As I write this on Black Friday, the reminders of my shipping addiction are relentlessly chasing me. I’m the tiny rabbit in a field of foxes. Most people think of a shopping addiction, and they’re instantly annoyed reminded of a movie. Others think of it as a “normal” addiction, or something that isn’t really a problem. We all shop, right? Well, yes and no.
I’ve always known I have a pretty addictive personality. I avoid alcohol. I’ve never tried drugs or smoking. For a long time, I didn’t realize that shopping was my addiction. It was what soothed my emotions. When things were wrong, I shopped. When things were right, I shopped. When things were numb, I shopped.
What does a shopping addiction look like? For me, it looked like daily packages, closets full of new bags, multiple copies of the same thing, unnecessary electronics, and multiple trips to the mall. My shopping addiction led to having no savings, multiple credit card bills, and a feeling of hollow emptiness.
When I finally realized I had a problem, I was fully in debt. I was struggling to go to a mall without getting the shakes (literal shaking). I was struggling to trust myself to use my cell phone or iPad without ending up on a website that required money. I was feeling incredible guilt and shame after each shopping trip. I was struggling to make ends meet due to my shopping habits.
When I realized my shopping problem, I visited my first therapist. My problem… shopping. The first therapist was much older, and she didn’t quite take me seriously. In fact, during our fifth session, she fell asleep. In my anger, I told myself it my problem was boring enough for my therapist to fall asleep then I clearly didn’t have a problem at all. My behavior continued. The credit card bills continued to pile up, as did my accumulation of stuff. The interesting thing about the stuff is that the rush only came as the payment was made. After the purchase, the feeling would be replaced with utter disgust and shame.
A few years went by before I noticed how bad my addiction was. Once I noticed, I tried meditation, self-help books, psychology techniques on my own, 4 more therapists, and much more. My addiction is still a work in progress. It’s much easier to not shop now, but I still have bad days. I try to avoid the mall. There are trips where I still get a bit of the rush and shakiness. I try to be mindful of my internet usage. Am I ending up in an online retailer? If so, am I buying what I need? This is something I deal with on a daily basis. Checking in with myself daily is very necessary to keep myself aware of my intent. There are days when I reach out to friends to see if I’m overdoing it. There are days when I need to redirect my attention elsewhere. Like any other addiction, my shopping addiction requires a day by day approach, and that’s ok.