I can very clearly recount the events that led to the moment I realized I’m a shopaholic. My marriage was crumbling. Then, one day my employer announced I was being laid off.
I decided, in my usual “glass half full” sing-song logic, that I would take a tiny portion of my severance pay and buy a few business suits so that I would be prepared for interviews. Then, I decided I should buy a few more business suits so that I could dress for the job I wanted. Anyone at all can tell you that a woman with new business suites needs shoes and handbags that match. Right?
That’s when the rewards began calling me back again and again. Shopping gave me an excellent excuse to get out of the house and away from my husband’s anger. The salespeople were very complimentary and shopping was more of a social event. It was like visiting friends. They always gave me the validation and positive feedback that I desperately craved from my husband. Finally, shopping was a way to feel that I was in control of my unemployment. I was doing something and it was much more satisfying than waiting for the phone to ring.
In my addiction, I forgot about my son. As difficult as home life was for me, it never occurred to me to consider what he might be going through. Instead, I was fully focused on my escape and my need to satisfy a perpetual craving.
As a shopaholic, I avoided dealing with my situation instead of taking true, meaningful control of my life. The money I received as a severance was gone in the blink of an eye. The money would have provided wonderful security for my son and me had I held the money in a savings account. I could have planned how I would be able to sustain our lifestyle in the event that my unemployment lasted for several years as many of my friends experienced. I should have used that time actually looking for a job.
To determine if I’m a shopaholic, I really only looked at one sign of addiction. Do I continue to do it even when it causes problems in my life? The answer was very clearly yes. My biggest priorities are my family and our security. What I was doing did not benefit my family or help ensure our security. My actions were, in fact, completely out of line with my priorities.
My first recovery step was to decide what I could use to distract myself when the urge to shop hit me. Then I looked for a new, positive habit to replace shopping. Now when I feel the urge to shop I ask myself if what I am buying is in line with my priorities. I remember the opportunity I missed to be a supportive mother to my son because of my addiction. Then I go for a run.