Cold Turkey

I am quitting coffee.  And alcohol.  For maybe a (very short) limited time.  So maybe I should say I am just detoxing?  We'll see.

Coffee has been my constant companion for years now.  I drank my first weak, milky cup when I was about eight years old.  I took a coffee maker with me when I left for college, and between classes I would feed quarters into a horrifying hospital-style "coffee" dispensing machine in the Arts and Sciences lounge.  I worked evenings in a university lab, and my co workers and I would keep a pot going.  I loved loading my drip coffee with powdered Cremora and spoons of white sugar.

When I moved to Arizona, it was the very beginning of the espresso drink craze, and I latched onto that trend like it was a religion.  My best friend worked at one of the trendy little "Latte Shack" drive-thrus, and I would sit in there with her and make myself off-menu coffee concoctions.  When I started grad school, I found myself a sweet barista job at a local independent coffee shop.

About halfway through grad school, I got burnt out on all the milk and sugar, and started French pressing myself massive cups of black stuff.  I took a vacuum flask to classes, latched to my bike with a bungee cord, so I could stay amped all day.

When work took me to end-of-the-road towns in the mountains of Utah or southern Montana or rough towns in Wyoming, I always packed an espresso machine to set up in the hotel bathroom.  I remember a seemingly endless winter project in Laramie, Wyoming that was tolerable only because -- as a college town -- Laramie had a 24-hour Starbucks where I could get my fix before work started at 5:00 am. 

When I started law school, I again wanted a mindless evening job to keep me latched to reality and earning some cash.  So I got another barista position, this time at a fancy (and insanely busy) Belgian coffee shop in SoHo.  I have no idea how many espressos I drank during a typical shift, but I'm willing to bet it was enough to permanently affect my health.

I have had entire relationships based around "getting coffee."  I met my husband in a coffee shop, for crying out loud.  In fact, I have all these amusing life memories that wouldn't have happened without coffee.  Like...I was backpacking alone in central Arizona one time, and I had packed a baggie of instant coffee premixed with sugar.  Some deer ate it while I was distracted, and I was so crushed I almost hiked back out and went home.  I had a huge fight one time when a man I was dating couldn't understand why I needed coffee and refused to keep it in his apartment.  I know these little experiences seem like charming anecdotes from my life, but they really start to take on the qualities of an addict's Rock Bottom, especially considering:

1) Coffee causes muscular tension, and can slow healing of soft tissue injuries.  Recent injury aside, I have a LOT of muscular tension in my body.  I'd like to something more about this than just foam rolling and distracting myself. 

2) It doesn't take a genius with a PubMed login to realize coffee disrupts sleep.  How much?  I'm willing to find out.  I have major sleep much so that I have lain awake at night calculating how many nights are left in my life (given an average life span, probably about 16,500 ugh).  So much so that even having a newborn was not a major shock, because I was already awake through the night.  I take a prescription for sleep, but I need to get this sorted.

3) Coffee dehydrates.  I already drink a freakish amount of water, like a gallon or more a day.  It was at its worst when I was running outdoors during an Alabama summer and breastfeeding my son.  I couldn't drink enough.  Even now, I feel dehydrated a lot of the time, especially after my morning coffee.  I find myself chugging extra water at night, which keeps me up, which...see Number 2.

4) As I was riding the Vomit Strugglebus this weekend, I couldn't even stomach the smell of coffee.  That right there gave me a two-day head start on this little project.  And if the mere thought of something can nauseate you, how great could it be to consume in quantity, huh?

5) Coffee is expensive.  Which, okay.  We make ours at home, and buy in bulk, but it still makes up a good portion of our weekly grocery budget.  It's not something I'm terribly concerned with, but who doesn't like to save money?

So, we'll see if this little coffee break helps me, or gives me new perspective.  In general, I only drink one or two cups each morning.  On rare occasions, I'll have another in the afternoon.  That doesn't really seem like a lot, given my history of overcaffeination.  But, I already have noticed withdrawal symptoms and other weirdness.  The first night trying to sleep, I felt like I was crawling out of my skin (Googled and this is common, WTH?).  The mornings have been a complete fog.  Day three was by far the worst.

So maybe I'm past the worst bit?  I plan to do this until Saturday morning, seven days, and then see how I'm feeling.  Alcohol too, because why not (although cutting out a nightly glass of wine probably won't do anything for anything except maybe dehydration).  I'll report back. 


Lizzy said…
I'm very curious to hear about how this goes for you. I have a similar history of over-caffeination, but had been down to about two a day when my doctor suggested I cut back. I've restricted myself to one cup a day, except on rare desperate occasions, like when jet lagged, etc. I should probably cut back further but can't quite convince myself it would be worth it. If you have good things to say I might reconsider.
Rheagan said…'s day six and I'm still going strong. I wake up feeling "normal" now and don't really crave coffee. It's hard to tell whether this is helping my sleep, because we've had a few wakeful nights with happens. If you want to try it, I would definitely say that day three is the worst, and the mental fog and weirdness get better after that!
Aha Moment Tour said…
Hi Rheagan,

I work for the company that produces Mutual of Omaha’s Aha Moment campaign; check out to see what an aha moment is and the incredible stories we’ve filmed over the last several years. As I came across your website, I couldn’t help but think that you might have an aha moment to share.

For the 6th year, we’re taking our 34-foot Airstream mobile film studio on the road again for the 2015 Aha Moment Tour, visiting 20 cities across America to capture inspirational, life-changing aha moments from folks all over the country. We are headed to Birmingham, AL on May 21st and 22nd and would love to invite you to share an aha moment, and how your life has changed since. It can be about your work, your family or other life experiences. You would just have to step into the Airstream studio for a few minutes and tell your story on film to our tour producer Jessica Henry. Your video will then be posted to, where you will be able to share it with your friends and family via email, Facebook and Twitter!

On May 21st and 22nd from 10am to 6pm, we will be parked at the Vulcan Park & Museum, at 1701 Valley View Drive (in the bus loading zone in the upper parking lot), Birmingham, AL 35209. Here is a map link to the location:

We’d love to have you. Let me know as soon as possible and I can reserve your time slot.

Many thanks!

Olivia Lasky

Follow the Tour: