...And Lived to Tell About It
Can I get real for a minute? Spending the day with friends going from store to store, sale to sale is fun. There, I said it. How can this be a problem, you say?
The problem is when I did it nearly every weekend and used money I didn't really have, shopping became an idol. Shopping was something I used to lift my spirits. It gave me an adrenaline rush to see how much stuff I could get at one time. I justified my spending because it was on sale. I needed those cute brown boots because they matched that one dress. I simply couldn't do without the next great thing in office decor because I'm a professional woman and I need to present a beautiful office space. Can you relate?
I am an adult child of an alcoholic. I'm also married to an alcoholic who is now in recovery. Before recovery entered our marriage, though, I used shopping as a tool to fill my emptiness. If you're like me, living with an alcoholic or an addict is extremely difficult. It can leave us feeling as if we are in competition with a bottle. It creates animosity within the family dynamic. It leaves an empty space within us.
I searched for something to fill the empty spaces. I used shopping to fill a need. I used it, in a way, to get even with my husband for spending every weekend on the couch with his beloved beer. The worst thing about it, though, I hid my shopping problem (and the $20,000 in debt) from my husband.
So, what changed?
Two things; recovery and God.
I found out through therapy that I needed recovery. I didn't go to therapy because of my shopping problem - I had no idea then there was a problem with that. I started therapy to help me with the grief of losing my dad to cancer and losing my husband to alcohol. While God worked on my heart through my Christian therapist, God was also working on my husband.
We both entered into recovery in September of 2015. He went because he had a problem with alcohol. I went to learn how to fix his problem. God had other plans for me. I learned quickly that I couldn't fix my husband. That is God's job. I could, however, allow God to work on fixing my brokenness. Working through all 12 steps with God at the center saved my life.
Ok, wait. Isn't that a little dramatic, Kimberly? You mean to tell me, shopping was killing you? Come on now. Are you serious?
Listen, I'm not saying that shopping would soon bring me death, but I am saying that shopping contributed to it. Now, I wasn't physically, literally dying, but my spirit was. You see, using material things to fill a whole in my heart Actually left me feeling emptier at the end of the day. I used temporary things to fill a permanent need. A need only Jesus can fill.
Want some quick, easy steps to help you with your shopping addiction? Well, look no further. Have I got a deal for you!
1. Stay out of the stores!
You heard me. Just don’t go. If you don’t have to go, don’t. I know, I know, that’s easier said than done when one of you best girlfriends wants to spend time with you. There are other ways to spend time with friends. Like meeting for coffee, having lunch, attend a Bible study, go to the park. The ideas are virtually endless and they don’t have to include shopping.
2. Think before you spend
When I do have to go to the store for something and my eye wanders to the shelves containing all the pretty, sparkly things, I absolutely have to stop and think “Is that pretty thing a need or a want?” If you are like me, it’s easy to justify spending if an item is “on-sale” or only available “for a limited time”. Listen, those are gimmicks. That is the cold, hard truth. Those flashy signs are just a way to get us to buy the things the stores know we don’t really need. Plain and simple. Once I have this in my mind, it is a lot easier for me to resist.
3. Eliminate the “Life is short” mentality
Yes, life is fleeting, but just because I may die tomorrow, doesn’t mean I need to buy that really cute pair of shoes to wear in my casket. I mean, come on, let’s get real here. I can’t take any of the stuff I own with me when I die. Guess what happens to it. It will either get thrown in the trash, sold in a garage sale, or given away to someone else. So, instead of contributing to the world’s garbage issue or having my family worry about selling mom’s cute shoes for a quarter, I will not even bother.
4. Fill you heart with different things
I started shopping excessively because my heart felt empty. Instead of shopping to fill my heart, now I fill it with different things.
• Studying the Bible
• Prayer time
• Time with Family
• Taking a Walk
• Bible Journaling
Again, the possibilities are virtually endless here. Find something (or several somethings) you like to do and do them! Just make sure you don’t have to buy more stuff to do it! 😉
5. Start thinking like a minimalist not a maximalist
Since the Lord placed it on my heart to correct my shopping addiction, He has also prompted me to start changing my thought process from a maximalist to a minimalist. In the last year, I have pared down my closet by 75%, I’ve either sold or given away about 40% of my household goods and downsized my home square footage. Now, this is pretty drastic, but it has made a change in the way I think. Since I don’t have a lot of space to store stuff (including clothes), I don’t buy more stuff.
For years, I would not have called my excessive shopping an addiction, but I realized through my recovery journey that if I have to hide things from my husband, then there is a problem. Lying is a sin and in God’s eyes, my sin was no different that of my husband’s sin of drinking too much. One can cause a physical death over time, but the other can cause a spiritual death if it is not dealt with.
Listen when I say, I know in today’s world it is difficult to go anywhere and not be tempted to buy something. It happens to me every day. The difference for me is to fill my heart with things above instead of filling my closet with the things of the world.