I was raised the daughter of a serial coffee drinker. My dad constantly had a pot of coffee going in the kitchen, even in the evenings. As a man working 60+ hours a week at a corporate job and running a newspaper route in the wee hours of the morning before heading off to the office to make ends meet, he was in serious need of some caffeine. My dad was (and still is) not a fan of Starbucks (or Starburns as he refers to them). He takes his coffee black with a splash of french vanilla creamer, hold the fancy syrups and whipped cream, thank you very much.
As a result of many years of observing the magical energizing effects of the coffee bean, I dabbled in coffee tasting in my youth. It never became a habit, even when I was a teen with pocket money to spend from my waitressing jobs. Coffee was a treat reserved for those days when I had spent 7 hours at school, 6-8 hours at work, 1-2 hours at church, and then a few hours of studying for Advanced Placement classes and caught a cat-nap before the alarm sounded and the cycle started anew.
Sure, my friends and I would occasionally grab a mocha-java-cookie crumble-cinnamon swirl frappachino before heading to school at 6:45 am for 0-period class, but the amount of coffee in those glorified milkshakes was negligible. Even through college, Montessori teacher training, and work, coffee was only a passing flirtation that gave me the boost I needed when I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
And then I became a mother.
With the birth of each child I stepped up my caffeine intake a bit as soon as they weaned. By the time my 3rd baby had weaned at 18 months, I was a full blown coffee addict. If I didn’t get some coffee in me within an hour of waking in the morning (usually around 6 am because my children have always been early risers) I would suffer headaches, irritability, and severe exhaustion. My passing flirtation with coffee had become a full blown love affair, and I was totally ok with it.
“Adults are supposed to drink coffee. I’m a mother of 3 small children. I have the RIGHT to drink coffee and enjoy it!” I would console myself as I poured another glass of coffee over ice with a splash of milk and sugar. Coffee was the one thing I didn’t have to share with 3 little humans who want whatever I had, using 6 little puppy-dog eyes to peer into the depths of my soul in their quest for “just one bite” or “just a little sip.” Coffee was mine and mine alone, and I liked it that way.
As time progressed, that one glass of iced coffee a day turned from an 8 oz standard glass to a 24 oz addiction with the occasional need for an additional hit in the afternoon when my energy and patience began to wane. I would write off the occurrence of jitters, headaches, and “coffee-stomach” as small nuisances, firmly entrenched in my addiction.
Every 6 months or so, I would have a sudden surge of will power and stop drinking coffee. After a day or two of withdrawal headaches, exhaustion, and in one case, as severe sinus infection, I would always jump back on the coffee cart full force. I resigned myself to be a habitual coffee drinker and went about my life.
About 2 months ago, my body began to send signals that I was running on caffeine overload. Headaches were becoming more common, coffee-stomach was almost inevitable, half way through my coffee I was jittery and anxious instead of energized, and no matter how much coffee I drank, I was still tired most of the time. I decided enough was enough, and said good bye cold turkey (cold tofurky?).
In order to minimize the side effects of withdrawal, I decided to up my water intake from about 2 liters a day to 4 liters (basically 1 gallon a day). And wouldn’t you know, in addition to feeling more hydrated, I had no caffeine withdrawal symptoms! The first day or two off of coffee I experienced some minor fatigue (and about a dozen trips to the bathroom as my bladder adjusted), but I had no headaches from the caffeine withdrawal. By day 3, I felt more energetic from my first liter of water than I ever had from coffee, with no jitters or sour stomach as a trade off. Even during the afternoon hours when I was normally tempted to reach for another coffee jolt, I found that a snack of fruit with another big glass of water was more effective at balancing my energy. I was really enjoying my newfound freedom from caffeine.
About 3 weeks later, after a night of awful sleep truncated by consoling a child with nightmares, I decided to bench the water and bring coffee back up to bat. Half way through my Venti Iced Unsweetened Coffee with Soy Milk, I felt awful! Yes, I felt less tired, but I also felt shaky, my stomach was upset, and my heart felt like it was going to leap out of my chest. Husband was at home getting ready to leave for the day and I kept telling him “I don’t like this. I don’t like how this feels.”
Needless to say, I have no strong desire to try adding the occasional coffee back into my morning routine. While I expected to experience a painful withdrawal from my caffeine dependency, the only side effects I experienced were positive due to the increased water intake. My skin feels softer, I rarely get headaches now, and my digestion even runs a little more smoothly. While I am under no false pretense that everyone has the same desire I had to get off of coffee, I hope my experience inspires someone to increase their water and decrease their caffeine intake.
So next time we meet at for a coffee date at Starbucks, make mine a Venti H2O, hold the ice, thanks.