Shopping to Ease the Pain

Posted by Jill Chivers
Avis Cardella

This week we welcome Avis Cardella.  Whom we were fortunate enough to have as a guest writer here on thisee-here blog not so long ago (if you missed her post, click here to catch up).

Avis knows a thing or two about shopping dragons.  And the slaying therewith.  I put a handful of questions to Avis recently and here’s what she had to say:

What was your shopping issue about?

I believe my shopping problem stemmed initially from loss. After my mother died, I began to shop to ease my pain and to escape the difficult emotions attached to that loss. Eventually, I feel my shopping became a way to continue to cocoon myself, and trying to appear “perfect’ in my appearance also became a part of what helped fuel my compulsive shopping behavior.

What you did about it?

Well, because this was a long time ago (starting back in the early ’90’s) I didn’t feel anything was wrong with shopping all the time. It seemed to be condoned by society and as I write in Spent, “everyone was shopping.”  It took me many years to confront the problem. When I did confront my compulsive shopping, I first sought financial help (I had some credit card debt, not astronomical but enough to make me uncomfortable) and then I decided to confront the emotions that I had avoided for so long.

I couldn’t afford a therapist at the time, but I applied many “self-help” tactics: engaging in exercise and physical activity to avoid spending time in shops, addressing my problem with friends and family, looking into my emotional “wiring” to understand what was propelling my problem.  These things helped immensely and got me on the right track to recovery.

What were the highs and lows in your journey of recovery?

Oh, boy! There was a two steps forward three steps back routine for a while. The process was not easy. I did end up running to shopping for emotional comfort a few times during recovery and was angry at myself for that.

A low point was going for credit counseling and being embarrassed about how juvenile I had been about finances and spending.  One high point was making the connection between my avoiding grief and my shopping and realizing I didn’t have to do that anymore. It was the proverbial “light bulb” moment.

What advice would you give to others who are struggling with a shopping problem?

I’d advise anyone who feels they have a compulsive shopping problem to deal with their finances first if they are having financial problems due to their compulsive shopping.  If you get this out of the way you’ll free yourself to confront what’s really fueling your buying: anger, low self-esteem, sadness, grief, or whatever it may be.

I’d also advise to seek help from friends and family.  Let people know you are having a problem and don’t try to go it alone.

Also, be kind to yourself: Forgive yourself for making mistakes. It doesn’t help to beat yourself up.

Finally, there are many therapists and services, like your own, available now that were not as readily available when I was recovering. I would suggest contacting a professional who deals with compulsive shopping issues, if possible.

About Avis Cardella: After spending her formative years reading fashion magazines voraciously, Avis Cardella found her calling writing about fashion, photography, and culture.

Avis is the author of Spent: Memoir of a Shopping Addict and has appeared on numerous television shows and other media, sharing her story of recovery from shopping addiction.

Avis has written for British Vogue, American Photo, and Surface, among other publications. She lives in Paris with her husband.

 

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