Article on “Online Shopping Addiction”

I just read an article from by Leah Bourne about what she calls “shopping addiction.” To begin with, I was quite sad that the author barely gave a nod to recovery, throwing in one line at the end about it, writing, “Looking into therapy or support groups is a good place to start.”

No Mention of Debtors Anonymous

I really wish she had contacted someone from Debtors Anonymous (DA) or, at least, put a link to their website in her article. So many have experienced relief and recovery from this horrific addiction through DA. I’m not saying this is the only solution, but it is one that works and this nonchalant attitude by the media toward the FREELY given program that has saved my life is quite disturbing to me.

All We Need to Do

She does, however, quote Terrence Shulman, founder of The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding, throughout the article. One quote that really struck me was:

Shulman also stresses the importance of educating families on the issue to really get it under control. Unlike alcoholics, who can quit drinking alcohol altogether, recovering from being a shopaholic means “developing a healthy and balanced relationship with shopping, and creating limits,” he says.

While I suspect that Shulman didn’t intend for this to come out as if he is saying this is all real shopping addicts need to do, if I was not in recovery, reading this line could keep me from finding recovery for even longer. It sure sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Let’s just change the wording a bit, substituting alcohol for shopping: “Recovering from being an [alcoholic] means ‘developing a healthy and balanced relationship with [alcohol], and creating limits.’ Good grief. Any recovering alcoholic would fall over laughing if someone made this suggestion about alcohol addiction. As a recovering compulsive debtor and spender (e.g., “compulsive shopper”), I have the exact same reaction.

OK, so I don’t really think Shulman was suggesting that alcoholics shouldn’t stop drinking. I’m just reacting to the fact that I know that I couldn’t have a healthy and balanced relationship with shopping and stick to any limits no matter how much therapy I had or how hard I tried to do this on my own. And the idea that I could, knowing what I know now, is preposterous.

I did go to Shulman’s website, and in fairness, he does offer an extensive resource and treatment program. It is true that in recovery we do develop that healthy and balanced relationship with money, and create and live by limits. But for me, this is the end result of working the program, and the way it was presented in this article struck me as simplistic and minimized how challenging it would be for an addict to accomplish that goal.

I guess I am sensitive because I know that just because we have to deal with our addictive substance every day doesn’t make this disease any less deadly than alcoholism or any other. In fact, that is what makes recovery from shopping addiction even more challenging.

Digging a Deeper Hole

Years and years of believing that the answer was just about creating and sticking to limits got me into well over $100,000 of unsecured debt over the course of 30 years. For me, it was only having the gradual spiritual awakening of 12 Step recovery that brought me healing, a cessation of the addiction one day at a time (going on five years), and the ability and willingness to pay my debt down (current balance $5,580.71 and only 17 more months to go).

An Accurate Description of the Problem

But not to throw the baby out with the bath water, what Bourne (and Shulman) do exceptionally well is describe the problem. Here’s one very interesting section:

There are some key differences, according to Shulman, on what leads a person to be addicted to shopping in retail stores versus the person addicted to online shopping. The brick-and-mortar compulsive shopper “tends to have a relationship with salespeople, likes the tactile nature of the experience, the smell of it,” according to Shulman. The compulsive online shopper meanwhile “is very detached, and often likes the experience of rapidly clicking through sites like Gilt, Rue La, La, and eBay to find the best deals. That’s the adrenaline rush for them.”

A Spiritual Solution

I have to say that for me the hole in my soul could only be repaired by the spiritual recovery I found in the freely given 12 Step program of Debtors Anonymous.

Of course there are people who would benefit from therapy for this addiction, just as there are those for whom therapy works for eating disorders and others who need Overeaters Anonymous. For some, in- or out-patient treatment or therapy is required to save their lives because there is no question that this disease can kill. But for others, working a 12 Step recovery program along with therapy (or in my case, alone) is the answer.

So I just wish that there was at least a bit of attention given to the spiritual solution offered by Debtors Anonymous as well. Because for me, it is the ONLY thing that works.

You can read the entire article here.

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