I, developer, survived two weeks without coffee!

October 09, 2014stories, english
 This has been written a few years ago and might not be up-to-date…

Cet article est aussi disponible en français.

When I was younger and/or still a student, I wasn’t really used to drinking coffee: I would have one every once in a while, but nothing more – and it was definitely not a habit.

The day I started working in a consulting firm1, I pretty much hadn’t taken a seat yet that one of my colleagues was asking me some “do you want a coffee?”. Considering the coffee machine would be a perfect way to get to know my colleagues2, I accepted. Same thing for other colleagues I took a coffee with the following days. Or even for new hires I welcomed later on, btw.

A couple of months after the end of my internship and my hiring, with a little help from the upcoming release of a large project and unreasonable work schedules, I was still fixing tickets, saying to myself “there, one last coffee”, at more than 9PM

I rapidly got to drinking 6 to 8 cups of coffee per day – you’d just have to count:

  1. A first one early in the morning, at home, just after waking up, while reading my RSS.
  2. A coffee when arriving at work around 8-9AM depending on the days, either while reading mails (alerts, crons, error reports, …) of the night, or having a coffee break speaking with other colleagues who had arrived early3.
  3. Another coffee in the middle of the morning, around 10AM.
  4. Yet another one at the end of the morning, around 11:45, before going to eat.
  5. A fifth one just before 2PM, before going back to work.
  6. A coffee in the middle of the afternoon, around 4PM – quite often, that one was the occasion for a coffee break spent with a colleague, speaking about a specific technical point of the project we were currently working on4.
  7. And, finally, a last one around 5:30PM, before ending the day.

It’s easy: counting the points above, I’m already at 7. And that was for a normal day: working longer in the morning and the evening, during days of rush, I would sometimes have one or two additional coffee(s)

Thinking about it, at a rate of about thirty (euro-)cents per coffee (especially during the years we had an automatic coffee dispenser at work) six or more times a day, it adds up to about 2€ (~ 2.5 USD) each day. Which represents a coffee-budget of about 400€ a year! And this doesn’t include the price of the one coffee I took every morning at home!

To those who, from time to time, were telling me “you’re drinking too much coffee”, I was answering “nah, no”: after-all, I wasn’t sleeping too bad and was feeling OK during the day (else, I was considering it was just because I was working too much).

On the other hand, almost every week-end, I was quite tired and I sometimes got headaches, especially on Sundays… Same thing during the holidays, when I often felt exhausted, even while sleeping a lot more than when working…

Last year, I kind of randomly (thanks Twitter) read an article explaining how coffee works in the brain5 and I realized tiredness and headaches during week-ends might be caused by a lack of coffee, as I was only rarely having coffee on Saturday and Sunday.

So, one summer Monday morning last year, I stopped drinking coffee. Well, I tried: at 11AM, I was already getting one ;-(

The following day, Tuesday, second try. More successful. But I felt a bit tired all day long. It was to be predicted…

Wednesday morning while going to work, standing in the moving subway, I was so tired I felt like I was going to fall. Still, the evening before, I had gone to bed early, as I was feeling tired, and I had slept a long night!

I remember some urgent / critical / important / … thing that felt on me that same Wednesday at work at the end of the afternoon: the first thought that came to my mind was “I need a coffee, rrrhhhaaaa a coffee I have to get a coffee, some coffee, I need a coffee!!!”.

In the end, I spent the whole week feeling tired6, sleeping a lot to compensate, and taking dolipranes one after the other to fight headaches that didn’t want to go away. I had to wait until Saturday before things began to get better, and Sunday afternoon to finally be OK.

That’s were this article’s title comes from: I kind of feel like I survived this week without coffee!

Still, I did that brutally, going straight from 6-8 cups of coffee per day to 0, which might explain these symptoms – at the risk of being considered as binary, I think it’s easier than going down bit by bit. That week and the following one, I was having water-breaks with colleagues on coffee-break :-D

The second week without coffee, everything was going fine.

And, of course, I re-started drinking coffee – one when waking up, a second one at 9:30AM after our stand-up meeting, and a third one at the beginning of the afternoon. I console myself thinking it was more reasonable than before!

After a few months, this year, I again had the impression I was tired during week-ends, with occasional headaches on Sundays. Less than last year, but still kind of the same thing.

So, during spring, I stopped again. I’ve had headaches for a few days, but less than last year – because it wasn’t the first time I was stopping? Or because I was having less coffee per day than before?

Now, I’m almost at five months without coffee. And, most importantly, I do not need coffee anymore, even when it comes to a big deploy at 4AM at work or a 10 hours long trip to go to holidays \o/.

Now, I have to find out if I’ll be able to just drink coffee from time to time, purely because I want to7… while not having a relapse!

  1. I did my end-of-studies internship in a consulting firm in 2006 and worked there for more than five years afterwards. ↩︎

  2. After all, it seemed to me quite important to get to known, at least a bit, colleagues with whom I would work. Fresh out of school, I thought that talking around a coffee was a good way to step in a new project without immediately entering some “here’s the code, good luck!” mode. I still believe that now, actually – probably even more than at that time! ↩︎

  3. I’ve never felt guilty for having a long coffee break before 9AM: even taking my time, I was still at my workstation before the time I was supposed to arrive at work. ↩︎

  4. The afternoon coffee break, far away from workstations, is a great way to think, often with two or three colleagues, in a more calm way than with a computer – it has often allowed us to get problems solved and stuff unlocked! ↩︎

  5. I don’t have the link anymore and cannot find it again. But it was about some chemical stuff in the coffee, that takes the place of other chemical stuff in chemical receivers linked to tiredness and/or sleep in the brain, which explains why coffee helps against tiredness and sleepiness. Of course, when one stops drinking coffee, the normal chemical stuff comes back to the receivers that were blocked by coffee, which causes an impression of tiredness. (Sorry for the chemical stuff, reading this article was a while ago; and it’s been many years since molecules were more than chemical stuff to me ^^). Thanks to @tut_tuuut for the link to the Your Brain On Coffee video, which explains the same idea in a short and easy way! ↩︎

  6. I’m saying I felt like I was tired, because I was getting long nights and was sleeping enough for my body to be OK. I was feeling tired, but in parallel I don’t think I was less efficient in my work (but I might have been a bit more grumpy?). ↩︎

  7. As long as it’s not a matter of having 6-8 cups per day, I like the taste of coffee and drinking some hot beverage (especially in the morning during winter). So, I will probably drink some one day or the other: after-all, why not? ↩︎