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Quitting Coffee & Caffeine as Addiction & Trauma Recovery Work

As a part of my recovery journey, a few years ago, I chose to cut out coffee & cut out caffeine to work through addictive substance use & dependency behavior. I got a whole lot more than I bargained for.

First understand: addiction is about getting a result. It's a behavior. It's not about substances. There are some substances & activities that are easier to get addicted to due to the experience they offer. The behavior of addiction is a maladaptive coping method. A person is doing something repetitively to experience a sense of soothing, safety and/or escapism- with little to no regard for the negative repercussions in the short or long term. Someone can try heroine or smoking or gambling & not become addicted. Someone can become addicted to controlling their food intake, or binge watching tv or a relationship.

So early in my path I knew I needed to start dealing with my substance addictions (along with my emotional addictions, but that's another story.) I was a hoarder, a drinker, a smoker & had a mix of all 4 eating disorders. (Prior to this time in my life, I had an addition to pain killers in early university & was able to stop through the cold turkey method.)

I started by getting rid of most of what I owned, I put limits on my drinking & smoking, then I started to find tools for my eating habits. But after all of this, I wanted to see if I had any final substance issues and knew that coffee was a common, legal, hidden culprit. It's not even necessarily 'coffee' - but caffeine itself. Many adults claim they simply can't function without it.

Do I need it? Do I have to have it? Do I depend on it? Do I need it to function in the morning? Do I need it to get through my day?

I had started working at a Tim Hortons, underage, when I was 12 & started drinking coffee at 13. Coffee had always just been a part of my day. I had no idea if I had morning headaches without it or anything like that. I have no recollection of being 'deprived' of coffee. But I also knew I had really shitty sleep unless I drank alcohol; self labeling as a 'night owl' since my early teens. Altering my caffeine intake was also an attempt to improve my sleep.

In the junior coffee drinking league I loaded coffee up with obnoxious amounts of cream & sugar. When introduced to the 4 Hour Body Slow Carb Diet by Tim Ferriss, I cut out all additives for my coffee. No cream, milk, sweetener, sugar - nothing. Just black. No exceptions.

My first step to testing my dependency on coffee & caffeine was limiting intake. One coffee in the morning, then if I wanted more, it was black tea instead.

Then I moved onto black tea only, both to start my day & for anything after.

Then I switched to a one black tea in the morning & green for the rest of the day.

Then I switched to green tea only.

Then it was one green tea in the morning & herbal (noncaffeinated) for the rest of the day.

Until one day - it was just herbal tea to start my day.

Getting to a place where I didn't NEED a coffee to function or start my day felt very powerful. It actually made me feel pretty badass to be able to just 'wake up & crush it.'

Another funny result was noticing how much it mattered in other peoples' lives. It's the same as quitting drinking. You notice how much it is normalized and it makes other people uncomfortable when you're someone who doesn't do it.

But I also realized a few weeks or months later that I simply enjoyed the smell & taste of coffee. Not wanting to reintroduce caffeine, but wanting to enjoy the taste of coffee every once in a while - I started drinking decaf. Which TASTES LIKE GARBAGE!

I don't care what type of Swiss water, specialty, unicorn pooping coffee bean a company is joking around with - most decaf tastes burnt, acidic & awful.

But in other areas of my recovery, particularly my disordered eating, I was learning the skill of searching for 'quality' & not just accepting whatever is put in front of me. Alas - my hunt began. Is there a decaf that is reasonably priced, easy to access & tastes delicious?

Yes. The answer is yes.

I tried all of the basics that I had access to like Tim Hortons, Starbucks, Bean Around the World, Waves, plus the common fast food chains McDs and A&W that have coffee. Then I hit grocery stores and went through Kicking Horse, Lavazza, Ethical Bean & Columbia. I didn't bother touching Folgers, Maxwell House or Nabob. I tested a few local brands to my area on Vancouver Island & still didn't find anything I appreciated. Then I hunted through & found some brands.

But the Van Houtte was the golden goose. This stuff is smooth & has the nutty notes in it with no trace of acidity. I love this and have now been drinking it for years. I've found ONE that comes close, which is President's Choice Decaf that is also flavored with hazelnut & vanilla.

Unfortunately I don't appreciate the packaging of this item, it's only sold at select grocery stores, it's around 100g less than the Van Houtte but around the same price & the coffee flavor has less depth.

A close second runner up that I have recently tried & enjoyed was Balzac's Swiss water decaf. Despite not having my princess-style nutty flavor roasted in, it has a great taste. I have to keep in mine that it was made Americano style with a full Italian espresso machine & not a home drip brew - which can greatly effect the flavor. What's great about this coffee though, is that you can order it online from their website or directly from here.

For now, Balzac's counts as a local brand for me while I'm living in Ontario. The company originated here & has 8 locations in Toronto with another 8 locations around the province & nowhere else.

Now for the educational piece. Research supports that one or two coffees (black - no cream or sugar) is good for your health. This is due to the antioxidants, which relieve the oxidative stress on our mitochondria. Oxidative stress on our mitochondria is what we now know causes the group of symptoms we commonly refer to as 'aging.'

But recent studies have shown that removing the caffeine from coffee - doesn't remove the antioxidants.

You actually don't need to be ingesting caffeine, with all of the shitty side effects, in order to

  1. get the wonderful, enjoyable coffee taste

  2. get the wonderful, enjoyable health benefits

You're welcome.


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If you would like to start building your Core Resiliency Skills contact Coach Julia today. You will learn how to Thrive beyond your damage, become a Transitional Character, break abuse cycles in your family cycle & build the core resiliency skills most often missed when being raised in a low nurture environment.

Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching and Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Coaching. 

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