Still caffeine free

On February 6, 2020, I had my first full caffeine-free day. Here is it September 15, 2023 and I’m still off caffeine. I glanced at a few previous posts on this issue and nothing has really changed. (It’s been 282 days since I quit caffeine; what I’ve learned.)

Turns out, caffeine really had nothing to do with my changing sleep habits. I just hit a point in my life where sleeping well became more difficult.

The few—very few—times I’ve had a bit of caffeine in larger quantities than I’d have in a cup of cocoa or decaf coffee, I’ve felt the difference in anxiousness and upset stomach to a marked degree.

I sometimes think the lack of caffeine might actually be to blame for the dramatic dive in my word counts that happened the same month, but there’s no way to be sure. There was a lot going on in my life during this downturn, so I can’t honestly say the lack of caffeine was to blame, despite the coinciding nature of the dive.

I think it’s just as possible that my sleep patterns are to blame. It’s hard to write (or do much of anything, to be honest) when you feel perpetually tired. Prioritizing sleep sounds easy, but when you can’t stay asleep even when you’re trying to, there’s not much you can do about that. (I never have trouble going to sleep; I have a lot of trouble going back to sleep!)

The blue box is February 2020. (Each row is a month, Jan–Dec.)

It’s taken me a remarkable amount of time to recover, and I’m not really there yet as you can see from the numbers. However, I don’t think I will ever know if the lack of caffeine played a role unless I start drinking caffeine again and I see a marked increase. :)

I don’t particularly want to test that. I’ve adapted to a life without regular caffeine, and I like how stable my moods are these days.

Anecdotally, on Monday, I drank a cup of jasmine and orange green tea, which has some caffeine (the first cup I’ve had in ages), and I didn’t have a big jump in my word count that day. The day before that, as you might remember (probably not), I posted my best day in a long while—caffeine free.

It’s been 282 days since I quit caffeine; what I’ve learned

It’s been 282 days since I quit caffeine. Technically, I do still ingest minute amounts. I drink decaffeinated coffee a couple times a day, and I have the occasional cup of hot chocolate. I do not, however, drink regular coffee or tea any longer, and I avoid all other caffeine where I can.

I’ve learned a few things since I quit.

One, I don’t sleep better off without caffeine. I’m hitting a stage in my life, apparently, where a full night of sleep is just harder for me. I had been blaming my coffee habit for my poor sleep, and it just didn’t turn out to be the case.

Two, I’ve had a lot less trouble with anxiety of any kind in the last 282 days than I had in the preceding year, despite having a lot more reason to be feeling anxious. So that’s been a good thing to realize. The evidence is pretty strong that caffeine was triggering anxiety for me when I was feeling stressed. I’m still pretty stressed these days, but I’m having a much easier time controlling the anxiety it produces.

Three, the world does feel a bit flatter for me without caffeine. I’ve gotten used to it, and I actually think I like it. I’m also noticing that now that it’s been a while, I’m starting to feel more like my old self even without caffeine. I don’t know how long it takes a person to truly adapt to life without caffeine and for the brain to compensate, but I think it is a lot longer than I ever suspected!

Four, I had a lot of ups and downs with my energy levels when I was on caffeine, and I still have those.

All in all, I’m really glad I quit caffeine when I did. I also don’t have plans currently to start drinking it again. I’m not saying never but I am saying not now. Life will have to become fairly stress-free for me to think it’s worth it.

February slip

The coffee thing might or might not be to blame for February being in the dumps, but February’s word counts are way down. It’s my worst month since July.

I held off the usual slump for January with the daily writing, but it seems to have slipped its way into February instead.

I quit the daily writing on the 8th. I don’t regret ending it, not in the least, because it was time, but it’s very possible that is to blame for the usual January slump becoming a February slump instead.

Because of some things that have to happen this week, it’s not likely that I’ll be able to prop the month up with a rush of words written this week. But, as usual, I don’t care about the facts, and I’m going to push for a better ending to the month anyway.

Finally, I’ll be glad when this month is over so I can reevaluate the coffee situation. The benefits of being off caffeine have not outweighed the drawbacks as of yet. My sleep hasn’t improved in a noticeable way and that was the primary reason I decided to do this experiment.

There are other changes that are negative but I can’t say for sure the coffee fast has anything to do with them. When I think on it, I noticed a trend toward pessimism a few weeks before I eliminated coffee and caffeine.

Disappointed but sticking it out

I should be beyond the caffeine withdrawal at this point, so I’m not sure why I’m not sleeping one iota better. In fact, I’m almost willing to say I’m sleeping worse.

Caffeine has never kept me from being able to fall asleep, but it does make it easier for me to forget that I need to go to bed and get some sleep, so I really thought this would help.

I’m giving it the full month so I’m not ready to call it quits, but I am disappointed and frustrated that I haven’t seen any sleep rewards from this effort.


No caffeine again today and no headache

Sleep was not great last night, but I feel fine today. I don’t have a headache and didn’t have one yesterday either, so I think I’m past that part of caffeine withdrawal.

I will say that my ability to concentrate is toast right now. I’ve had a two hour timer going this morning and I’ve had to stop it three times already to stop myself from pulling out my hair and tossing my computer across the room and there’s an hour and nine minutes left on the timer!

I’ve self-medicated my focus issues with caffeine for most of my life so I guess it was silly of me to think I wouldn’t have to deal with a backlash when I went off caffeine again.

Since the timer isn’t helping today I might just forego it altogether for the rest of the day. We’ll see. I’m going to cut this one short at one hour because I think I can push myself to get back to it for nine minutes, then take a break, then see if I have trouble getting started again.

First full day off caffeine

I’ve made it through weaning myself off caffeine. Today was the first day I didn’t need any coffee (or tea) at all to stave off a headache. Now I’m waiting on any lingering withdrawal symptoms to fade away.

I don’t know that there are any left, to be honest, but I’m giving it another day or two before I expect myself to feel however it is I’m going to feel without caffeine.

As for today and the last several days? My mood has been in the dumps, and I haven’t slept one iota better than I slept before quitting caffeine.

But I’m holding out hope. Last night there were storms and lightning and wind that kept waking me up, and so last night can’t count as a test night of sleep. Tonight, on the other hand, I expect to be a good night, and if it isn’t, I’m definitely going to be disappointed. But like I said, I’m going to give it another day or two before I let myself get frustrated about anything.

Mental barriers to forward progress and a caffeine withdrawal check in

The coffee/caffeine weaning is going well. I woke up with a heavy head and a slight headache this morning but overall I feel good. I’ve got my 4 oz of coffee sitting beside me (made with only 1 tsp. of coffee) and I’ll have another in a few hours if this one doesn’t knock the headache back all the way. If it does, then I’ll skip the next one. :D

I always like to hurry these things along, but the one thing I don’t want to end up with is a raging headache so I’m going to be careful not to go too fast on this.

As for the writing, the daily writing streak is still going. I didn’t check on the number of days, because I don’t really care right now. It’s not my priority. I’m focused on a different experiment I’ll talk about later this month, after I see where it leads me in February.

I believe I know now why I was feeling so constricted by the extra challenges I had added to my daily writing streak. It was exactly the same thing I went through with the “no sweets before 1000” streak right before I had to end it. Because I’ve had two negative word days since I failed to meet it and finally made progress yesterday after getting rid of some cruft that was holding me back.

In other words, the perfectionism had cropped up and I kept putting off deleting stuff I needed to delete to make sure I got the words for the streak logged in my daily word count spreadsheet.

List of recent word counts

I’ve explained before that I don’t track written words separate from deleted words. It all comes together into my daily count. But my inner perfectionist sees a negative count as a failure even if I know I wrote enough words to count.

I deleted a couple of thousand words between 1/30 and 2/2. The only reason my word counts aren’t reflecting that is because I also wrote a couple of thousand words between 1/30 and 2/2.

You sure can’t see that in the numbers.

It’s a minor flaw in my system that I built in on purpose. I only track publishable numbers. My cumulative word count equals the manuscript word counts of all my written stories and all my stories that are in progress, and the moment a story gets tossed, that day’s word count is going to take a hit.

I seem to forget that when I decide to do challenges that don’t allow for the negative days. Maybe next time I’ll remember now that I’ve written it out. ;-)

I do delete and I’m generally not afraid to do that because words are just words. And that means my word counts are what they are and don’t always reflect my true effort for any particular day.

Sometimes you just have to cut your losses on a scene or chapter or three, and start over, maybe going in a different direction, maybe just coming at it again in a slightly different way, with a different perspective. (That’s what worked for me yesterday.) It’s important not to have mental barriers in place that stop you from doing what needs to be done. :)

I feel better, and the book has started moving forward again. I have a feeling I’ll make a lot of progress toward my ending today.

It’s time to quit caffeine (coffee) (again)

It’s time for an experiment!

I’ve quit caffeine cold-turkey too many times to count in my life and I know what to expect—so I am not going cold-turkey. The last time I quit caffeine, I weaned myself off it and it worked out so much better. That’s the path I’ll be taking this time, now that I’ve decided I need to quit caffeine for a while to see if I can improve my sleep.

I’ve been sleeping poorly lately, and I’ve been drinking more and more caffeine between coffee and tea (black and green), and I’m not reaching to say there is probably a connection. :) I’ve also been experiencing a few more headaches than usual lately, and I’d like to see if it’s the caffeine. I’m bad at routine, so some days I do too much and some days too little and this varying caffeine consumption can definitely cause withdrawal symptoms.

I worry, a bit, because coffee kind of brings the world to life around me, and usually (but not always) helps me focus and feel clear-headed. Sometimes it’s the opposite. I wake up feeling crystal clear and that first cup of coffee steals that away and makes me feel a bit too hyperactive. Those are the days I tell myself I’m going to wait a few hours the next morning before I have my coffee. I almost never do.

It also exacerbates that nervy feeling I get sometimes and can make me feel like I want to jump out of my skin. It only takes one cup too many to give me a bad case of the jitters and an upset stomach, and sometimes I have that cup before I’ve realized it and then I spend several hours feeling miserable. I’ve always thought I am highly sensitive to caffeine.

I’ve had a love / hate relationship with caffeine (coffee and tea) for most of my life. :D It’s time for a break.

Writing plan for Dec. 16, 2016

Today I’m planning to do 10 sessions of 24 minutes each. (There’s a reason.)

It’s 11:19 AM and the day is dreary but writing is going to make it more fun. On the other hand, because I’m freezing, I’ve decided my character should be freezing too, and I’ve put him in a situation that makes that possible. ;) Poor baby. I’ve made him miserable, but hey, misery loves company as they say.

Anyway, I have to get busy if I want to do 10 full sessions today and I DO.

Also, no caffeine this morning and no headache so we’ll see how long that lasts!

Somewhere in the realm of 6 hours later…

I’ve had no caffeine today. I’ve also done no writing today.

Not sure what’s going on, except that my fingers are cold and stiff even though the outside temperature is about the same as yesterday (frigid), and that’s kept me hesitating every time I think of writing because I hate feeling cold and I find it impossible to write when my fingers are cold.

I’ve turned the heat up to 72. We’ll see if that helps. I won’t hit 10 sessions today, but I’m not going to bed until I get over the 1,000 word mark.

No early bedtime for me tonight!

And it was like a scrubbed launch. Crap.

Quitting caffeine update

I drank one cup of tea this morning at about 10 a.m. because of a headache, but that’s been the extent of today’s caffeine consumption.

The weaning is working out well. I’m feeling much better than I would have been feeling (lots of experience with this) if I’d just quit it altogether. :)

Now, if only I could get my writing off the ground today! My story is not cooperating with me. I spent I don’t know how much time on breaks during one 36 minute writing session—and the countdown timer still only made it down to 24 minutes! I did get some chores done, though, so there’s that. :D

Caffeine helped but it’s time to quit again

I’m facing caffeine withdrawal again, but this time I’m trying to wean myself off caffeine instead of just eliminating it altogether. I can’t face the headaches with the holidays so near and my deadlines looming.

I’m drinking water in a cup, hoping it will satisfy the need to have a cup of something nearby. It seemed to work yesterday and is working okay this morning too.

I waited yesterday until I had a headache before I drank any coffee and I only had 6 ounces then. It took about 45 minutes for the headache to completely go away after that, but it did go away. It’s not that I plan to wait for the headache every day, but I did need to know at about what time to expect it. That would be at about 4 pm. So today, I’ll have a cup of my favorite green tea (considerably less caffeine than equal amounts of coffee) after lunch and see if it can hold off the headache. I will admit, it’s only 10 a.m. and I’m already feeling twinges over my right eye, but I’m going to wait and see if it’s a full blown headache forming earlier today, or if it’s just this sinus thing I’ve got going on.

I want to do this because I’ve been having some side effects from the caffeine that I’m ready to get away from for a while. Dry skin (so dry that it’s like I’ve developed a coating of powered sugar on my arms, LOL), possibly a stomach ulcer (something I’ve never had before, but maybe it’s something else, who knows?), jitters, and a bad habit of staying up really late but not really getting anything extra done to make up for it.

I don’t mind staying up late if I can look back and see that I’ve accomplished something during that time, but that’s not what happening. I’m planning to go to bed early, then puttering around doing much of nothing but reading stuff that’s a waste (like forums and blogs with info I’ve read a hundred or thousand times before).

I feel like I’ve been sick more often lately, too, but that might also be unrelated. Then again, sleep and dehydration probably play a roll in illness, so…

Anyway, that’s the plan. Here’s hoping I make it! The holidays are a tough time to quit anything, IMO, so I know I’m going to have to watch out for stumbles.

Experiments update

In my post about how moderation doesn’t work for me, I laid out a plan for an experiment with abstinence and a strict adherence to my schedule.

It’s been a few days. And yeah. Some of it’s working out pretty well. Some of it isn’t.

Here are the details.

The no sweets experiment is going well, if you ignore the fact that I’m having a ridiculous number of cravings. Weight is down about four pounds and I’m eating anything I want except sweets and obvious junk like potato chips (which I don’t eat often anyway). I am definitely not going hungry.

The schedule experiment still hasn’t taken off, and today doesn’t seem poised to change that. Still, I’m going to get some writing done, because I want to and that’s going to be enough to get me to the computer at 2. (I’ve already missed the window for the 8-11 block, as it’s 12:57 PM right now.)

I haven’t relapsed with the coffee, despite several strong cravings.

I haven’t been back to Kboards or TPV.

No more coffee—really!

I’ve quit coffee again. I’m not having a hard time of it this time, no coffee cravings, I mean, and maybe that’s because I was off it for a while—and all these withdrawal symptoms have just made me stubborn.

I’m tired of coffee/caffeine having this power over me and making me feel this way just because I decide to skip it for a day or two. I’m done with it. I’m not going back. Not even for the occasional, recreational coffee when I’m out. I’m just done, done, done.

I had my last cup of coffee on Saturday and it’s Tuesday afternoon now. The headache didn’t get bad until yesterday. Now it’s just lingering, annoying me when I move my head. The worst symptom has been a surprise, because I don’t remember having it before, but for the last three days, I’ve felt like I’m starving. Absolute, stomach-growling starvation. I cannot get enough food. It’s crazy!

Luckily, I track my food intake because I’ve been working for a year to lose the weight I gained when I swapped the job for the writing, so I’m monitoring the problem. But as I said, it’s been a surprise withdrawal symptom this time, because I don’t remember having dealt with this one before. Usually it’s just the headache and neck ache, a feverish feeling, and maybe some irritability.

I had hoped to do a better job with the writing today, but it didn’t happen, so I can either be mad at myself about that—or be mad at the caffeine. I choose caffeine.

Caffeine is a drug and withdrawal sucks.

Now I’m going to cook up some dinner and think about how to get myself writing again before I have to give up entirely on my 12-month 1,180,000 words plan. >:(


Fake tea works for me

I decided to try a fake-out this morning, and I’m surprised but it actually seems to be working. I boiled up some water in my teapot as usual (I love my little blue teapot!) and poured it into a tea cup on top of 1/2 tsp of lemon juice and 1 drop of lemon essential oil. It feels like I’m drinking herbal tea. I’m not, but it has definitely worked to fake out my need for something hot by my side as I work.

I wasn’t sure it would work, but there you have it: fake tea has done the trick.

I think I’ll buy a fresh lemon and try a slice of it in my water instead of the juice and essential oil. Maybe a slice of orange would trick me into thinking I’d had my orange jasmine green tea? I think I’ll try it next! :)

Accountability check-in: I had coffee today

I’m not supposed to be drinking coffee. It’s something I gave up—again—after finally admitting just how negatively caffeine affects me.

But today I gave in to the urge and had two cups of coffee right after lunch. I’m very awake right now and I do regret giving in to the urge, but impulsive behavior isn’t that new to me—I’m not exactly shocked that I gave in.

I knew better than to assume I had finally kicked the coffee habit for good. And knowing that, I had a backup plan that kicked in the moment I gave in!

The backup rule? If I have caffeine, for whatever reason, I can never have it more than once a week. Meaning I might have given in today, but the backup rule will keep me from giving in tomorrow or the next day or the next, keeping my safe from any future caffeine addiction.

Caffeine Withdrawal—Again

Last night I decided I had to give up coffee again. I started slipping up about a month or two ago, having a home-brewed cup every so often. Then I gave up grinding beans and using my coffee press in favor of single-serving bags as a way to drink just a bit without the hassle. Just a bit turned into morning coffee 6 days in a row and afternoon coffee once. And yesterday, I had an episode of irritability that really reminded me of one of the benefits of quitting caffeine/coffee for me: mood stability.

So here I am, going through withdrawal—again—and struggling with a headache when I’m supposed to be writing.

I hope this is the last time. It might not be, but I have so many reasons to stay away from caffeine, if I can only remember them (and think them as important!) in the moment.

Still sick, stayed up too late again, had caffeine

Hmm. I have to wonder about the cause of my rash of bad decisions. :) I had caffeine again yesterday, although it wasn’t coffee. After another sick day away from writing, I didn’t want to cook, so we had take out, and that included sweet tea. Shouldn’t have done it, but I did.

So last night, despite being tired, feeling bad, and needing to get to bed early, I stayed up about an hour and a half longer than I should have.

Six and a half hours sleep is not enough for me! Especially when I’m not feeling well.

Yesterday was all about sore sinuses, sneezing, and nostrils; today is all about snot.

Yippee. :o

I’m going to doze this morning while I read/copy edit that short story/novelette I wrote a few months back and then I’m going to write. I’m saving the writing for after the nap and other work because my brain just doesn’t feel up to it at the moment.

Why am I still up?

Coffee. I shouldn’t have drank it and now… I’m still up at 1:00 am and I know better. Tomorrow is supposed to be me getting back to writing one of my books and working on hitting a word count record.

Holy crap. I’ve lost all self-control.

I hate caffeine.


Conundrum. Give up on the experiment or keep trying?

My experiment hasn’t had one successful moment yet. I see the beauty of the possible results, but so far, those results are as elusive as the perfect lipstick color.

Some days I cannot believe some of the stuff I write. This is one of those days. I keep reading this sentence in my current work in progress and laughing and I can’t decide if I’m laughing because it’s funny or because it’s so outrageous that I have no choice but to laugh or I’ll freak out about how stupid it is.

In light of my results so far, I’ve tweaked my experiment.

I set my timer for a full 4 hours. (Revised down from the 4.5 hours I would have been writing if you added up the six 45 minute sessions.) I also stuck with setting aside the same 5 hours as before.

If I don’t finish my timed session in the 5 hour block, I’ll schedule an extra block of time to finish later, but still as one single block (to keep the number of breaks down, since that’s kind of the whole point).

At the moment, I’m sitting at 1:59:37.9 left on the timer for today, with 1,155 words completed. Meaning my pace is approximately 578 wph.

I’m not going to finish my 4 hours of writing in my 5 hour block today. It was supposed to go from 9 am to 2 pm (and here I am writing this at 1:08 but I absolutely could not maintain my concentration for another moment) and as I said above, I have almost 2 hours left on my timer. I’ll be getting back to it in just a minute or two but this says I used up my 1 hour of built in time for breaks and then somehow also managed to use another hour. I have no idea how; I haven’t done anything time consuming except drink too much tea.

I admit I’ve had to pee a ridiculous number of times this morning, but that’s not that unusual. I have a bit of a bladder condition that makes this a regular thing. What makes this tough for me is how easily I’m distracted once I’m away from the computer.

I should resolve to drink less tea in the morning, but since I have a rule not to drink tea after 2 pm (or at least not my green tea because it does have a minor amount of caffeine in it), I hate to skip it. I like my green tea. Still, I think I’m going to have to cut back. I gave up coffee completely about a month ago and made the 2 pm tea rule. My sleep’s been better so I’m not going back on that rule because it’s clearly working.

I just wish I found it as easy to employ my willpower with my writing as I do with these other things.

I quit snacking between meals in late May 2014. I haven’t eaten anything outside of meal time since.

You’d think willpower like that would be easily adapted to work for other things, but nope. I can give up coffee. I can give up snacking. I can give up tea after 2. I can’t make myself write when I don’t want to or stick to a writing schedule to save my life.


Coffee and Me

Holy crap. I just went through every post on this site checking the “excerpt” and updating it if there wasn’t one. I found a surprisingly large number of posts where I skipped adding an excerpt, which I use for a short description of the post and which shows up on the search results pages.

Why’d I bother with this? I have no idea, but this reminds me of something I’ve read that said caffeine helps you focus but doesn’t help you focus by priority. I’m very sensitive to caffeine. One cup of coffee can send my heart racing and make me very mentally hyper—and talkative. :D

I had a cup of coffee this morning just before I started messing with a spreadsheet and thinking about writing a blog post. Decaf is my friend. This was not decaf.

I ended up going through all my 359 posts.

So, oops.

I caught myself when I had done about 3/4 of the posts but I was so close to being done I couldn’t stop.

Literally could not stop myself from clicking the button to go on to the next few pages (40 posts each) and finish.

However, it’s done, and I’m trying to find a way to get back on track before the day is gone. I was supposed to start writing at 7 am. It’s now 11:22.

There are a couple of tasks I would like to finish before I start writing, but I’m going to have to try to make it quick.

ONE: I want to finish that spreadsheet project I started. If it works like I plan, it’ll let me easily break down sales by book title. I’d kind of like to know some details I don’t have access to at the moment. I’ve been studying the market, trying to get some insight before I start into my new books, because I’m not feeling pulled any particular way and I’d like to make a few guesses about what might give me the best return on my time at the moment. (And I got enough of this done today for some preliminary insight. Boy, did I.)

TWO: I’m trying to rewrite one of my blurbs that I think could use some serious work. It’s taking a while but I hope it will help the book sell better. I really like this book and I think everyone should read it. :D