Whatever occurs - pain or pleasure, good or bad, justice or injustice - part of the learning process. So there is nothing to blame; everything is the path, everything is dharma.
- Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
We had a sharing circle last weekend at a meditation workshop and the humour about it was what I shared. As well as what I gleaned.
My humble opinion and yes, shopping addiction is pretty downscale compared to alcoholism or drug addictions, but addiction isn't a disease. It is learned. It is a learned repetition of actions to meet strong desire, which over time became habit for me. In most, the desire is to be happy, to feel a sense of elation, to be literally on a high. It's actually quite normal. Everyone wants to feel this way. Shopping gave me a high, but it was a fleeting fix.
"Addiction arises from the same feelings that bind lovers to each other and children to their parents. And it builds on the same cognitive mechanisms that get us to value short-term gains over long-term benefits," from The Biology of Desire by Marc Lewis. Great book!
The threshold of normal-to-addict happens when the focus narrows so much to the exclusion of all else, it starts to become unhealthy. The desire is so persistent. You're so absolutely sure you can live on two-minute noodles for the rest of the month and be happy, so long as you get the next unbelievably beautiful "fix". You keep stalking the same shop. You start obsessing about life without that pair of shoes or without that handbag. You begin to imagine how shiny you'd feel once you owned that silk shirt. You can't imagine feeling whole without that beautiful blue sapphire ring with the snake scales running around the band. Life isn't quite complete. And the story kept running on repeat in my mind when the high from the previous purchase subsided.
Eventually I faced up to the problem. My boyfriend, now my husband, and I were applying for a home loan and we had to list down all financial commitments for the bank to assess whether we were even suitable for them to lend us a whopping amount of dosh. I was tiptoeing around the issue in chats with my significant other. Imagine my shame as I squirmed red-faced and admitted I owed $25k on my credit card. I kid you not!...through all this I kept getting the devil card in tarot readings, lol.
Fortunately, I was earning well and paid it off fairly quickly. In fact this was one of the reasons I used to justify the habit. Ack!
The hole inside myself wanted to be filled with happiness from the outside. But nothing from our external world can ever fulfill that purpose. No thing, no one. Only we can give that to ourselves. By changing our beliefs and cultivating a strong sense of self from weakness to strength, we can shift the dynamic and start feeling we are enough. Just as we are.
How did I do it?
- I read a of self-help books and spiritual development books...I spent a helluva lot of time in bookshops in that aisle.
- I did a self-development course. This isn't for everyone. But if you want to be get gung ho about change, sometimes we need to allow help to come in to accelerate the transformation.
- I stayed away from anywhere, which would only tempt me to part with my dosh. That's shops, boutiques, flea markets, delis, health food shops...any place that doesn't sell the bare necessities.
- I put myself on a tight "frivolous spending" budget. Cold turkey was too hard and very nearly made me slide back into a worse position.
- I took my shopping online. Just me and the computer, no persuasive shop assistant telling me how fab I looked and I endlessly practiced placing things in carts, then turning off the computer.
- I stopped buying fashion/homewares magazines.
- I affirmed to myself that I could be happy without the next new material fixation. I may have even made up a chant for it, which I would say under my breath every morning like a mantra.
- I learned through meditation and my growing awareness to watch out for signs and the feeling of the energy of temptation.
- I forgave and accepted myself for being so weak when it came to exxy frivolous spending.
Most importantly, I learned what it felt like, the energy of shopping bait. Instead of avoiding it, I faced it, embraced it and dived into the wave. Like swimming, I learned to take a breath, hold it, wait for the wave to pass and come up for air on the other side. Because energy comes in waves. Once you experience this, you'll know you can face the pull of the quick fix and emerge fist-pumping yourself...well done! It feels awesome!
In today's materialistic society and the culture of keeping up with the Janes, its very easy to end up with a problematic shopping habit. My addiction was on the mild side, but it could've been much worse. If you find yourself on the verge or already enabling a shopping addiction, I hope this post is useful. Good luck and let me know if you need a hand.
Have a great week and cheerio!