Last week, I weaned myself off caffeine before a minor medical procedure. I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink anything that morning and didn’t want a caffeine-withdrawal headache. I dreaded doing this because I love caffeine. It gives me spunk and get-up-and-go when I don’t have any. I’ve relied on it for decades.

I’ve never been interested in caffeine-free living. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I would have thought that idea was no fun and stupid.  A day without caffeine would be like living without laughter. I could do it, but why would I? I have precious few vices in my life; I wanted to keep this one firmly in place. Little did I know that my caffeine consumption was actually making me feel anxious.

A Long Relationship

I discovered the magic of caffeine in high school with Diet Coke. Like many teenagers, I didn’t get enough sleep and was chronically tired. I didn’t like coffee, but Diet Coke tasted good and I was thrilled it wouldn’t make me fat. After that, Diet Coke became a good, albeit demanding, friend. If I ignored her for a day, she gave me a wicked headache. I kind of knew that she probably wasn’t the best for me, but I didn’t care. I was young and “you are what you eat” didn’t matter to me.

Over my adult life, I’ve consumed caffeine in a variety of different forms: coffee, lattes, tea, diet soda and caffeinated chocolate candies. About 10 years ago I was at work in the break room when I discovered coffee. Life was especially hectic those days – we had three teenage daughters at home and I was working full-time. I was exhausted.

As I poured my coffee that bleary-eyed morning, my manager and her manager stood behind me. One of them said, “I didn’t know you drank coffee.” I told them, “I just started today.” We laughed. If I added some milk and sugar to the hot liquid, it was delicious. I loved its warmth and how it coaxed me to life at a time when I perpetually had too much on my plate.

Intermittent Breaks

Over the years, I’ve taken short breaks from caffeine, but they have never lasted long.

A few years ago, I was seeing an acupuncturist. She would start the appointment by measuring several of my different Chinese medicine pulses. She did not want me consuming caffeine. I respected her a great deal, but thought she was off the mark on that one. When I slipped up and had some, she could always detect it right away, saying that one of my pulses was “brittle.” I didn’t care; I needed it.

Creating My Own Problems

I’ve now not had any caffeine for over one week and am shocked by what I’ve found. I feel serene every day, not just on the days when I go to yoga. I feel sturdy.

Every New Year’s I vow that this is the year that I’m going to get really calm inside. I’ve thought I could do this by not over-scheduling myself, meditating, going to yoga, etc. And those things make a tremendous difference. But only to a certain point. I didn’t realize that at the very same time I have been trying to ward off low-grade anxiety, I was actually creating it for myself with my minimal intake of caffeine!

I assumed after my caffeine hiatus, I would get back to my normal habits. But I don’t want to. I’ve tried giving it up before and always relapsed. However, I’ve never had the realization before that I was creating problems for myself with caffeine.

Quite often, the best solutions in life are the simplest and most obvious. This is all I needed to do to feel calm? So for now, I’m living the caffeine-free life. It sounds boring. But I choose peace. I might be sleepier at times, but that might be a small price to pay for an improved sense of well-being. We’ll see.

And after a poor night’s sleep, if I get desperate to find some caffeine, somewhere, anywhere, I’m going to notice my fatigue and then wait for it to pass. It always does, even without caffeine.