Wednesday, December 26, 2007

How to Quit the Caffeine Habit

Many of us like our Starbucks. Or Peet's. Or the corner drive thru coffee shop. Heck, even Dunkin' Donuts. It really doesn't matter; many of us are addicted to caffeine. I'll tell you how I kicked the habit.

It's really like anything else. You have to decide to do it, then just do it. It's difficult. The headaches are brutal. The lethargy is dreadful. The disconnection from our "drinking buddies" is hard to take.

There are at least two dependencies going on, one physical and one mental. The physical and mental reinforce one another.

"My head hurts. Get a coffee."
"I miss my friends. Get a latte."
"I need my energy boost. Get a crappachino."

My kicking the habit boiled down to 3 basic things: One, I wanted to have children and my wife convinced me that we'd have better swimmers if I quit the caffeine. I didn't dispute her on this one :)

Two, I didn't really feel very good. Sure, I'd get a minimal energy boost, but overall I felt really cruddy.

Three, I was spending money I didn't want to spend.

For me, there was never a personal connection to caffeine. I don't drink coffee. I drank Dew. Loved the stuff. To some, it's anti-freeze. To me, it was sugary crack. Nobody on this planet drinks Mountain Dew for social reasons. People don't meet over a Dew, they don't have "Dew parties," and nobody stands in a long-ass line waiting for the stuff.

So, I sought to kick the habit. It only took a few days to render the remnants of the green stuff out of my body. But it sucked. The headaches were horrible, I felt like I wanted to vomit, I got a fever. It really sucked. I wasn't sick, but I sure felt like it.

Here's what I did.

I quit. Cold turkey.

I persevered through the headaches. I took Aleve. Lots of it. For a few days. After 4 days without caffeine, I didn't even want any. Furthermore, I didn't want to go through the discomfort again when I decided to quit again.

My Steps for Quitting the Caffeine Habit are as follows:
  1. Decide what's important to you
  2. Take mitigating steps to curtail any discomfort you're undoubtedly going to suffer when you decide to take the next step
  3. Do it
  4. Don't look back. Failure is not an option.
Now, I'm never going to suggest that you can stop smoking or snorting cocaine by following my path. Those are addictions that I cannot speak to with any experience whatsoever. They're no doubt much stronger chemicals.

However, the 4 basic steps can be followed. The key step, in my opinion, is Step #2: Take mitigating steps to curtail any discomfort you're going to feel when you quit.

Also key is realizing that it's just a damned chemical. It doesn't have your willpower, your determination, or your fortitude. You cannot let it beat you.