Giving up caffeine

My husband recently gave up caffeine. He has always been a tea drinker, and started drinking coffee when my eldest was a baby. Since then, coffee has been a fundamental part of his life. Every day started with a trip to a coffee shop for him. There would usually be further trips later in the day. Costa, Nero, McDonald’s and Pret – he went to them all (he was never so keen on Starbucks).

I was fine with this, it made him happy and gave him a break from work. I didn’t worry about the cost of it and never really considered the health implications. Personally, I have never drunk coffee or tea, so know nothing of caffeine addiction. This is his story.

I have never felt the urge to do a guest post on the blog before, but I wanted people to hear about my experiences because most people probably have a reliance on caffeine to some extent.

My coffee drinking was habitual. I didn’t have huge amounts, but always at least two or three a day and some days four or five if I had meetings or days out travelling with work.  It was part of my routine on work days and at weekends. With coffee shops with wifi, I was able to work there and it was a nice break from the office. But you’re usually drinking coffee while you’re working.

I was one of those people who think they need coffee before they do any work in the morning. It was almost as though my head cleared and I could focus as I took my first sip of coffee.

A few weeks ago, I had a particularly stressful day at work. I felt the blood pressure rising and decided it wouldn’t be good to drink any more coffee that day. Then I decided I should just have a couple of days off drinking coffee, and I do quite like the challenge and giving up things from time to time.

On day two, I had a headache, but was otherwise feeling pretty normal. But on day three, it started to get bad. I started to feel quite anxious, was over-thinking things and feeling quite negative. This is not like me at all. I was also feeling very tired.

On day four, I felt dreadful. I was consumed with anxiety. I was sleeping a lot in the day and having to lie down. I was also having tremors. I didn’t realise that anxiety could be a symptom of caffeine withdrawal and because I didn’t know this, that made me even more anxious.

Then I googled caffeine withdrawal and was relieved to see lots of articles about the symptoms you could experience. This made me feel less worried, but I still couldn’t control the symptoms and particularly my mindset. One good article I read said it typically goes on for up to nine days, so I knew I was halfway there, but I was also now feeling tempted to have some caffeine to put a stop to it.  Thankfully my willpower was better than that.

On day five, I felt very anxious and down in the morning, but it lifted around mid afternoon. Day six was very similar. I felt extremely anxious again in the morning, but then it lifted in the afternoon. It was the same story on day seven.

Then a week after giving up caffeine, my anxiety went away and all of my symptoms had cleared. I had expected a headache from giving up caffeine, but I had no idea that it could make me feel so down and anxious.

Since giving up caffeine, I have realised that there are so many advantages, some that I would never have considered before.

I actually don’t know how much money I am saving from not going to coffee shops, but I notice that the change in my pocket at the start of a week is often there at the end of the week. I never batted an eyelid at paying for it, so that’s a definite upside of giving up.

The best physical benefit is that I have no peaks and troughs of tiredness, and don’t feel the need for a coffee first thing in the morning to help wake up. I don’t feel tired when I wake up. I don’t feel particularly tired at bedtime either, but once I go to bed I fall asleep easily and sleep really well all through the night.

As a consequence of not drinking coffee, I am now drinking lots of water which I never drank before. On top of the advantages of giving up caffeine, I’m also getting the additional advantages of drinking a lot of water. I’m drinking an average of five pints of day, which feels really good.

I’ve suffered with tight hamstrings while running for over a year. They improved as soon as I gave up coffee, which I don’t think was a coincidence. Because of that, I’ve knocked 50 seconds off a parkrun PB that I didn’t think I could beat.  My skin is better too – a lot of people have commented that I look better for not drinking coffee. My teeth are whiter. I feel more comfortable being in the office and just working, not having that craving for coffee making me want to leave my desk.

I have no regrets at all about giving up caffeine. I have no intention of ever drinking it again, particularly because of how bad it was coming off it, but also because I’ve realised how good life is without it.

I used to go to the coffee shop with my kids at the weekend and that was an important part of our routine. Now I go and have a cup of decaf coffee – that’s the only time in the week when I drink it and although I enjoy the coffee I don’t feel the urge to have another. The rest of the time I drink decaf tea or water – mainly water.

If you’re thinking of giving up caffeine, I strongly recommend it. The only thing I would do differently in hindsight would be to wean myself off gradually rather than going cold turkey.

Have you ever thought about giving up caffeine? 

Caffeine, Coffee, Costa, Costa cup, Coffee cup, Giving up caffeine

Author: Sarah Mummy

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18 Comments

  1. Interesting. I’ve been feeling much more sensitive to caffeine than I used to. I’m sure this is age related. I don’t really drink coffee but do have lots of tea. I’ve been toying with the idea of giving up caffeine altogether. Decaf Yorkshire tea is pretty nice. It’s often the comfort of a cuppa rather than the caffeine that I think makes me reach for the kettle. Good to hear the benefits. Might go for it but hope it’s a bit easier than your withdrawal!

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    • Definitely worth cutting down gradually if my husband’s experience is anything to go by! Strangely, he has been drinking decaf tea for years and neither of us can remember why he started that. I think there was an element of comfort, and certainly routine, with his coffee drinking, but that had got inextricably linked with the addiction.

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  2. I’ve often thought about giving up caffeine. I mainly drink tea but I have around 2 lattes a day. I suffer with migraines and find caffeine actually helps me during the aura period and during recovery. As you know I’m not absorbing iron and calcium in the milk and caffeine both reduce the amount of iron in my body, but I’m following medical advice to not change my diet whilst having ongoing tests. I remember many years ago my father suffering with headaches for several weeks, he would drink 10-15 cups of instant coffee a day, it turned out his secretary had switched to decaf without his knowledge.

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    • It definitely makes sense not to make any changes to your diet while you’re undergoing tests. You poor father! That must have been really hard for him, but no doubt it did him good in the long run.

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  3. Oh gosh, what a big change for your husband. This is fascinating. I don’t have vast amounts of coffee and do take a break from it occasionally but I might have to try to do it more often. I am so shocked that the withdrawal symptoms lasted for such a long time but it sounds like there were huge benefits for him from giving up so totally worth it. Thanks to you both for sharing that, very thought provoking!
    Nat.x

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    • Thanks very much, he was really keen to share it because neither of us had any idea of the benefits of giving up – or how tough the withdrawal could be. It sounds like your coffee drinking is at a sensible level. x

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  4. I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker, but I do love tea. I probably should look at how much caffeine is in a normal tea. I have given up tea before and drank herbal and didn’t find it too difficult, so maybe it’s not as bad. Well done for getting free of the caffeine.

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    • Tea has definitely got less caffeine than coffee, but it’s not insignificant. It sounds like it’s at a manageable level though. He is absolutely determined he will never go back to it. Even things like late night driving, which would previously have relied heavily on coffee, haven’t been a problem.

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  5. Sarah and Mr W,

    Caffeine is a drug. So is alcohol. I take alcohol occasionally, and caffeine regularly, but I rarely go to a pub or a coffee-shop. Society frowns on some drugs, but tolerates others.

    Years ago, I heard that coffee-growers were paid about the same amount of money for a sackful of coffee-beans as we paid for a cup of coffee in a coffee-shop. If that’s still true, somebody must have been doing very nicely out of the coffee trade.

    Coffee-shops may be vulnerable to an economic downturn. Perhaps when the next downturn arrives, people who can’t give up drinking coffee will resort to getting their caffeine fix at home?

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    • I’ve always considered both caffeine and alcohol drugs, but that’s because I don’t do either of them! I’ve always wondered why they are so socially acceptable. That’s shocking how little coffee growers are paid. It doesn’t surprise me at all to know that somebody must be making a hell of a lot of money out of the coffee trade. There’s certainly no sign of any downturn near us – two new coffee shops have opened up in under a year.

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  6. Wow this is really impressive. I think willpower is the key to giving anything up but when you experience such strong anxiety symptoms, it takes extreme willpower to see it through. I had no idea that anxiety was a symptom. I don’t drink much caffeine, probably 1 coffee and 1 tea per day so I wouldn’t say I’m addicted enough to see enough benefits from giving it up. I definitely need to drink more water though, I like the sound of the benefits of that!

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    • I had no idea anxiety was a symptom either, so it was pretty scary for a few days seeing how badly it affected him. He does have incredible willpower and he did well to keep going. He says he definitely won’t go back to it and put himself through that again!

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  7. That’s incredible! I had no idea of the serious side effects of giving up, I just thought it would be a couple of days of headaches and then that would be it. My husband gave up caffeine a few years ago to help manage migraines and since giving up caffeine and chocolate, he has only had one on two years, so he has certainly seen the health benefits of giving up too. He did start on Decaff but was gutted to discover that they do still contain small amounts of caffeine so he avoids those now too. Good luck to your husband, I hope he stays off caffeine now he has done so well.

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    • Thanks very much. There’s definitely no going back for my husband after what he went through with giving up – and now he has felt the health benefits. It’s good to hear that it helped your husband too.
      I think mine will probably give up the decaf too. He only has it a couple of times a week as it’s his routine to take the kids to the coffee shop, but no do doubt that will fizzle our over the next couple of years – or he will decided to drink something different.

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  8. I gave up Pepsi max for a while and felt so sleepy for about two weeks from going cold turkey. I can’t remember having anxiety but I try to be good with tea now too and only have two cups a day! I’m not sure I’d cope very well with strong withdrawal symptoms but a huge well done on being so determined!

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    • Thanks very much, he did so well! I always think of you as a huge tea drinker, so am surprised you only have two cups a day. My husband has been drinking decaf tea for years and neither of us can remember why he switched to it!

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  9. That is really interesting. I do drink two cans of coke zero a day and I drink 1 or 2 filtered coffees a day, but that’s a recent thing to help with my migraines. I think the benefits would be huge for this. x

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    • It’s interesting how it helps you with migraines. It just proves that everyone is different! x

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