I Broke the Takeout Coffee Ban (Just Once, I Think)


I’m now five months into the yearlong shopping ban I started on my birthday (July 7th). Did anyone think I wouldn’t last this long!? You can raise your hand, I won’t be offended. But the good news is I’m 5 months down (or 41.66% complete for you percentage lovers) and am proud to say I haven’t given up – at least, not entirely. I want to update you on both the shopping ban and the takeout coffee ban, but each suffered a minor setback after my last update and they now deserve separate posts of their own. The shopping ban setback was a little more intense, so let’s start with takeout coffee…

So far, the first 30 days of the takeout coffee ban have still proven to be the most difficult. During that time, whenever I felt the desire to go out and get a latte, the ban forced me to say no and, at the same time, recognize what my triggers were. By the 3-month mark, I felt as though I’d figured out what all my coffee habits were and thought I had successfully changed them. When my brain told me to get a latte before heading out to run errands, I told myself no and downed a glass of water before leaving instead. When I saw people pouring out of Starbucks with their red cups in hand, I reminded myself I had delicious beans from one of my favourite coffee shops in Toronto back at home. And when friends asked me out for coffee, I either said no or suggested we do something active instead. It only took 3 months, but I was certain I had kicked my takeout coffee addiction.

Just a few weeks after writing that update, however, I broke the ban – and I didn’t even realize it until it was too late. David was in town and we were having dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Commercial Drive. During our meal, we actually talked about our coffee drinking habits, the equipment we used to make it each morning, etc. I mentioned I only drink almond milk, which we both agreed is impossible to make foam with, and I added that not many coffee shops offered it anyway. Dinner went on and, when we were done, David asked if I wanted to go out for coffee. Without blinking, I said yes. We then walked up and down Commercial Drive, in search of a coffee shop that was still open. When we finally found one and walked up to order, I pointed out what was on the menu. “Omg! They have almond milk!” (I’m easily amused.) We paid, sat down, and I finished my entire latte before we brought up the shopping ban… which I then realized I had just broken.

I wish I could’ve seen the look on my face; it must have been total shock. How did that just happen!? Why did I say yes to coffee? I say no to everyone! Ahhh! Poor David felt awful, but we were also fascinated by the entire transaction. For starters, when he asked if I wanted coffee, nothing inside me registered that the answer was supposed to be no. As we walked up and down the street in search of a coffee shop, all I could think was that I hoped we found one soon. (It was raining.) Then we all know I got really excited about the almond milk. When I handed over my credit card to pay, no part of me felt like I was breaking any rules. And I sipped on it for probably 15-20 minutes, before we got on the subject of the ban and realized what I had done. “I wonder how many times you’ve done that without realizing it,” David added. I’m certain the answer is 0 (before this), but honestly… would I have even realized I’d done it this time, if we hadn’t talked about the ban while at the coffee shop?

I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit thinking about this event, and I keep searching for the answer to one question: why didn’t I remember I was in the middle of the ban? I have a few ideas. First, if I simply analyze it as a habit, drinking a coffee after dinner is something I never, ever do. Since it was a situation I don’t usually find myself in, maybe none of my usual triggers were present to tell me not to? The second idea I had revolves around who asked me to have coffee. David doesn’t live here, and it was only the second time we’d hung out in person, so I’m not in the habit of saying yes or no to him about anything. We’d also talked a few times about meeting up one day, and it was nice to finally do so. And then the conversation was good and I had no idea when we’d see each other again, so maybe my brain just blocked the ban so we could keep talking?

My third guess came from some research I did around why we forget things. I discovered interference theory – more specifically, retroactive interference – which occurs when new information interferes with our ability to remember old information. Perhaps all our talk about how much we like coffee followed by his invitation to go for some registered as new/exciting information, which interfered with my ability to remember that I wasn’t supposed to? I don’t know. I’ve also joked that maybe he asked me on purpose, as a test. But David has been one of my biggest supporters of the shopping ban since the start, so there’s no way that’s true. (Or is it…?)

No matter what the right answer is, the fact is that I broke the takeout coffee ban once in October. I avoided all possible coffee shop interactions with friends in Vancouver in November, so I know it hasn’t happened since… but could it have happened once or twice before I said yes to David!? Based on the (lack of) evidence, I guess we’ll  never know.

I’ll share my shopping ban update on Monday. Until then, I’m curious: has something like this ever happened to you – where you did something before realizing you weren’t supposed to?

Flickr: duncan