One Year Without Caffeine

The first time I drank coffee as a kid, I threw up all night. I was like five years old, and I must have taken a sip from a cup from my parents. A dozen years later, I met Auri and I started drinking black tea and coffee with a lot of milk and a lot of sugar.

Over the years, we drank coffee while having a “Jause”, it’s an Austrian thing for just putting a lot of things from your fridge onto your plate, like cheese, meat, pepper, tomatoes, bread, and just eating it with your hands. Or with cake and other sweets, like Blattlstock or Sachertorte. Then we started drinking it in the mornings, especially during Winter, because it was a warm start to the day.

Slowly but surely it turned into a habit. One coffee in the morning, one after lunch, and one after dinner. We switched brands to a sweeter one because we noticed stomach issues from the brand we bought at the grocery store, and we slowly put in less and less sugar. I also reduced the amount of milk I put into it, until it was just a spoonful. At this point I drank it basically black.

Then we started noticing our sleep getting worse. There was a lot of anxiety and stress from our jobs too, but something was off. And of course, we knew it was the third coffee before bed. You might say, that’s obvious, but the third one just felt really cozy for some reason (maybe because of the dopamine?).

We found a coffee replacement - a dandelion coffee, which has zero caffeine and you can prepare it just like filter coffee and drink it with milk. So, for the third cup of the day, right before bed, we switched to this one. And I believe we slept a little better, can’t say for sure.

Then, last year, I got covid. I was practically dead for almost two weeks, no appetite, and I couldn’t smell anything for a while, and everything tasted wrong. I couldn’t drink coffee for two weeks. This was basically my rehab.

Normally, you can’t just quit drinking coffee. Usually you get headaches from withdrawal, it’s a very specific kind of headache that feels stingy and particularly annoying. Which is why coffee is such a nasty addiction. The easiest way to get rid of the headache is to just drink another cup.

But now, I accidentally escaped its firm grasp. When I got better, I tried drinking a cup, and it felt like my heart burst. I was still recovering from covid, so my body felt a bit weak overall, and a lot of things like exercising or taking walks would increase my heart rate more than usual (or at least it felt like it).

So, one time, when my taste was more or less normal again, we sat in a café, I just asked if they had decaf coffee. They did! I drank it and to my surprise, it… tasted just fine.

We looked up the brand that we drank at home and discovered that they also offered a decaf option. Auri bought it, thinking we’d never get through the whole package. When it arrived, I tasted it and it was just like the one with caffeine, only without the increased heart rate and anxiety. It was honestly such an awesome feeling! I could have my coffee again, but still sleep well.

One year later, it’s kind of boring how normal it feels to not have the usual coffee anxiety. I feel like I can have moments of calm throughout the day a little bit easier. Work can still be stressful, but I do wonder how much worse it would be with caffeine.

And best of all, I don’t depend on it. I can just not drink it if I don’t feel like it. There’s no more headache looming on the horizon if I don’t get my caffeine hit. And honestly, that is quite freeing.

As with other substances and media, it makes you wonder why this is socially accepted. Everybody does it, right? That’s what people say. I know I’ve gotten looks and questions whenever I order decaf coffee in restaurants. But, it tastes the same. Why wouldn’t I drink it without caffeine?