Here’s What Happens the First Two Weeks After Giving Up Coffee

updated May 3, 2019
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Candace Bryan is one of six people tracking their resolutions with Apartment Therapy in real time. You can read her first installment here.

Quitting coffee cold turkey after a decade of high-quantity consumption was a bold, perhaps foolish, decision on my part. The commenters on the first post about my challenge all agreed: the withdrawal would be horrible and I’d be better off easing off caffeine slowly.

But I’m an all-or-nothing kind of girl. And though it has been an incredibly difficult two weeks, I’m happy to report I have not had any caffeine since I chugged a sugar-free Red Bull at 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve (yes, I did that). Despite my success, though, the struggle has been oh so real. Here’s how it’s played out so far.

Day 1

New Year’s Day was, somewhat surprisingly, the easiest day of my challenge. On New Year’s Eve I had a LOT of caffeine, including my late night Red Bull, and stayed out until 3 in the morning. The next day I was, to put it lightly, incredibly hungover. (Shocking, I know.) But I woke up early, ate a ton of food, and spent the day walking around outside and enjoying the lovely weather New York City was blessed with that day. “Maybe I’m not as addicted to caffeine as I thought,” I said to myself. How naive I was…

Day 2

On my second caffeine-free day, it hit me. I awoke at 11 in the morning feeling somehow more horrifyingly exhausted than I had during my brutal New Year’s hangover. Not only that, I had slept for 12 hours straight, a feat I haven’t managed since I was in high school.

I felt like I had a very bad cold. No, it felt like I’d been run over by a bulldozer, peeled off the road, and then dropped off a cliff and landed in a pile of boa constrictors who subsequently squeezed me to death. And then had an anvil dropped on my head. I moved slowly, and every muscle in my body ached. I couldn’t focus on anything except my strong desire for coffee. I drank several cups of caffeine-free herbal tea and, despite having had so much sleep the night before, I went to bed early.

“It felt like I’d been run over by a bulldozer, peeled off the road, and then dropped off a cliff and landed in a pile of boa constrictors who subsequently squeezed me to death.”

Day 3

My third day was basically a repeat of previous. I slept deeply for 12 hours and didn’t manage to get anything accomplished. Luckily, I work from home, so waking up so late didn’t get me in real trouble.

Day 4

On the fourth day, my boyfriend helped coerce me out of bed at 10 a.m., and it wasn’t easy. I felt depleted all day and had serious mood swings. My boyfriend commented on how grumpy I was.

“Can I write an essay about what it’s like living with you while you’re not drinking coffee?” – my boyfriend.

It’s not going well.

— Candy Bryan (@cantdancebryan) January 5, 2017

I went out to a comedy show at 8pm, my first night activity since quitting coffee, but I struggled to stay awake for the whole thing. And I didn’t laugh at any of the jokes.

Day 5

On Day 5, things finally began to look up. I woke up at 9 (still super late for me, but an improvement), and though it took a couple of hours for me to feel alert, when I got past the grogginess around noon, it felt like a light switch had been flipped. I suddenly felt very energetic. It was the best I’d felt since the new year, and I started to think maybe coffee was actually overrated.

Day 6

On day six, I had a job interview, and the lack of coffee stressed me out. With past job interviews, I’ve always overloaded on coffee to be alert and as a coping mechanism. The familiarity of the coffee helps soothe my fear about the uncertainty of meeting new people in a new office. I seriously considered breaking my resolution with just one latte (because my career was on the line, folks!). But I thought to all the times I’d felt anxiety during interviews, shaky hands and racing thoughts included, and I realized those feelings may have actually been enhanced by the caffeine in my bloodstream.

So instead of getting wired, I treated myself to a bagel and drank some caffeine-free peppermint tea that morning. I didn’t regret it: I felt alert in my interview, but didn’t have the usual jitters.

Days 7–14

In the second week, my journey has been pretty standard. I feel past the worst of the withdrawal. Waking up in the morning has still not been easy, but it seems as though that’s because I’m sleeping more deeply without an afternoon dose of caffeine interfering. I miss coffee, but I don’t crave it. Instead I drink warm lemon water and six to eight mugs of caffeine-free herbal tea each day.

(Image credit: Candace Bryan)

How I’m Feeling Halfway Through

After two weeks without coffee, I feel conflicted.

It was a bit unsettling to experience withdrawal. Seeing my body essentially get sick because I wasn’t pouring bean-water down my throat helped make palpable to me that caffeine is a drug. I’m glad I experienced that. Many people warned me that I would experience headaches, but luckily I did not. However, every other part of my body hurt and I was essentially unable to function for days.

I am undeniably more hydrated. I’ve never consistently consumed so much water in my life, and my body feels so good with adequate hydration. Drinking water is now a habit, and as a result I’m snacking a lot less. Also, as I hoped, my skin is showing signs of improvement. I have fewer lines, and the redness has calmed down quite a bit. The photos don’t really do it justice. I’m excited to see what two more weeks will do.

The social aspect of coffee consumption hasn’t been as much of a problem as I thought. I thought seeing my boyfriend drink coffee would be a temptation. But because of my abstinence, he is drinking more tea as well. And we still go to coffee shops frequently, but it’s been easy just to order herbal tea instead (and cheaper than my go-to almond milk lattes).

Nevertheless, I miss coffee. Perhaps my body is still acclimating to life without caffeine, but I still struggle to wake up at 7, and once out of bed I feel foggy until the afternoon. I use to be a morning person, and it was a point of pride for me. I feel happy when I accomplish a lot before noon. Whether or not I give up coffee permanently depends on how the final two weeks of my challenge play out. Can I become a morning person again without caffeine?

Part of the goal I set for myself was to juice every morning, but I haven’t done that once, aside from squeezing lemons into my water. I simply haven’t had the energy in the morning to go through with it. For the next two weeks, I want to prioritize that, and see if it helps my morning energy levels.

Candace will be coming back at the end of the month to share the results of her journey quitting coffee. Until then, you can catch up with our other writers’ resolutions.

(Image credit: Margaret Lee)

Kicking a Coffee Habit

Checking Out of Social Media

Making Meditating a Daily Habit

Abstaining from Alcohol

Cutting Out Sugar

Using Painting as Therapy