“Addiction and codependency are defined as an unhealthy reliance on
the control of exterior things in order to fill interior needs.”*
“We shall be restored to sanity as we turn away from codependent engagement with the flesh and turn toward the revitalizing source of the Spirit.” *
*stolen quotes from Serenity - A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery (pg 139)
From the time of my first babysitting job, I decided that if people couldn’t fill my needs, I would meet my own needs to shore up my self-esteem and my ability to spend my own money the way I wanted. This manifested as buying something new with every pay cheque and has progressed, over many years, into a spending compulsion which not only fed me physically (eating out, lattes, sugary treats) but emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I learned to create a rush of well being (spike in dopamine) and numbing (escaping) pain and hurts without succumbing to drugs or alcohol (prideful much!).
I tried everything to quit; spending plans instead of budgets, cash envelopes instead of debit, gift cards instead of credit cards; yet, with online shopping I found myself scrolling for an endless amount of time looking for the best deal. All while robbing Peter to pay Paul; paying down minimum amounts only to spend it all again! (truth be told I was numbing pain and hurts)
In December 2020, I did the math which woke me up to the extensive damage of this compulsive habit;
I was spending on average $50/day which translated to over $15,000/year!
I was spending on average 60 minutes/day scrolling for the best deals which translated to 365 hours/ year!
And more if I counted social media like facebook which enticed and tempted me with the best new thing to fix all my problems which translated to spending an additional 600 hours/year!
I also spent countless hours mentally obsessing over adjustments required to the spending plan and despite it all here I was with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. With such an insurmountable amount of debt came the belief that I would never be free from it so my mindset was “oh, well! This is impossible! Another few hundred dollars won’t change it so why not buy it anyway.”
WOW!! Imagine what I could have done with $150,000 over the past decade instead all I had to show for it, was stress, angst, shame and frustration. Oh and many things that I neither wanted or needed including gift giving (buying tea cups on sale from my favorite provider to get free shipping, the best deal and gifts to give away - win-win right?), subscriptions for music, kindle, audible, streaming, eating and exercising not to mention all the clothes and yarn or other craft supplies a girl could ever want or need.
Don’t be fooled by society’s mindset, not all people are addicted to shopping online and spending extravagantly. Stop believing that it is okay to buy on credit and spend beyond your means. Like anything else, if taken to extremes it can ruin you.
Perhaps my experience has left you wondering how to manage your own spending compulsions. Or perhaps you are curious to know how I have managed to overcome this compulsion all the while recognizing that spending is a part of day to day life.
First came the wake up call which shook me out of denial.
Then I admitted to God, myself and my husband that I was powerless over this compulsion and asked if we could work together to put boundaries in place to help me overcome and be accountable!
I have had a few failed attempts before reaching this milestone. I held back for a bit due to buying Christmas gifts and any good deal that caught my eye. Then on 2 occasions I barely reached over the 21 day mark as a result of giving in to the need to numb emotional hurts and pains.
I am grateful for these relapses because they have caused me to take my compulsion and recovery from it seriously.
Because I have all this time on my hands, I am creating new and better habits which serve me well in every area of my life. Leaving the past behind me, the future ahead, and the present focused on grace, growth and gratitude through faith, meditation/prayer, 12 step recovery meetings and a circle of friends that keep me honest, accountable and loving well (more on that later).
I am also grateful for the pandemic! Yes, the pandemic, because in my day to day spending it has made it easier to stay away from non-essential purchases. I have guarded myself from all inclusive stores like Wal-mart, Giant Tiger, and Canadian Tire by choosing to order my groceries for pick up or shopping with a local grocer. My online shopping has been limited to needs and my husband and I will browse through fb marketplace before deciding to purchase new elsewhere.
Today marks my 100 days sober milestone! To God alone be the glory! Thanks to HIM, I am learning to live life satisfied, sustained and sane.