Jan 7, 2015

What's a Retro Dad without Coffee?

Let's see.. a Bear?  A Grump?  A Curmudgeon?  I'm not sure if I can pin down one word to describe going cold turkey in regards to coffee, so I think I'll just go ahead and describe my plight. 

A few months ago, I had a bit of a health scare.  Nothing immediately life threatening mind you, but serious nonetheless.  A positive, was that I had two weeks to try and significantly lower my blood pressure.  Not being able to do so by myself would mean taking medication which I really have no desire to do.

A quick assessment showed I was consuming entirely too much sodium, drinking a significant amount of caffeine, and lacked an appropriate amount of aerobic activity.  I've been hit and miss on my bike riding and walking lately thanks to the brutal winter we are in the midst of, but decided to force myself to push through it and get more active every day.  The sodium and caffeine were something that I figured I had direct control over, and immediately course corrected.

At the time of my scare, I was drinking 8 to 10 cups of coffee a day.  While I never felt any rush of energy due to drinking them, I desperately needed it to wake up in the morning.. and to keep functioning throughout the day.  I read all manner of articles on the web stating that when giving up coffee, one should decrease their consumption over the span of several days.  I scoffed at the notion of giving it up this way, and decided to quit cold turkey.  Here's how it went..

Day one without coffee
I had a heck of a time waking up without my initial cup (or two) of morning Joe.  I spent twice as long in the shower trying to shake the cobwebs out of my head, and felt groggy during my drive to work and throughout the entire morning.  I found it hard to concentrate and focus, and felt incredibly sleepy all day long.

It was about 8:30 a.m. when the headache began.  It started behind my eyes and moved to the back of my head and even down to my neck.  I then started experiencing muscle stiffness and pain that radiated from my neck down into my shoulders.  The killer headache lasted all day long, and nothing as far as pain killers would touch it.  At one point I took three Aleve tablets and a couple ibuprofen, which had no effect whatsoever.  I ended up hitting the hay at 8:30 and hoped the next day would be better.

Day two
Much to my surprise, I woke up feeling like a million bucks on day two.  I slept like a log and didn't remember waking up once.  After a couple of hours, I was running short on steam due to running a few errands early in the morning.  I then ended up sitting around the house most of the day due to a dull headache kicking in at around 10:00 a.m., but it subsided at around 5:00 p.m.   The headache was identical to the one I experienced the day before, but about ten times less intense.

Day three
I found it much easier to wake up on this particular day.  I actually felt like I had a little more energy as well.  I ended up running errands all day, and was able to function perfectly, even with a dull throbbing headache at the base of my skull.  I only experienced this one for a few hours from 9:00 a.m. to noon.  My energy waned in the afternoon, but I noticed I wasn't feeling sleepy like I had during the days prior.

Day four
My bride has irritated me on many occasions during our 25 year marriage, with how she can wake up and instantly be full of energy.  Many a morning consists of her enthusiastically jumping out of bed, and encouraging me to wake up as well.  On this particular day, I was the one that literally jumped out of bed, ready to take life head on.  It kind of surprised my wife that I was the one bustling around the room while she was slowly waking up.  We ended up going out to breakfast early, and while I waited for that headache to creep up on me, it never arrived, nor has it since.

A few months passed being caffeine free, and I felt incredible.  I really had no clue how dependent I was on coffee until I stopped drinking it, and have no plans on reverting back to my old ways.  I'm falling asleep now in record time, and am waking up much more quickly now.  I also feel way less tense during the day.  With an altered diet I also implemented, I have energy all day long, and feel the need to move around more, rather than staying sedentary.

The thing that excites me most however, is that my blood pressure has dropped to normal levels.  Once I get a wee bit more active and drop about ten pounds, my blood pressure should be stellar.  I'm psyched that my personal circumstances and changes I made, allowed me to get back on track all by myself.  I really didn't want to go on any kind of medication for this problem, as I've seen folks I know encounter all kinds of side effects from them.

What was tough sometimes, are the random cravings I get for a cup of coffee.  All morning long I feel like I'm missing an appendage when I'm not carrying around my trusty coffee mug.  The smell of coffee alone gets me desperately wanting to tilt back a cup.  When I did start drinking coffee again, I opted for decaf, as long as I can find a good brand that's palatable.

Some folks have asked me why would I even bother to drink coffee if it wasn't caffeinated.  The answer I give them is a simple one, I really do love the taste of coffee.  The reason I began drinking it as a teen was because of the taste, and not for an caffeine rush.  I always viewed its ability to get me moving in the morning as an added benefit.  The way I see it (now) is if I need coffee to wake up, my body isn't working the way it should.

Just recently, I have began drinking caffeinated coffee again.  I've been told I can drink one cup a day, but I probably only drink two cups a week, as a treat to myself on days off from work.  I'm just not so sure I wouldn't slip into my old ways again if I were to make it a daily occurrence.  No big deal, I'm happy to fill the rest of my coffee drinking time with the "unleaded" variety.  It's a brave new world folks.  I never thought quitting coffee could make me feel so good, or rather, let me feel the way I should be feeling.


  1. I read that an apple will make you more awake and alert in the morning than a cup of coffee. I cut way back on coffee during the summer months, but during the winter, it's so nice to have something hot. And, as you, I love the taste of coffee. My wife had to quit drinking caffeinated, so we found a local roaster who makes a fabulous decaf.

    1. You know.. I believe I've heard that as well. I need to try that trick, especially in the summer when I don't feel like drinking something hot. Thanks for jogging my memory about this!!


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