Caffeine Withdrawal, and Some Alternatives

So, it’s been nearly a month since my last post, I decided to give myself a little break from writing because of the effects of kicking caffeine. The experience has been, overall, a net positive. I haven’t had a single random panic attack since quitting, and my general anxiety is a lot lower. But a lot of the experience has been, and continues to be, a challenge.

The roughest part was the withdrawal, which I think I’m still dealing with. Yes, caffeine withdrawal is real, and it’s not fun. The first week was the worst. I was basically a zombie, I was more tired than I ever remember being. My brain was in this heavy, thick fog. My creativity was zapped. Work felt 10x harder. And the whole time I was craving coffee. Real coffee. The decaf stuff just wasn’t cutting it for satisfying the cravings.

The next week was easier. The fog was still there, but the cravings were subsiding. Decaf coffee was filling my need for a morning beverage, finally. As the days went on, though, things got better. I had more energy. Work wasn’t such a slog, I had the motivation to practice my coding more, and I finally started writing in my journal again.

Finally, over the last week and a half, things started to come together. Not only was I not feeling as fatigued during the day, but my sleep improved. I wasn’t laying in bed for hours trying to sleep, I stopped waking up in the middle of the night. As I write this, I’m still having trouble in the mornings, but I think that will only get better with time.

I’ve learned a lot about myself these past few weeks, and about how much the caffeine was affecting my anxiety. I think this excess anxiety was impacting my sleep, which in turn led to me using caffeine to keep myself going throughout the day, and led to this vicious cycle of anxiety, sleeplessness, and caffeine all feeding into each other.

Finally, while decaf is a great option to scratch that coffee itch, I’ve found it’s not always an option if I’m at Starbucks or the local café. So, here are some alternatives I’ve found:

  • Matcha Green Tea Latte – My new favorite from Starbucks. It’s got a lot of calories, so it’s more of a special treat kind of thing, but getting it iced really satisfies those iced coffee cravings. It’s got some caffeine, but I find the caffeine in tea doesn’t bother me as much/at all, but your mileage may vary. You can also make your own, but I usually have to order the matcha powder online, so you may have to go that route if you don’t have local availability.
  • Chai Latte – Same caveats as the Matcha Green Tea Latte, but you can get it pretty much anywhere. Some places will also have a decaf variety as well. You can easily get the ingredients at the store. I’d suggest brewing your own chai tea rather than using the syrup, then mixing in milk and honey/sugar, so you can keep it low-cal.
  • Decaf Black Tea – If you’re not a crazy New Englander like me who enjoys iced coffee in the dead of winter, or you just want a hot beverage without the calories, a nice cup of decaf black tea with a little cream or milk, and a dab of honey, will do the trick.

I’m still going to keep looking, and trying new alternatives to see what’s out there. There’s a lot of weird hipster coffee alternatives that I’m probably going to steer clear of, but if I find anything else good, I’ll report back.

Have you kicked the caffeine habit? What are some other coffee alternatives you’d suggest?

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