthusiasm for life and constant brain fog. I felt these feelings would never cease. I was at the doctors multiple times convinced there was something else wrong with me despite all the test showing up normal repeatedly. Now that I look back I was a real hypochondriac for that period. The doctors continued to say I was fine so I left the physician feeling ok about my health, then a few days later I would seek reassurance again. In my defence the doctor ruled out caffeine withdrawal as a possible cause leading me to believe there was something else wrong.
I consider myself to be an extremely healthy person and I was eating as well as I could despite my symptoms. I decided to step up the healthy lifestyle even more. I introduced several new routines and supplements that really benefitted my recovery. See my recovery plan.
I decided to look further into caffeine withdrawal symptoms. At first it was discouraging as most sites quoted 2-9 days for caffeine withdrawal symptoms. It was almost a month and I was worried. As I researched deeper I found many people commenting on websites suggesting their withdrawal lasted for weeks, sometimes up to 6 months! It was a slight relief.
Week 4-6- This was a horrible time. Despite my new routines and healthier approach, I felt I would never be normal again. Everything I done was below par. Working, exercising and socializing felt like extremely hard work and with a feeling of constant mental tension in my mind I could not enjoy anything. I lost 16lbs since caffeine withdrawal started. I wasn’t eating, exercising or sleeping well at this point. My breathing was also very laboured and I had pain in my back and neck.
Week 6-8 – Finally some breakthrough! My nausea was gone, although I still had stomach cramping from time to time. The dizziness subsided, although it was still there. The anxiety wasn’t as frequent but still there every day. I put the improvements down to consuming Ashwagandha – Click here for a great link to the product I used. Its herbal product proven to reduce stress and aid sleep. I was taking 3 grams of this every other day. It really made a huge difference to me. I talk more about what I used for my recovery process on this page.
Month 3 – Symptoms started to fade one by one. There were big periods of the day that I felt almost normal – lacking energy and motivation but the feeling of tension/anxiety and muscle pain was fading. As things were gradually getting better I hit a major setback. For 4 straight days of month 3 I felt I had taken a step back. I didn’t do anything differently. All the symptoms came rushing back and more intense. This was extremely discouraging. After 4 days I started to feel better. This lasted for a week before another set back which lasted 2 days. This trend continued the rest of that month with the set backs less frequent and less intense each time. This was an extremely frustrating time.
Month 4 – This is the point where I felt normal again. The switching between symptoms and normality had almost completely stopped. I still had mild symptoms once a week or so but nothing I felt I couldn’t handle.
Month 5 – This is where I start feeling the benefits of being caffeine free. Sleep, energy, motivation and emotional stability are at an all time high.
Caffeine withdrawal almost feels as if your body and mind are rebalancing to handle life without a drug you once relied on – this will take time. Caffeine withdrawal was the worst experience of my life but it has also allowed me to pick up some great new habits like yoga, meditation and improving my diet. I also enjoy the variety of herbal tea’s. I definitely feel like I’ve mad massive improvements in my life – The silver lining
I’ve spent the last few months researching, studying and learning about caffeine so I could set up this site to help others. I hope this site is a major help. Please comment below with your experience and any questions you have.