My Resolution: Kicking My Caffeine Addiction in 2012

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Since I was a teenager, caffeine and I have had a tumultuous relationship. (I'm not the only one.)

I started taking caffeine pills and drinking coffee (bottled Frappucinos, mostly) at 16. An overachiever, I was suffering from an eating disorder, and the caffeine helped keep me energized when I wasn't eating. I was also mourning the loss of a close friend, who had died in a car accident. The caffeine pills kept me from having to deal with my grief, as I never sat still or had time to think.

Some of my friends knew about my habit, and many of them partook in the pills as well. We didn't think there was anything wrong with them.

It took me over a year to realize the damage I was doing to my body. After I passed out for the second time, I decided to give them up. I collapsed as I walked out of AP English. My heart was beating way too fast, my vision went blurry, and the world faded to black.

My doctor diagnosed me as having anxiety attacks, which was only half the story. I realized I needed to cut back, both on caffeine and in life. I prioritized, quit a couple of activities, and swore off the pills.

In college, I pulled all-nighters fueled by coffee, soda, chocolate-covered espresso beans. You name it, I drank it to stay awake during not only late nights spent studying but also spent laying out and editing the college paper.

Not surprisingly, the anxiety continued.

My first real job was on the news copy desk at a large metro daily. I worked 4 p.m. to midnight five nights a week and sometimes worked 5:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. I drank diet soda like it was my job, and when I went to the bar after work (the only place to socialize after work when you work second shift), I opted for rum and diet cola, which aggravated my anxiety. The work was mentally challenging, and the tight deadlines made it quite exciting but stressful at times. My panic and anxiety worsened.

Throughout the next few years, I continued to combine anxiety medication and caffeine. I didn't connect the two until just a couple of years ago. I swore off coffee and, coupled with some other major life changes, my anxiety dissipated.

As of this time last year, coffee was a rare treat for me. I didn't need it, and I limited myself to the occasional cup (just one!) at Sunday brunch. I like the taste, and I like the feeling it gives me. All other times, I would drink tea.

I'm not sure how it happened, but I started to drink coffee again, more regularly. Then in May, I did a weeklong yoga retreat in Honduras, where coffee was verboten. I lasted two weeks.

Then I was back on the coffee.

Since June, I've averaged two 16-ounce "cups" of coffee a day--and sometimes more. I bought an unlimited coffee deal at a local store, and until I switched to 6:30 a.m. yoga, I was in there every morning and a few afternoons a week.
I realized I was rarely without my coffee. In the car, in meetings, on walks, at the farmers market, there I was, gripping my stainless steel reusable canteen. Iced in summer, hot in winter, sometimes with soy creamer, sometimes black, never sweetened… coffee. My fix.

Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, changing the brain and the body. While it does temporarily make you feel more awake, it can also cause a host of other side effects, according to MedlinePlus:
  • feelings of being jittery and shaky
  • difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping well
  • increased heart rate
  • uneven heart rhythm
  • elevated blood pressure
  • headaches, nervousness and/or dizziness
  • dehydration, especially after a workout
  • dependency, which means you need to take more of it to get the same effect
As with other addictive substances, the more you consume, the less of an effect it has on you. My usual intake of caffeine was at least 540 mg daily, which puts me at almost double the low-to-moderate consumption level. Still, being reliant on that much coffee to keep me going is having an effect. I did some research into "how much is too much caffeine?" While I do not have headaches or other withdrawal symptoms if I skip a day, I don't like that I am so reliant on coffee these days.

My stomach sometimes hurts, I feel jittery from time to time, and--this is the worst symptom--coffee makes you have to pee all the time! (Caffeine is a diuretic!)

So, in 2012, I'm vowing to cut back. No more than TWO cups (16 ounces=1 "grande"=the size of my coffee canteen) a day, more tea (which also has caffeine but it doesn't give me the jitters), and more water. I drink at least eight cups of water daily, but I am also drinking the equivalent of four cups of coffee. I never drink decaf coffee; I don't like the taste or the chemicals used to remove the caffeine.

I don't want to give up coffee and caffeine entirely, but I do not want it to continue to control me. By sharing these goals with you, I'm putting myself back in control. No more caffeine addiction! (Want to chat with other java junkies? Join the SparkTeam  Coffee Junkies of the World!)

Have you ever been addicted to caffeine? How did you break the habit?

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Comments

More power to you for your efforts!

I gave up all caffienated soft drinks a year ago and never looked back. I also gave up coffee for 21 days in January and that was BRUTAL for me. For the first three days, I had to press my hand to my head because my headaches were so bad. It's scary how additive it is!

I am now back to drinking coffee because I love it and in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the positives. I've heard it reduces skin cancer risk. Report
Wishing you well on your project. I hope you can moderate but if not, then I hope you can give it up completely. Report
I drink coffee only as a treat, buy my own organic and fair trade beans to grind myself. Report
LORTHOM2001
yippeeeee to the need for lowered coffee (caffeine intake). I have never drunken nor do I have the desire to ever drink coffee, soda/pop/lemone ice-tea or anything like that. I drink (real) tea, tea, tea and more tea...from I was a child. I was brought up on tea. As a child it was only pepper mint or ginger tea. Then at around 25 or so, I began to drink black tea (regular tea with caffeine), but only 1 cup in the morning and that was all there was to that. The rest of the day was only herbal teas, relaxing teas or just warm water...and so it still is until this day. I could never figure out what the "rush" is to get a stinky-smelling cup of coffee?? (yuck! naw, I'm just kidding. I hate the smell of coffee that's all.) Report
About a year and a half ago, my doctor told me I needed to cut out caffeine entirely for a 6 week period. At that time, I was drinking at least 24 oz of coffee and usually a can of Diet Coke each day. I was also noticing that I was becoming much more irritable and little things would cause me more anxiety and make me worry about how I could get things done. As I cut out the caffeine, I had a few days that I was short-tempered, but I did not have any headaches or physical symptoms of withdrawl. However, I did realize that I was becoming much more relaxed about new deadlines or challenges as they came up.

I now limit myself to 1-2 caffinated drinks per week, and make sure I don't have anything stressful planned for that day. This has made a drastic difference to my overall wellbeing and sanity. I wish everyone else luck if you choose to make the same transition to cut back. Report
I used to be addicted to Starbucks, preferably the caramel frappuccino (always with extra caramel & whip cream!) I don't believe I've ever really confirmed that I was specifically 'addicted' to caffeine, but I do remember the effects it had on my entire body. I remember how I used to feel uppity for a couple hours at first, & all of a sudden I would get a crash where I would end up feeling lethargic, lazy, & tired. I used to order Starbucks at least every other day in the mornings before heading to class for the day. I would be super wired & attentive in class, but once late afternoon hit, I was already wanting to hit the bed for the entire night!

I didn't necessarily realize I was addicted to caffeine until the weight gain that came with the frappuccino, & I believe it was at that point I also realized the symptoms I was having with ingesting caffeine. While it took me over a year to fully wean myself off Starbucks, I am immensely proud of myself that I haven't drank any frappuccinos or coffees from them ever since! To get my caffeine fix if I do need it for energy, I turn to tea or Yerba Mate! (a natural caffeine-esque stimulant found in nature) Report
Great job recognizing a potential health hazard and addressing. Be careful not to over compensate with decaf because that might also be an unhealthy road to travel. Just saying and good luck with your quest. Report
NYLAURA1
I am a caffeine addict. While not a coffee lover, I was always looking for more caffeine. Diet Coke, tea, etc. A few months ago, I quit caffeine in an attempt to improve my sleep.
I slid back into drinking it by sipping Diet Coke. So now I've banned all soda. I still drink tea (mostly decaf) and forgive myself an occasional caffeinated tea.
I've learned I can get by without it! I am now trying to teach myself that if I don't "need" caffeine, I probably don't "need" the other stuff I tend to rely on when low energy (candy, gum, potato chips, anything edible)

Good luck with kicking the habit, and watch out for the unbelievable excuses you will come up with to have some "just this once" Report
CD6141008
I'm pleased to say I never got into a coffee habit. I disliked the taste when I was a child and have never bothered trying it as an adult. The more I read about coffee and caffeine, the more determined I am to never gain the habit. I don't drink caffeine containing anything. My only source is probably chocolate, which I am working on for lots of reasons.

If I feel tired I like to take a walk (preferably outside), put on some fast music, or if its really bad I shut my eyes for 5 minutes and doze a little, before shaking myself to get on with stuff!

When giving any crutch up I think its useful to write a list of alternatives for the time you use the thing you are getting rid of, so that you don't get in the moment and not know what to do. Report
VARUAL
A few, possibly disjointed thoughts about coffee: Just because there are some touted benefits to coffee, doesn't mean it doesn't have more downsides. For every bit of research that says how healthy it is, there is easily double that against it. But everyone is different. It affects some of us more. I get terrible migraines if I don't have the same amount of caffeine/coffee each day. Coffee and most beverages that contain caffeine are also highly acidic to the body. When I am drinking coffee, it doesn't matter how much water I drink, my tanita scale always shows that I am dehydrated. In the past when I've gone off coffee, I've only done it painlessly while eating a 100% raw food diet. I read once that it takes the liver two days to process a cup of coffee. It's a drug. No way around that. I hope by improving my nutrition and over all health that I will be ready to go off coffee/caffeine permanently and still have the energy I need to get through each day!
Peace to all :) Report
I am a diet coke addict. But I have not had one since starting with sparkpeople and I want to keep it that way. Report
BARBARARUTH2
I started drinking cofee at an age to early to remember. I realized it was an addiction for me at age 13. I married at age 15 and begin having babies from then on. I always say-"try to be a good wife and what do you get? pregnant!!!!!!!!!!" I used coffee as my food of choice. I drank coffee in place of food because I was afraid to eat food my children needed. Report
Caffeine itself isn't my weakness. Dr Pepper, however, has had a hold on me for over 10 years. At my worst I was drinking 2 litres a day, with other caffeinated drinks as well. I don't normally drink quite that much, but I still average a litre a day. I took my first step to breaking the habit this week. I've switched from my normal, Regular Dr Pepper to Dr Pepper 10. A 20 oz bottle of this only has 20 calories, and it almost tastes like Diet Dr Pepper (which I can't stand) so I drink less than what I used to.
I'm also thinking of replacing some of my Dr Pepper consumption with Green Tea. I enjoy tea, just not the prep needed to make it. So, I'm going to start making it the night before, when I have to work, and putting it in my coffee mug and setting it in the fridge. I can drink tea with or without sugar, and hot or cold.
I have a hard time quitting, though. Dr Pepper is my one and only vice. I don't drink, don't smoke, and don't do drugs. Dr Pepper was my one guilty bad habit but I realize that for my health, I need to cut back. I'm limited my calorie consumption by switching to the Dr Pepper 10. Next I will try to limit the caffeine, although by limiting my overall consumption, I've cut back significantly! Report
I started sipping coffee at the age of about 6 or 7 years old. My mom would have it at breakfast before she left for work & would leave a bit in the tea cup for me. It gave me the feeling of having my own little tea party with my mom. I kinda stopped drinking when she did about 11yrs old, didn't pick it back up til I started driving trucks. I need it to fuel me from working so early in the morning til late in the evenings. When I stopped driving I stopped. Now today, I drink a 8oz cup only during the week & some times if I don't have real cream then its a no go. I guess I could scale back but I don't have but the one cup Mon-Fri. So I think I'm good. Report
I am a caffeine ADDICT. I have throttled back to one cup of coffee in the morning, but still if I don't have that every single day I get a near migrane level headache. I once tried to give up cold turkey and after two weeks with the headache a friend shoved a mountain dew in my hand and said "if you don't drink this you are going to lose your job". Apparently I was iritable. Cutting back was doable, giving up entirely is painful. This is the only vice I have ever had I wasn't physically capeable of giving up on my own. Report
Don't forget that there is caffeine in tea as well.

I wish I could love it that much and then MAYBE I'd have a bit more energy and drive to get things done! Report
This is very doable. I was a huge caffeine junkie. All my favorite drinks involve caffeine. Coffee, soda, energy drinks. In 2011 I made a bet with my wife and swore off all caffeine for the entire year. I've even tried to swear off decaf coffee as well (never more than 1 cup per week). Our daughter turned 7 months the beginning of 2011 and I was tired and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to hack it without my caffeine to keep me awake, but you know what? I found that I didn't need it. 355 days later and I can tell you that I still function just fine without caffeine. If I can do it, you can do it, too. Report
I, too, am an avid coffee drinker. On the Spark nutrition tab I just hit "copy foods" from the start of the month to as far as it will let me because I know that coffee is my breakfast of champions. However, I don't find myself needing "more" for any effects...I just LOVE the taste of coffee. Coffee ice cream, yogurts, cakes, brownies, coffee taste yum.

I have considered many a times cutting back because I hear it's better for the diet if you do. But sometimes I feel like "it's my ONE vice!!" LOL

I wish I knew for sure the pros/cons of coffee. Dr Oz and many others give such great reviews of coffee benefits. over 10 cups a day will help prevent brain cancer!!

Coffee confusion is what it is. Report