How I Broke My Caffeine Habit in Six Days

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"I could never give up my venti latte!" 
"I absolutely HAVE to have a diet coke every day!" 
"I can’t start my day without my Mountain Dew!"

Sound familiar?

There are two ways of looking at caffeine addiction; I HAVE TO HAVE IT TO SURVIVE and I WORK BEST WHEN I’M HYPED UP!  I subscribed to both schools of thought for the longest time.  Let’s be real about the addiction…there is medicine for headaches that includes caffeine.  Why not call it the "it’s freaking-hard-to-go-cold-turkey-from-caffeine-medicine?"

In my situation, I thought I had it under control.  On my best days, I was having two big cups of coffee and the afternoon tea.  My worst days, thinking back on it now, well, it just makes my stomach rumble. 

Ten days ago, I went "cold turkey."  Nothing, nada, and let me tell you I sure felt it.  The headaches came and went.  The first day wasn’t bad.  On the second day the dull headache came on.  For three days the headaches haunted me.  Then the sky cleared.  The heavens opened.  And God said unto me "my son, you should have a Sprite.*” It was like reaching an oasis, a carbonated, sugary sweet oasis.  While it was caffeine-free, it did give me the sugar shot I hadn’t received in days.

On the fifth day, the headaches stopped.  On the sixth day, the craving was gone.

Then came the SEVENTH day – a Sunday.  I was free of the addiction.  I was feeling great.  But I hadn’t slept well and I need a cup o’ joe.  I denied myself a cup at home.  I walked past the coffee maker at church.  Then I caved.  After Sunday school I told my wife "I’ve GOT to get a cup, I’m not going to make it."  I turned the corner in the church hallway to the "breakfast table" AND THE COFFEE MAKER WAS GONE!  DENIED!

Two o’clock that afternoon I poured myself a cup at home.  And I drank it…and I drank it…and I enjoyed…no, as a matter of fact, I didn’t enjoy it.  I lost my taste for it.

Now you might be asking yourself "WHY did Chris even WANT to kick the ol’ caffeine habit?"  Five reasons, pure and simple;

1.  Overworking myself was easy when I was chemically kept awake.  I was headed towards an all-out burnout.
2.  I stopped enjoying it.  I would reach for the can of Coke on my desk only to notice it was empty and in the trash. 
3.  Addiction to anything is bad. 
4.  I had forgotten what it was like to be me.
5.  A few extra pounds from the sugar-loaded cola’s were a weighin’ me down.
6.  Nasty coffee/tea/cola teeth staining.
7.  Problems sleeping.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

For those of you in the "I-just-drink-diet-and-so-I’m-at-least-not-getting-the-sugar" club, here are a few reasons why you should give it up as well.  Diet Coke hardly packs a punch with its reduced caffeine amount, less than half the amount you would find in a typical shot of espresso. “You get a bigger hit from a couple of squares of dark chocolate or a cup of green tea,” says Alison Duker, the founder of www.eatbetternow.co.uk, “although the caffeine in Diet Coke is absorbed more quickly because it’s mixed with phosphoric and citric acids.” The high speed hit may well explain why so many feel reliant on it.  

There are many other health reasons that people must watch their intake of cola’s and caffeine.  For those of you who go through a 12-pack of can’s a day – think about diabetes for a start.

WHY COLD TURKEY

Of all the ways to kick an addiction, why in the world would anyone want to go "cold turkey?"  I’ve tried weaning myself off.  A coke today, a coke in two days, a half a cup of coffee in the morning…it was too easy to cheat and then I was back to where I started.

WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CHURCH AUDIO?

My dentist told me his story about his addiction to Diet Coke.  "I was working on a patient and noticed my hand was shaking from the caffeine.  In my business I have to have a steady hand so I quit drinking cola’s."  If I’m overworked, stressed, edgy, and hyped up on caffeine, I can’t work to the best of my ability.  My job, your job, the whole realm of church audio has plenty of stressors and we must be able to control our emotions.  If we are medicating ourselves to "get through the morning service" then we are increasing the risk of burnout and inappropriate behavior.

If I can convey just one point from all of this it would be this…look at your motives.  The topic of burnout is important in ministry.  It’s important in our lives.  We can push ourselves harder and harder and work longer hours and stay up later and wake up earlier and we can do that to an even greater degree if we allow ourselves to become reliant on caffeine (and sugar).  Then when we burnout, it’s ugly, very very ugly. 

I’m not going to knock you for wanting to drink a cola from time to time.  I’m not going to judge you for the occasional "venti-fat-free-cinnamon-half-sausage-half-pepperoni-latte." I’m sure in the near future I’ll be enjoying a fountain soda myself.  But let’s not find ourselves surviving the 2pm-3pm hour with our fingers wrapped tightly around a bottle of Mountain Dew because "that’s how I make it through the day." 

For one day, substitute your caffeine/sugar fixes with cold water.  Drink it, don’t pour it on yourself.  You’ll feel better and you’ll feel more alive.

Question(s): What’s your caffeine fix of choice?  Are you addicted?  Are you willing to substitute it with water for a week?

*God does not endorse Sprite or the Coca-cola Bottling company or any specific carbonated lifty drink.

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Comments

  1. Scott P. says

    I “quit” Mr. Pibb and Dr. Pepper cold turkey nearly 18 months ago and started drinking water. I exclusively drank nearly 4 liters of soft drinks on average per day for a good fifteen years. I say “quit” because I still drink it occasionally. Surprisingly, I didn’t suffer from headaches from caffeine withdrawal – just a general tired feeling. I don’t know what effect caffeine had on me – I could, and did, fall asleep within minutes of drinking soft drinks on a near daily basis.

    I decided to do this because my then-7 year-old son said, “Daddy, why don’t you drink water? Mr. Pibb isn’t good for you. When was the last time you drank water?” I don’t regret it one bit!

  2. Chris says

    We don’t get much Mr. Pibb in these parts.  Soooo much better that Dr. Pepper.  Nothing like our kids saying something so simple to get our attention.  Congrat’s!

  3. says

    Thanks so much for sharing this behind the scenes look. You know, I’ve been eating Burger King like it’s been going out of style. Yes, it’s a ministry outside the walls of the church (the employees know me by name) — but I wonder if I’m shaving months/years off my life. I want to be a good steward of my life — but it’s easier to be more concerned about other people’s lives when it’s going to require a personal sacrifice.

  4. Chris says

    Wow.  Yeah, you might want to consider showing up just for a large lemonade or something.  "Consult your doctor before continuing your current BK diet." – LOL.

  5. Razor says

    I’ve gotten to the point where I drink as much as 300mg of caffeine EVERY SINGLE DAY. I’m strongly considering quiting cold turkey, especially after reading this…

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