My Struggle with Caffeine:

December 15, 2020

My doctor sat across from me and told me I was “bookending.” 


Caffeine every morning, and alcohol most evenings. 

Stimulant, depressant, stimulant, depressant. 

My body didn’t know which way was up, and I was consistently being jerked in opposite chemical directions. 

I’d been suffering from severe fatigue for several years. Overall I felt healthy though, and was checking all the boxes so I was confused and frustrated. I made healthy eating choices about 80% of the time, exercised regularly and had a very healthy sleep routine, yet I was still waking up exhausted. 

I also suffered from lower back pain but chalked that up to childhood gymnastics.

When I finally went to see a specialist for my back, he conducted the most thorough physical and verbal assessment I had received in 38 years.

I felt the true meaning of a holistic approach so many providers brag about but don’t actually execute.

When Dr. Monks explained the concept of “adrenal fatigue” and gently (but urgently) encouraged me to stop drinking coffee, I scoffed or had some dramatic reaction because how dare he attack my morning bff? Surely a cup of coffee in the morning couldn’t be causing me to feel this bad, this guy was out of line.

I received the news but admittedly, I didn’t give up my morning (spilling into the afternoon) coffee, so I continued to experience the same problems.

The definition of Insanity.

Doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

For months I paid his Los Angeles out of pocket fees, and after my 5th or 6th appointment he looked at me and said, “if you don’t try and give up caffeine, you’re going to continue to pay me ridiculous amounts of money and you’re working against yourself. These adjustments are simply an external bandaid. Your body is giving you clues that you are clearly ignoring, ditch the coffee already!”

Dr. Monks is a no bullshit doctor and I loved and hated him for that. I just wasn’t ready to hear it.

COVID aside, I’ve personally worked from home for the past decade, so I had access to my coffee pot all day, and when I did an honest assessment, I realized I was drinking coffee for about 6-8 hours a day.

Refill after refill and my body was buzzing with caffeine that transpired into anxiety.

In March 2019, I finally decided to give up coffee and alcohol for 30 days and see what happened. I actually posted about it on my Instagram, and the DM’s starting flying in about other people in the Salted Spirit community who either suffered from the same struggles as me, or had given up coffee and/or alcohol and could speak firsthand to the benefits. 

For those of us that drink coffee, about 64% of our nation, it’s often the ritual that brings us back.

The aroma of fresh ground beans in the morning, a dollop of creamer or milk, the warmth in your body. How could I possibly replace that, especially before or after surfing?! After all, coffee was my reward for getting in the water, especially on cold winter mornings!

I needed a healthy replacement ritual, and I needed it fast.

I’m the girl who has a cup in her hand on all Zoom meetings, and a to-go mug in the truck with me at all times.

This is how the Salted Spirit teas were born. 

Hang in there with me just a little bit longer….

I was up in Seattle for a work trip and stumbled across my first official tea shop. I’m talking only tea, no coffee options even available to order, is that really a thing?

Looseleaf tea was an entirely new concept to me, and this store had over 300 variations of looseleaf options. Slightly overwhelming, honestly.

I purchased 3 samples, but what changed my life that day was a coffee table book in the shop called ‘101 herbal tea recipes.’

Now, if I’m being honest I don’t enjoy cooking, baking or anything with complex recipes so normally I’d blow this off, but something was calling me to this book.

I ordered a copy and my journey began.

I started sourcing herbs like ashwagandha, siberian ginseng and astragalus to assist more naturally with energy, stamina and overall positivity. None of these herbs had been in my vocabulary previously, and I was enthralled with hundreds of years of history, anecdotes and storytelling around each of these herbs. 

Many of the tea recipes also called for more recognized herbs or roots like ginger, fennel, nettle, honeybush or mint.

I started experimenting with the recipes, refining them and making them my own based on what my own body needed as a woman and as a surfer. 

The thing is, I’ve been blending my own teas now for almost two years, sharing them more intimately with friends and family but for some reason I was really hesitant to put them out into the world. 

Exposing your craft or passion to your community, friends and family can be really intimidating.

In hindsight I realize my hesitation was nothing short of silly. If I can help one other person, or one person simply enjoys my teas, that’s all that matters! That’s good enough for me. 

So, here it is. I finally ripped the bandaid of my own ego and created two blends for you all to taste and enjoy.

I’m not an herbalist or a botanist, although I may work towards one of these awesome titles in the future with some more formal training, but I do know that herbal teas have helped me both physically and mentally.

My own personal experimentation has paid off to the point where I feel confident and excited about sharing my own looseleaf blends with the world.

I even worked with the author of the book I mentioned above to craft a speciality recipe just for the Salted Spirit community, coming in 2021 and my soon to be third tea option.

In closing, I want to quickly share my new and refined morning ritual, and you may be surprised by this, but it still includes coffee.

Yes, I still drink coffee, but I’m done by 6:30am.

I get up at 5am, enjoy 1 cup of coffee every single morning, and I feel fine. I switch to my herbal tea blends about 6 or 6:30 after my husband has finished off the pot, and then we both enjoy my herbal teas all morning and throughout the day. I’m stoked because I still have a cozy cup in my hand 6-8 hours a day, and I get the best of both worlds, without the anxiety. 

Don’t get me wrong, I deeply respect the folks who have given up caffeine all together and I may consider that someday. There’s a lot of research around the pros and cons of coffee, so do your own research and do what feels right for your own body and mind.

One friendly caution, and speaking from my own experience – just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s not harmful.

In closing, I do want to share this illustration and study done by NASA where they give spiders various substances. The caffeine illustration stopped me in my tracks because I respect nature so deeply, even more-so than what a doctor in a white coat might tell me. 

I’d love to hear from all of you reading. 

Can you relate to my story and struggles with caffeine? How has caffeine affected you, personally, positively or negatively? What have you done to navigate your relationship with coffee or caffeine?

Leave me a comment below, or if it’s too personal to share here, feel free to slide into my DM’s on Instagram and I promise to respond to you. This is one of my favorite topics on the planet, because I know it affects so many of us, especially now with COVID and many of us leaning into substances to cope with our new reality.

Oh, and I mention alcohol above. That’s a topic for a future post, so stay tuned..

Thanks as always for reading!


  1. Hogie says:

    The irony of a “coffee table” book that changed your life. Might need to change the term to “tea table” book 😆 Thanks for the read! Interesting!

    • Stacie Vanags says:

      hi Laura, RIGHT?! Of course you catch the irony in the article, I love it! Tea is on the way, let me know what you think and thanks for the support!

  2. Kellie Jax says:

    What a great read! I definitely want to try your blends! ♥️

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