Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Caffeine wean FAIL

I got sick of the caffeine wean. At about 2 cups a day (down from say, 6 or 7), I was feeling half-dead all the time with no end in sight.

So I quit. Coffee, I mean. I quit coffee. Yes.

My Facebook status a few days later:
Once upon a time everyone woke up and all the coffee in the world had vanished. In the next week all companies went bankrupt except panadol and ibuprofen. Everybody got divorced or killed someone. Nobody blogged or did any study. Children took over the world and the remaining parents didn't care about that or anything else. The end.

Shall I summarise my mood in a single picture?

Awesome pic by The Programmer. Let's call it APOCALYPSE
In my sports nutrition textbook, they refer to caffeine as a 'mildly addictive substance'. They lie. I've done cold turkey caffeine withdrawal before and it always shocks me how hard it is! I went Googling to confirm that the vicious sciatica kicking my arse day and night is really a known symptom. It is.

In the process I found that I am not alone. Here and here are sites with hundreds of commenters telling their horror stories, and also reinforcing that life is better on the other side. I read a scientific article which stated that most of the 'ahhhh, woohooo!' factor of a strong coffee is just relief from withdrawal symptoms. That is, habitual coffee drinkers are pretty much always in withdrawal between coffees. Great.

I haven't had a really good break from caffeine since I was about 15 years old, so I'm going to give it a try! I'm aiming for eight weeks and am now on day 6. In two months I should be able to judge if life really is better, or if I really do need coffee to fix my naturally moody and cranky self. To summarise my path so far:

Day 1: Ok, headache in the evening, killed it with panadol.
Day 2: Couldn't wake  up, slept in, couldn't function, realised I had an assignment due in three days and resorted to mate tea to make my brain work. Raging hunger all day. Sciatica kicked in around 9pm.
Day 3: Barely any sleep due to sciatica. Woke up, took panadol went back to bed. Got up just before lunch and somehow finished my assignment (no work of genius, that's for sure). Again with the raging, persistent hunger. Crazy dreams and nightmares ( family dying, getting kidnapped and my cellphone wouldn't work, getting separated from The Programmer in a very dodgy place where, again, my cellphone wouldn't work.. what's with the cellphone nightmares? I love it as much as I love my family, The Programmer and coffee?)
Day 4: Intense sciatica, all freaking day. Resorted to panadol twice. Bitched at someone that didn't deserve it. Got on the scales and found I've gained a kg due to feeling starving all the time. Ultra moody. More weird dreams, lots of them.
Day 5: Sciatica receding to a dull ache but still there. Moments of clarity, but slipped into a jetlag-like state in the afternoon and fell asleep.

Day 6: TODAY.

I still had a little trouble prising my eyes open, and can faintly feel the sciatica, but instead of moaning and going back to sleep I decided to get up and shake it out with some Zumba. As our lounge is currently a construction zone (more about that in a future post), I did this workout in the office and it was just right.

Then I breakfasted on banana fritters with sheep's milk yogurt:

Ok, so it's more of a fritter mess than 'fritters' but the taste effect was worthy.

Then checked on the kids that I'm babysitting while their dad is moving house..

Yes, I am currently foster mum to about twenty gazillion cacti babies and a few grown ups. I will feel a whole lot better when the kitties get over their fascination with the new arrivals. I fear Mog may spike an eye.

Then, I did a bit of work, tried to send a few Sana orders without putting an address label on them (luckily, the courier noticed before they left the building), then the coffee jetlag hit again and I snoozed. I have never appreciated my flexi-schedule more.

Tonight I've got Mamasana coming for dinner. She's a winner. An actual winner, of an Up and Running course that Kek was giving away on her blog (and which I forgot to pimp on my blog, my bad). Tonight we are going to figure out the details of that and eat something substantial that will hopefully silence my caffeine deprived hungry stomach for more than 20 minutes. 

And now, I have to mention the elephant in the room. I know I've given up coffee before, and blogged about it with hope sparkling in my eyes, and those attempts did not stick. I am fully aware that this makes me look kind of hypocritical and like a pathetic, drug addicted weakling, but.. waddya gonna do?  You only fail if you stop trying, right?


  1. I went without coffee for about 2 months during my comp prep-then decided I wanted it once a week (still during my prep)...then towards the end of comp prep I was drinking it everyday again....because I was tired and hungry (my excuse and I'm stickin' to it!).

    I've recently started going half decaf with this awesome organic herbal coffee by plan is to eventually switch to full decaf. It's richer than tea, and nicer than any regular decaf I've had.

    I just enjoy that coffee in the morning...I did tea during that comp prep period...but it's just not the same.
    Have you tried mixing in decaf with your regular coffee? you never know!

    1. Thanks! I have tried that, but all that happened was I didn't get the buzz, but started getting withdrawal symptoms anyway, feeling just bleh all the time, so though I'd just go for it and get it over with. Or maybe that's just the way my extremist personality likes to roll.. I do have some dandelion coffee that works well in the machine though, and I don't mind it. I've tried teaccino too, but it only seems to come in little packets that don't last long and cost quite a lot.

  2. Well, from a fellow pathetic, drug addicted weakling, I admire your resolve. Not joining you any time soon....perhaps one day when my life is You know, when I can lie on the couch all day sulking, watching bad TV and demanding that someone bring me food, tea or whatever I desire.

    So yeah, probably, like, never.

    1. Yup, I don't know why I chose right now, except that I'm heading to uni early September and wanted to be over the fog by then. I want to see if my brain reaches nirvana or something. You know.. purify myself, haha.

  3. I gave up smoking on my first try, but can't kick the caffeine habit. Interesting links. Some people having withdrawls for months? wow.

    1. I know, that's what motivated me to stick with it. Apparently you can feel crappy for at least a month, then suddenly it's all puppies and rainbows..

  4. Dude, I feel your pain.... I am restarting my anti-Candida thing as a wedding is NOT the best time to give up alcohol, caffeine and sugar huh?

    I find dandelion/chicory blend is somewhat comforting. I love teaccino too, but it's way too pricey I reckon. Do you like carob? A hot carob with almond milk is quite quite delicious when you need that boost.

    I'm thinking of you!

    1. I'm quite liking the dandelion espresso. It makes me feel.... so very healthful or something. I have good associations when The Programmer and I were on a road trip and in Wanaka we stopped at a vegan place for lunch, and I had a dandelion coffee, in the sun, relaxed.

  5. You have inspired me. I am going to give giving up another try. I have some leave coming up and shall use it to suffer! I'm sure that I used to have more energy before I was such a caffeind. In a week your ears may burn as I'm cursing your name ;-/

    1. Don't hate me! I can't afford to lose commentors just because of coffee... let's not fall out over it!

  6. Anonymous2:34 am

    Thank you for posting this article. I went cold turkey from my 3-cup a day habit of very strong coffee. Day one - no headaches, but slept 1/2 the day, noticed some lower back pain. Day 2, no headache, but again slept 1/2 the day - same as you - by 8:00 p.m. HORRIBLE sciatica set in - could not sleep all night. Day 3 - hurting so bad, can't hardly move from the sciatica!! I'm going to hang in there. I took an Ultram and am hoping this will get me through the day!! I did not do anything to injure my back - so must be the caffeine withdrawal!!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I am SO glad I found your blog. I've suffered sciatica for 20 years, at times to the point where I crawled for an hour after awaking before I could try to stand. I finally found acupuncture, and have kept the sciatica to a dull roar. Two weeks back, I started dealing with a kidney infection; 5 days ago, stopped my 6-12 Diet Dews/day (my coffee) and switched to cranberry juice... In the last 3 days, I have had nasty sciatica down both legs (was only one leg or another in the past), can't sleep, can barely walk, no balance... But, as Anonymous before me said, I'm going to hang in there. I have long needed to get off caffeine; now that I'm into the fray, I don't want to have suffered the last 3 days for nothing. I found another page, discussing caffeine's effect on the adrenal glands and resulting sciatica due to weakened tissues surrounding the adrenal glands; haven't yet checked that further, but it made sense. Oh, this may or ot work for others, but I pulled on a pair of loose-waist sweats tonight - has helped, maybe by warming up tissues in withdrawal? (Waistbands of any sort trigger my sciatica, but my legs felt cold, and I am desperate to get a few hours' sleep.)

    1. Yup, this post was from a few years ago, but mid last year I decaff'd again and suffered just as badly. I managed three months that time, but now I'm back up to 2 a day :( This time I am weaning off quite successfully and should be decaf again in three weeks. I don't know why I keep going back to it as I feel really good without it. Just... habits, I guess. One thing I discovered last time was that a little hard exercise (say, skipping) even though it's the LAST thing I feel like doing, alleviates the pain for a few hours. You may be onto something with the adrenals there, because exercise would get them pumping.


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