I Gave Up Coffee For A Month

by Brandi Jeter Riley
Originally Published: 
A woman smiling and sitting in winter clothes while holding a cup of coffee
photo credit: Caiaimage/Sam Edwards | Getty Images

For the last two decades, I’ve had coffee just about every single morning. I started one day when I was doing an internship touring with a group of actors who performed for large groups of children early in the morning. At the beginning, I struggled! The early wake-up calls were way too much for my early twenty-something self to manage. I needed something, anything, to give me the energy I needed to make it through the day.

All of the other interns drank coffee. Before we headed off on our tour for the day, we’d stop at the convenience store and they’d get their fix. I never even thought to try it until one of my fellow actors suggested it. I told them I didn’t like bitter drinks, and they suggested I add lots of sugar and cream. One morning, when my energy was particularly low, I decided to take their advice.

From that day forward, my life was forever changed.

I’m not sure if it was the caffeine, the sugar, the cream, or a combination of all three, but I was hooked. It was a fast addiction. After a week of drinking coffee, it wasn’t a choice anymore. I had to have it. It didn’t matter if I was on a budget and trying to conserve money, or in the bed sick, starting my day with coffee was a non-negotiable. I even paid a $16 delivery charge once to have coffee brought to me because my baby was sick and I couldn’t leave the house. I was a fiend. The only time I stopped drinking coffee was during my two pregnancies, and there was so much going on during that time that I don’t really remember what that was like.

Yeah, I’ve been drinking every single day for decades, until recently, when I went off coffee for a month.

I was having a few health issues that seemed directly related to my coffee intake. Every morning, after my first cup of coffee, I would break out in hives. I’d be itching like mad, and it would only stop when I took an antihistamine. I thought it might be because of the real dairy cream I was using, so I switched to a non-dairy version. The hives didn’t stop. I used less sugar and even tried coffee with no sugar for a couple of days. That didn’t help.

I finally realized that the problem had to be with the caffeine itself. It seemed I was allergic. The thing I loved the most was trying to hurt me! Although I didn’t want to let it go, I knew I had to, so I started to put a game plan together.

One week. That’s all I could commit to. I’d go without coffee for a week and see how things went. I talked to my husband and asked him to keep me accountable. I went to the store to make sure we had tea to make sure I could start my day with a cup of something hot. Still not convinced my addiction to coffee wasn’t related to the sugar I put in it, I did some research online about eliminating sugar from my diet. I found a supplement called L-glutamine that is supposed to help with sugar cravings, and ordered it so that I could use it during my coffee fast. Once my strategy was all set, I got started.

Day one wasn’t as hard as everyone said. I attribute that to the L-glutamine supplement I started. I’m not convinced it wasn’t a placebo effect, but I certainly wasn’t complaining. That morning, I woke up and didn’t even crave coffee. I made my tea and went on about my day. Everything I read about eliminating coffee encouraged an increased water intake, so I drank at least a dozen glasses of water. By the end of the day, I had gone to the bathroom a million times, but I didn’t have a headache so I considered it a win.

That night, when I went to bed, I fell asleep a lot faster than usual. The next morning, I woke up and was fine without coffee again. I repeated my actions from the day before, drinking tons of water, and went another day without a headache. The next few days went the same.

As I started my second week, that’s when things started to fall apart. I had an overwhelming desire for a cup of coffee. I tried smelling the coffee beans I had at home, and that didn’t take the craving away. Drinking more water didn’t seem to help, and neither did a cup of tea. I was just about to cave in when my daughter suggested hot chocolate.

I loaded the kids in the car and headed to Starbucks for a cup of cocoa, and thank goodness it worked! Looking back, it seemed like it was more like a sugar attack than wanting caffeine.

I kept going with the experiment for an entire month and had some really fantastic results. In addition to better sleeping and more coherent mornings, which continued through the month, I noticed some physical changes. My perpetual stomach bloating went away. I didn’t start my mornings with hives anymore, and my skin was super bright and clear.

You’re probably wondering, with those type of results, if I decided to eliminate coffee for good. Unfortunately, after the month was over, I picked the coffee cup right back up again. I just can’t resist the smell, and I do love the taste. The big difference is, I don’t have to have coffee every day.

The best benefit of the challenge for me is that it seems to have broke my addiction mindset. Before, I couldn’t start my day without coffee. I was like a fiend, searching for caffeine, even going out of the way when I had to, because not drinking coffee was not an option.

Now I drink coffee when I want to, not because I have to. I like knowing that my super powers actually come from within, and not from a cup of coffee.

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