I visited a therapist twice a month after the tragic death of my uncle in 2008. More people than I assumed visited a therapist regularly as well. Sometimes our meetings were just mindless chitchat and other times, my therapist just listened to my weak voice with tears rolling down my cheeks. Either way, all the therapy helped me except with one problem. It was about Mid-August of 2010 when I self-diagnosed as a shopaholic. When I thought of the word “shopaholic”, I thought of the film, Confessions of a Shopaholic with Isla Fisher frantically running around a shopping mall and forced to attend Shopaholic’s Anonymous, but of course, my situation wasn’t as extreme or as comedic as hers.
I was working as a beauty adviser at a local drugstore, making about two dollars more than minimum wage. That wasn’t a lot of money; but I was a college student living with my parents, so every cent I earned was disposable income. My parents provided food, shelter and utilities. My mother’s health insurance minimized the cost of my therapy sessions.
While others unwound after a long day of work at the pub, I was different. Every day after work, I fed my mild shoe addiction at the mall. It started with the thought of, “I had a hard day, I deserve to treat myself”, but soon, every day I craved the high that I received from shopping. Shopping relaxed me.
As a child, when my parents had arguments, I hid under my bedcovers. As a young adult, I hid behind my bank account. Arguments had gotten much worse as I grew older and my uncle’s suicide affected my father the most, because this was his second brother to commit suicide. My dad was an alcoholic on hiatus since the day I was born, but after the death of my uncle, he resumed his alcoholism. The police were at my house every night to remove my father from the premises because of his belligerent outburst and violent arguments between him and my mother. Some days I didn’t want to return home to witness the violent situations, so I turned to the one high I could always depend on. I shopped. When I wasn’t working, I was shopping. In most stores, I was known as the crazy shoe lady because I purchased almost 10 pairs every visit. I sought relief in self-indulging. I didn’t want to think of my impulsive buying as a problem, so I kept it a secret from my therapist. At some point, I felt humiliated and terrified by my addictive behavior. I felt as if I were starring in a movie as two roles – I was the actress spiraling out of control and I was the docile audience watching my addiction unfold.
After a few months of this wild spending, I had accumulated a debt of more than 5,000 dollars. I started borrowing money from my mom. She questioned why I needed money from her when I had a decent paying job and I had no excuse to tell her other than I splurged at the mall every day. I began hiding new purchases out of shame and embarrassment.
It was at that moment when I realized I had a problem. A serious problem. My credit cards were maxed out, bill collectors were calling me non-stop and the shopping wasn’t fixing any problems. I eventually explained the compulsive desire to my therapist. She suggested I attend Shopaholics Anonymous but I knew I had to overcome this with a strong will by myself. I replaced seeking comfort from shopping by talking to my parents about the current situation between them. Communication was the underlying problem. My father then attended Alcohol Anonymous because he too had loss control over his behavior. The tension disappeared in our home. I was proud of myself to overcome a compulsive disorder that didn’t seem dangerous at first but every once in a while when I felt sad, I comforted myself by window shopping.