Have you ever felt like a dizzy zombie in the morning unless you got a sip of a hot cup of good coffee? That was me a week ago and I felt like that for the past 10+ years.
How I Got Addicted To Drinking Coffee
I don’t even remember the first time I have decided to drink coffee every day.
Certainly, my addiction started during university when I had trouble studying for exams in less than 2 days. I knew if I won’t use any performance-enhancing substances, I won’t be able to learn the subject in time.
As a twenty-something adult, I already had some experience with energy drinks. During the time I visited various music festivals, energy drinks were less of the evil and a necessity if I wanted to dance till the morning.
There was a catch though. Energy drinks were expensive, and I didn’t have a regular income. At that time, Red Bull cost 2 USD. I could barely afford the tickets, not to mention the drinks.
I had financial troubles with coffee as well. Paying 2 USD in a restaurant or 3 USD in Starbucks was far above my zero pay grade.
So being poor kept me from building a habit of drinking coffee or energy drinks outside.
Everything changed when I faced exams. After failing the first year of the bachelor program, because I could not keep up with the required studying pace, my survival instinct kicked at the beginning of the second year and I had to quickly come up with a solution.
I had to make it work for the next 5-6 years of my university life. So I decided to improve my mental capability by drinking coffee whenever I had a study session, both at the university and at home.
But first I had to reduce coffee spending by buying low-quality instant coffee jars in grocery stores and prepare it at home.
So whenever I had an exam coming, I had enough coffee supply to keep me going. And whenever I needed to be awake for the morning class, I drank one cup before going out. Otherwise, I felt dizzy and brain fogged.
I knew deep inside, that I might get addicted to caffeine. But the feeling of being awake and alerted was too tempting.
Include a cheap garbage instant coffee from university coffee machines into the mix, and I have grown a habit of drinking two cups a day.
Who would refuse a dose of instant energy for 0.5 USD? Exactly.
At least, I tried to skip the consumption on weekends. So in my mind, I was not an addict yet, If I can skip some days.
Then it got worse when I started my first consulting job. The working environment was so performance-driven, it was a norm to heavily abuse performance-enhancing drugs or drink three or more cups of coffee a day.
And to keep pace with others and to be awake in front of the clients, I had to play the same game.
It worked fine for the first year, but it was not sustainable. My body deteriorated with time, and it started to give me subtle signals, that should change my lifestyle.
Of course, I was oblivious and blamed my intense consulting job for being tired all the time. Every week, I had to spend the whole weekend sleeping, so my body recovers from sleep deprivation and my mind recharges for a new work week.
My family and friends can testify, that I have become a zombie on weekends. Inevitably, my relationships and personal life suffered as a result.
And to sustain my relationship, I started to drink coffee on weekends as well.
The vicious circle was completed and I became a full-time coffee addict. What is worse, there were much worse side effects than being a zombie and I was not even aware of them.
All of them affecting my natural personality traits. If I previously blamed quitting cigarettes for lack of my swag, now, after three years since the day I quit, I had no other excuse.
My personality is mostly influenced by the level of dopamine and how much sunlight I get each day.
If I get enough of both, I am content and outgoing. Otherwise, I become the most anti-social person you would ever know.
Till I quit drinking coffee, my dark side was dominating 90% of the time. And the only way to come out of my shell was to drink a cup of coffee and force myself to be extroverted.
Caffeine helped for a brief moment. Therefore I drank one cup after lunch at work or before a date. But then my mind and my personality completely shut down for the rest of the day.
That is why I avoided social gatherings in the evenings. Like whenever my ex tried to lure me into visiting her friends, I would politely apologize thinking the whole time about sleep and being in solitude.
My brain was already washed up two times throughout the day and I could not bear any mental overload the third time in the row.
And when the social interaction was unavoidable? I felt awkward.
The mix of nervousness, constant alertness and tiredness caused unnecessary tension and as a result, I was not the best companion.
In recent years, this mental condition became my new normal. Five minutes later after the caffeine shot and I felt down again, having an uptick in my right eye.
I did not realize that coffee is the cause of my anxiety. That it prevents me from being in the moment, from being calm and collected. A state of mind I achieved only after an hour of deep meditation.
And so when I saw youtube videos popping up in my feed, talking about quitting coffee, I took a shot and binge-watched 3-5 of them in one sitting.
Then something clicked inside me. I knew what I had to do, I had to stop drinking coffee.
And so I did.
Going cold turkey worked for me before, so the next day, Instead of preparing a cup of coffee, I skipped my morning routine and only took a glass of water.
The lack of motivation afterward was enormous. My brain was trying to deal with a lack of sugar, a lack of caffeine. It could barely cope with a sudden change. My focus was nonexistent.
And what happens when the brain cannot reach the optimal state? It shuts all cognitive functions down.
Its most important task was to always take care of your basic needs. Like hunting your food down. If the brain was fogged, if there was muscle weakness, there was a high probability that you would die in a fight.
Biology and evolution made sure that it won’t happen anymore. And so the brain gave the signal, that it is time to cool down, rest, lay down in a cave, and wait for symptoms to pass.
I listened to my body and dumbed down any activity requiring swift thinking, creativity, or performance. I have accepted my natural mental and physical limits and maintained my homeostasis.
I avoided working overtime, I stopped being try-hard.
What were the results?
After two weeks of abstinence, fatigue spikes after lunch and after 4 pm disappeared.
My morning performance suffered the most. If I had to take action and get things done, I got tired quickly after one or two hours of continuous focus.
Interestingly, the mood and drive got better throughout the day, peaking sometime after dinner. That is if I don’t have any physical activity outside.
Now, working 9-5 in an office is a different kind of story. Without coffee, I am sure I am more of a zombie by the end of the day.
My brain does not clock the same performance as before. And I get distracted very easily.
It might have to do something with ADHD. Even though I didn’t go through any clinical tests, I am pretty sure I suffer from ADHD. And the only reason why it has not been a major issue throughout my childhood was racism and the school system.
Both suppressed my natural drive and energy. I was dying inside, having to sit quietly in the class every day. Having to memorize the theory I didn’t care for. Having to interact with other stupid kids.
If I showed my true self, I would get into trouble very soon. And in the best case, I would be dispelled from the school. Like it almost happened in the third year of grammar school.
My grades were so bad, my parents had to pay a lot of money for extra tutoring. And at that time, we were so poor we could become homeless any day.
Nevertheless, they invested whatever they had into my education and I felt guilty for failing them. The guilt and coffee helped me to find my inner peace, sit through the exams, and finish my education no matter what.
Sometimes I ask myself how would I ended up having a different childhood. The answer would vary depending on the environment.
If I was surrounded by good and ambitious people, I could have a big headstart. Or I could end up like a drug addict and alcoholic.
My point being, people who have ADHD can benefit from drinking coffee if they choose to live an ordinary life scripted by society. Study hard, work hard, live normally, and be at the mercy of the government, financial markets, and sharks.
Coffee can dumb down your ADHD symptoms and make you a focused docile person, as it did to me.
So that was the story of my life. Now let’s look at quitting coffee from different angles so you get a better idea of what you are getting into.
Quitting Coffee And Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the worst side effects no one talks about. Had I know it before, I would never start drinking coffee in the first place.
The coffee business is huge and profitable. Therefore media won’t mention a word about anxiety and how it affects your social life. Otherwise, you would see headlines such as “how coffee turns you into an awkward anti-social creep”. Doesn’t sound cool right?
Being alert is fine if you are after a caffeine kick in the morning, trying to fight with piles of tasks. But the cost is high.
A few hours later, the fatigue creeps in. You feel tired, while at the same time still alerted. You become oversensitive.
In other words, you become nervous and anxious during social interactions.
I am a living example. After the 9-5 job, I was tired, sleepy, but still alerted.
And every time I had to interact with other people, I got a tick in my left eye. Each second was awkward and tensed.
I was not able to relax and enjoy the company of others. I just wanted to go home and sleep.
That might be the cause of my failed dating life shortly after the thirties. I drank coffee to be more confident and energetic, but it was counterproductive. The awkwardness killed the vibe and I was not aware of it.
So after quitting, I still feel nervous from time to time, but I can relax by doing proper breathing exercises. And whenever I feel anxious again, I know it is because I am really excited about something. And not because of the side effects.
How To Quit Coffee Without Headache & Brain Fog
Headache and brain fog are the most annoying symptoms, that you get after withdrawing a substance, that your body is addicted to. The intensity might not be as high as when quitting smoking, but it can ruin the day.
Your brain was used to get regular doses of caffeine. And without it, it sends the signal, that something is wrong.
If coffee helped you with clarity before, then after quitting, you will feel dizziness and overall despise.
To alleviate the headache in the first days after quitting coffee, what helped me the most, was to not force myself to do the things, that I did after a morning cup of coffee.
If my previous morning routine included preparing a cup of coffee with milk and honey, taking a sip, sitting down, and write 300 words on my computer. It was not possible anymore.
At least not in the beginning.
I had to take a break and replace the routine with some other activity, maybe an anaerobic exercise. And I had to drink a lot of water.
After sleep, a glass of water helped me to rehydrate my body and stay awake. And while my mental power was still in sleep mode, I started my workout by doing anaerobic exercises. Once my body got used to regular breathing, my brain got enough oxygen to overcome the headache.
Try this at your home and you will be surprised.
A week or so later, I could return to my old routine. Two months later, my morning mental power climbed to 80% of the caffeine enhanced capacity.
It never really recovered but was definitely more sustainable without the help of any performance-enhancing substances.
Quitting Coffee And Productivity
Productivity is a combined result of motivation and execution. And you need both to be truly productive.
You could be motivated, but if you don’t take action, you essentially procrastinate. And vice versa, you could take action, but if you are not motivated, you tend to give up sooner or later.
How is then coffee related to productivity?
It boosts morale by giving you a sugar and energy spike. And it pushes you into taking action by being the first thing in the morning you do before the start of the day.
Quite often, I could not do a thing unless I got myself a cup of coffee. I would literally stare at my computer for an hour until I got a sip. Only then my brain began to function like a well-oiled machine. The habit was that strong.
After quitting coffee, my productivity suffered a lot.
It was not that easy to get into the zone anymore. Most of the time, I have to be passionate to keep grinding. Otherwise, I would need a mental break in the form of physical exercise, or a walk, if I wanted to recover from mental fatigue.
The good news is, I rarely ever burnout anymore. And if I do, it is because I switch from a highly logical abstract thinking task to talking and writing.
In that case, a short 15 minutes nap through the day can restart my brain better than a third cup of espresso ever did.
So in the end, I am productive the whole day. But because I switch between tasks and rest time more often, I feel less productive than before.
It is a fallacy though, working hard for 4 hours non-stop and then shut down completely for the rest of the day is not sustainable in the long term if you count for the time off.
Quitting Coffee And Lack Of Motivation
Motivation is enforced by getting things done. Which is achieved by taking action. Which can be easily triggered by drinking a cup of coffee.
Without the initial caffeine/sugar hike, you will have a hard time putting things into motion. Which can lead to depression from not getting things done.
A vicious circle that is hard to get out of.
I had the same experience after I quit smoking. My success relied on the initial dopamine kick.
And when I went through the withdrawal phase, I blamed my lack of motivation for not being successful. But actually, I was motivated a lot, but I was missing that initial kick that pushed me into taking action.
How I became motivated again? All it took was taking the first baby step and then keep grinding. After a few weeks, it became a habit.
So instead of waiting for being motivated enough, I just start doing without much thinking.
Quitting Coffee And Depression
Since we talked about motivation, what about depression? Can quitting coffee cause depression?
Yes, it can, I went through a mini depression period myself after quitting.
Generally speaking, it may not be the best idea to quit if a person goes through a severe depression episode not related to caffeine.
Quitting may worsen the current condition due to the increased oxygen flow and a sudden shut down of dopamine and serotonin receptors.
The brain then needs time to rewire itself and adapt.
On a positive note, quitting can adversely help with depression in the long term. Because the body won’t be subjected to regular dopamine spikes and withdrawals.
Therefore, your mood won’t go up and down, it will stay stable the whole time.
Quitting Coffee And More Energy
Yes, you read it right. You will have much more energy if you quit drinking coffee!
If one cup of coffee gets you a quick burst of energy instantly. After around 2 hours of focused action, you will burn out and quickly get tired and sleepy.
To keep working at the same pace, you have to drink another cup of coffee. This cycle repeats until you decide that enough is enough.
By the time it’s evening your body may appear to be awake. But your brain will think otherwise. It will be ready to shut down at any minute.
So what energy we are talking about? About mental energy!
Besides the time, it is one of the most precious assets everyone has. If our brain is functioning well, we can do wonders.
And now imagine that your brain can work at 80% of the peak capacity through the day with just a single 5-10 minute short nap.
Does it sound better than overworking at 120% of the brain capacity for 2 hours straight and then dwelling at 40% of the mental capacity for the rest of the day?
Which case do you think is more sustainable?
Maybe you think drinking coffee would allow you to finish an incredible amount of work in the short term. Yes, but after hustling nonstop for a week or two, your body will cry for a week-long recovery period during which you won’t be able to do a thing.
I know the best. I always spent my weekends laying in bed, compensating for sleep deprivation after an intense work-week.
Since quitting, with a little help short naps, and regular workouts, I can be productive 7 days a week. Now I am much happier because I don’t waste a single day on recovery.
Quitting Coffee And Looking Younger
On the surface, there might be a subtle difference in appearance once you quit drinking coffee. My theory is that coffee dehydrates the skin, causing strains, and wrinkles.
Count in the stress, sleep deprivation and I definitely looked ten years older than I should be.
Now even after removing the stress and fixing my sleep regime, my skin was still dry and wrinkled. And I didn’t know why. I still kept a habit of drinking coffee every day.
But something changed this summer. I started running every week and at the same time, I stopped drinking coffee. And since then, my skin has improved a lot.
Without coffee, my skin was well hydrated and oxidated from anaerobic exercises. Include a constant caloric deficit from long-distance running and you get the recipe to become ageless.
I suddenly looked younger by stop looking older, if you know what I mean. I just looked healthy, that’s all.
Even now, most people would guess I am 25-30 years old. The only true sign of my age is balding.
So that my experience and the main reason why you might consider quitting coffee too.
Quitting Coffee & Constipation & Digestion
As a lactate intolerant person, I had always trouble with drinking coffee and its consequences, especially getting diarrhea after drinking. However, if I skipped a day, I reversely faced serious constipation.
Coffee dehydrates the body and a short withdrawal adversely made it worse. Everything went back to normal once I resumed drinking.
So to avoid going into detail. Quitting cold turkey may cause mild constipation in the short-term, but once a withdrawal period is over, everything goes back to normal.
As for digestion, caffeine increases stomach acid, so drinking coffee is not beneficial. Quite the opposite. If your stomach is sensitive, coffee may cause discomfort by aggravating your stomach acid levels.
Most people mistakenly drink coffee after a heavy meal, thinking it improves digestion. Waiters who are aware of it will try to cross-sell you a cup of coffee after a meal as a finisher.
Don’t buy it. It’s a myth. People actually don’t drink coffee because of its digestion benefits, but because it helps them to stay awake after a heavy lunch.
Many times, a host offered me a cup after lunch when I was on a visit. I had to politely refuse because I planned to take a nap.
Should You Quit Coffee For A Week, 30 Days Or Cold Turkey?
Like any other addiction, quitting temporarily does not solve the problem in the long term. The longer you drink coffee, the longer it takes to get out of the loop.
There were weekly periods when I didn’t drink coffee for a week, due to various reasons, like traveling or being sick. And I didn’t even notice the side effects because I was overwhelmed by the sickness.
After a week, as I got better, my withdrawal OCD kicked in. And because drinking coffee was a 10 years daily nurtured habit, my need for caffeine came back again.
So if I ever set a goal to quit for a week, in my mind, I would set myself for failure on purpose.
I might have stopped drinking for a week, but on Monday next week, because the need for caffeine didn’t go away and I suffered withdrawal chills, I would give up.
My reasoning would be, why even continue with this torture, when coffee is not that unhealthy, have many benefits, costing so little, and makes me more confident? Let’s stop this nonsense.
What about quitting for a month?
A month is a period long enough to have a long-term impact. It might work but more probably, it might not. As with any other deadline restricted goals, It suffers the same fallacy.
A deadline is a safety net, that brain holds onto. When the deadline is over, it is so easy to slip back into an old habit.
And because you have managed to quit drinking coffee for 30 days already, you can always do the same anytime in the future.
Why stop now, why not enjoy drinking coffee a little longer. And maybe in 5 years, after several promotions, when life gets less stressful, you slow down and drop coffee indefinitely?
I repeated the same question whenever I got ticks in my right eye from drinking coffee. And each time, I shrugged my shoulders and kept drinking.
So the only ultimate solution is to quit cold turkey.
Quitting gradually won’t work. Survive initial pain and depression. It is the only way how to live a life without any performance-enhancing substances.
Cannot Sleep After Quitting Coffee
If you have trouble sleeping after quitting coffee, you are not alone. It is one of the long-term side effects, that comes with drinking coffee for years.
Intuitively, quitting coffee should eradicate all sleep troubles. Because your body will call for rest naturally. So the only logical explanation is that you have built a habit of staying up late.
I know it best.
Because I am a night owl, and I like to work at night, I often drank coffee at the end of the 9-5 shift whenever I had to quickly finish something urgent.
I went the extra mile and told myself, that my effort will be rewarded and my hard work noticed by the company. So I sacrificed my health and drank a cup of coffee.
I was foolish. Instead of being rewarded, everyone took my willingness to work overtime for granted and just gave me more work.
So through the years I repeatedly went to bed past midnight because caffeine kept me awake. I couldn’t sleep early and therefore built a bad habit. Doctors would say I got Insomnia.
So after quitting coffee, I had trouble sleeping early even though my body called for it. My brain was not ready yet, so I stayed awake until I passed away from extreme fatigue.
Fortunately, without caffeine, my biorhythm went back to normal, and I could not stay past midnight every day anymore.
No more laying in bed counting sheep. Now I will snooze 15 minutes after closing my eyes. Yes, there are a few occasions when I am overthinking and cannot shut my brain down. Luckily it is not happening every day.
Quitting Coffee & Vivid Dreams
Another side effect connected to drinking coffee, which is also not covered by media, is the lack of vivid dreams. The reason behind is burning out at the end of the day when your brain is so exhausted, it just shut down, after closing your eyes.
I was never aware of it before. The more coffee I drank the fewer dreams I had. And when I had them, they were only short hazy snippets.
After quitting everything changed. I suddenly experienced colorful detailed vivid dreams. If I was previously an inactive person behind the scenes, watching black and white clips on a tiny television. Now I became a director influencing the choices and events within the dream and experiencing all six senses.
As time went by, I noticed a correlation between the frequency of vivid dreams, and the degree of exhaustion before I went to sleep.
When I stayed awake after midnight, my dreams were suppressed the same way as if I drank coffee. But when I went to bed early with no alarm set for the next morning, I woke up energized by a cinematic dream reflecting my latest whereabouts.
For example last night, I had a weird dream. I was a visiting guest in Downton Abbey (TV Series). And because I was not a noble among other nobles, they treated me like a peasant.
I somehow managed to record all dialogues on my phone. Then I magically created a funny video montage compiling the best moments showing nobles saying stupid things and apologizing for their behavior later on. While making fun of them by exaggerated acting.
I uploaded the video to Youtube and played it on TV in the living room, curious if it gets any traction. I felt regret and wanted to close the video player, so no one can see the video while I am still in Downton Abbey.
But the video got viral and statistics got through the roof. Six hundred views in the last hour and a lot of comments saying the comedy style is so weird they had to watch it all.
So I let the video play till the end not noticing, that some nobles passed by TV, shocked to see themselves in a parody. By that time, the video got so famous I didn’t care anymore about their reactions.
Quitting Coffee & Acne
Most people think that acne is just a sign of puberty and it will go away after mid-twenties. This cannot be further from the truth.
Acne is a symptom of long-term stress, a hormonal imbalance, underdeveloped hygiene, bad food, or its combination. Most of which is tied to bad habits and unhealthy lifestyle choices.
And how is Acne related to drinking or quitting coffee?
From my experience, I had bad acne the whole time I drank coffee. After reaching my thirties, I could not pinpoint the reason why I still suffered from mild acne from time to time.
When puberty was out of the question. When the food I was eating was as clean as any vegan diet. When there was no sleep deprivation thanks to working from home. The only thing left was the habit of drinking coffee every day.
As we already discussed, caffeine causes anxiety, and anxiety causes artificial stress, which then causes acne. So I was voluntarily and unconsciously putting myself into stressful conditions, not seeing the whole picture.
Now since I try to avoid bad food, sugary meals, and stress altogether, my skin has never been in a better condition.
Quitting Coffee & Losing Weight
Coffee is often mentioned in weight loss magazines praising its benefits. It allegedly helps you burn more calories and reduce belly fat.
Therefore caffeine is a very popular ingredient present in many fitness supplements such as fat burners, or pre-workout drinks. All promising you the impossible.
But there is no scientific evidence that it is the case.
Two ways come to my mind where coffee might help you lose weight to a certain extent, indirectly.
For one, drinking coffee can suppress hunger. I can go a long way in the morning before the hunger kicks in. And If I was in hurry, I always opted for a cup of coffee instead of buying a baguette.
So in that sense, I eat less because coffee kept me functioning without any additional caloric intake. The negative side effect was the overeating habit I created later on.
My body needed calories anyhow so whenever I skipped my lunch, I binge-eat in the evening. Taking on a bag of chips or chocolate on top of the dinner.
Not only my daily caloric intake surpassed the required amount by 30%+, but I also stuffed myself with trash calories, cheap carbs, and enlarged my stomach by regular over-eating.
The next situation, that helped me with weight loss is drinking one cup of coffee before the workout.
The extra energy and sugar prompted me to use maximum effort during each exercise. So yes, I might slightly burn more calories compared to caffeine-less workouts. If I only took a banana before, I felt sleepy and trained half-heartedly.
As you can see, coffee did not affect weight loss directly. It just helped me mentally to eat less and move more. That’s it.
After quitting it’s a different story. Without the mental boost, I have to eat more frequently so I don’t faint from lack of sugar. And I tend to give less effort into each exercise.
So If I kept the same lifestyle, I would gain more weight instead.
To battle with weight gain, I had to remove sugary snacks from my diet and replace it with an apple. I also try to breathe more properly to be more awake and present during workouts.
And of course, I try to rest more frequently to reduce the hunger from mentally exhaustive tasks.
Those of you who jumped on the keto coffee bandwagon don’t worry. You might still enjoy your keto diet with a morning cup of low-carb high-fat drink. Just use decaf and you are good to go.
I just think, that without the energy boost from caffeine, there is a huge probability of gaining more weight.
Does Quitting Coffee Affect Hair Regrowth?
As a level 3 balding man, I can tell you first hand it is not the case. Hairs grow at the same speed as before.
The difference is less hair loss due to lower stress and anxiety.
If I lost a visible amount of hair after showering, it is because of the stress and anxiety caused by drinking coffee. Now since I try to be stress-free, I don’t lose more hair than usual. Simply because I care about my mental health.
But after a prolonged period of stress at my 9-5 job, having to deal with tight deadlines, I started to lose even during the day. And I don’t think my hair regrew fast enough to replace the lost ones.
Quitting Coffee Before & After Effects
As a summary, let’s go through the side effects of quitting the coffee.
- You might felt anxious before. You will feel confident and stable after.
- You might felt sleepy during the day before. You will feel awake through the day after.
- You might felt motivated before. You will feel demotivated in the short term shortly after quitting.
- You might felt a slight headache in the morning before drinking. You will feel heavy headaches during the withdrawal period.
- You might felt depressed before. You won’t be depressed anymore after a withdrawal period.
- You might lack dreams before. You will have colorful and frequent vivid dreams after a withdrawal period.
- You might have had serious constipation before. You will have short term mild constipation after.
- You might have had serious acne before. You won’t have any acne after if you avoid stressful situations.
- You might have used coffee powder as a mask for glowing skin. You will still be able to use coffee as a mask after quitting.
So to summarize my experience with quitting coffee and its health benefits.
Quitting coffee changed my life significantly for the better. I am no longer addicted to caffeine. I am awake, less anxious, and more stable.
I am no longer the workaholic I used to be. And I look out after myself more. All in all, I feel better and happier after quitting coffee.
Health and mental clarity are crucial as you age and lack of it is the reason why I was stuck in my life.