No one likes being controlled. Think back on your childhood: Parents telling you what to eat, what to say, who you could hang out with, where you could go. Remember what you did? Probably something along the lines of getting an eyebrow pierced and smoking cigarettes in the high school parking lot. I’ve seen it a hundred times.
So, then, now that you’re (probably) an adult, why is it that you’re totally cool with coffee controlling your every (morning) move? Because think about it, if you’re addicted to coffee, it’s hard not to think about anything else when you wake up in the morning. And everything you do, everywhere you go, you’re either in pursuit of that first, hot, steaming cup of Joe, or only actually doing anything at all because you’ve had a carafe or two.
Well, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can, in fact, operate independently of a delicious French roast. To quit coffee completely, though, means understanding your enemy — like what it’s doing to your body to seize the reins and control you so intensely.
The first thing you need to know is that coffee is a stimulant, which means it makes you feel awake and alert — obviously that’s why you drink it, right? But that means that, when you’re breaking the habit, you’re likely going to feel the opposite, along with a host of other negative caffeine withdrawal symptoms like a nasty headache, constipation, irritability and possibly even low-key depression.
Which is why, when you’re first quitting coffee, it helps to start (if you can) when you’ve got a break from work. After all, you’re not going to be doing yourself any favors in the productivity department if staring at a computer screen gives you a caffeine withdrawal-induced migraine. Take a week at home, or better yet, a week on a delightful vacation and at least start the quitting process then. No one can accuse you of a lack of productivity when you’re sitting on a beach somewhere.
The next thing you need to do is decide whether you’re going to quit gradually or cold turkey. The advantage of the former is that you’ll have fewer — or if you really go slowly, none — of those nasty withdrawal symptoms; the advantage of the latter is quitting might take days instead of weeks.
If you opt to quit gradually, using decaf coffee is a great way to do it. The decaf method works by mixing decaffeinated coffee grounds in with your regular, high octane stuff: Initially, the majority of the mixture might be regular and a small amount decaf, but over the following few days you’d up the ratio of decaffeinated coffee until you kick the regular stuff completely. A sample plan for a month might be something like:
Week 1: 100% regular coffee
Week 2: 75% regular, 25% decaf
Week 3: 50-50 regular and decaf
Week 4: 75% – 100% decaf
Hopefully, by the end of Week 4, you’ll be cured of your caffeine addiction, and if you want to take it even a step further and quit decaffeinated coffee at the same time, go for it — just throw all of it in the trash, decaf included.
Of course, there’s also the cold turkey method, where you cut caffeine and coffee completely. Keep in mind that if you choose to quit coffee immediately, and depending on how bad your coffee addiction is, you might be out of commission completely for a day, a few days or even a week! Which means to quit cold turkey successfully, you’ll want to prep. That means keeping your home stocked with over-the-counter pain relievers, easy-to-make food (i.e., soups and prepackaged meals you just need to reheat) and entertainment. Decide you’re going to rewatch the entirety of your favorite TV show, because let me tell ya, you’re not going to be able to do much else while you’re laid up.
Whichever route you intend to go, remember that you’re breaking an addiction, and naturally, your body is going to “miss” its habitual behaviors. That means that it’s going to feel weird not pulling into your favorite coffee bar, or going to grab a cup between meetings, or after a meal. As strongly as that “weird” feeling may try to pull you back in, you can prevent it from wrestling back control by finding a suitable replacement behavior, like walking around the block every time you’ve got an urge to drink, or choosing a non-caffeinated substitute for your morning coffee — herbal teas, say, or a smoothie. Just stay away from sodas and caffeinated teas! They might not be coffee, but they’re a slippery slope back to the darkness.
Yes, it’s going to be awful, and yes, it’s probably going to take a couple of tries, but remember: If you can survive a few days of awful pain, when it’s all over you’ll be right as rain!