I’m not one of those “anything goes,” “if it feels good, do it” kind of therapists. I think to have meaningful interactions with other humans, we need to have integrity. We need to know where I end and you begin. We need to know the difference between right and wrong. We need a moral compass. This is what distinguishes us from animals- this ability to reason and think through the consequences of our actions…. how our choices impact those around us.
Trying to take morality out of the healing process doesn’t work. Where are we without a sense of who we are and what we stand for?
Honestly, this is probably why I don’t do marriage counseling. I could not sit there and listen to someone tell me about their infidelity and just be like, “Oh, that’s great, Becky. As long as you’re happy.”
I can’t do that.
Of course, I wouldn’t shame anyone. But, an exploration of choices would definitely be in order.
Here’s the thing: What are you looking for in a therapist? Someone to coddle you and approve of everything you say and do? Or, someone who challenges you, calls you to the carpet, and invites you to grow out of those old, ineffective coping skills?
That’s what I thought. Coddling doesn’t produce change. It only reinforces the negative behaviors that got us here in the first place. Real change is hard work. And it takes an honest support person (or network) who is not afraid to see you squirm- and work through your junk in a way that produces a more authentic you.
Even if that authentic you does not appreciate things like loyalty, honesty or respect. Because you see, in defining what is right and wrong for you, you have made an ethical judgement.
My immediate happiness is more important than my vow to my spouse.
Spending quality time with my kids is more important than an always-clean house.
Earning a lot of money is more important than following the law.
Conforming to my family of origin status quo is more important than speaking my truth.
Getting clear and living it out – whatever “it” is- takes hard work.
And, yes… morality.
Go be brave and strong, my friends- M
photo credit: pixabay (where else?!)
This YouTube therapist feels official. My YouTube channel got a makeover with its new custom name! Instead of ud46lfl694rlw9ej56l7 (or something like that) it's actually CanWeTalk!
If you haven't visited it yet, go check it out! www.youtube.com/canwetalk
Thank you, friends. Let's keep learning and healing together.
The Big Decision
A year and three months after my sugar detox, I decided I would turn up the health-nut factor and quit caffeine, too. I estimate my coffee consumption at around 400 mg per day. I drank very dark Starbucks (brewed at home). Most people would say something like, “You can stand a spoon up in this coffee,” or “Why don’t you just chew on the coffee grinds?” whenever they would take a drink of “my” coffee.
Web MD estimates the high end of a cup of coffee to be 165 mg. At two and a half cups per day, that’s 412 mg- above the danger zone. I’m afraid to admit that my coffee might contain more due to the strong-ness of it, so we’ll go with that number.
Why Did I Decide to Quit?
I’ve had problems falling asleep and then getting a good night’s sleep for years. Well, over a decade now. And I have addressed various issues related to this problem: noise, room temperature, sleeping on the floor instead of a bed (it’s actually very comfortable), and using a weighted blanket. I even had my prescription sleep aid increased. But still, the problems falling asleep lingered. Even the days that allowed time to sleep in didn’t help my overall sleep quality.
My doctor told me that some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and that even drinking it only in the morning can cause sleep problems at night. I didn’t like hearing this, but I knew that there could be some merit to it. So, I begrudgingly decided to give it a go. Besides, getting off sugar helped me stop feeling so constantly fatigued and depressed. Why not try eliminating caffeine, too?
Day 1- 01/07/2019- Hell Day
I figured that weaning off would be much preferred to cold turkey, so instead of my normal 2.5 cups of dark super-jolt, I had one cup between 7:00 -7:30 am. By 8:30, I had a mild headache. And by 10 am, it was full-throttle. This headache was accompanied by brain fog, fatigue, nausea and dizziness.
So much for avoiding caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
I took 400 mg of Advil but it only took the edge off and did not take away the full headache. And it didn’t even touch the dizziness or nausea. (I didn’t expect it to, honestly.)
I nibbled on two Lara bars throughout the day. Not necessarily the most nutritious, but it was better than dry crackers. The thought of actually eating a meal (or even a snack) made me feel worse, so it had to be that.
Whose bright idea was this, anyway?! Quitting caffeine. Why?!
I reminded myself that this was temporary and tried to imagine how spectacular I was going to feel once this detox phase was done. Never mind the fact that caffeine withdrawal was recently listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
Great. Now I have psychiatric problems!
By noon, I wanted to fall over like a tree, but I had clients scheduled for the rest of the day, so I was in it for the long haul. I read other blogs on quitting caffeine in-between appointments and found that this suck-fest should only last three days.
But that doesn’t help me today!
And, these other brave caffeine-quitters say that days two and three are worse! Ugh!
My symptoms lasted until I ate dinner. A good solid meal apparently helps but who wants to eat when they feel like barfing? Anyway, I’ll remember to pack a decent lunch tomorrow and try to eat better.
I checked the mail and found that my blackout curtains had arrived.
I can’t wait for bed!
I must note, I did not feel grouchy or irritated at all today, which is supposed to be a certain with caffeine detox. Maybe I was too dizzy and nauseated to feel those things.
Here’s to my first day weaning! *holds up a glass of water* Thank God I didn’t go cold turkey.
Caffeine intake estimated at 180 mg. (down from 412 mg daily for years and years and years)
Sleep the night before: approx. 8 hours of my average (not-so-great) sleep
Overall feeling for the day: exceptionally sucky; I hate my life sucky; gross, horrible
Day 2- 07/08/2019
I slept!! I really, really slept. I slept so well, I didn’t realize I was sleeping until I woke up. That sounds weird, but really. I usually toss and turn or do this half-asleep/ half-awake thing all night.
I even hit the snooze button this morning. Several times. I never do that because by the time the alarm goes off for the first time, I’m already awake and realize this is as good as it gets; why draw out the process?
But today, I did not want this joyous experience to end. By snooze 4, I decided to be the responsible parent and get out of bed.
6:44 am. I haven’t been this happy this early in the morning since… well, ever.
Was it the caffeine reduction or the blackout curtains? Either way, thank you, thank you! I want more!
By the time I made it to the kitchen, however, my headache had returned. But it wasn’t as bad as yesterday and there was no dizziness and no nausea.
I filled my cup ¾ with my stand-a-spoon-in-it normal coffee and added ¼ cup water. It was a noticeable difference but still drinkable. By the time I was half way done, my headache was 90% gone. By the time I finished my cup, my headache was back. I guess my brain noticed the difference, too.
I ate old fashioned oatmeal with real maple syrup, walnuts and blueberries for breakfast. I figured some brain food couldn’t hurt. I took 400 mg of Advil and drank a glass of water. By 8:00 am, my headache was gone and I felt great.
By noon, I began feeling tired and my headache started to come back. I took 400 mg again and ate lunch. This eliminated the headache and helped the tiredness by about 50% improvement.
I had another bout of dizziness around 7 pm that lasted until bed time. It was much milder than it had been yesterday.
But, I struggled to fall asleep.
Caffeine intake estimated at 150 mg.
Sleep the night before: approx. 7 hours of amazingly glorious sleep
Overall feeling for the day: eh
Day 3- 01/09/2019
I slept like crap and got up with the first alarm at 6:24. I filled the coffee mug about 28% full of my normal dark coffee then filled it the rest of the way with water. I’m guessing I’m about at a “normal” person’s cup of coffee by now. I took turns drinking plain water and that cup of coffee for about an hour.
After that, I drank only water throughout the day. The dizziness and nausea appear to be completely gone.
I got a headache around 1 pm, so I took 400 mg Advil. That took care of it.
At some point, it dawned on me that I hadn’t used Icy Hot for my sore (painful) neck and shoulder (and sometimes back) muscles. Icy Hot has become a nightly ritual for me, but I had completely forgotten about it (and hadn’t needed it) for the past two nights.
Yay! I don't have to smell like a grandma!
I started yawning frequently by 3pm, but I didn’t sleep well, so I won’t attribute my sleepiness to lack of caffeine.
My overall experience of the day was pretty okay. No obvious symptoms of withdrawal, but no super-energy or anything like that. Just like, “Hmm, cool… I’m detoxing from caffeine and it doesn’t totally suck.” You know? Kind of blah.
Even if I stopped here, at the one cup of not-strong coffee, I’d probably be okay in life, but I want to find out if I can actually sleep if I am caffeine-free, so on I go…
Caffeine intake estimated at 75 mg.
Sleep the night before: approx. 7 hours of on and off, not good sleep
Overall feeling for the day: mediocre to good
Day 4 01/10/2019
I got a decent night’s sleep, but I woke up with a horrible headache. I drank a glass of lemon water and that helped. Actually, getting a good couple of whiffs of the fresh lemon helped. Then I had a cup of herbal tea (caffeine free) and ate breakfast.
No headache. No nausea. I didn’t have to use Icy Hot again- that’s three nights in a row!
By noon (it’s always noon, isn’t it?) I got a headache and became suddenly very tired. I drank more lemon water and ate some lunch. That helped, but I was dragging for the rest of the day. Even after drinking my Odwalla Mango Tango.
Caffeine intake estimated at zero!
Sleep the night before: approx. 6.5 hours of decent sleep
Overall feeling for the day: Average, no bursts of energy or anything like that.
Day 5- 01/11/2019
So I got very little sleep and woke up (to an alarm, of course) very, very tired. I was very, extremely tempted to have coffee. But I dug down deep to my inner powerhouse and said, “Nope! It’s do or die, baby!”
6:35 am, I drank a glass of lemon water and had oatmeal with walnuts and raisins. Even though it’s a home-office day with only the computer and phone as my working companions, I still took a shower and did my hair and makeup. I even dressed as if I was going to work.
9:30 am, I had a handful of raw almonds and half an Odwalla blueberry monster. Wanted to keep my fuel steady.
I kept the house slightly cold and I kept myself busy with my massive “to do” list that never seems to get any shorter. Being productive helped my mood. (I love feeling productive.)
At 11:30, I ate half a sandwich and drank the other half of my Odwalla in order to fight off the noon slump. It worked. I got caught up on my clinical documentation, returned a bunch of voice mails, did some laundry, learned a new Electronic Health Record system, and went grocery shopping.
When I was getting ready for bed, I felt proud of myself for sticking with it- and for getting so much done. It would have been so easy to go back to caffeine after such little sleep. But I powered through.
I'm freaking superwoman. I told you I wear a cape.
Caffeine intake estimated at zero (second day at zero, woot!!)
Sleep the night before: approx. 3 hours broken into chunks
Overall feeling for the day: not bad, considering
Day 6 - 01/12/2019
After what seemed like the whole night of not sleeping, I got up at 5:30 am with no alarm. I wasn’t sleeping anyway, so why bother?
If I do fall asleep now, it will only make it more difficult to get up in one hour. But why, oh why, did I ever think working on Saturdays was a good idea?
I have to get up early Monday – Friday because I have to get the little one off to school. This- this Saturday thing- is my own doing.
And right now, it really sucks.
Even if I may have drifted off for a couple of hours last night, I’m still at 5-6 hours total for the past two nights combined.
I was irritable and trying not to be emotional in the morning. I’m not sure if that was caffeine withdrawal or lack of sleep. It really could be either. The combination of the two probably didn’t help. Again!
I had a busy day of back to back clients, so thankfully my focus had to go in a different direction besides my own lack of comfort. I drank water and snacked throughout the day to avoid dipping blood sugar levels. My body wasn’t tired, but my eyes were. I felt like I should be a cartoon with toothpicks holding my eyes open. Or that creepy Bird Box guy that holds people's eyes open. Ew, just kidding. Anyway, I also yawned a lot.
The weird thing is, I didn’t have a headache- not even a no-sleep headache. And focusing on other people helped get me out of my irritation and emotionality.
I’m disappointed though, because I’ve read and heard of other people who experienced some sort of euphoric high from getting nasty caffeine out of their system. Not me.*(deep, irritated sigh*
Caffeine intake estimated at zero (third day at zero, and no, I haven’t eaten any chocolate)
Sleep the night before: It seems like it was none
Overall feeling for the day: tired, just tired
Day 7- 1/13/2019
I slept for 10 hours. And, it was the first day I didn’t think, “I need coffee! Wait, I’m decaffeinating myself" when I woke up. I actually woke up and was just well, awake- and thankful I had slept. After some time of lying in bed, I thought I could have some lemon water.
Wait. Coffee wasn’t my first thought? I thought about lemon water with no visual prompting in the kitchen? Wow, I am making progress!
But, I was groggy. My lemon water and herbal tea did nothing to help that. Even my muesli didn’t help. Uh-oh. Will this be a bad day?
Webmd reports that it takes up to nine days to get over the symptoms of caffeine detox. I’m almost there! Oh, wait. I’m only on my fourth day without caffeine because I weaned for three. Ugh! Those weaning days should count for something, right? I’ll call myself closer to the nine days.
I remembered that I felt like this while getting off of sugar so I attributed it to low blood sugar. I ate some raisins and pepped right up. Duh, I’ve been hypoglycemic since forever, you’d think I think of that sooner.
Oh, I also have to tell you, my belly bloat is down. It went down a lot when I quit sugar, and it’s gone down again with eliminating caffeine. I look better and it feels more comfortable.
Caffeine intake estimated at zero (fourth day at zero)
Sleep the night before: finally some sleep! 10 hours wa-hoo!
Overall feeling for the day: pretty good
Day 8- 1/14/2019
I slept decent and didn’t have much struggle getting up and going- although my stomach was not my friend all morning. I attribute it to all that lemon water and ginger herbal tea I’ve been drinking... and maybe it's my body’s final detox. Hmmm, maybe it was my friend.
Anyway, after all of that, I had a busy day and was able to stay focused. I had a decent amount of energy and my mood was positive.
Caffeine intake estimated at zero (fifth day at zero)
Sleep the night before: approx. 7 hours of restful sleep
Overall feeling for the day: pretty good; positive mood
Day 9 - 1/15/2019
Wow, I slept last night. I woke up and had a wee bit of energy! (Mornings are just historically slow and dragging for me.)
I feel less foggy. Not just 'getting over the detox' fog, but a fog that must have been around for a good long while.
I’m happy about my decision to give up coffee- specifically the caffeine. It’s liberating.
As such, this will be my last day journaling my detox because it seems as if I have gotten over the hump.
Caffeine intake estimated at zero (sixth day at zero)
Sleep the night before: approx. 7 hours of restful sleep
Overall feeling for the day: strong and positive
Healthy meals and snacks
Digging to that inner “I can do this!” when tempted
Remembering that it will only last a week or so
Thinking about the future benefits
The Benefits I’ve Seen So Far
No belly bloat
Aches and pains (muscle stiffness) has decreased
I'm proud of myself for accomplishing this
If you are currently detoxing, or thinking about detoxing, hang in there, my friends! It gets better over time. - M
UPDATE: Did I stick with it? Kind of. After two months of my usually mediocre-at-best sleep, I figured missing out on coffee wasn't worth it. However, I switched to medium roast and a normal coffee-to-water ratio. I have a cup or two of this weakened version and get a better start to my day. And I don't have the jittery effects that my old style of jolt used to bring.
If you are quitting caffiene, don't let my planned relapse thwart your progress. We all respond differently to caffiene and your journey is your journey.
Stay sane, my friends- M
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The Motley Ms.
Hi! My name is Melinda (or Mel, if you like). I'm a saved-by-grace-er, lifelong learner, INFJ, health & fitness trynabe, Mom, mental health vlogger (hey! go subscribe!!) and Child & Family Therapist - not necessarily in that order (well, except the first one). If you want to see my business-y side, check out my super-professional business website.
The Motley Ms
The Therapist's Therapy Blog