Monday, January 10th 2022
It's 6am. I'm groggy. I hate mornings. I need some caffeine.
I need a quick fix. I make a Nespresso. It's good enough. I'll make a french press after this cup wakes me up.
I sit in my office chair and browse the Hacker News homepage, check out /newest, and then I check Reddit.
I already feel jittery, but I ignore it. Like every other day.
It's 6:30am. I finish my cup. I'm not awake. I get up to prepare my french press. The good stuff. Black gold.
(At this point, coffee doesn't give me energy. It just makes me feel normal.)
I grind my own beans. They're shipped to my door, freshly roasted, every couple weeks.
I put the water on the kettle and get the press ready. A quiet sound grows into a loud whistle. My addiction's almost ready.
I dump the coffee grounds into the press, pour in the boiling water, and put the lid on. I throw a towel over it.
Over the years, I learned that a towel keeps the coffee hot for longer. It's a nice trick, because it means I can make more.
Five more minutes.
I like my morning routine. It's been this way — more or less — for the past 10–15 years. It's how I start my day.
It's 8am and I lift up my hands from my keyboard and hold them in front of my monitor. They're visibly shaking. I don't remember them shaking so early in the morning.
My heart skips a beat. It's been happening more frequently, so I look it up and they're apparently called "palpitations." I ignore it.
It's 9am. I'm anxious. Nothing out of the norm, though. I lift up my hands again and I see more of the same. My heart has skipped a handful of beats this morning. One made me jump.
But it didn't stop me from pouring another cup. Keep em' coming.
I worked at a coffee shop in my early twenties. I drank it until sunrise to sunset. I could do this all day. But I'm in my thirties now, and caffeine just hits different.
It's 1pm. I finish lunch with my family. I'm about to head back to the office, but my coffee's gone to nil.
I contemplate brewing more.
I usually make a decaf Nespresso. But I have a lot to do today, and I'm tired. Instead, I opt for another caffeinated hit.
My 2 year old daughter helps me work the Nespresso. I love that she loves helping me make coffee.
I see that I'm running low on Nespresso pods. I make a reminder to order some tonight.
It's 3pm. I look down at my keyboard. I can see my fingers lightly tapping my keys, uncontrollably. I probably overdid it today.
I'm feeling anxious. A bit more than before. I get up for a glass of water.
When I stand up, my heart skips another beat. Weird. This is getting annoying, I think to myself.
It's 9pm. I finish putting my daughter to bed and lay down on the couch to watch TV with my wife. I feel weird. Still anxious.
My heart skips a few beats, rapidly. It makes me more anxious. It's been making me more anxious.
Pretty soon I feel like I'm having an anxiety attack, but I've never had one before so I can't really be sure.
I calm down after 10 or 50 minutes. I don't know — I wasn't keeping time. I was trying to calm down.
I think, "is this worth it?"
A few days pass.
I was at my wife's prenatal appointment and they were discussing decaf coffee and some coffee alternatives. I've never liked coffee alternatives, and I don't really like tea.
I like my coffee strong and black, and alternatives are never strong enough, or worse, they require heretical "cream" to taste good.
But I ask our midwife a few questions. She's also a nutritionist. I've told her about my heart palpitations in the past, which we attributed to caffeine and stress, so she asked if those are still happening.
I listen to her recommendations, as I sip on my extra-shot latte.
It's 9pm. I finish the bedtime routine and sit on the couch. I sip on Lagavulin 16 while reading "Dark Matter." I've had a few jumps tonight, but nothing out of the norm. I had a busy day, lots of caffeine.
My mind wanders.
I forgot to order coffee a few days ago. I should do that.
I sit at my Amazon cart's checkout screen, still anxiously pondering "is this worth it?" I close the app.
I decide to order one of our midwife's recommendations instead. It's made with mushrooms and roots and has "adaptogens." Who knows what that means, but I go all in with the sampler kit.
A week passes.
I got my coffee alternative shipment in the mail last night.
It's 6am. I brew my first tasting. I use a french press, as recommended. I throw a towel over it and let it steep for 15 minutes.
I pour my first cup. It's not bad. It doesn't taste like coffee, but it's strong and I kind of like it. Maybe it'll grow on me.
It's 9am. I finish off the french press. I lift up my hands and notice they're not shaking. But my head hurts.
I decide to press through the pain. In a moment, my love for coffee turned into hatred. It was no longer worth hurting myself.
I head to the kitchen and grab a big glass of water. I sit at my desk to try and get some work done.
It's 1pm. Lunch is over and instead of making a decaf coffee, I decide to make another batch of the new stuff.
"More coffee, daddy?"
I do this for days. I think it's called cold-turkey.
A couple days pass.
It's 6pm. I sit over a sandwich and soup from Panera as I try to get through a migraine. They've been happening a lot lately, but this one is the worst. I feel nauseous.
I put some Wintergreen essential oil on my temples to help with the headache and I go to lay down.
I ponder the inverse, "is this worth it?"
A couple weeks pass.
(It took about this long for the caffeine withdrawal symptoms to completely ease up.)
It's 6am. I do my morning routine. Not much has changed. But by midday, I feel less anxious and I'm not jittery anymore. And better yet, the caffeine-induced heart palpitations are completely gone.
I sit in my office chair and browse the Hacker News homepage, check out /newest, and I see my post. I'd upvote it, but I can't.
I feel good. I don't really mind mornings now.
It's been 4 months since I quit caffeine cold-turkey. I was addicted for 15 years. It helped me get through a lot — from late nights in the office to early mornings with newborns. But now, at what cost?
Quitting was incredibly challenging. I won't pretend it was easy. I've never had worse headaches in my life. And I'm sure I was not a joy to be around during that time.
But it was worth it.
I've tried having an occasional cup of coffee and it always results in the same symptoms. Like clockwork. Any caffeine does. I guess my body is saying "stop." And I need to listen.
I do still have a cup of decaf a few times a month, because sometimes it's just easier to do a pod than a french press.
But even having more than one cup of decaf brings on the shakes and skipped beats. The caffeine microdosing adds up, I guess.
I still have my morning routine. It takes a bit longer (I let my Rasa steep for about 30 minutes before drinking it, to make it extra strong), but it's still the same, just different.
I actually now prefer it over coffee. I never thought I'd ever say something like that, but here we are.
Sometimes I wake up and forget my ritual, without later repercussions. Before, coffee was always the first thing on my mind.
Overall, I can't express how much cutting caffeine has improved my wellbeing. If you need to chat, my mailbox is open.