How I Quit Caffeine And Did Not Die In The Process

I’ve known Lindsay Jones for twenty years, and as far back as I can remember, he always had a bottle of diet soda in his hand. I mean always. So when he recently told me that he stopped drinking soda, I picked my chin up off the floor, gave him a big high-five, and then asked him to share his story with you.

Lindsay is a composer/sound designer for theatre, film and television. With over 500 shows to his credit, Lindsay’s work has been heard in most regional theatres in the United States, as well as numerous shows Off-Broadway. International theatre credits include: Royal Shakespeare Company (England), Stratford Shakespeare Festival (Canada), as well as shows in Austria, Scotland, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Lindsay has scored many film and television shows including The Brass Teapot for Magnolia Pictures (currently in theatres) and A Note Of Triumph for HBO Films, which won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject. Awards include: 5 Joseph Jefferson Awards (with 16 nominations), 2 Ovation Awards (with 3 nominations), LA Critics Circle Award, and 2 Drama Desk Award nominations. You can hear his work at or check out his page on Facebook.

It was 2:30am. I had just driven 2 1/2 hours to my home after a 16-hour work day. I was exhausted, and as I walked up to the front door of my house, all I could think is that soon I would finally be able to sleep.

That’s when I saw this sign on my front door.

New Rules

It said: New Rules

  1. No soda
  2. No going out of the house to buy soda
  3. Drink water or juice or milk
  4. If you drink soda, there will be a punishment

No. Dear god, no. This cannot be happening. Can it?

Let me back up for a second. My name is Lindsay Jones and I’m a composer and sound designer for theatre and film. I’m very fortunate to be working in a job that I love and constantly traveling all over the country to do it. I have an incredibly intense schedule that keeps me working around the clock every single day, and for the past 20 years, I have drunk an incredible amount of diet soda in order to keep up with that schedule. For about 15 years, I drank 8-14 cans of Diet Pepsi every day, and then for the last few years, I switched over to Diet Mountain Dew and drank the same amount.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Wow, that’s a lot of soda. Well, you’re right, it is. But, as I said, my schedule is extremely intense and I honestly felt that I could not keep it up if I didn’t have that soda. Besides, it’s my only vice. I don’t drink. I’ve never smoked a cigarette. I’ve never done any illicit drugs. Come on. Can’t I have just one vice?

I have two wonderful children: Huck, who’s 9, and Sadie, who’s 5. They have never been fond of my soda habit and if I ever try to kiss one of them after drinking soda, they would cry out “EW! SODA BREATH!” and wipe my kiss off. All right, so drinking soda has its downsides.

Which brings me back to my front door at 2:30am. I stood there completely still, just reading the sign over and over. This is a joke, right?

As I walked in the door and turned on the lamp, I saw that it wasn’t.

Then I looked up at the window.

And over to my chair at the dining room table

The bulletin board where my daughter puts her artwork.

Under the TV.

The refrigerator.

The kitchen trash can. (Really, the trash can?)

They were EVERYWHERE. What happened here? All I wanted was a day off, and instead I’m getting an intervention from a 9-year-old and a 5-year-old!

The next day, I sat down with my kids and asked them why they did this.

“Well, we were talking to Mommy at dinner” Huck said, “and Sadie asked her why she didn’t drink soda any more.”

“And Mommy said she didn’t because it wasn’t good for her to drink” said Sadie.

“And I said that you still drink soda every day, and how come you still drink it all the time if it’s not good for you?” said Huck.

“And that’s when Mommy said we’d have to ask you that” said Sadie.

Aha. Yes, well. I mean… I drink soda because… I need it. I mean, I don’t NEED it, I guess. But it really helps. I mean, I like it.

“But it’s not good for you.”

Well, no. I mean, it’s not BAD for you. I mean, OK, yes, it’s not great for you and there are a lot of things out there that say it’s bad for you, but those studies are not totally conclusive and the people who make the soda seem to think it’s fine for you.

“Dad.” Huck said. “Come on. It’s not good for you. Right?”

There was a long silence.

No. It’s not good for you.

“All right! So, no more sodas for you!”

WAIT A MINUTE, WAIT A MINUTE. It’s not that easy. Quitting caffeine is extremely difficult. I’ve only tried to do it once before when I was in the hospital with pneumonia, and to this day, I can’t tell you which is worse: having a 105 degree fever with pneumonia or quitting caffeine.

“But you can’t drink soda. And you hate coffee and tea.”

I KNOW, I know. OK, look. Give me a week, OK? Give me one week to start drinking less soda and figure out some way to do this. There’s gotta be a way. Right?

The children agreed to a week and that night, I started to do some research. All right, there’s got to be an easy way to quit caffeine by now, right? I mean, it’s 2012. We can do anything now. So I get on Google and type in “easy way to quit caffeine”. This is what came back:

ONE ARTICLE. ONE! And guess what it says is the easy way to quit caffeine? DRINK LESS CAFFEINE! You have got to be kidding me, man.

Look, quitting caffeine is impossible! It’s like weeks of incredible headaches and falling asleep during the day! I’ll be in such a bad mood that no one will want to come near me! I’m in the middle of rehearsing three shows at the same time, and I’m working an average of 18 hours a day! I can’t deal with quitting caffeine while doing that! I’ll never make it!

I decided that I needed some help. I was convinced that I was seriously risking my health by trying to do this. Quitting caffeine would be such a huge jolt to my system, who knew what would happen as a result?

But who would I call? I mean, no one seemed to have any answers as far as caffeine. And then I started thinking about it. Maybe it was more than just caffeine? I mean, I eat almost every meal on the run, a lot of it being really crappy food, and that’s not exactly good for you either.

Suddenly, it hit me. If  I’m gonna change this soda habit that I’ve had for 20 years, I might as well change the other habits that go along with it, and that’s the food I eat. Otherwise, it’s just gonna feel weird eating the same stuff I always do, and not having the drink I always have with it. I did not want to get halfway through this and then give up.

So, I did some more research and found the Akasha Center For Integrative Medicine in Santa Monica. It’s a place where they’re all doctors who have PhDs but they also have a background in alternative medicine as well. Most importantly, they have this cleanse diet that they sponsor, and I thought AHA! This is what I need right here! A change of diet with actual adult supervision. And I’ll betcha a hundred bucks that they’ll know some holistic way to kick caffeine in no time flat. Right?

So I made an appointment, and met with this very nice doctor, and I came right to the point when he asked me why I was there.

“I’m here to quit caffeine.”

“Oooh, really? So, what, you have like a lot of coffee?”

“No. Diet Mountain Dew.”

“And coffee?”

“No, just Diet Mountain Dew. I drink it all day and all night.”

“Wow. OK. So, like, how many do you usually drink in a day?”

“Like 8 to 14.”

“WOW! SERIOUSLY? WOW. 8 TO 14! Wow. (long pause) Jesus. Really?”

“Some days, more than that.”

“OK, STOP! Just stop. OK? Wow. I can’t. I can’t even.”

(long silence)

“Uh, so anyway, I’m here to quit.”

“Right! Right, sure. So what brought this on? Were you feeling ill?”

“No, I feel ok.”

“So why do you want to change?”

“My children posted signs all over the house telling me that I had to quit drinking soda.”

“Your children?”

“Staged an intervention. A Mountain Dew intervention.”

“These are adult children?”

“No, they’re 9 and 5.” I show him the pictures of the signs. “The ones with the stars on them were drawn by my daughter.”

“I need to sit down.”

So, after he pulls himself together, we start talking about the cleanse diet.

“Will it help me quit caffeine?”

“Well, it will definitely help. I don’t know anyone who has ever done it before specifically to quit caffeine, but it can only help.”

“Is there anything that will work better?”

“Not that I know of. You kinda just have to get through it.”

“All right, tell me what I need to do.”

He went through it. He gave me two huge jugs of powder that I was supposed to mix with fresh fruit and some almond milk to make a smoothie: one powder was made of rice protein and one was made of green vegetables. Some probiotic capsules to help with digestion. C seeds that would also go in the smoothie to act as fiber. Two of these smoothies a day, and a sensible meal for lunch or dinner. Then he listed off the things that I couldn’t eat: no red meat, no dairy, no gluten, no soy, no alcohol and no sugar.

“And no caffeine.”

“DEFINITELY no caffeine.”

So what could I eat? Fruits, except strawberries and tomatoes. All vegetables. Fish, as long as they were low in mercury. A handful of raw almonds. Lamb and chicken occasionally.

“What about dessert?”

“Well, fruit is dessert.”

“Yeah, but you just made fruit the entrée twice a day. I crave chocolate after dinner, and that’s another tough habit to break. Believe me, I’ve tried.”

“OK, you can have an ounce of chocolate every day, BUT it has to be sweetened by agave nectar.”

What is agave nectar? Never mind, it’s chocolate. Take what you can get.

I packed it all up and drove back to my job in San Diego. Boy, were they going to be surprised. For the past three weeks, I had shown up every day with a 12 pack of Diet Mountain Dew and a box of Pop-Tarts. Now it was a bottle of water and some seaweed.

My final stop before starting this cleanse was to appeal to my friends on Facebook, as well as my best friend Toy (who is a great resource of knowledge and support for things like this), and see if anyone had any other suggestions for quitting caffeine. They actually came through with some great information and so now, without further ado, I am now going to tell you how to quit caffeine in the easiest way possible. In fact, I know there are a lot of people out there looking for this information and since I need the Google bots to see this so that they will get the attention of those looking for this, I am going to write this title in big, bold, underlined letters (and Andrew Wilder, you should prepare yourself for the massive web hit count that is coming to you, when I write the following words):


Now, before we start down this road, let me just say that I am not a medical professional. In fact, I would say that I’m about the furthest thing possible from a medical professional. However, I am a lifelong heavy caffeine addict and this is what I did to kick it, and it wasn’t really all that bad. Try finding that somewhere else on the internet. Go on, I’ll wait.

The first thing my friends suggested was:

1. Vitamins

It turns out that the powders that Akasha gave me were PACKED with vitamins and nutrients. I mean, you name a vitamin or a nutrient, it was in there and there was a lot of it. Plus, the food I was eating was also packed with vitamins and nutrients. As a result, I think my body was so distracted by the massive influx of nutrition that it was suddenly getting that it really took a lot of the edge off the caffeine not being there. Plus, it really cut down on the cloudy feeling that I remember having the first time I quit caffeine. Now, this is not to say that I did not get headaches for the first few days, which bring me to number two:

2. Ibuprofen

OK, you are going to need to take two of these every 4 hours that you’re awake for the first three days. You will have headaches but if you take the ibuprofen, it will be manageable. You can get done what you need to get done and not punch people in the face. You will want to take this with a good size glass of:

3. Water

When you’re taking in a lot of nutrients, I feel like it’s also important to take in a lot of water to keep things moving through your system. Especially if you’re doing a cleanse, which is all about changing how you eat food, drinking water keeps you from feeling hungry and keeps you from thinking about the other things that you’re trying NOT to drink. But the other really important thing you need is:

4. Sleep

You will be able to get through your day with no problem, even if your day is like mine which goes from 9am – 2am every night. But, at the end of the day, you are gonna crash hard. Try to give yourself space that when you get home, it’s quitting time in a big way. You will sleep hard and you will fall asleep quickly. Don’t make any plans outside of work that doesn’t involve a pillow. And finally, for all you soda drinkers out there, there’s one more thing I’d like to recommend:

5. Kombucha

Wait, what? What does this have to do with caffeine? Well, nothing, really. But what it does have to do with is the fact that you are trying to get rid of a habit that you have had for long time. In my case, I really loved soda. Now, yes, I was reliant on the caffeine (or so I thought) but that’s not really why I drank it. I drank it because I liked the carbonation, the sting of the chemicals and the slighty tart taste that I got from it. And that’s where kombucha comes in. It’s a somewhat tart, naturally fizzy drink that conveys an experience that is somewhat similar to drinking a soda. BUT! Here’s the beauty of it: you cannot get addicted to drinking Kombucha, no matter how much you like it! The reasons for this are: 1. It contains a ton of natural probiotics in it, which means that if you drink more than two in a day, you are really going to feel it in your stomach, AND #2: it costs like $4 a bottle! Yes, that’s expensive but expensive means that you’re gonna drink it more sparingly so you can enjoy it! It’s just impossible to get hooked on it, like you can with soda. But the good news is that one of these a day feels like a real treat, and really satisfies in the way that a soda would. Plus they’re all natural and kinda good for you! I recommend getting the GT’s Synergy line of Kombucha that mixes with fruit juices. They’re super-tasty and very non-threatening in flavors.

So, there you go. I did that, and a few days later, I was off caffeine. It really was that easy. I’ve kept up the smoothie regimen since then, although I use different powders now that you can find in Whole Foods. I try to get the vegan protein or rice protein powders, mixed with greens.

But you want to hear the crazy part? Just by changing my diet and quitting diet soda, I’ve lost 18 pounds in 3 months. That’s right. Plus, the thing that I was most worried about, which was: can I keep up my crazy schedule without caffeine? Well, the answer is yes! I DON’T actually need caffeine to work harder or stay up later. It turns out that I can do that anyway without any assistance. You can just do it, if you need to. What a revelation that was for me.

So, now, I feel better and I’m eating more much healthily and I owe it all to my kids, whom I love very much. I never could have done it without them. But, believe me, if I can quit caffeine, anyone can. Seriously. It’s just a matter of getting yourself ready and then taking good care of yourself when you do. You can do it. Some day, Google will be filled with millions of stories of how easy it was, and I hope your story is there too.

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Carol White
October 11, 2012 2:05 pm

I’m so proud of you for sticking to this healthy regime; I know how tough it is with your schedule. Kudos to your wife and kids for leading you down the healthy path. I didn’t think Mt. Dew had caffeine, but Google says: 54mg of caffeine
per 12 ounce can, CAFFEINE LEVEL MODERATE Maybe some decaf flavored ice tea with lemon? Thank you Jamie, Huck & Sadie from someone who loves you all very much.

October 11, 2012 12:33 pm

You can make Kombucha at home. Very easy and very inexpensive.

Jessica Marie
October 12, 2012 11:02 am
Reply to  Andrew

I’ve been looking for a new recipe since I lost mine and haven’t made any in awhile.

October 11, 2012 12:31 pm

Great story – thanks for sharing. As your story shows often our addictions have a strong mental component as well as physical – we think we need these things or tell ourselves we do. Thankfully your kids were your motivation to change and you may literally owe them your life as at some point the poor diet and sodas would have caught up with you – no body can take that abuse without breaking down in some way. Illness or diesease may have been just around the corner. I also suspect it wasnt just caffine you were addicted to – it was sugar. You can get similar withdrawl symptoms coming off sugar such as headaches. I came off sugar and it took a good week to get over the symptoms.

October 11, 2012 12:11 pm

I love your story. I never drank _that_ much caffeine, but I did have two cups of coffee each day, and ended up resenting needing to schedule my days so that I made sure I got my caffeine in. When I decided to quit, I set myself a time frame of two weeks, and then calculated how much I would have to taper down each day. The hard part was stopping, of course. I didn’t have any headaches, but I still loved a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. Luckily my husband threw out the cream (but it was still good enough for coffee!), and that was that. 🙂

October 11, 2012 12:00 pm

What great kids, and I’m glad you took their concern so seriously. I like the way your decision to eliminate one thing, caffeine, turned into a whole healthy eating way of life, eliminating artificial sweeteners and, of course, processed foods — actually I think a quick follow up about how you eat now, since I’m assuming you’re off the smoothie diet, would be really interesting. Thank you for sharing your story, and doing so in such an amusing and self-deprecatory way.

Julia in West Des Moines, IA
October 11, 2012 10:59 am

I think your wife deserves a lot of credit here, to honestly talk to your children and allowing them to feel involved and empowered in your quest for health.

Jen Russon
October 11, 2012 10:08 am

The posters his kids drew are SO CUTE!

October 11, 2012 9:56 am

You’re making this way too hard. Just gradually (and I mean GRADUALLY) reduce intake. I used to drink 2 cups of coffee a day. So day one involved making one of those 3/4-caff. Then 1/2-caff the next, then 1/4-caff the next until I was down to 1 cup of coffee a day. Keep going with the remaining cup and you’re off caffeine in 8 pain-free days. For soda you could mix your mountain dew with plain soda water until after a couple of weeks you’re drinking all soda water. Or go from 8 a day to 7 to 6…

I’ve been trying to get my husband to drink less diet soda, but I can’t find definitive proof it’s bad for him. Anyone have a study I can point to?

October 11, 2012 10:57 am
Reply to  Terra

Do a search on the artificial sweetener (aspartame, nutrisweet, splenda , etc) and you’ll find that it is a neurotoxin. Do a search on the colorings involved (dyes, caramel color, etc) and you’ll find those also can be neurotoxins if made out of petroleum products. The caffeine seems to be the least of the evils in diet soda… And it messes with your body and many people gain weight from the soda that was supposed to prevent it. Hopefully one of your searches will land on info that will help him see the product for what it is. I wish you well with this!

October 11, 2012 11:03 am
Reply to  Heather

Thanks. We have young kids and the last thing we need is him getting pancreatic cancer or some crazy thing.

October 11, 2012 12:57 pm
Reply to  Terra

I did the same thing, weaned myself off of coffee, which I love, love, love. The way I read the article though is that he also got rid of the other poor eating habits which could have triggered drinking sodas all over again. It seems he felt a total recalibration of his diet was necessary, which really seems difficult and is quite an accomplishment. I’m very impressed. Lindsay, may I borrow your kids for an intervention with my husband?

October 11, 2012 9:21 am

I became super sensitive to caffeine a while back. I drank a lot of coffee at the office and it actually had the same effects as withdrawal – gave me weird headaches to the extent that for a while I was scared I had a brain tumor or something. Then I caught a cold, which usually gets me off coffee and onto tea, and the headache went away. After that, whenever I’ve had a cup of the strong stuff the weird headache has come back, as well as extreme jitters that make me feel ill, and ridiculous insomnia. So now I only drink a cup of decaf a morning and no soda (which I never did much of anyway, because of the chemicals) and life is good. I know decaf and teas still have small amounts of caffeine, but I think they can be recommended as good alternatives for someone… Read more »

Stacy Spensley
October 12, 2012 8:23 am
Reply to  Caitlin

Caitlin, I did the same thing. I love coffee, but it was causing adrenal fatigue. After I stopped drinking it, I felt better, I slept better – it was amazing.

I missed the ritual of the coffee more than the caffeine, so I started drinking Teeccino, an herbal coffee-alternative, which helped a lot.

Lindsay Jones
October 11, 2012 9:20 am

Hey everyone, thank you so much for your amazing responses. I’m so glad to hear that you have received inspiration from my story and from my kids, like I did.

Deanna, you are right that kombucha and chocolate have some caffeine in them, but I guess my point is that I’m not consuming those things for that purpose. When I drank soda, I literally felt that I HAD to have that caffeine or I would collapse. Now, I can enjoy these other things in moderation and not be completely focused on how much I need to get from the caffeine.

I will pass everyone’s comments on to my kids, who I know will be very excited to hear!