Caffeine Wean Take Three
I’m a quitter…again. I quit drinking my daily coffee about a month ago. Last time I weaned myself off coffee, my husband did it with me. We were still drinking Argentinian maté a lot, but the daily cups of coffee were no longer part of our routine. Then my husband’s sister (now my sister-in-law) visited one summer, and we wanted to be good hosts and make sure we had everything she needed on hand—including morning coffee. The coffee we usually buy is from my own shop and it’s the official “Avid Blend” (my shop is called Avid Bookshop)—the blend is my idea of perfection simply because the roaster allowed me to do several taste tests until I got the exact right flavor I wanted.
So imagine not having had coffee in weeks when family comes to town, and you brew up not only a fresh pot of coffee but one that is your complete, ideal cup of coffee—a blend that was made, quite literally, for you. “Tempted” doesn’t even touch what I felt. Pair up the amazing smell of the coffee with the fact that we’d been out late with L., going to rock shows and having drinks and generally not getting enough sleep, and you have the perfect recipe for a relapse.
That was a few years ago. Starting in April of this year, I started weaning myself off caffeine again. This was my third time around. The first time I quit drinking caffeine I determined (with my doctor’s help) that caffeine was not a migraine trigger for me. Instead of just staying away anyway, I gleefully reincorporated it back into my daily life once I knew it wasn’t triggering attacks.
This spring, I found how-to guides online and doubled any time frames they suggested (if someone said to take a week to reduce your portions to zero, I took 2-3 weeks). If only my colleague Kerrie’s article about weaning off caffeine had been published a month earlier, I would’ve had better, more migraine-friendly advice to follow!
I’m here to tell you that it was quite a challenge, even for a one-cup-a-day drinker like me. I found that what I miss as much as the little boost it gives is the routine of it. I am the maker of the coffee in our house, and I love a good routine. In the morning, I’m first to wake and the cat stretches and jumps out of bed the second I do. After putting my NTI device into its case in the bathroom cabinet and using the restroom (and washing my hands, duh), I walk into the kitchen, the cat still at my heels. I grind fresh coffee beans (ah, that intoxicating aroma!) and set the coffee maker up. While it’s gurgling and the smell of amazing coffee fills the kitchen, I feed the cat, who by this point is rubbing on my legs and meowing adorably if not desperately and trying to confess his undying love in an effort to get fed immediately. I put food in the cat’s bowl and get him set up, and by then the coffee is done. In the olden days (i.e., more than a month ago), I’d pour cups for both me and Jim and put his next to the bed. I’d take mine to the porch or my office and read or get some work done while I drank my one cup.
Now that routine is a different just by one step: I don’t pour a cup for myself. It’s such a little thing, but I miss it. I take some extra whiffs of the addictive aroma but it’s getting easier not to tempt myself with even a small cup. For the first week to ten days, I was exhausted and a little out of it. My biggest challenge was traveling to Denver for a conference (two time zones behind me, plus very early meeting times)—I definitely had a couple cups during that trip when I found myself too exhausted to function well. But when I returned home, I was done.
All that said, I’m not taking an all or nothing approach: I am now trying to use caffeine as a part of my migraine treatment arsenal instead of a daily beverage. So far, so good—I’ll keep you posted on that front in a later post.
How many of you have weaned off caffeine? Have you noticed any difference? What was the weaning process like, and how did it affect your migraine patterns?
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?