How and Why I gave up Caffeine

Are your rituals honoring your body’s innate wisdom? Or are your habits overriding the body’s calls for rest?

Caffeinated tea was the one thing I never gave up, even when I did a cleanse. I justified it many different ways, and all the justifications seemed true. Justifications like these: “Tea has so many health benefits,” or “as far as stimulants go, tea is a mild one... and I love the little boost it gives me” and “well, I don’t drink coffee and I can go long periods of time without alcohol or sugar and not mind. Tea is my one thing so I’m holding onto it.”

My justifications were all truths, but they were also absolutely irrelevant. They all missed the point.

Quite a while ago, I drank tea for pleasure only, but as time passed I became dependent on it. Indeed, I was very emotionally attached to my black tea! Only recently did I realize how much I’ve depended on tea in the morning (and often in the afternoon) to help me feel awake and alert when I was truly, deeply tired.

I found I often didn’t really want the tea itself, I wanted the idea of it - the ritual, the comfort - and I wanted to feel awake and alert. Despite my awareness of the growing dependency, and an acknowledgement that tea was making my already dry mouth drier, I drank it anyway. My mouth was dry most of the time and the pleasure I felt drinking tea was slowly diminishing, day by day.

I drank water, I drank marshmallow root tea or other demulcent herbs throughout the day to restore moisture to my tissues (I am an herbalist, after all!) but the truth was staring me in the face: I was getting dried out, and tea (Camellia sinensis), an astringent, stimulant herb, was making it worse.

I often didn’t want the tea itself, I wanted the idea of it - the ritual, the comfort, and yes, I wanted the heightened awakeness and alertness too. 

One morning, I simply couldn’t do it anymore. When I drank a cup of my nourishing herbal brew (a medicinal blend of shatavari, cinnamon, licorice and marshmallow) I had been drinking for two weeks, it just felt so incredibly right. Well, I never got around to drinking my beloved black tea that day. Or the next. Or the next...

Soon, it became abundantly clear that by taking any sort of stimulant when I felt tired, I was overriding my body’s message that it needed rest. My body was crying out for rest and moisture, and I was instead giving it the opposite - a diuretic stimulant.

I’ll admit that after I stopped drinking caffeine, I felt a little more tired for a few days, but not as tired as I expected. When I needed a rest at some point in the day, I gave that to myself. Then, hardly a month later, I had more energy than I was accustomed to and rarely needed to rest during the day. Since I quit caffeine, my sleep (which can be light and interrupted at times) has become deeper and more restful, and now I wake with more ease in the morning, often before sunrise. Also, my mouth is now rarely dry.

I believe that all plants are medicine for the right person at the right time. And, all can be harmful for the wrong person at the wrong time. I repeat: Tea, coffee, chocolate, and other stimulants are not inherently bad. The problem lies in using stimulants to habitually override the body’s calls for rest.

Eventually this catches up to us. Quite simply, there is no way to cheat. If you are tired now, imagine how tired you will be after several more years of powering through using stimulants, instead of giving yourself the rest you need? It’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

My journey has not been about giving up caffeine because I “should” and using my willpower to accomplish it. No willpower was involved. Instead it has been a nearly-effortless welling up of my deep knowing. From this experience and others, I offer this encouragement:

Your body is wise.

Your body is sacred.

Your body is your home here on Earth.

My invitation to you isn’t to avoid caffeine. My invitation to you is to listen to your body’s messages and honor them. Honor them courageously and passionately. Take care of your body as the sacred gift that it is.