wellness

"I spent $11,000 in three months before I realised my shopping addiction had gone too far."

Compulsive shopping disorder cost me $11,000 in three months, made me chase a woman in the middle of a street, ruined nine vacations (in a row), and almost ruined my relationships with my boyfriend and friends. Today is a year since I decided to start my detox from shopping.

Imagine this: I’m walking from a job interview, a bit fatigued and relieved at the same time. I’m too tired to meet any of my friends, but still, need to indulge myself somehow. It’s already been a week since my last purchase, the brown bohemian coat that does not fit any of the clothes I have in my closet.

Should I buy something new? My brain screams, “Not again, you will regret it seconds after” while my heart says, “Go for it! It was such a hectic day, tomorrow morning you’ll thank yourself for that new perfect fit”. Although the former was right, the latter easily won.

Shop until you drop.

The story repeats itself when it comes to daily overwork, important business pitch, me-time on the weekend, a new milestone in life and so on. Honestly, I could find a reason to go shopping every single day. Twice. I attempted to treat symptoms of insecurity, tiredness, low self-esteem, and buying clothes to overcome these seemed neither expensive nor problematic.

Once, on vacation abroad I saw a woman with sneakers which I adored from the very first sight. I couldn’t read the brand properly, so I followed her for a few blocks until I got the result I was looking for on Google search. Ironically, it was called “Addict”. I bought those sneakers without even thinking if I needed them. I recall this stalking experience as a tipping point of my shopping disorder.

Next day, I started detoxification. The rules were simple. I was not going to shop for any of the apparel and cosmetics for a year. First months of living shopping-free revealed that my addiction was stronger than I ever thought it had been.

The beginning of the detox.

Ads of the clothes that I once checked online kept following me for months. I did a short investigation which revealed that data-driven marketers may tell where the buyer resides based on website visitor’s IP address and browsing history. They may also see whether the visitor is a loyal customer of the brand, what I have recently searched for, and thus start tailoring targeted ads.

I turned on Surfshark’s ad blocking feature on every device I owned because I couldn’t stand being tempted to buy purses while looking at the chicken curry recipe online. More than that, I didn’t know what it meant to pamper myself in other ways than shopping and, as usual, I felt like I didn’t have anything to wear (this wasn’t new, but at that time there was no way out).

The year I challenged my addiction would spill out to a book of three chapters. The first half of the detox experiment has stuck in my mind as the torture, also known as the socialisation ban. I was going out significantly less and skipped many birthday parties pretending I was not feeling well. I knew that going out would make me wonder whether I should hit up my ASOS wishlist so I could wear something new.

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The constant anxiety gradually changed into mood swings. My patience was hitting the wall, and I knew it was either break it or make it.

Finally, with the few major relapses, the healing process began. I still remember the sense of liberation when I caught myself not thinking about shopping for the whole day. It was the ninth month of the year that was followed by therapy, meditation, and peace.

Besides saving loads of money and overcoming anxiety attacks, my detox experiment taught me three key lessons:

1. My productivity skyrocketed.

Addiction to shopping, also called oniomania, is not limited to spending beyond one’s means, but it also consumes lots of time: stalking people’s clothes online, looking for the best sales, thinking about purchasing things, but never buying them in real life. It dominates your physical being in the same way it dominates your state of mind.

Not having to check for sales on ASOS regularly is such a relief. Instead of daily browsing, I’ve concentrated on overcoming my insecurities with real help from professionals that I later discovered was still cheaper than concealing it with new purchases.

2. Shopping-free vacation is awesome.

Because of the constant need to check for the best deals, look for unseen and exotic stores I’ve ruined many vacations. During many of my travels, I was choosing hotels next to shopping areas, checking how far were the nearest must-visit store from every tourist attraction I was about to visit that day, and the stories might go on. My boyfriend was going nuts, and so was I (apparently).

Funny enough, our first trip to London happened right after my shopping ban. It was in January. Every shopaholic knows what it means as sales are everywhere. It felt like torture not being able to visit any store, but it was the first time after ages since I discovered shopping-free vacation. It’s was a relief and a time saviour too.

3. I started appreciating gifts.

You wouldn’t be tempted to go to dinner after you just ate, would you? That’s how I felt about the gifts I used to receive. Since my detoxification process began, it has also affected the way I look at things in general. I started appreciating gifts not only for the moment I accept them. I enjoyed the feeling and oddly enough that was something completely new.

As I look over my experience, I now realise that detoxification has allowed me to feel and notice things that were mostly concealed by my addiction to shopping. I had been feeling numb for a long time before realising that something is off and needs to be changed. Not shopping for 365 days taught me to be more mindful and, thankfully, helped me to conquer my general impulsiveness and compulsiveness in real and virtual worlds.

And I didn’t celebrate it with a new purchase.

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