Monday, November 21, 2011

Shopping: My Drug of Choice

I'd rather be shopping at Nordstroms !

This statement used to frame my license plate.

When my daughter told me that she would go with me to Nordstroms so that I wouldn't spend so much money, I knew my secret was out !

Raised in a low income home, we had very few essentials; at times we had no hot water or electricity and I didn't even have a pair of shoes when I went to second grade. I felt ashamed and embarrassed !

I always vowed that one day I would have lots of fine things in my life.

I kept my promise to myself. As my first husband became a successful architect my dreams began to be realized.

The problem was that I couldn't say NO to anything I adored ! It didn't matter what it was, I just had to have it at that moment. I often hid purchases in the closet thinking that what my spouse didn't see he wouldn't notice.

When Imelda Marcos was exposed for her obsessive overindulgences, I personally owned over 150 pairs of shoes. I felt slightly embarrassed but still didn't acknowledge that I had a serious spending problem.

I ignored my behavior and so did my spouse; he had his own issues. We maintained an unspoken agreement to remain silent about our self-sabotaging behaviors.

Eventually, the truth was revealed; we were headed for bankruptcy. We blamed it on the economy. The truth is that if I had not spent so much we could have saved for a downturn in the economy.

I still continued my addictive behavior; I refused to acknowledge my destructive habit and kept spending.

When my spouse was offered a lucrative job in Moscow, Russia I soon had more money that I had ever imagined and I spent it on trips, clothes, and gifts. No matter how much he made I managed to spend to the max !

When my first marriage finally dissolved and I left the extravagant lifestyle, reality set in; I couldn't hide my addiction from myself any longer.

I'd like to say that I immediately changed and became frugal; unfortunately, it has taken several years for me to overcome my compulsive behavior.

When I get angry, bored, discouraged, anxious or even excited the first thing I want is a FIX !

My compulsive shopping is no different than using a drug to numb myself from facing uncomfortable situations in my life. I was running away from my own suffering. My childhood was fraught with abuse so I tried to comfort myself and to fill the emptiness. It seemed easier to avoid the source of my pain than to face it. My first instinct was to run !

Over time I began facing my discomfort and noticed that my urge to shop or run away lessened.

Now I hold myself accountable and so does my spouse. Whenever I want to purchase something, I discuss it with him to decide whether or not it is a necessary expenditure.

I rarely shop alone; when I do, I create a list and a price range and stay within a budget. I have started a savings account and am learning to plan for future goals and dreams.

With Christmas arriving, I already feel the excitement of shopping.

Yesterday I went to a mall and purchased items on my list for my grandchildren, keeping within my reasonable limits. As I was leaving I walked through a new store on my way out and noticed lots of things that I would love to wear. The adrenaline began pumping through my entire body. I felt intoxicated, and wanted to spend, spend, spend ! I recognized the self-sabortaging sign and immediately left the store. Calling my daughter in the parking lot, I confessed that I felt like an alcoholic at a bar and had to remove myself from temptation.

When I got home I shared the entire experience with my spouse. He told me how proud he was that I had stayed on my projected course and even spent less than I had originally planned, buying only sale items.

I am encouraged that I am learning to overcome my self-destructive pattern. I know that I am still vulnerable and need to be aware of my feelings so that I don't fall into the same trap again.

I now surrender my uncomfortable moments to God and humbly asking that He fill the empitness with more of Himself.

Shopping till I drop is no longer my slogan !

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Talking with my daughter-in-love about the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner she is hosting for our family, we were discussing details about the food preparation and equipment needed.

I excitedly told her that I planned to prepare a vegetarian dish for my granddaughter and perhaps a cranberry dish as well.

As soon as these words left my lips, her facial expression changed from joyful enthusiasm to discouragement. I suddenly realized that I had said too much and had hurt her feelings; something I would never intentionally want to do.

When she walked out the door heading for work I felt the tension between us and tried to fix it by backtracking, which didn't help alleviate her suffering. After I thought it over for a few minutes I sent her a quick apology via text and mentioned that I didn't mean to take over her dinner plans, only wanted to help, but was just chattering away without thinking; this is my usual style of communication.

I didn't hear back from her for a few hours. During that time I agonized over what I could have done differently; then I went to a very dark place inside myself.

I called my spouse and blubbered that I felt unappreciated and like a second-class citizen ! After all, I was only trying to help!  I mentioned all the things I do for my family and how I always do what they want. I was crying and feeling sorry for myself.

What an overreaction on my part !

After ranting about the situation and feeling like it was irreparable I began to calm down and gain some understanding. I began to remember how I felt the first time I prepared Thanksgiving for my family. I wanted everything perfect ! I created the entire menu for 40 family members including decorations, table settings and name tags. When my cousin arrived and tried to help me with the arrangements I felt resentful rather than thankful for her assistance !

Later when I received a message from my daughter via text, she thanked me for my desire to help and stated kindly that she wanted to prepare all the food as a gift to our family.

Did I ever feel ashamed of myself !

During misunderstandings I often overreact and experience feelings of despair and hopelessness. When these intensely uncomfortable feelings surface I realize now that they are not due to the current conflict but are related to painful experiences during my childhood.

As a child I was a fighter. If dad were drunk I would try to protect my mother during his rampage, even at the early age of three. My family often called me a pest. I would probably have been labeled as having ADHD if the term had been used in the 50's.

Because of the frightening experiences of sexual abuse throughout my childhood I can easily become discouraged and experience a sense of hopelessness. When I recognize what I am doing to myself I sit still and ask God what is really going on with me; the answers come in a quiet and peaceful way.

When in conflict I initially condemn myself for my failings and then feel sorry for myself. I am now learning to hold myself accountable for my part in any miscommunication and forgive myself for my less than perfect reactions.

I am on an enlightening journey and mindful of its wondrously unfolding beauty.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Void

Feeling emptiness and sadness today . . . .

I know the SOURCE of LOVE and am seeking fullness again.

In the past I filled the emptiness with self-sabotaging behavior like shopping, compulsive cleaning, eating, or seeking an inappropriate encounter.

Now I allow myself to experience the emptiness, the void, the hole in my heart.

I don't know if it's because of losses in my life, or unfulfilled dreams; I just feel the tears caught in my throat.

I know this uncomfortable feeling will soon pass and I will again experience the sense of abundance.

Right now I am still.

I KNOW that I am loved no matter what my feelings may express.