My Path to Detoxing from Caffeine
By Clifford Michel
Caffeine. It’s one of the few drugs that’s socially acceptable to buy, relish, and consume on a daily basis. Caffeine and I have been together since the summer following eighth grade and, even though I knew we were young, we were deeply in love, a love so deep that we spent every morning of the following six years together.
It’s beautiful. She gives me confidence, charisma, and energy. She’s something to look forward to when I’m down and something to fall back on when I’m in over my head.
But as I rolled into my second year in college, caffeine wanted more out of my life. She didn’t just want to spend mornings with me, she wanted to spend afternoons, and sometimes, evenings. So I cut it off—completely.
In early August I decided to go on a full-on caffeine detox. That’s right: no green tea, no black tea, no coffee, no Mountain Dew, no frappa-whatevers, or espresso. The idea was crazy, but the challenge seemed exhilarating.
As I woke up on the first day of this challenge, all seemed well. My face still half buried in my pillow, I scrolled through my email to see if I had any assignments for work. I didn’t. And as I made my way downstairs my mom was brewing some of the good stuff.
“Would you like some?” my mom asked.
“No thanks, I’m detoxing,” I replied proudly.
For most of the day I scrolled through my many social media feeds while laying in bed. “This really isn’t that bad,” I thought to myself before drifting off to sleep for an unplanned afternoon nap.
Oh, how wrong I was.
I woke up and immediately noticed that something was different. My forehead seared with hot white bursts of pain, the type that wasn’t nearly strong enough to make you collapse, but just enough to make you hate everything and everyone around you.
Detoxing sounded so fun yesterday.
I spent the rest of the evening alone and curled up in bed.
Day two of the detox, somehow, was worse. My body longed for my former lover and wouldn’t let me forget about it. I thought distracting myself would be the best option so I headed to the Brooklyn Museum with a friend.
We talked and caught up on each other’s lives. I looked at him enviously as he sipped on his iced black tea (I was drinking iced tea). I felt lethargic and sluggish. It seemed that even being in the company of one of my closest friends wasn’t as fun as it would be if caffeine was in the equation.
We made our way through the museum checking out an exhibit on sneaker culture before going to its famous Egyptian exhibit. But that’s when it hit me: white, hot, and consistent as well. I was going through caffeine withdrawal again.
All of a sudden, blown-up cue cards—containing full explanations on why the noses of so many Egyptian statues are smashed—just didn’t sound as interesting anymore.
It got worse from there, with me getting more irritable. I was grumpy, not only because I lacked energy, but also because I knew the way out was so close and readily available.
Day three was just as frustrating. I was given several assignments for work and I knew I was moving at a snail’s pace when my editor emailed me with a single “?”
I was just about ready to end the whole detox on the fourth day, but to my surprise my headache was practically nonexistent and completely went away with a small-dosage aspirin.
At first, I felt like I was back in the saddle: no more headaches meant that my addiction was officially cured, right?
Wrong. Coffee still had the allure of grandeur and an aroma that screamed “all things possible.” I was back to enjoying everything I always did, but I still craved the energy boost that seemed to be a quick fix to anything in my life.
I decided to make a coffee date with a high school friend who doubles as a low-key health freak, he made it seem like the solution to my problem was simple: find new sources of energy.
That same day we went to buy apples, bananas, oatmeal, and orange juice. Fruits like apples give short half-hour boosts of energy through their natural sugars. And anything that has a decent amount of carbohydrates are easily broken down for your body to use, too.
When he told me about all this, I wanted to smack him over the head with the “Great Book of Coffee” and scream at him like a Jehovah’s Witness who realized that the apocalypse is actually coming tonight.
He calmly implored me, like all these health freaks do, to “just try it.”
So I did, and I’d be damned if there wasn’t a tingle in my head that kicked in as I walked towards the train for work. It was a feeling that I haven’t had in a long time: artificial alertness. And, oh my God, it felt great.
Since he solved my morning issue, I turned again to the health freak for advice on how to replace coffee throughout my day. He said to drink green tea and immediately my heart sunk.
Green tea contains about 25mg of caffeine, nowhere near the amount coffee packs, but it still counted. For all the progress I was making it seemed really weird that this was my breaking point.
It was day six and something about imagining my smug health freak of a friend being inspired by the wonders of caffeine possessed me to walk into to demand, not ask, for a medium sized iced coffee.
Even though my detox sorta-kinda failed, it did save me from a drug that was preventing me from living my life on my own terms. Drinking coffee has become so socially acceptable, that so many of us fail to realize that grinding your teeth because you couldn’t get your hand on a third cup isn’t normal.
I’m proud to say that I’m back to drinking one small cup of coffee a day, and I stick to black tea on weekends.
Though honestly, with school and work piling up I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself back in the sweet loving hands of caffeine.
I can’t help it. She just gets me.