One definition of ‘addiction’ is ‘the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something’ and this definition brings one of life’s pleasures to mind: shopping.
I don’t think I’m actually addicted to shopping, but I do believe I could easily become addicted, given the chance. Living in the country, miles from any shops, is a help or a hindrance depending on your point of view. I think it’s a help, but if someone wants to throw some spare cash my way, I’m willing to test the theory.
What is decidedly not helpful to a shopping addict is the advent of internet shopping. A while back, when I was driving north with He Who Prefers Not To Be Named, I noticed an enormous, huge, ginormous Amazon warehouse had been built within ten miles of our home, ‘Just for us,’ we agreed. We are both seriously addicted to buying books on Amazon. It is just too easy. However, I have curbed my need for the services of the said warehouse: most of my Amazon purchases now are eBooks.
Research shows that many people buy things they don’t need, some buy things they don’t even want and most of these folks are a bit concerned about their shopping habits, some admitting they are ‘addicted’ to shopping.
In the developed world, merchandisers play to this addiction. Millions of Pounds, Dollars, Euros and Yen are spent every year on advertising. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.
Advertisers play on our emotions, telling us we deserve more and better than we have, assuring us that our life will be enhanced if we buy their products. It rarely turns out to be that way. In the words of an exceptionally wise man: Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses. (Luke 12:15) and another wise man: A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
No wonder many shopping addicts are concerned about their shopping habit. They may well have come to the same conclusion – that it is just not bringing them satisfaction. But how to cure the addiction? Often professional help is needed. Identifying the underlying problem is necessary. Having a supportive friend or relative is helpful.
Several things inspired me to write my novel, ‘Making It Home’.
Being just a teeny bit addicted to shopping was one. The thing is, I can live fine without it until I’m there, in the shopping mall or on the High Street, then I feel as though I’ve failed some test or other if I go home empty-handed. And I know I sometimes fall into the category of buying things I like but I don’t actually need. I mean, do I really need yet another ‘wee top’?
What is it about shopping that gets me?
My addiction is under control now, though it was never a serious problem. In my case, it wasn’t need or loneliness, but it was dissatisfaction with my looks and my figure. I had lost my sense of identity while raising our children and hadn’t found it again yet. I was constantly looking for that perfect dress, the one that would make me look tall and slim, those perfect jeans that would not only be comfortable but would make me look young and vital, that special wee top that would make me feel young and pretty again.
In analysing that, I got caught up in the idea of writing a story about someone who – unlike me, I hasten to add – just couldn’t stop buying things even when the money had well and truly run out. I thought it would be interesting to explore what her underlying problems could be and help her find some help to deal with them.
The discovery of a deceased relative’s secret addiction to shopping was another inspiration, albeit a sad one. Who knew Auntie J was filling her home with purchases she had no use for, filling cupboards and rooms with unopened carrier bags, receipts dating years back still inside them with the items she’d bought: the overwhelming sadness of her loneliness clearly unabated by hundreds of shopping trips? Who knew? Childless and widowed years before, she lived far from extended family and had few friends, mostly by choice, being a very private person. Reluctant to visit or be visited, her secret was only discovered when her home had to be cleared for sale after her funeral.
I used my overwhelming sadness to tell a little of Auntie J’s story in my novel, Making it Home, allowing a fictional character to carry her secret and share her loneliness. I like to think she might have enjoyed the alternative ending.
Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it – or in her marriage. So she left them both.
Phyllis had a home – and her heart was in it – but she wanted something more. So she shopped.
Naomi had no home and her heart was in cold storage, frozen by grief and fear. So she shopped.
They found one another in a department store in Edinburgh.
The trouble with ‘retail therapy’ is, you can overdose.
As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.
What about you? How do you feel about shopping: love it or hate it? Do you know what compels you to shop, or is it something you have to force yourself to do when you need a particular item? Please share your shopping thoughts and stories, good or bad, in the comments. I’d love to read them.