Can this be an addiction or just a bad habit?

*Looking for some advice on something that has been bothering me lately…an old habit that has creeped back into my life.

I used to be a shopaholic, this caused a lot of problems in my marriage, when we were first married. Unbeknownst to me, before I ‘officially’ grieved and sought counseling for the deaths of my parents (most of you know, they passed by the time I turned 10), I used to comfort myself through shopping (at the mall, mainly) It caused my dh and I to incur much debt, sadly. Through prayer, Christ, and help from my dh, I stopped looking to shopping to ease my pain. Or so I thought.

Fast forward to two years ago–I started up again, as we moved to Florida, and I felt unsettled, uneasy…getting my bearings down. (my excuses sound good, no?) So, I turned to shopping online…I never really noticed the online world of shopping,and suddenly I felt like a kid in a candy shoppe. :blush: I was buying early Christmas presents, things for my kids, things for me and dh…really, things we didn’t ‘need.’ Half the time, things for everyone but me. But, it was…fun. It also took my mind off of my worries at that time. My husband didn’t say anything, as I paid for these things in cash and stopped using credit. Although, he wasn’t thrilled that I seemed to be getting back into old behaviors. Okay, so I stopped–AGAIN…I actually returned some of the things, and then started reading Dave Ramsey’s books, etc…and really thought I had stopped the impulsive shopping. I stopped for a while, anyways. I only bought things after much consideration, and mainly if I had been eyeing the item for a while. I would go to confession often about this, so I could keep from allowing the habit to creep up again. I was free–God had freed me from my impulsive shopping! Or so I thought. :o

So…as some of you know, my thoughts on Florida …I have been feeling more settled lately, and we had a wonderful trip to PA recently…but, I’m a little confused…should we stay in Florida or move back? My boss offered me to move back, if we chose to…ugh, what does that mean? Is that a sign from God? On and on, these thoughts swirl in my mind…and instead of dealing with the thoughts, I have started the shopping thing again. I am ashamed to admit this to you, but maybe if I type it and send it into the great virtual world of CAF…someone will be able to help me.

So, I’m talking with my husband today, he has the day off…he says…‘a package came for you, sharon.’ I said…with excitement…really? (I forgot I even made these purchases, that is what is sad about this ‘addiction,’ I suppose) I said is it from …and I named a few online stores. He said…what? there’s more than one? I said, you weren’t supposed to be home when these came. Silence. He said…with a laugh (I love my husband dearly, he is so patient with me)…“so you were hiding this from me?” :frowning:

I guess I was, in a way. I laughed, he laughed…and then he said…“sharon, I know you, if you’re worried about something, tell me what it is…don’t do this again.” You’d think I was a cocaine addict or something, right? I replied, it’s just shopping. :o But the reality is, I do STILL have a problem with this. I say this because of how I feel after I make the purchase…like a sigh of relief or something. Like a temporary high. It’s so strange!

I don’t know what to do…I am not much of a drinker, just a glass of wine every so often…I don’t smoke…I’m a good wife and mom…I am a hard worker at work…I tithe…I am saving now…so, perhaps, I view this as I’m ‘entitled,’ but then I think…no, you are shopping because you are uneasy about something. I’m uneasy about deciding about FL vs PA…and I guess I’m turning to shopping–again. Online makes it so tempting too! When I read the threads about porn addictions on here, I’m like…the internet. The internet makes all of our vices/habits, whatever we want to call them…easier to commit. :frowning: I remember when I had to get into my car to do all of this…now, it’s just a click away…I’m responsible with money in everything else, so on some level, I have a handle on it, right? :confused:

Here’s the caveat–I can go for long durations without turning to this…but then, something happens, and it triggers the desire to lose my cares in the shopping. It doesn’t matter what I’m buying…could be a dinner out…could be something online…could be a trip to the mall…the worry over whatever it is I’m thinking about, subsides once I make the purchase.

Okay…so, how can I stop this? Are we ever fully free from our vices? Is God angry with me that I’m doing this? I don’t want Him to be. :frowning:

Sorry this is so long–Thanks for listening. I look forward to your insight. *

It does sound like an additction to me since it is something that makes you feel better, so you can ignore other issues, something that you don’t want to do but do any way, something that has very negative consequences for you and/or your family and something which bothers your family members enough that they want you to stop.

I know we all have our own things that give us comfort and help us to cope. Some of them can be kind of neutral, like say taking a bath to relax, and some can be kind of positive, like going for a workout when you are stressing.

Lately my bad one seems to be going out to dinner instead of cooking. It is so not in my budget, but it always seems like it will make everyone happy, get us out of the house, etc. I always say I am just going to stop it, then I get home and it seems like a good idea. I just have been under so much stress lately.

I don’t know what to say other than buckle under and say no to these temptations. Maybe find someone good to talk to about what is really bugging you would help as well.

Gosh that’s a hard one! I don’t have the same compulsion at all, but I do understand what you mean. The way it takes your mind off troubles, and the rationalizations (I’m buying for others, I also tithe, etc). My mil has a similar problem although she has other issue that are hard to separate from this.

It does sound like you’ve diagnosed it correctly–you do it to take your mind off troubles. And you may not be spending more than you can afford, but you are somewhat hiding it from your dh and this is something you’ve had real problems with in the past.

Since you’ve taken this to confession before, I would take it there again and ask your priest for advice (isn’t there one at your current parish that you really like?) Shopping is obviously not a sin. And even shopping for fun is not a sin. But hiding things from your dh and possibly spending more than you can afford are definately bad things.

Shopping is not something that you can easily just stop doing. But you can stop shopping online. And you can make a very real effort to only buy necessities. Try to replace this habit with another that will help you overcome tension–exercise, reading–something you can do at midnight when you can’t sleep because of worries and those 24-hr online shops are beckoning! :wink: The shopping sounds like a warning flag to me. Since it has caused serious problems for you in the past I would work very hard to overcome that temptation!

As for the decision between PA and FL, remember that it really doesn’t matter where we live. For the vast majority of us, our vocations from God can be carried out anywhere. In your situation, the tipping point for me would be the health of your older relative (mil?). I don’t know all the details around your move, but if your whole family is ok with the move back, I would strongly consider it. What are her care arrangements now?

Every place you have written shopping, I could substitute with food/eating. I’ve been on a long journey to understand why I continue to eat when I’m not even hungry and why I feel that food has such power over me. So here are a few random thoughts I’ve jotted down in my quest. Our issues are the really the same…we are using something that we don’t really need to make us feel better, even if the feeling is temporary. And, just as I can’t quit eating ‘cold turkey’ (I still need nourishment), you can’t quit shopping because you have to purchase things your family needs.

Anyway, a few of my recent insights…

The pause between the urge and the action is the very definition of recovery. (You’ve done fairly well with this! Me, not so much!)

Sometimes in life, you just have to feel bad.

People eat (shop) compulisively because it fills important needs they don’t know how else to fill.

Our fear of something is always worse than the reality of it.

You will start to realize that if someone is scowling or grouchy, it may not be about you.

Your fat (credit card bill?) is like tears; a physical manifestation of distress.

Being hungry is like being in love. If you’re not sure, then you’re not. When you are, there is no question. (This could be applied to shopping as well. Is it something you really NEED or no?)

Non-hunger eating serves two main functions: to distract you from what’s really bothering you & to soothe the pain of unmet needs. (This is, perhaps, the real answer to your question.)

***So, once you are aware that you are shopping to compensate for some emotional need, the key is to figure out what need you are trying to fill. It sounds like you have a lot going on in your life and are trying to process a lot of stuff. That could be why you are turning to shopping again. Just pausing to ask yourself a few questions before you shop online might help. Questions like, “What feeling am I trying to avoid dealing with right now? Will this really help me?”, etc. You are a great writer…perhaps journaling about your uneasy feelings would help.

Hope this makes sense and helps a little.


Well, regardless of whether it is an addiction or just a habit, it is definitely not a good coping technique for you.

While I am more likely to have problem with eating too much, I have also been known to go shopping when I was stressed. What I’ve tried to do (and this works great with children too) is to tell myself that when I discover some new item I wish to purchase I have to give myself a three-day waiting period.

Three days seems to be enough time for me to get over the “shopping-as-a-fix” problem. At that point I may have decided I really don’t want the item. But even if I do still want it, I can usually think more rationally about whether this is something that would truly be useful and I can decide if it is affordable. If I am having a hard time waiting for three days then that is a big indication to me that this is about something other than shopping.

(If I deliberately set out to go shopping for a specific item then the three day rule doesn’t apply.)

I’m sorry to hear that you’re upset. Have you thought about getting a pre-paid ‘credit card’ from a bank (US Bank for example)? These cards are pre-loaded with cash and can be used anywhere, but once the money is gone the money is gone. Since you mentioned doing Dave Ramsey, maybe you could put your envelope money on this type of card and have it be the only card available to you. That way, if you do use the money to buy something you’ll immediately see the affect of the purchase. For example, if you purchase a book as a shopping spree but then notice that your grocery bill has been reduced and you can’t put as much food on the table, maybe that will have the needed psychological affect to help curb the spending.

That is a very good ‘trick,’ I have done that…I do the 3-week plan. I have averted many a shopping mishap by following that! :slight_smile: I heard it on the radio, it wasn’t Dave Ramsey, it was another financial guru, who said that she employed that with her kids and their wants seemed to dwindle down. It worked for me for a while, and then…it sort of like this rational side of my brain shuts off or something. :blush:

Thank you for your advice…it’s very good, as is everyone else’s. I knew I came to the right place with this, as embarassed as I am about it. I guess I’m ashamed to admit to myself that I still do this. I really hadn’t done this in nearly 6 months…it felt very liberating to see things, and say no.

I prayed about this one the way home today…and then I discussed it with my husband. He hugged me and said that he felt bad that I was hurting…or worried over something. I said, I think I do this when I feel like life is out of my control. (it takes me back to when I did this to cope with the losses of my parents, something out of my control) I think where I feel powerless these days, is with this new administration, the economy, the changes Obama wants to make–I say I don’t watch the news, but I hear enough to feel angst over it all. And I push my feelings down…I shop to mask those óut of control feelings. Truth is…God is in control. I know this, I know this, yet, I turn to this just the same. I am ‘better’ than how I used to be for sure…I no longer use credit cards for these sprees, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. I used to justify to myself …well, at least you’re not in debt over this, that’s progress sharon. Yeah, right. :rolleyes: Sometimes I think it’s the devil who justifies things in our ears…God wouldn’t help us to justify bad habits, or sinful behavior, you know?

So…some progress today. I feel better having aired this here…and reading that I’m not alone. Another thing to, when I’m shopping I’m on control. I’m making the decisions, as impulsive sometimes as they may be…I make the decision…and in that, comes the relief, or coping tool, or ‘high’ I sometimes feel.

I will take the baby steps Í’ve made today, and I think that my feelings could apply to a number of you, who are clinging to something for comfort. I know we should cling to only Christ–I think this is why I am in complete and utter awe of Fr Groeschel. There is something about him, his simplicity…his detachment of things, that I find so intriguing. *

*I like this idea, thank you. The other thought, is to completely surrender the finances to my husband…he has offered. It’s not a fun task by no means, I have always been the one to ‘manage’ the money…yes, how did that happen, right? lol The thing is, I can manage the bills fine. My dh said today, why don’t I take the money I might impulsively use, and tithe it or give it to charity…hmmm…that would be a good idea. *

*Listen to this story, everyone, I could hardly believe it when my dh told me this today. He said that when he was in his teens, he remembers his parents were good friends with this one set of neighbors. The wife found herself on disability, and they were living on her husband’s income. He made a very nice living, but apparently, she racked up $100k in debt by buying things off of the tv! (like those shamwow type commercials, etc) And…HE LEFT HER OVER IT. I said, what? Divorce someone over THAT?

Dh said he highly doubted it was ‘just that,’ but after her husband left, this neighbor confided in my dh’s mom, and she said that she hid a lot of it from him, and it left her husband wondering what other secrets his wife had. :frowning: That’s a really sad story, when you think about it. My husband looked at me with a grin, as if to say…so, is this the only secret? My gosh, I wouldn’t want my husband to think I keep things from him…we are open books to each other.

My question is…didn’t this woman see the debt piling up with these purchases??? How do you get to $100k without seeing the gradual damage being done? I’m not that bad. :o*

*Thanks for your understanding post…it helps reading other’s thoughts, and I have such respect for your opinion. I think we would be good partners in crime though…lol;) eating out is a weakness of mine too…but I have to say, I have stopped that…we eat out once in a while now…maybe every two weeks. The temptation to eat poorly for some reason, exists when I eat out–do you find that to be true?It helped my dh and I to curb that significantly…and when we decided to really clamp down on spending, it was an area that offered a big return. Sheesh, eating out for a family of 4 these days is crazy…even if you do Olive Garden or something, it’s still a lot. *

First of all, I am struggling with overeating. I have been the route of running up credit card debt. I understand completely where you coming from… I recommend reading this book by Fulton Sheen: Victory over Vice. It goes through the 7 deadly sins. Also, go to confession. Have you though about making the sacrifice of not shopping online and offering it for someone who needs extra prayers?

*Victory Over Vice…hmm. I hadn’t heard of this, and I LOVE Fulton Sheen. Thank you!! I think this will help. I like your idea of sacrificing my urges to shop…for someone who needs prayers. I can’t thank you enough. I do need some practical advice like this, too!

So, what would my shopping situation fall into…relating to the 7 deadly sins…?? I think when we think of addictions or vices, we think of drugs, alcohol, porn, or smoking. But, in reality, everyday activities can become problematic when we misuse them, or use them to escape a bad feeling.*

Maybe from a spiritual viewpoint look at it as a besetting sin of greed/avarice that you should deal with spiritually.

I think the deadly sin overshopping (is that a word, even?) would be is gluttony, because it’s an overindulgence of something created to be good in moderation. I personally have a problem with eating. However, what’s worse is that the older I get, the harder it becomes to lose those 10-15 extra pounds, no matter HOW “good” I am!!! GRRR! :banghead:

*Hmm, I don’t consider myself to be greedy…I have always tried to be generous, but it obviously could lead to self centeredness. I think your post gives me something to think over though.

I am feeling much better having posted this…at first, I was iffy on how this might be perceived…but, really…I feel better having gotten this off of my chest…I plan to make an appt with a priest next week. I would like to have a discussion with him…I know just the priest too, he is about 75 yrs old, has seen it all, and won’t mince words. ;)*

Hi WG,

It is so funny you mention this as it pertains to being a vise or addiction like. The Priest at the Mass I went to on Sunday spoke about this very subject and said someone during confession asked him if they would ever be free from their addiction. He responded, “probably not, but praying, spending time in adoration and offering our personal trials and suffering at the Alter during Mass, that Christ would give us the strength to overcome our imperfections.” He said this is part of the purification process for humans, as fallen creators. He said, God wants our Eternal Souls to be completely pure and he related it to the process of making gold nuggets into 24 karat gold and how going from 10karat to 14k to 18k to 24k was a purification process using fire and time. It was an interesting view and Homily.

I know you are strong, strong Catholic Mom. Maybe this is another way that God is calling you to be even stronger through prayer or a Novena to the Blessed Mother. Or may be you could do the St. John Vianney Novena this week and next, it just started on Monday, since this is the Year of the Priest. St. Vianney’s Feast Day is next week Aug 4. I am praying it too.

*Oh wow, I love this, thank you GD! So…this could be an imperfection, then? Not a habit or addiction? I like the sound of that, better. lol :o Thank you for that link…I think I will do this.

I pray the Rosary daily, but I think I have fallen at times, with my Bible reading, etc…and when I am extremely focused on Christ, I notice that there is a calmness over me like no other…and no matter what the day’s challenges are, I don’t turn to online shopping. When I become a bit neglectful of reading the Bible…or I allow daily things to distract me from God…I grow anxious. It troubles me as Jesus specifically told His followers to not be afraid or anxious for anything. I confess this nearly everytime I go to confession…:frowning:

Thank you so much–what a great priest you have…wonderful homily!!*

Hey wg. I have a little bit of experience with this issue…I recognized myself a lot in your OP. :o I think in your case simple, temporary, practical solutions would be best. I like this idea a lot:

If you do this, make sure that this card is the only card that’s available to you on a day-to-day basis. Also having you husband manage the fiances for a little while, as you suggested, might be very helpful. When you feel disheartened just remember that these are only little temporary measures you’ve put in place to make things easier for yourself in trying to break a habit.

Other than that…stay busy! Bishop Sheen used to say that bad habits can never be removed…they can only be “crowded out” and replaced with something else. When you start to feel that shopping urge coming on, or that deceptive “oh, I’ll just have a look around online…” urge, immediately get up and focus on something else. Start getting dinner ready, even if it’s not for a few hours you can still do some food prep- chopping vegetables, etc. Or call someone…Go for a short walk…Pray a decade of the Rosary…Go find your daughter or husband and have a nice chat…If you must be online, come over to CAF or a similar website that has plenty to hold your interest. These are just some examples I thought up on the fly, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Hope that helps, God bless! :slight_smile:

Other than that…stay busy! Bishop Sheen used to say that bad habits can never be removed…they can only be “crowded out” and replaced with something else. When you start to feel that shopping urge coming on, or that deceptive “oh, I’ll just have a look around online…” urge, immediately get up and focus on something else. Start getting dinner ready, even if it’s not for a few hours you can still do some food prep- chopping vegetables, etc. Or call someone…Go for a short walk…Pray a decade of the Rosary…Go find your daughter or husband and have a nice chat…If you must be online, come over to CAF or a similar website that has plenty to hold your interest. These are just some examples I thought up on the fly, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Thank you for this advice…It helps me out…

For the Chapter in the Victory over Vice, it might Gluttony or Covetousness.

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