Ten Days Without Caffeine: A Love Story

Caitlin Boersma ends her affair with coffee, raising the question: what’s more romantic than tragedy?

Coffee doesn’t make your heart beat faster because you love it so much. It’s actually a chemical reaction caused by caffeine attaching itself to your adenosine receptors, blocking the doze-inducing adenosine, and constricting your brain’s blood vessels. Neuron firing increases, the pituitary gland senses an emergency, and adrenaline is released, causing your pupils to dilate, your liver to release sugar into the bloodstream, and your heart to beat faster.

Sounds like love to me.

Regardless, I decided to quit the stuff because, every day, I experienced a mid-afternoon crash of stellar proportions, and no matter how much coffee I consumed, it no longer blocked the accursed adenosine.

At first, I toyed with the idea of a full-blown detox diet. But after perusing websites geared toward “body cleanses” (and learning that a coworker’s nickname for the Master Cleanse was the “butt-pee diet”) I realized these diets were just an excuse to be anorexic for ten days and drop a quick five pounds. I bookmarked them for later.

My focus this time around was just caffeine–coffee, specifically. Despite grave warnings from websites on caffeine withdrawal and from everyone I talked to, I quit cold turkey for ten days.

I had envisioned writing about my experiences each day in the fashion of a journal entry, but discovered that I was far too depressed and tired to give a shit. The following is a summary of my decaffeinated ten days composed from my foggy memory.

Courtesy of the American Memory Project

Day 1
I feel disgusting. My body aches and I feel like I’m going to throw up every time I stand up.

I was awake for three hours in the morning, then napped until 4:00 p.m., then went to bed for good at 8:00 p.m. This CBS News article describes a study that recommends making caffeine withdrawal a psychiatric disorder. At this point I realized I might be in big trouble.

Day 2
Opened the cafe at 4:45 a.m. Tried chai in lieu of coffee. Its sweet and spicy flavor was not at all soothing, and I feel sick from consuming a cup full of milk and sugar before the sun has even come up.

I was crabby. Very, very crabby.

Day 3, 4, and 5
I have a headache.

I spoke to no one I didn’t have to for 72 hours and watched episode after episode of The Kids in the Hall while I sulked.

Day 6 and 7
I felt great this morning. Finally, no headache and no excessive grogginess upon waking. No longer does the morning bring suicidal thoughts. This is a new sensation!

I became extremely tired once the afternoon rolled around, especially on days when I had to open the cafe. I became something of a morning person, and an old man, retiring by 9:00 p.m.

Day 8
Berated and embarrassed by another cafe owner today for ordering a decaf Americano. “We don’t sell anything decaf because it tastes like crap,” he told me, as though I was some kind of coffee novice who didn’t know better.

Fellow Bureau writer Kevin Nguyen came to my rescue, explaining the detox. The owner recommended some iced rooibos, which turned out to be refreshing, but not really my cup o’ tea.

Day 9 and 10
I feel great. Seriously. I’ve had energy throughout both days and adapted to an “early to bed, early to rise” schedule. No headaches and no problem getting up in the morning. I still miss coffee, however. A lot.

I avoided visiting cafes other than my workplace, and secretly made decaf Americanos for myself when no one was looking.

Courtesy of the American Memory Project

I stopped consuming caffeine for ten days and lived to tell the tale. In fact, I thrived without caffeine toward the end of my crusade. However, I wasn’t prepared to become one of those “healthy” persons/idiots who shun coffee. I happen to like what caffeine does to my body. Feeling jittery and a bit on edge keeps me on my toes at work and helps me finish countless papers due the next day.

Coffee also serves as a social activity. “Let’s get a cup of coffee” always prefaces quality time with a friend or an opportunity to chat with someone new. What am I to do now? Take people out for a cup of rooibos?

From this experiment, I learned that I don’t want to quit caffeine because I don’t see the point. Yes, I needed to cut my dosage so I can function when coffee is not readily available, but there is no need for me to quit the stuff altogether. Caffeine isn’t crack; I can quit when I want to.

Since the detox ended, I’ve been conscious of my caffeine consumption and am careful not to overdo it, so I can avoid relapsing into afternoon crashes. It’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I’ve successfully kept my love at a safe distance, either enjoying one cup of my home brew in the morning or indulging in a sixteen-ounce Americano in the afternoon.

There may be some good personal or health reasons for avoiding caffeine, but as far as I’m concerned, adenosine can suck it. I’m going to continue to let coffee make my heart flutter.

Caitlin Boersma is studying political science and English, but spends most of her time analyzing pop culture. Her premise for a new reality TV show, Killing Andy Milonakis, has yet to be picked up by VH1. She is notorious for spending a week’s wages on a ticket to see Morrissey live.