A Week Without Coffee: Why I Stopped and How I Survived

Why I stopped and How I survived a week without coffee

Coffee and I have been best friends for over 20 years. Through thick and thin, coffee has always been by my side. I’ll drink it in a mug, thermos, or paper cup. Flavored, black, or iced. I don’t care whether it’s “coffee of the gods” from a high-end bistro or working-man’s joe from a dirty pot in a run-down mechanic’s shop. I love all coffee, and coffee loves me. I never thought anything would come between us, until the day I decided to give it up.

Good Times, Bad Times, You Know I’ve Had My Share Of Coffee

Growing up, my father’s trusty old Italian espresso maker was on the stove night and day. It’s still there.

I remember waking up to the smell of freshly roasted aromas like I was in a coffee commercial. We used to sing the Folger’s tune together,

“The best part of waking up… is Folger’s in your cup!”

When I was in college, I remember spending late nights in the library, cramming for tests. I’m pretty sure my final exams all had coffee mug rings on them when I handed them in to the teacher.

No Coffee, No Workee.

When I got my first job teaching English, coffee quickly became my favorite co-worker. We took breaks together, laughed together, and launched amazing English lessons together. There’s a sign on the coffee pot in the Teacher’s room that reads: No coffee, no workee.” I read it every morning as I fill my cup.

When my daughter was born, I vaguely remember making bottles of milk for her and bottles of coffee for me. I was SO exhausted. They say to sleep when the baby sleeps. I drank coffee instead.

A few years have passed, and now I’m a working mom who is juggling several jobs, a family, and a home. I’m typically on the go 18 hours a day. There are places to go, messes to clean, and errands to run, like to the store––to buy coffee.

Más café, por favor!

And then there are weekends. My favorite time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee is when I can drink it in bed. Is there anything more glorious? Not to me.

Yes, coffee has always been a big part of my life… right up until last week, when the unthinkable happened. I decided to quit.

Why I Decided To Quit

I have never been a heavy coffee drinker (usually no more than 1 or 2 cups a day), but I’ve never gone a day without it. Now, my coffee habit was growing stronger.

Coffee started calling me night and day––interrupting my work and affecting my sleep. It was always more, more, MORE!

I was getting refills at work, and sometimes even drinking a third cup in the afternoon or at night.

I started to need coffee more than coffee needed me.

The real trouble all started last Thursday afternoon after work. I was feeling wiped out and overwhelmed with a number of things I still had to do. I started to feel sick. My stomach hurt and my hands were trembling. I couldn’t breathe. I was hot, then cold. I was having a panic attack, and it was scary.

I wanted to go directly to bed, but I was so wired from the day’s coffee that I couldn’t sleep. I was walking around in circles. I heard my daughter ask my husband, “What’s wrong with mamma?”

My panic attack came and went quickly, but it wasn’t really a surprise. The truth is, I haven’t been feeling that great lately. I feel tired, but can’t fall asleep at night. In the morning, I stumble into the kitchen like a drunk coming home from the bar. I can’t think, talk, or even see well until I’ve had that first cup.

After I had calmed down, I sat down at the kitchen table, poured a glass of cold water, and then made a decision. I would have to stop drinking so much coffee. Coffee and I were going to take a break for a while.

How I Did It: Water, Tea, Tylenol, and Sleep

It was harder than I thought. Within 12 hours of quitting, I got my first headache. More headaches followed, headaches that were strong as hell and went on forever. I decided I needed to cut down on caffeine gradually, instead of all at once, or “cold turkey,” as they say.

When I couldn’t take the pain any longer, I drank a cup of green tea. Green tea has caffeine, but at 35 mg per 8 oz. cup, it is much less than coffee’s whopping 95mg per cup on average.

The second day was a double shot of headaches. I drank green tea throughout the day for comfort. I also drank water like it was going out of style. I almost drowned.

Why does quitting caffeine cause headaches? I googled it:

Since caffeine narrows the blood vessels that surround your brain, when you stop taking it they expand again, and that can cause pain.


Good to know. I definitely want blood to flow to my brain. That sounds kind of important.

Reading about caffeine made me even more sleepy, so I went to bed early again that night.

Then, on the fourth day, something was different. I woke up feeling… good! I didn’t have a headache, and my brain felt clear and refreshed. I hadn’t felt like that for a long time.

By the third day, the headaches had stopped, but I was feeling sluggish and cranky. The weather has been cold and rainy and green tea was becoming my new best friend. (I’ve found some other teas that I really like, too: pumpkin spice chai and lemongrass herbal tea.)

With coffee, you are limited to vanilla, mocha, or hazelnut varieties. With tea, there are thousands to choose from! Change is good. Don’t worry, I promise not to become a tea snob.

Old Habits Are Hard to Break

Towards the end of the week, I walked into the teachers room and poured a cup of coffee without even realizing it. I had to dump it in the sink. What a waste.

It was the end of a long, long week. And I was functioning fine. I was less jumpy and more in tune with my work. I survived a whole week of classes, errands, messes, and schedules. I and even made it through another weekend…almost.

That Saturday night, I was out late with my dad, and he stopped for a cup of coffee. I caved in and joined him. We talked and laughed about my week without coffee, which had just officially ended.

Looking back, I think it was the right choice to stop for a while. I’m back to only one cup a day, and I wouldn’t be scared to do it all over again if I ever need to.

Coffee and I will probably never call it quits for good, because its just too special for me to give up completely. I took “a coffee break-break”, but I’m back, baby.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a kettle of water on the stove that is screaming to be transformed into a delicious, lovable pot of strong, black coffee.

What Say You?