What Trying & Failing to Quit Coffee Is Like

Every fall, I try to quit drinking coffee. I figure that after a long summer of consuming two, three, sometimes four iced coffees a day, my body needs a break. See, I have a tendency to drink coffee until I start to shake, or until someone asks me if I'm high on coke. Yes, it’s that bad, but I can’t help myself. I love my coffee.

I've tried to quit drinking my favorite beverage about four or five times now. Usually, I get as far as three or four days until I cave in and run to the coffee shop around the corner. My body is so trained to have coffee in it that without it, I’m useless.

Anyone who’s tried to quit drinking coffee knows that, like quitting any addiction, it’s an effing nightmare. It may not be as difficult as trying to kick heroin or alcohol, but it’s still not exactly a walk in the park. In fact — and yes, I’m a little surprised by this, too — according to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders both caffeine “intoxication” and its withdrawals are considered mental disorders. Seriously.

As I sit here today in agony during my latest attempt to quit, I thought it appropriate to cover the many stages of trying — and inevitably failing — to quit drinking coffee. I figure that if I can’t drink it, I might as well write about it. That will help, right?

1. MORNING terror

There’s an intense fear that comes with knowing you must get out of bed and try to function in the world without coffee. During the quitting process you seriously consider calling in sick to work and staying in bed all day.


If, like me, you’re used to sitting at your computer and reaching for your coffee every couple minutes, when it’s gone, you really don’t know what to do with your hands. I spend a lot of time angrily tapping my fingers and condemning coffee paradises like Brazil and Colombia.

3. doubt

Why am I doing this to myself? Why didn’t I stay in bed? Why do I have this job? What does this email even mean? Why can’t I spell “guarantee?” What’s the meaning of life? Why am I even here?


When I used to work in an office, surrounded by other coffee drinkers, trying to quit was impossible. My jealousy of them and their coffee cups would make for awkward conversations I just couldn’t help but gaze lovingly at their cup, longing for it to be mine. Apparently that makes people uncomfortable.


As someone who suffers from ruthless, debilitating migraines, this stage is the one I hate most. Sure, a caffeine headache is nothing compared to a migraine, but since I spend so much of my time dealing with headaches, throwing another variety into the mix is no fun. And, of course, caffeine withdrawal headaches, like migraines, last for days.


One can only vie for something that isn’t theirs for so long before wanting to kill everyone around them. You suddenly even think puppies and kittens are good-for-nothing jerks. Not to mention, you're angry at yourself. What kind of idiot would have such a stupid idea?

7. Attention Deficit

When I’m quitting coffee, my window is pretty much the most exciting place in the world: Oh, there’s a squirrel! What that’s noise? Oh, look! It’s a bird? Maybe I can take my computer out on the fire escape! What are those people doing down there? Are they grilling corn? They’re grilling corn!


Not to be confused with anger, irritability is a real problem when you’ve kicked caffeine to the curb. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is on your very last nerve and everything they do is pretty much the worst.

9. Constipation

Not to get graphic, but coffee sort of ... gets things moving in your stomach. OK, cut to the chase coffee is really great at making you poop. There, I said it. But once you take coffee away, your stomach gets confused; suddenly you’re not pooping as much, and it feel like you have cement brick in your intestines that you just can shake… or poop out.


By late in the afternoon, you're totally wiped out. You feel like you haven’t slept in not just days, but weeks, and you can’t get to your bed fast enough. You even consider crawling under your desk to take a nap, George Costanza-style. Based on what little purpose you served all day, it’s not like anyone will notice that you’re gone.


It doesn’t make any sense that after being so exhausted, you can’t sleep, but that’s just the way it goes. You toss and turn for hours, as each minute gets closer to when your alarm is going to go off in the morning, and curse yourself for quitting sleeping pills, too. (Yes, I’ve quit sleeping pills, too.)


As with every loss, you can’t help but feel sadness over losing your former BFF. Combine that with the physical effects of withdrawals and you can really find yourself down in the dumps.


It’s not easy to give up something you love, especially when your body is in love with it, too. But knowing that you can live without it makes you feel pretty bad ass… until you walk by the MUD truck, take a whiff of that delicious scent, and you’re back in the hole again. Best to just accept it: you're addicted.

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