In this post on The Mothership, Ibi said:
…looking at my card statement may be just what I need to kick this habit! And that 12-step program sounds like a good idea. I am not joking or making fun of anyone — Compulsive serial shopping is an addiction, caused by ‘fashion envy’ (among other things)— a bit like boyfriend envy, when we have to have what someone else has/wants. Even if only for a day, a week etc and then its off to the BM for yet another demoralizing return; because I really didn’t need, like or want it(or him) after all.
Just saying (may not apply to everyone).”
That kicked off some related comments. These jumped out at me, in particular. Disclaimer: if you made any of the following, I’m not saying anything specific about you. These are just comments that resonated with me.
* Always good to take a step back and rethink
* the pace! being breathless and worried at a pushing shoving sample sale in my own home
* I’ve been known to have a few drinks and shop
* In my defense (note: this comment was mentioned 3x)
* Please don’t extend the promo!!
* …as others have said sometimes it’s just the thrill of the hunt, the rush of snagging a bargain and then hyperventilating as I try to find an item in accessories to cover the 45ç I need to meet Free minimum Shipping before someone snatches it out of my cart.
* if you can resist pulling the trigger, step away from the computer and then go on with your life the things that you have put in your cart will loose their appeal by the afternoon, if they are still there. It is like shopping in a store packed versus shopping in a store empty.
* Why do we get so frantic while shopping from the comfort of our own homes?! It’s maniacal.
Within the thread, suggestions were made that Alexis run a post to share stories about ‘shopping under the influence.’ Comments followed about how said post could help disable the enabling of shopping, offer protection against Crewlade, and the like. I wasn’t clear if the suggested post would have a serious tone, consist of funny stories or both. At any rate, it reminded me that I’ve long wanted to run a post about shopping addiction. There are so many jokes made and believe me when I say it’s hard to get a very serious conversation going about it. Y’know the term retail therapy is thrown around as a joke, when my guess is that shopping addicts have people in their family who are addicts of other substances.
Even if you’ve only visited this blog for a post or two, it’s clear that I share limited information about myself. I’m one of the cutters, cropping my head out of photos. I’m so happy I went that route as it’s the right thing for my work & personal life. At the end of last year I realized just how odd it is to see someone’s head cut off and it can be far less interesting than full frame photos. However, the pursuit of anonymity allows me to share more than if my mug was present. Two years ago now (amazing!), I took a break from this blog. It felt like forever, but it was only 2 weeks. My return to blogging was kicked off by this post and in it I mentioned the following:
“On one hand I was feeling blue and trying to shield myself from that. On the other hand, I felt like so many things were blooming in my life and going great. I admit that I was getting stuck in a rut of mindless shopping. I was not in control. At all. It was great to step away and begin to drill down to what was causing the compulsive and obsessive feelings I had at times. I’m still working on it, but I feel less obsessed and that’s the most important thing.”
The obsessive feelings I refer to are similar to those that someone mentioned on The Mothership. The feeling included breathlessness and heart racing. Whiiiile shopping. I also realized how intently focused I was when buying things. Kvetching over this and that. Feeling irritated by online reps who were trying to be polite & provide good customer service, but were making me nervous that I would miss out on my items. And who knows what else I was going thru in that mental state. I decided to start talk therapy, specifically asking for assistance with shopping addiction. I thought that working with a behavioral therapist would give me some tools to remove whatever triggers I was experiencing. I’ve been introspective for years and am very articulate about my…ahem…areas of opportunity. I realize I don’t know everything, but the smarty in me thought going to someone w/a PhD. would trump…well…that that person would run the therapy show and not me. My cousin and I joke about how we’re the CEO of our respective branches of the family. We’re the people who come up with plans, solutions, how to execute, naming tasks for various players, etc… I wanted to relax and let someone else take charge of the situation and help guide me to solutions.
I got a therapist who ran the sessions well by keeping me focused on myself. However, he didn’t take the lead as I had hoped. I got a reincarnation of Freud who wanted me to talk about my mother. And father. Well, yeah, I had some breakthrus,. Not about my parents, though. I worked that stuff out awhile back for the most part. One of my breakthrus was being able to articulate (beautifully, I might add) what the shopping high feels like. In short, I was trying to escape the pressures I felt irl. *lol* Stepping into retail stores was definitely a salve and a way to disappear for a bit. As far as therapy, I liked him and mostly looked forward to my sessions. Unfortunately, I felt he wanted to drag it out . Y’know, the line about therapy being ‘a process.’ I get it. However, I knew the how and why. I needed the what to do and wasn’t getting it. I expressed these thoughts & feelings, but nothing changed so I stopped going after a couple months. As timing would have it, I went into rescue mode again in my family and didn’t seek another therapist. I thought about joining Al-Anon as we do have addiction in our family. The Al-Anon theme came up a couple times in the year, but I didn’t get around to it. I was afraid that might be a slow process, too.
From that point, I’d say my shopping more or less continued. I would have spurts where I shopped a lot and others where I didn’t so much at all. I think one issue that was tough, and is still is, is seeing something new and thinking I want it. An issue I’ve left in the past is the JC credit card. I paid it off every couple weeks and they kept increasing my limit. I didn’t even realize it. They literally tripled it and I didn’t know it until I checked my balance one day. When you get into the buy-and-return mode, things get really confusing, right? The wake up call for me was when someone on The Mothership mentioned the crime and senselessness of paying 19%+ interest on the card. At that point I was carrying a balance. It snuck up on me and it was 4 figures. After I read that post, I immediately transferred my JC balance to a 0% Mastercard, closed the JC card and paid the MC off with the quickness. Since then I run a spreadsheet of what I’m buying. Looking at the spreadsheet on a regular basis helps me be a bit more in check. Also, paying for things straight out and not charging on a JC card has been good. With the buy-return practice, inevitably there is a game I play of well, my balance really isn’t that high because I’m going to return x and x. Not acknowledging the fact that when I go to the store to return x and x, I’m going to leave with something else, wiping away the credit. Know what I’m sayin’? (looking at you *wink wink*)
In the interest of time I’m editing my story quite a bit, but I’d say one of the things that has helped me is discussing things with G Money. Despite the moniker I (jokingly) gave him, he doesn’t fund my purchases. This has probably been a huge reason why we’re able to discuss my overshopping in a constructive way. He’s aware that I want to change things, but hasn’t nagged me as I’ve tried to find my way. Hallelujah. So yes, shopping has been an escape for me at times. It has distracted me, amused me, uplifted me and more. We used to travel quite a bit and because of changes in our life in recent years, we don’t. My travel has been at the mall, quite frankly. Unfortunately, I was repeatedly left with a hangover of guilt and regret about spending money on clothes that I scarcely wear. That was part of the fantasy, though. That I will wear a pretty dress to an upcoming event although there isn’t nary a one in sight. However, one thing I’ve recently acknowledged is how much I love clothing, shoes and handbags. Some things — not all — are like little pieces of art. A couple weeks ago, G Money & I were in a retail store of some sort, which is rare. I literally touched every item that I walked past. I must’ve been fondling them or sliding my hands on them because he seemed a bit embarrassed and said, You don’t have to touch everything. I said, Yes, I do. And I do! I want to feel the garment in my hands. The colors and textures are also delights to my eyes. Summing it all up, I’d say there was definitely a period where I was in a mode of running away from things, running towards other things and pursuing an endorphin high thru shopping. I feel I’ve moved away from that. My interest is definitely piqued by things I see on other people, but not in the same way as before. I used to jump in my car and drive out to get it. Or click and order it fairly quickly. I definitely feel better about not chasing things. I know that things I see on others may not work on me. They’re not going to change my life in the long lasting way I want. Conversely, I’ve realized how much I just loooove touching and looking at clothes. One thing I used to do and got far away from is playing in my clothes. I was much more creative when I could take a day once a week or every other week to create outfits. Polyvore doesn’t work for me. I have to touch the clothing. I worked in retail as a teen and thought about doing that part time. Although my desire to look at and touch clothing would be fulfilled, I’m not convinced that’s a good idea. *lol*
I do believe shopping addictions are real. I tried to discuss mine with a couple close friends and it’s like they. Just. Don’t. Get it. Like really don’t get it. Or maybe they don’t want to deal with their own secret practices. I have no idea. Awhile back it was hard for me to decide whether I had a problem or not since I couldn’t have a decent conversation w/anyone that I’m close to. I’m pretty sure one friend has an issue, but she won’t cop to it no matter how much I share. And then we know the therapist didn’t work out as I’d hoped. When I later had the fibroid issue and subsequent medical procedures, I took a good look at my mental state. I’ve made some progress and hope to make more. I think once some things change for my husband and I, my behavior will naturally change. From time to time I still consider talk therapy or working w/someone that can help me have the breakthru(s) I desire. It’s tough for me to swallow, but I’m certain that shopping is a self-imposed obstacle that I’ve put between me and goals I’m afraid of pursuing. I can’t tell you about your situation and I hope you don’t try to tell me about mine. I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist. Just a blogger writing a post. But I’ll drop some questions that came up for me or that I read on websites, in no particular order:
Do you feel guilty about some purchases? Are you late to meetings or appointments because of shopping? Are you getting up in the middle of the night to check retail websites? Have you hid purchases? Have you lied about what you’ve bought? Have you lied about how much you’ve spent? Are you moving money between accounts to buy things? Are you using money for clothing that was intended for another purpose? Are you carrying excessive balances on credit cards for your retail purchases? Are you acquiring clothes faster than you can wear them? Do you get home and can’t remember what you’ve purchased? Same for online…a box arrives and you can’t remember what will be in it? When you think of a way to burn a bit of time, is your 1st choice to shop? Are you buying clothes for scenarios you see in your head, but don’t often happen irl?
I already copped to that last one. *lol* I am in a position to need clothes for nice events, but they haven’t happened as much as I thought they would. And when I do get an opportunity to wear nice clothes, I sometimes can’t find them! I know that needs to change, too. Ibi dropped a link to this site and while I was briefly on it, I noticed a book title. I don’t own any books on compulsive shopping or shopping addiction so I can’t recommend any. However, when I was on Amazon looking up the book, I saw a number of other titles that looked interesting. And remember trying your local library for titles. As with anything I post here, take time to read any online reviews, assess your situation and think about whether (insert product/service here) is right for you or not.:
I invite you to discuss whatever you’d like about the topic. As much or as little as you like. I shared part of my story just to share. I’m not asking for any advice. I’ve discussed and will continue to discuss things w/people of my choosing. Unfortunately, blogs looks like an open door to some people to criticize, but there’s enough opinions & judgment taking up space in my own head. Furthermore, I think it’s presumptuous to tell someone what s/he should be doing with his or her money. When the mortgage brokers were selling loans and homeowners were refinancing up the yin, no one was checking on me to see if I was getting my McMansion. Therefore, it truly irks me when people suddenly want to regulate what others should or shouldn’t be doing “in this economy.” If you feel this is a topic unworthy of your time, feel free to skip rather than dropping a speech about what’s ‘truly’ important. Just remember, you rarely ever know someone’s full story.
Also see this post on Little Girl Big Closet.