Tuesday, 25 August 2009

How long to kick caffeine?

30 days ago I posed the question: how long does it take to form a habit? I embarked on a 100-day challenge to give up hot caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee. My beverage of choice is green tea which given the choice I consume by the dozen mug-fulls daily.

Over the weekend, while enjoying a pub lunch in the sunshine, someone remarked on how they still miss their old addiction to tobacco, even though they had given it up over 4 years ago. They went further and said that if they were told they only had a few more months to live they would take up the habit again. Not only that, but the thought of having a cigar was never far away.

Wow! After 4 years? The addiction was clearly gone because he hadn’t smoked during all that time, but the desire for a cigar obviously hadn’t.

And it seems my challenge to not drink caffeine is not dissimilar. After 30 days I am clearly over any withdrawal symptoms. Initially – at the 14 day point – I reported quite a few benefits: increased willingness to exercise, reduced likelihood to open a bottle of wine, better control over eating and fewer headaches. Now – at the 30 day point – I’m still enjoying the benefits but am just bored and want my cup of tea back! You would have thought 30 days was long enough to form the habit – but it isn’t. I still crave the taste and sensation of caffeine which can’t be replaced by anything else.

Herb teas satisfy the wet and warm craving, but not the little mental boost that is needed for lift-off!

I remember feeling the same about giving up alcohol – I had the will-power to do it – but only because I wasn’t going to break my word. On more than one occasion a glass of wine would have been very welcome. Indeed, the moment Lent was over I opened a bottle to celebrate.

So I’m almost 1/3 in to the challenge, and it remains to be seen whether the benefits outweigh my cravings for caffeine. Intuitively I feel I should be able to make it through the day without any chemical help, but sometimes, just sometimes, it would be nice to have a cup of tea or three.


  1. I am on day 12 of kicking my caffeine habit. I cut down tremendously for weeks before I gave it up. I am still experiencing headaches despite hydrating myself well. I had the exact same thought about the cigarette addiction comparison because I have literally thought about coffee every day several times a day for the past 12 days! Good luck!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. I wish you all the best with your journey to kick caffeine. It was interesting to re-read this post a year later. What we love about the taste and sensation of caffeine never really goes. After 6 months or more of living without caffeine, I'm back enjoying the occasional cup of green tea, but trying to be a great deal more moderate than I was. Time will tell whether this is a good strategy of not.

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