Is caffeine the thorn in your side? Are you starting to feel like you just can't live without it? Well, you can! Caffeine is a drug, and like any drug, in order to free yourself from addiction, you have to be committed to your plan of action, and be ready for the pain and frustration of withdrawal. The key to quitting is the knowledge that things will get worse before they get better. But, once they get better, they will *stay* better.
Write down your reasons for quitting, such as:
Increasing hypertension risks
keeps the liver busy from filtering other toxins
a cycle of hyperactivity and/or inability to focus, followed by a subsequent "crash"
disrupted sleep habits
may interfere with weight loss and has been linked to hypoglycemia
buying coffee products may fund inhumane labor overseas
financial costs to support caffeine purchases
has been linked to affecting learning behavior (unkown if positive or negative yet)
caffeine dehydrates your body
a desire for a healthier pregnancy
decreased libido or sexual performance
Put this list somewhere that you can see it regularly, like on your mirror or work desk (or both). It will help keep you motivated.
Believe that it is possible to overcome your addiction.
Accept that the process will take as much time as it takes.
Realize that quitting will require a significant effort on your part. Erase any idea in your mind that quitting caffeine will be easy, or else you'll be in for a big surprise. Expect it to be one of the most difficult things in the world, and you'll be ready to give it your greatest effort.
Prepare for the withdrawal symptoms, which can begin within hours of your last caffeine fix, and may last for up to two weeks:
poor motor skills
Introduce green tea into your routine. Green tea contains mild traces of caffeine - not nearly enough to create any kind of addiction like regular tea or coffee - and this will soften the blow of any remaining foggy-headedness.
Sit down and calculate how much time and money you actually spend on caffeine. Think of other things you could do with that time and money. Buy and read the newspaper? Pursue a hobby? Save money for an iPod? Start a trust fund for a child you love? Find something that's exciting and fulfilling, and think of it as your reward.
Don't go at it alone. Find someone to quit with you. If you can't find that kind of support, promise to someone whom you love and respect that you will quit caffeine. Thus, consuming caffeine in any form will make you break your promise, and this will provide you with another incentive to stay on the wagon.
Increase your consumption of water. This is especially important during the first few days as your body is adjusting. Adding a little lemon to your water makes it taste better and lemon is also good for your body.
Reduce your intake gradually.
You can set a schedule for yourself, such as "3 cups a day in the first week; 2 cups a day in the second week; 1 cup a day in third week; and none in the fourth week." Start replacing your caffeinated beverages with the decaf versions. Consider switching slowly to water as a substitute.
Allocate your caffeine money in the beginning of the week, so that if you over-consume it in the beginning of the week, you will have nothing to fall back onto in the end of the week. If you allocate less and less caffeine money as you go on, you will gradually reduce your intake.
Set aside one day - possibly a Sunday - when you are not on the go for a detox day. Make sure on the day you have chosen to detox you have no pressing commitments or tasks.
Keep your "security blanket" close. You will need all the help you can get. Think in advance when your weakest moments are likely to be (i.e. in the morning, when you're driving by your favorite cafe, etc.) and turn to your "security blanket" to get you through these times. A security blanket is anything that comforts you and helps you take your mind off of caffeine, it could be a stuffed toy, a pocket video game, calling your best friend, doing a crossword puzzle. You can have as many security blankets as you need, just make sure you always have one close at hand.
Allow lots of time for rest and recuperation. Keep your calendar empty for at least the first three weeks after giving up caffeine and give your body all the rest and healthy fresh fruits and vegetables that you can.
Different people use different ways of quitting. What works for one person may not work for another. Try these steps in any order to see what works best for you.
Kicking it in one clear cut may work well for some, even with the symptoms. Feeling the headache and fatigue can actually demonstrate just what the caffeine is doing to your system. It does also give some an important sense of accomplishment - since some people may not notice the difference when giving it up gradually.
There is no question that the withdrawal is tough, it is very tough, but cold turkey is the best way to go. Start on a Thursday because the third and fourth days are the worst. You do not want to be at work while you are in the worst phase. The clarity you will sense when you are cleared out is unbelievable. You will feel like you had forgotten how lucid the human mind is. It is TOTALLY WORTH QUITTING!!!
DRINK LOTS OF WATER, LOTS AND LOTS OF WATER. Get yourself a replacement drink, it could be water, carbonated water, juice, decaf (note: decaf still contains some caffeine!) - just something to get when the urge for a cup sneaks in.
"Postum" is very similar to coffee, but without any caffeine. Try it. You might like it. Hot Carob is another good choice (somewhat like cocoa).
Ginseng root is a great herbal alternative to caffeine, and pills of it can be found at health food stores. It is a natural alternative for your energy needs! As with trying any new chemical, if you are pregnant or seeking to become pregnant, it is a good idea to consult your doctor first.
As an alternative to quitting gradually, you could just go cold turkey. This is harder, but often more effective. If doing this, increase your water intake drastically, it will often help reduce the headaches. The big problem with "cutting down" is that it makes you really look forward to your daily ration. A great mindset to be in when you're quitting something is to look upon it as a happy experience, not a painful one that you want to postpone for as long as possible.
Another thing to try: The first week, drink your coffee as you normally would. The second week, when you make your coffee, use 3/4 regular and 1/4 decaf. The third week, use 1/2 and 1/2. The fourth week, use 1/4 regular and 3/4 decaf. The fifth week, you're drinking decaf!
Use your strength to fight your weakness. One example is that if you are competitive, find someone just as competitive with you to compete with to see who can stay off of coffee the longest.
If you wish to reintroduce caffeine into your diet on a non-addicted basis limit yourself to one cup of tea or coffee every other day, preferably in the morning and no later than early afternoon. Caffeine addiction is often born out of habit, so therefore don't slip back into the habit of reaching for a tea, coffee or diet coke whenever you feel like it.
There is caffeine in lots of drinks, not just the dark ones like coffee and cola. Stay clear of energy drinks and be careful with tea. You should make a habit of checking out the ingredients of what you eat and drink so you don't sabotage your efforts.
Caffeine is now added to sodas that, in the past, had no caffeine, like root beer and orange. Barq's root beer has 22 mg. Sunkist orange has 41mg.
Chocolate and other cocoa derivatives contain caffeine. If you're serious about getting off of stimulants, you may consider quitting chocolate as well. Caffeine concentration is directly related to the darkness of the chocolate. For instance, a milk-chocolate bar will have much less caffeine than a dark chocolate bar.
With headaches being the most common (and severe) symptom, watch out for caffeine laced headache remedies, such as Excedrin. Interestingly, caffeine is an ingredient in many of the most frequently used prescription headache medications.
Decaffeinated coffee does contain a minimal level of caffeine. While it may serve as a stepping stone, do realize that continuing to consume decaffeinated coffee does not constitute quitting caffeine. If you enjoy hot drinks, look instead for no caffeine products such as herbal teas or even soups.