The Things Shopping Won’t Fix

For years, shopping was my go-to activity for when things weren’t going well in my life.   If I had any sort of bad feelings, I did my best to banish them by heading out to the shops, browsing online stores, or perusing fashion blogs and forums.   I distracted myself from feeling anxiety, worry, fear, sadness, and a whole host of other distressing emotions by means of what many people call “retail therapy.”

What Shopping Won't Fix

Have you ever tried to “fix” your problems through shopping?

I convinced myself that my tactics worked because I did feel better, at least for a while.  But now that I’ve been on my recovering shopaholic journey for almost two years, I feel quite differently.  I now know there are many, many things in life that shopping can’t fix and only one thing it can.   If you head out to fill a legitimate wardrobe gap, you may be able to fix that problem via shopping.  Of course, there’s a fair amount of luck involved in even such directed shopping, but it is possible to fix a defined closet need.   However, that’s the limit to what shopping can do in terms of the problems in our lives.

Shopping as a Coping Mechanism

In today’s post, I outline six common life challenges many people try to address through shopping, and share some personal examples of how I’ve unsuccessfully tried to solve my problems at the mall or in online stores.  I’m opening up to you about these things because I’m sure many of you will be able to relate to my fruitless searching.   As hindsight is 20/20, I realize the error of my ways, but I don’t choose to beat myself up for using shopping as a sort of cure-all for all too many years.

We often develop compulsive behaviors as coping mechanisms to deal with challenging situations.  Such behaviors may not be the most productive and successful ways of addressing life challenges, but they do serve a purpose for a time.   When we’re ready to face our demons head on and do so fearlessly, we will be able to shed our maladaptive coping mechanisms and develop more appropriate and successful ones.

I’m sure the six challenges I’m about to describe are not the only problems shopaholics have tried to address – or escape – through shopping.   Truth be told, I could probably come up with at least a few more if I pondered the topic for another day or two.  But my hope is that my examples will resonate with many of you and pave the way for introspection and growth.   I would love for you to share your own personal examples in the comments section if you’d like to do so.

Loneliness

I share this difficult feeling first, as it’s been at the forefront of my consciousness of late.   It’s abundantly clear to me that I have precious few people in whom to confide.   This has been the case for quite some time, but I’ve avoided having to address it.  I didn’t want to face my loneliness, as it feels so vast and unsolvable.  I’ve tried a lot of the suggested paths for developing friendships, but I’ve seemed to either attract “emotional vampires” who have sucked me dry or very aloof people who can only find time for me once or twice per year.

I am very lucky to have a happy marriage and deep, meaningful communication with my husband, but sometimes I crave female companionship.  Lacking friends to meet for coffee or lunch on a regular basis, I turned to the stores.   I developed connections with sales associates and engaged in witty repartee with fellow shoppers. Sure, none of these interactions or bonds were very deep, but they did serve an emotional need.  Now that I’m shopping far less, I’m more acutely aware of my loneliness, yet I also realize that the shopping never fixed it.   It only provided me with brief respites, but the fundamental problem remained untouched.

Low Self-Esteem

Many of us shop in an attempt to feel better about ourselves.  We think that if we can finally find the right clothes, we will feel more confident.   We believe that if we strike the right note with our personal style, we’ll finally believe we’re good enough.   But the problem is that the target is always moving.   What’s considered fashionable changes so rapidly that it’s almost impossible to keep up.   If we struggle with low self-esteem, we’re likely to frequently compare ourselves to others and wind up lacking.

I’ve long had serious insecurities about my appearance and I’ve never felt like I was pretty enough or slim enough.   These insecurities contributed to both my long-term struggle with eating disorders and my compulsive shopping problem.   Yet no matter how thin I got or how many clothes I purchased, the low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy remained.  Dieting and shopping couldn’t fix my feelings of “brokenness.”  Those feelings cannot be repaired from the outside in; they must be addressed from the inside out.   I’m still working on that process, but it’s crystal clear to me now that shopping will never be able to fix low self-esteem.

Uncertainty

Many of us are unsure of where we’re going in life.   We may be unclear about our professional direction, our personal relationships, our financial stability, or many other life situations.   While some people thrive on adventure and never knowing what’s next, uncertainty isn’t fun for most of us and can lead to intense anxiety.  It can send us scrambling to grasp on to something, anything that is tangible and secure.

Shopping can fulfill this need, if only temporarily, as it is possible to feel a sense of certainty about the buying process.  We can set out with a list or even just a general intent of finding something beautiful or stylish, and we can achieve that purpose.   This gives us a brief feeling of relief from our uncertainty about life and calms our internal maelstrom for a while.

As I’ve written about previously, I lack certainty about many aspects of my life.   I am very unclear about my career path, and my health has been on shaky ground for quite some time.   I have a very cloudy vision of my future and would not be able to answer the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question.  Heck, I would even have trouble outlining where I envision myself in just one year’s time.   But I could venture out to the mall and be pretty darned certain I’d find things I’d want to wear, and often at a “good deal” to boot. All my shopping didn’t fix one bloody thing about my life, but it did quell my anxiety for a time.

Bad Relationships

Many women who overshop are in bad relationships.   Some overspend as a way to retaliate against a distant, unfaithful, or emotionally abusive spouse.  Others just feel like they can’t fix their difficult relationship but also don’t want to or are unable to leave.   Shopping becomes a way to tolerate the intolerable and something to look forward to in the midst of it all.

I’m not in a bad relationship now, but I’ve definitely had my share over the years.   For a number of years, I was in a dysfunctional relationship with a fellow shopaholic. The communication between us was abysmal and we experienced countless ups and downs in our relationship.  We didn’t see eye to eye on many, many things, but one thing we did have in common was a love of shopping.

We shopped together pretty much every weekend and usually managed to avoid arguing with each other in the retail environment.  I don’t know about him, but I know I fooled myself into thinking our relationship was far more viable than it actually was.  Shopping was kind of a relationship “life support” for us, but it didn’t fix the deep, intractable problems we had.   All it did was keep us together for more than four years, such that it was that much harder to break up and move on when it became inevitable that was the best course of action.

Illness

I’ve often shopped to avoid thinking about the health challenges of a loved one.   When someone we love is ill, be it a family member, close friend, or beloved pet, we usually feel helpless to impact the situation. Such powerlessness leads to intense anxiety, a feeling none of us really wants to feel.   Shopping can be a way of escaping this difficult feeling, as it can be deeply engaging and provide some relief from stress and worry.

With my own ongoing health challenges, I’ve often been unsure how I’d feel from day to day.   On days when I was feeling great, I’d frequently “celebrate” by heading out to the mall.   That didn’t solve anything, of course, but I enjoyed being out and about instead of at home feeling sick.   Plus, shopping is something we can do anytime. We don’t need to make any special plans and we can do it alone.   If we end up feeling sick on a day when we’d intended to shop, we don’t need to cancel or bail out on anyone. The stores will be there the next time we’re up to visiting them, but of course the shopping won’t cure what ails us.

Grief and Loss

Sometimes our sick loved ones don’t get better and sometimes those we care about are taken from us quickly and unexpectedly.  We’re then thrown into the especially painful situation of grief and loss.   This state is challenging for everyone, but it’s particularly rough for those who lack a strong support network.   In the case of the loss of a pet, many people in our lives just don’t understand.   Those who have never bonded with an animal on a deep level likely won’t be able to comprehend the pain of those who consider pets to be our best friends.   It’s often a double-whammy, the loss of a dear one coupled with the intense disappointment at those who just don’t get it.

After losing a beloved cat a few years ago, I didn’t want to risk compounding my pain through the lack of understanding by those in my life.   Instead of reaching out to anyone (not that I really had anyone to reach out to anyway), I threw myself into shopping head-long.  My compulsive shopping problem escalated to an even more out of control state.   I shopped to try to escape my pain, but it didn’t work.  It didn’t fix anything.  My cat was still gone and I still missed him terribly.  In fact, I still miss him terribly today.  Grief is a process and it can’t really be avoided.  We may be able to postpone it through avoidance behaviors, but we can’t “fix” it that way. Unfortunately, the only way out is through.

The Only Way Out is Through

That’s really the bottom line.   We cannot fix our problems through shopping.  Sure, we can escape them temporarily, but they usually fester and worsen through our lack of addressing them.   Time passes, we get older, and our issues become more and more stubborn to break through.

In my case, my loneliness has not only worsened, it feels that much harder to solve because I’ve neglected it for so very long.   I’m not any more certain of my path in life and  I’ve tacked on the accessory guilt of spending far too much money on clothes I didn’t love or really even need.   Plus, I wasted untold amounts of time that could have been put to far better use.

We cannot turn back the clock and do it all over again.  We have to accept where we are in life, here and now.  If we’ve used shopping as a type of cure-all panacea for years or even decades, we have to acknowledge that fact and move on.   There are no do-overs in life.  We can’t get Superman to fly around the earth and turn back the hands of time.

Shopping Can’t Fix It, but We Often Can

Shopping cannot fix our difficult emotions, our challenging relationships, and our life uncertainties, but that doesn’t mean these things can’t be addressed and improved.   However, in order to get to a better place in life, we have to stop avoiding the things that trouble us and start moving through them, no matter how scary and painful it may be.   It’s not easy, but it’s worth it, and we’re worth it.

Shopping only serves to dull the richness of life.   I know this all too well, as I’ve browsed, bought, returned, and “shopped until I dropped” more times than I’d care to count.  I’ve used shopping to keep myself in the place of being “comfortably numb” for so many years and now I’m pushing 50 and have little idea of what I want my life to mean.   I still lack clarity in so many places, but I do know that I don’t want to be remembered solely for my large wardrobe and shopping prowess (which isn’t really all that, as I’ve detailed in some recent posts).

We are more than what we look like and more than what we do – or don’t do – for a living. We are all multi-faceted human beings with a lot to offer and a lot to experience in life.   I no longer wish to shop my life away or hide out in shopping malls and e-commerce sites because I don’t want to feel difficult emotions or risk rejection and disappointment.   I want to start grabbing life more by the horns.   Who wants to join me?

Your Thoughts and Feedback

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post of this nature, but I want to start to mix more waxing philosophical posts in with my more practical and statistical fare.   I feel both types of content are important and I hope you enjoy and receive value from the various types of musings I share.

Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts.  What have you tried to fix or avoid facing through shopping?   Did it ever really work for you?  What has worked better for you?   If you’ve managed to move past compulsive shopping on to more productive coping mechanisms, I invite you to offer any tips you have for those of us who are still struggling.   I also welcome any questions you have for me, as well as suggestions for future blog posts.


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Comments

  1. Shopping allows us to procrastinate.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Very true, Sandra! That’s a good point that I probably should have brought up. I know I’ve definitely shopped as a way to avoid doing things that I didn’t want to do!

  2. Debbie – I don’t usually comment here – or anywhere else for that matter – but your post today was really touching. The sadness we all experience in life is inescapable, but that never keeps us from diversionary tactics. Facing our troubles head-on, without benefit of soothing activities/addictions is not easy, but – like building up muscles – we can get better over time with steady practice. Your posts are working out the muscles of the psyche. And, like our own personal trainer, you’re helping readers like me do the same.

    You mention loneliness and not having friends to confide in. Despite the anonymity of a blog, here you can start to develop deeper, honest relationships and get the muscles of intimacy into shape. Well done, my friend~

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I really appreciate your taking the time to comment, Sybil, especially since you rarely comment on blogs. I think you raised some really good points. Perhaps the blog is a way for me to build some of my intimacy muscles. After all, I am more real here than I am in most of my “real life.” Even though I am using my real name and photos, it somehow still feels more safe. Sometimes I wish I could just skip past the small-talk interactions with people and get right into deeper conversations, but I know there’s a natural order to things. I used to be closer to more people, so I have to believe I can have that again.

      • I’m no good at the small talk either, in fact I feel uncomfortable socialising for its own sake (and dislike parties etc). I much prefer it when I get together with people because of a specific join interest, or even a joint project; having something to do or plan makes me feel much less self conscious, and then the friendships seem to grow of their own accord. I really hope you find a way forward to making some new friends, Debbie, you deserve them!

        • Debbie Roes says:

          Thanks so much, Alice! I agree that it’s easier to talk to people when there’s a joint project or interest. I need to find some of those. I joined some Meetups groups, but many of them fizzle before they really even begin. I will keep trying…

  3. This post struck a chord in me because I now realize that I used shopping as a means to address my loneliness as well. Thanks for the sincere post.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad my post resonated with you, Mag. Although I’m sometimes hesitant to push the “publish” button on these more revealing posts, I’m always glad I did because of comments like yours. I hope that both of us – and all others who struggle with loneliness and shop to deal with it – will find more connection with people outside of the stores. I’m not giving up and I hope you won’t, either!

  4. That was a very thought provoking post! First, thank you for sharing this as it is a very personal subject to write about and difficult things to admit. After all, shopping is also a way to stay in denial regarding how we feel, and the inadequacies of our current life – it is easier to go get a new top than it is to address the emotions and inadequacies after all. “comfortably numb” is a good way of putting it – after all while doing that kind of shopping, it prevents us from being mindful of what we fear or what we are sad about.

    And, in the specific case of shopping for clothes, as you say there is the whole layer of self esteem and image, since clothes shape a lot of our external identity and how people see us. It’s a complex mix of self confidence (or lack thereof), image we want to project to society, wanting to fit in a certain group or social circle. I wonder if shopping for clothes, and spending time refining personal style, isn’t also a way to get distracted from seeing ourselves for who we are, accepting it, and making changes to grow and get closer to who we want to be, the life we want to lead. I mean, to take the personal example of myself, it’s easier to buy “ethnic” jewelry and oriental printed scarves than it is to save money and organize an actual travel.

    In a way, shopping is the easy way out, instead of facing our emotions, of facing the work and effort we have to engage in to carve the life we want, too. What I’m wondering these days, is what “healthy” shopping is, is it possible to still enjoy shopping and getting something new for ourselves while remaining mindful and a reasonable/conscious consumer?

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Your comments are always insightful, Kali, as are your wonderful blog posts! I do feel that shopping is the easy way out, but the time continues to pass and the underlying issues remain regardless of how much we try to avoid them. I do feel there is such thing as healthy shopping and I’ve had glimpses of it in recent months. I don’t think it’s wrong to enjoy shopping, but we need to be aware of how we’re using it. Doing the work to have the type of life we want is hard, but I believe it’s worth it. I’m still scared, but I no longer want to take the easy way out by shopping all the time.

  5. These are my favorite types of posts! This one made me think. I am blessed with a great husband and several good friends. What I had in addition to that were people in my life that were very needy. I was far too available to them and gave and gave until I was empty. Then I would shop to try and fill myself up again. It didn’t work. What did work was to realize that I DID have a choice. I didn’t need to always answer the phone or say yes to every favor. When my self esteem rose, my need to feel responsible for other people’s problems lessened. I need to fill myself with things that are real. When I do that, my compulsion to shop goes down.

    Shopping IS taking the easy way out. When I was in the process of changing life long behaviors it was very hard. I had a ton of anxiety. I got through it though and I feel so much better. I have more that I need to work on, but I know that I can do it and that it will be worth it.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      My experience was very much like yours, Tonya. I had lots of very needy people in my life and after letting most of them go, I was left with very few deeper connections. That situation has been the status quo for me for several years now, at least in terms of in-person connections. I would never want to discount the wonderful virtual connections I’ve made through this blog, both with readers and fellow bloggers. But we all need to have some face-to-face interactions, too. I think you are doing so great and I applaud you for honoring your needs and taking care of yourself in your relationships! I think I need to honor myself more, too, not just in setting boundaries but in being more honest in other places besides this blog.

  6. I like this type of post. I’m enjoying my ‘Project60’, but have definitely been using my wardrobe analysis as a diversionary tactic, to avoid either difficult work problems, or often routine stuff that’s just plain boring. To be honest, I’ve been spending too much time browsing sites on the internet. This is not new, over the years I’ve used various obsessions to avoid facing up to difficult, stressful or tedious tasks.
    I like Sybil’s idea of ‘building up muscle’. Off the top of my head, a simple re-prrioritising strategy for me might be to limit on-line browsing to after normal working hours. Even that seems a tall order, so as a tentative first step I’m going to try… a morning ban.
    Do keep going with both types of post!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’m glad you and others like this type of post, Alice. Like you, I’ve used all of my wardrobe analysis as a way of diverting focus from other areas of my life. Of course, I justified what I was doing as necessary for my blog, but I know readers didn’t really need the type of epic-length posts that took me hours and hours to write. I plan to mix it up more moving forward. I used to spend a lot of time browsing internet sites and that’s still something I turn to during times of stress. I like your idea of instituting a morning ban. It seems doable and impactful. Best wishes with this plan and please let us know how it goes for you!

      • On the other hand, Debbie, I think all your analysis is really helping you to get to the bottom of your challenges so I don’t necessarily think it’s time not put to good use. Plus all of your readers are so invested in your success and that is so valuable! I know if I ever visit or move to San Diego I’d love to meet you in person. Because “REAL” conversations happen here!

        • Debbie Roes says:

          I think you’re right, Sarah. I don’t really regret the analysis, but I do regret not dealing with other issues in my life. I will still do wardrobe analysis and post about that topic pretty regularly, but I will also do posts like this one. Mixing it up is good, I think! I’d love to meet you sometime, too. I agree that real conversations happen here and I’m very grateful for that!

  7. Boredom, loneliness as a stay-at-home mum and an unhappy marriage. I shopped to get out of the house and speak with adults. Also the curse of perfectionism as I tried in vain to create the perfect house and perfect wardrobe and be the perfect wife.
    Although I have to take responsibility for my overshopping, it also did occur at at time when rampant consumerism was the norm and terms like “retail therapy” and “shop till you drop”came into existance. Shopping bacame a past-time. It wasn’t like that when I was in my 20’s in the 1980’s. Marketing targeted our insecurities and those of us for whom shopping became our addiction were easy prey. Everything became cheaper and we believed we “could have it all.” There was also a sense of competition among my peers – everyone wanted to have great clothes, a great house and dress our children up as well.
    I have been on the road to shopping recovery for the past two years. Interestingly, since I began a new relationship a year ago I have been very disinterested in shopping. I have no desire to shop as I prefer to spend my time with my partner. That has really driven home that for me, my unhappy relationship with my ex-husband was a critical factor in my need to shop for emotional comfort.
    I still love clothes and I still love being well dressed and polished but I have a ton of beautiful things to wear. I also sadly did buy a ton of stupid stuff as well. Oh well, have to forgive myself and move on.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your insightful comment, Carolyn. My shopping problem also began in the 80s and I lived in a part of the country (SF Bay Area) that was very consumer-driven. There was a lot of “keeping up with the Joneses” going on and shopping a lot really did feel normal. Congrats on the wonderful recovery you’ve made as of late and on being in a much healthier relationship today! I think there’s nothing wrong with loving clothes and being well-dressed, but many of us cross the line and shop for all the wrong reasons. We definitely need to forgive ourselves for the mistakes of the past, though, as we can’t change any of it. I know it isn’t always easy to do, but if we focus on how far we’ve come and what we have in our lives today, it gets easier.

  8. Very thoughtful post. In my retail work experience I see a lot of familiar faces. Some of these folks seem to be very lonely people. Now I am a friendly person and like talking with customers and helping them solve their clothing needs, but occasionally I get bogged down in a conversation with a customer who wants to reach out for human contact. I don’t mind if I have time for a chat but when I have other customers, it can be a bit awkward to tactfully exit the conversation. And while I am friendly, in this setting my relationship with customers is a transactional relationship, not a “friendship.” (No way could I be “friends” with the hundreds of customers I help each day. My standard for friendship is pretty high and includes things like mutual respect and trust, shared interests, and so on.) As I have said, observing the shopping behavior in other people has reduced to almost nil my own desire to shop. Perhaps this is like working in a bakery — too much familiarity with the product reduces one’s desire for pain au chocolat.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Maybe I should have gotten a job in retail years ago, Dottie. Perhaps it would have cured me! I’m sure it can be challenging to interact with so many customers all day long and keep things on a business level with those who want more. You’re right that we should have high standards for friendship. I think my standards used to be too low, but now I worry they might be too high. I know that friends cannot meet all of our needs. Sometimes we have friends to do certain activities with and that’s okay. While I’d love to have deep and meaningful conversations with all of my friends, I’d also be quite happy to have a few people that are just fun to be with and with whom I can share new activities. I hope to find some people like that sometime soon.

  9. Carolyn’s post about forgiving yourself and moving on is very perceptive. Being able to forgive yourself is very important for your own mental health. Also, learning from and avoiding past mistakes — well, that’s also a healthy sign and not always easy to do because it requires living an examined life. Debbie’s blog is her own self-examination and we get to accompany her on the journey. Now I have to confess, the one time I shopped because I was upset and angry with a situation at work, I bought a gorgeous 2-pc gray dress that I wore for years and then gave to a friend who wore it for a few more years. (It still ranks up there with one of the best purchases I ever made.) But I used that shopping interlude to calm myself and plan a strategy for dealing with the situation at work. And because I knew my personal style, had my color palette, etc., I could shop on “auto pilot” and still come up with a dress that filled a hole in my wardrobe, was the right color and style, and was very versatile. Oh, and it was on sale and within my budget! But I knew what I was doing — shopping in anger. I’ve never done it again.

  10. Paula spruell says:

    Wow! What a timely post. I must also add that I admire your courage and honesty. Putting this out in your blog is a huge step in the right direction, and I hope you will congratulate yourself. I certainly do!

    I spent the weekend diving deeper into my ongoing closet purge. It has been approached in stages, and this one felt like a much deeper level. I was addressing many of your topics and being honest with myself concerning why I shopped so much and bought things that, well, face it, just weren’t right. Interestingly, and I hope this doesn’t sound odd, I found myself wishing I could compare notes with you on this topic. Your blog has inspired me so very much!

    I too have shopped for emotional reasons. As a kid, my mom made most of my clothing. I was teased about this and belittled at school. Now mind you, she is a fantastic seamstress! But my clothes didn’t come from a retail shop, so I was cast in a bad light. Somehow this unleashed a deep need in me to shop, when I could later afford it, and show those mean girls! Of course they were long out of my life, but I toted the baggage nonetheless. Later, I shifted my focus, buying myself what I called “divorce presents” to celebrate the demise of a terrible marital mistake. I was free to buy whatever I chose with no editorial backlash from The Respondent. My friends thought it was funny, which fueled my frenzy. And who was I really getting back at? Turns out it was me… On some level I think I was punishing myself, by making shopping mistakes. Ok, not all of them were mistakes, but it was a way to mask the pain and shame of making such a bad decision.

    At any rate, shopping like this is kind of like eating junk food…

    Something in my began to shift in the last couple of years. It has been a process, and it’s not done yet. I reached a point where I knew I didn’t want my stuff to own, or define me.

    I also hear you on the forming relationship issue. It is hard, I won’t gloss that over. But you have to keep trying, even when you encounter hiccups. One of the best gifts I ever gave myself was taking up yoga a little over four years ago. I can’t say enough about it. It’s a practice, not a competition. It helps soothe the brain, while benefitting the body in ways you can’t imagine. And I have developed a community of what I call Yoga Ladies! One instructor in particular has become a sweet friend. I feel it has opened doors and just fed my soul. Perhaps you can find an activity that yiu are passionate about. It has really changed my life and my mental perspective!

    There are plenty of folks that really aren’t a good fit as friends, but there are a handful that are and it is worth it to keep looking! I am also going to recommend a couple of books I recently purchased that I am enjoying immensely. The author is Jennifer Scott, and the two books are about Madame Chic and what she learned as an exchange student in Paris. This young lady is charming and embraces old fashioned values. She brings some focus into what I would like my life to look like. Perhaps you would enjoy reading her books. She also has a number of videos on You Tube, which is how I discovered her.

    Sorry to rattle on, but thank you again for your honesty and courage. I believe you are farther along in recovery than you realize!!!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks so much for sharing some of your journey, Paula. I can relate to a lot of what you wrote. When I was in junior high and high school, there were a lot of really well-dressed girls at my school. I lived in an affluent community, but my parents had divorced and my mom didn’t have the money to buy me a lot of clothes. I never felt like I measured up back then and I think I’ve been trying to measure up ever since! Like you, I now don’t want my stuff to own or define me and I no longer want to shop like eating junk food. Congrats on the positive changes you have made, including taking up yoga and making connections there. Thanks for the book suggestions! I have watched a number of Jennifer Scott’s videos but have yet to read her books. I’d like to, though, and will make it a priority to do so soon. I’m glad you liked this post and I appreciate your kind words!

  11. oh, dottie, please don’t make everybody else look/feel so inadequate talking about your own accomplishments over and over again. sound advice from you, we can take. but, please, no more boasting of your clear shopping mind.

    • Whoa! Bit of a codswallop there, Ms SaraJ.

    • I enjoy Dottie’s perspective and observations. I don’t always agree with her, but that is part of the fun of conversation!

    • SaraJ, no one can MAKE you feel anything, that comes from within. If you are feeling inadequate the problem is not Dottie’s accomplishments, but your comparing yourself to her. Live your own best life.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I wasn’t sure how to respond to this thread so I didn’t at first. I agree with Meli and Paula that this is a supportive forum in which a lot of interesting and uplifting interactions take place. I also agree with Lena that no one can make us feel anything and that comparison can get us into trouble and be the “thief of joy,” as the saying goes. But I have to also say that I understand SaraJ’s original point, too. While Dottie definitely gives a lot of great advice here, and has written a few very informative and helpful guest posts, sometimes some of her comments can come off as bragging. Although I can’t speak for her, of course, I don’t really think that is her intention. I think that like some others who comment here who don’t currently have a shopping problem (or maybe never did), she’s probably trying to share a different outlook on wardrobe and shopping that might better serve those of us who struggle with compulsive buying. I know that I would love to be able to shop the way Dottie does and hopefully I will be able to one day. I’m definitely working toward that ultimate goal.

      Sometimes it’s hard to see someone’s intention and heart in the written word, so we have to be very careful about what we write. I often measure my words very carefully in my posts and comments and I’m proceeding quite gingerly here for sure. Of course, some of what we write is bound to be misunderstood no matter how careful we are. I want this to be a safe place for all of us to express our views and offer feedback and advice. None of us will be perfect, but I ask that we all do our best to be respectful and kind. I don’t want anyone to censor her words too much, but if we try to put ourselves into other people’s shoes, that might help in delivering our communication.

  12. Another great post and boy is it on point! For me, I think I have a mix of several of the “triggers” you mentioned above.

    When I am bored or lonely I definitely tend to shop… I have a couple good girlfriends, but I am unable to see or talk to them as often as Id like. And like you’ve mentioned before, making new friendships as an adult is very challenging. I am realizing that this really is a triggering point for me. Lightbulb moment!

    I also tend to fall victim of low self esteem occasionally- although that would probably surprise people who know me. I was bullied a lot as a young girl and consequently, I never want to feel like that again. Somehow I think that if I look just right and display a lot of confidence, no one would dare bully me again (I realize how silly that sounds… But it’s something I struggle with)

    Lastly, the one about sickness. I’ve mentioned this before on here, but I have been diagnosed with several very serious and incurable autoimmune diseases. Sometimes that makes me feel so fragile and helpless. It causes me anxiety and grief over the life I could have had… And those feelings definitely contribute to my impulses to shop. Shopping is happy and allows me to escape that for a minute or two (I know it doesn’t really but it does feel that way) The uncertainty of my own future, as it relates to these diseases, also plagues me. I worry about my young daughter if I were to die in the near fiture. It causes a lot of worry …

    As you can tell, this has been an illuminating post for me. Thank you for your candor and gentle words 🙂

    • Debbie Roes says:

      We seem to have a lot in common, Chelsea. I’m glad that this post hit home for you and caused you to have a “lightbulb moment.” I’m sorry that you have to deal with so many health issues. I can relate to the feelings of fragility and helplessness and the grief over what might have been. Shopping can provide a respite from these difficult feelings, but they don’t really go away, as we well know. There are no easy answers to be sure. I don’t think we need to give up shopping completely, but once we realize how we are using it inappropriately, we can work on developing better coping mechanisms. The health stuff is the most difficult, I feel, especially when faced with incurable conditions. I think we just have to take life day by day and be grateful for the good days when we’re feeling good. That’s what I try to do, but it definitely isn’t easy. If I could give you a hug, I would do it, but I’ll send you a virtual one instead 🙂

  13. After reading this post, Debbie, all I can think of is how many of us who read your blog would LOVE to go to coffee with you and develop a friendship. I enjoyed the structure of your post and where you fit in to the things that shopping won’t fix, but if I lived in southern California, I’d be calling you up right now to go for a walk together.

    • I would too!!!
      Very honest post Debbie. You have come so far and I am so happy you let us accompany you on this journey!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Your comments warmed my heart, TAGgirl and Jessica! I would love to go to coffee or on a walk with you. That would be so great! I keep hoping that one of these days, I’ll meet a reader from San Diego. But if any of you are ever in my area and want to meet, I would definitely be interested. I was very happy to actually meet a reader in person last week and I hope it’s the first of many!

  14. Oh, can I come on the walk too? I’m sure we would all love to join you for a walk or a coffee!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      You’d definitely be welcome to join in, Alice. The more the merrier! Sometimes I wish I could just beam people here or beam myself to some of the wonderful places where you all live. That way, I’d get to meet some great people and see more of the world. I guess since the beaming technology has yet to be created, I’ll just have to make it happen the old-fashioned way.

      • Count me in! It’s sad that we’re on opposite sides of the country!

        • Debbie Roes says:

          Very true, Meli! There are some really wonderful people who comment here, but most live quite a distance from me. I still value the connection, though!

  15. Oh Debbie!

    You are very brave to be so open about the needs that you have tried to fill by over-shopping. Although many of us have probably faced down one or more of these demons with similar coping styles, [I know I have], few of us would dare to confide such things publicly.

    I know that blog friends aren’t usually those you can call up for a quick movie date, or to chat, or to plan lunch with. There is a daily-ness about being lonely that ‘s just hard to fill over distance.

    But remember: the same qualities that have made so many of us care about you over the distance are the ones that will attract new friends to you. Try to hold that in your heart.

    • Ha! While I was composing my post, at least three other readers said they would love to join you in real time. Count me in! 🙂

      • Amy you have expressed my thoughts exactly!
        Debbie you have a wonderful gift in being able to express your thoughts and feelings. So many of your readers have wished to be able to live closer and spend real time with you because of your personality as revealed in your blog. I’m hoping like Amy that there will be some lovely real time friends in your future. Since I’m in Sydney Australia the best I can suggest is a Skype meet-up 🙂

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I really appreciate your kind words, Amy and Megan, and please know that I DO value blog friends! I am very grateful to have connected with so many wonderful people here and it has led me to feel less lonely. I do hope I can connect more with people in person, as we all need various types of interpersonal interactions. Skyping can be fun and I’ve done it with a few people. The technology is so good that it’s really the next best thing to being in the same place!

  16. Katherine says:

    Thank you Debbie for putting into words the triggers that so many of us share. My husband is preparing for his third military deployment, and in the past I have used shopping as a coping mechanism, a way to quell loneliness, and a diversion from the many uncertainties that come with my husband, the kids’ dad and my best friend being thousands of miles away in uncertain territory. Now that I’m recognizing these triggers to shop as useless and a waste of money, this deployment is going to be different. If (who am I kidding? WHEN) I find myself attempting to justify an unnecessary purchase, I’m going to say, “shopping won’t cure what ails me!” Perhaps writing your wise words on a post-it and sticking it on top of my debit card isn’t such a bad idea…..

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to have a husband who is deployed overseas, Katherine. I can definitely see how the feelings of loneliness and anxiety from such a situation could lead to overshopping. I know that military communities can be very tight-knit and I would hope that there would be other military wives with whom you can connect. Only those in the same situation would truly be able to understand what you’re going through. I think it’s great that you’ve identified your triggers, as that’s a really important step toward change. I like the mantra you came up with – I just might have to steal it! Best wishes to you with your shopping and for your husband’s safe return!

    • I started overshopping when my husband had to leave the country (visa thing). Originally we expected 2 months, it ended up becoming 7. I also don’t have a big support system so I was extremely depressed and lonely.

      • Debbie Roes says:

        Wow, that must have really been hard for you, Meli! When my husband and I first dated, we had a long-distance relationship. We were able to see each other more often than many people in such a situation, but even a few weeks apart was difficult. I can only imagine how hard it was for you and Katherine to be separated from your husband for such a long period of time. Having a support system is critical in those types of situations, but I know not everyone has that (and I don’t, either). I’m glad you and your husband are together all the time now and hopefully it will stay that way.

  17. Dear Debbie, I never feel truly connected to any virtual person over the internet, except you. I live in Orange County about 2 hours away from where you live so maybe I could have the honor to meet you in person and become friends some day! Sorry that I didn’t interact enough for you to know me although I feel I know you so well and are feeling your pain and happiness along the way. I got so much insights and tips from your posts to help curb my shopping problem. Judging by your criteria I am doing okay with my life in that I have a formal job that pays decently, but my job is not making much of a positive impact on other people’s life as you do here. I am sure in addition to the regular commenters there are lots of people following your blog and internalizing your wisdom but just never comment. As analytical as you are you probably already figured it out by analyzing your site visit data. Furthermore, your job takes tremendous initiative and self-drive than going to office 9 to 5 every day. I don’t see any reason for you to have low self-esteem now, not to mention that you are so pretty and fit! My suggestion for your full life part is to first focus on your health challenges because without a healthy body everything else is meaningless. This alone takes a lot of time and effort as it involves documenting and analyzing your conditions, trying different doctors or medicine, buying fresh produce and preparing healthy meal, finding out and maintaining your best workout routines, meditation, and cultivating good sleep pattern, etc. I would allocate part of the clothing budget to the health fund if that’s needed. I know it is easier said than done and you probably are already doing so. Just want to let you know that I had many unexplainable health challenges too and I am tackling them one by one. I have spent more than your entire years clothing budget on doctors, medicines, and acupuncture this year(therefore I have a very small budget for clothing this year), and many of them were just vain attempt. I am glad that at least some of them worked and my health condition has since improved. I still have a long way to go but your post just reminded me that I need to face my challenges head on instead of escaping to the numbing tactics. So do you Debbie, practice your own preach!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I appreciate your comment, Meghan, and it would be great to meet you one day. You just might be the reader who lives closest to me! Thank you for the kind words you wrote about my blog and the impact it has on people. I realize I need to give myself more credit for what I do. I know that our pursuits in life are not all about job titles and income, but it’s hard to get over the way I was raised and societal expectations. I feel like one “should” either have children or a high-powered career and I have neither, but that doesn’t mean I’m not valuable. I have to remind myself that I DO make a difference in what I do and that not everyone needs to fit into a particular mold in this world.

      The main focus of my full life project this year has been my health and like you, I have spent a great deal of time and money on trying to overcome my health challenges. Much of what I’ve done has been in vain, but some of it has helped. The main thing that has made a difference has been my dietary changes. I consume SO MANY fruits and vegetables now through juicing, smoothies, and salads. I am starting to feel better, but the progress is slow. But I have to remind myself that I didn’t get so sick overnight and it will take me a while to feel more well. I may never get to the level of health I truly desire, but I’m going to do the best I can. Once I am healthier, I will have more energy to focus on the other parts of my full life project, such as making friends. I can take steps in that direction now, of course, but I can’t do as much as I’d like, as it’s difficult to make commitments when one doesn’t feel well much of the time. I’m taking it one day at a time and trying to stay positive. I hope you will experience some relief from your health challenges soon, too. Here’s to facing the difficult things in our lives and not using shopping to escape from them or numb ourselves from the pain!

  18. Debbie, thank you for this deeply moving post and for your honesty in sharing your story. I believe that anyone who has ever over-shopped can relate to what you bring to light. If you are coming upon two years of recovered shopping that must mean I’m nearing about 4 years since ending my all too frequent episodes of shopping. Still, those memories are fresh in my mind. Back in those days I shopped to reward myself for a hard job well done, I shopped to buy things not only for the life I was living but also for the life I hoped I would one day gain. I shopped because I could shop and to make up for the other things I would rather be doing but life circumstances prevented. I also shopped because everyone I knew was into shopping. Like Carolyn said, it “occurred at at time when rampant consumerism was the norm.” And at the time I never questioned it. And yet I often found that I STILL didn’t have anything to wear that was suitable for my current needs. Most of all, I found getting dressed each morning stressful. My closet overwhelmed me. Thankfully I found my way out of this desperate situation, stopped my endless rounds of shopping and today my wardrobe is small. Smaller than my comfort level, but I continue to stretch myself to keep to this set point because in truth I have exactly what I need, and at long last feel that most of the time I’m well dressed and I know in my heart of hearts that I have enough. But it takes constant work to not allow too much excess to creep in. I believe having all the excess that I used to have calmed me and kept my anxiety at bay. But having excess was the same factor that caused me much anxiety and made it hard for me to get dressed or pack for a trip. A double edge sword. Whew, I’m glad to have been able to put endless, mindless shopping behind me, and I’m thankful to have met you Debbie, and your wonderful community of readers.

    To everyone who is just beginning this journey, hold on to hope! You will find your way! And Debbie (and many of those who read and comment) is an outstanding source of support and she offers much wisdom.

    And yes, Debbie count me in! I too would love to be able to meet up for lunch, or for a walk on a regular basis.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your inspiring and hopeful comment, Terra. It’s good to get a glimpse into how things might look for me two years down the line. I already see a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of my shopping and wardrobe. I can totally see now how having LESS can lead to dressing BETTER and feeling like one has more to wear. As I get rid of all of the excess and misguided purchases, I’m getting a much better sense of how I want to dress. I still feel like I have a long way to go with my wardrobe and style and with finding other ways to meet my emotional needs besides shopping, but I’m going to keep going. I’m very happy to have met you, too, and would love to be able to meet up for lunch, walks, or other activities. We don’t live too far away, so we might be able to make it happen from time to time.

  19. I have been so very busy, including a whirlwind trip to your beautiful city to visit Navy son, but I have been reading. You make some valid points, and we all have been there. It might not have led to chronic over shopping, but we all know the triggers. Wonderful post, Debbie, and remember that meaningful relationships cannot be measured by numbers. If there is a person or two who deserves your confidence, consider your blessed. Take this from a card-carrying introvert. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Debbie Roes says:

      It’s so good to see you commenting here again, Cornelia. How great that you were able to make a trip to San Diego to see your son. I hope you enjoyed your time here. Perhaps next time, we might be able to meet. Your point about relationships not being measured by numbers is right on! I do have a few people in whom I can confide. They’re mostly not here in San Diego, but I am lucky enough to have them. I’m also a card-carrying introvert, so I don’t really see myself doing “girls nights” or anything like that. I really enjoy one-t0-one interaction and while face-to-face is best, I would never discount phone or email connections, too. Connecting is connecting, and it’s all good!

  20. Debbie, thank you for this post. Over the years I’ve shopped for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned, and while I don’t wish those feelings on others, it is reassuring to know I’m not alone. I’m in a similar situation to you in that I have a wonderful husband but have trouble making close friends, and continue to use shopping to fill that hole. My shopping also is spurred by the boredom and frustration being a SAHM, and fatigue from years of being a “square peg in a round hole” (i.e. living in a country that isn’t my own and operating in a language that isn’t my native one). Fortunately my spending is more under control these days and the desire to shop isn’t quite what it was, but it’s definitely still there. I’ve been pondering my situation a lot lately as I’m determined to improve it. I haven’t come up with a solution yet, but I’ll keep trying!
    I love the idea of a coffee/walk! Count me in! 🙂

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I understand the feeling of being a “square peg in a round hole,” Kayla. I feel that often and I’m in my country of origin. I can only imagine how much more difficult it must be for you where you are. Congrats on getting your spending under control and not feeling as compelled to shop. It’s sounds like we’re in much the same place. I haven’t come up with a solution, either, but I will continue to ponder and share my thoughts here. Perhaps together, we’ll be able to figure it out! I would love to meet you one day, too. One never knows what the future holds and I do want to do more travelling at some point.

  21. LisaMarie says:

    Dear Debbie – thank you for your blog and this post. While all 6 challenges rang a bell, loneliness and self esteem triggers speak loudest to me. My charge bills escalated the years when husband was intensely involved in a start up. I would shop until the shops closed, be home and clothes put away before he got home. It was a pattern of dishonesty that is no longer since we now work together for family biz at home, share credit, etc. I would have been better off by going to gym. I know how good I feel after yoga and am trying to make regular practice. I have been aware of my ‘shopping gene’ for years but started this month (Oct) to actively address. I remember studying Sears catalogue like it was a holy book to pick one school outfit for each fall and spring. I need to address underlying triggers and find more replacement activities and local connections , not with the retail staff, to fill my time.

    After last weekend of sorting and purging, I was feeling burnt out. Your post and reader comments give me strength knowing I am not alone in this struggle to change from inside out.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Your comment really resonated with me, LisaMarie. My husband used to work a lot, too, and that’s when my shopping was at its worst. I hid a lot of what I bought and used “creative accounting” so he wouldn’t realize just how much money I’d spent. You’re right that we would have been better off going to the gym or doing something else that’s more positive and soul-enriching. But there’s just something SO compelling about shopping! You are definitely not alone in your struggle. Finding other activities to replace shopping isn’t easy and building connections is harder still, but change is possible. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m going to keep on going until I find them and I promise to continue sharing what I learn along the way.

  22. What a wonderful, insightful and honest post – thank you! I can relate to much that you and others have said. I think I posted once before that my main problem is over-purging – I, too, was teased as a young girl for having “too many” clothes. In reality I did not have so many, but we had school uniforms and I had a few more things than some of the other girls in my neighborhood. Hence I have been searching ever since for that perfect number of clothes so that I will feel acceptable- and that number tends to always be about 10 fewer items than I have. This leads to excess shopping overall, because when I overpurge, I legitimately need to replace certain items. And I still don’t feel like I measure up even though my current friends and family wouldn’t care if I had 50 things or 500. Crazy, I know! Anyway, your blog has finally made me see how self-destructive this is, and I’m actually getting with the program as I see you make progress. Purging will not make my self esteem go up, that has to come from within. Thanks so much!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I think that over-purging is just the other side of the same coin, Murphy. It’s much like how I as a one-time anorexic had a lot in common with compulsive overeaters in regards to the underlying issues that drove my behavior. Low self-esteem is common among those who engage in compulsive behaviors. It’s a way of dealing with anxiety and trying to be “good enough” somehow. I’m glad that my blog has been helpful for you. Your comment is helpful to me, as I can see myself trying to get to a “perfect” wardrobe number in order to measure up, even to my readers. We don’t need others to approve of us. We need to learn to approve of ourselves!

  23. Thank you for this soul baring post. I relate to the desire to solve problems through shopping. My first deep hole in compulsive shopping came on the heels of major losses – my father died, my daughter moved overseas, and my sons moved 12 hours away. I dealt with my own sadness and the frustration of dealing with my mother and her poor health. There was little joy in my life but shopping. As I got accustomed to my losses (slightly) I kept shopping because now I wanted to find the perfect clothes/jewelry/shoes/scarves. I was sliding down another seemingly bottomless pit. The good news is that your blog grabbed me just before I hit bottom.

    I have learned a lot from you, but mostly how to be honest with myself. I remember a year and a half ago nearly freaking out when I counted over 30 skirts alone. I have pared down a lot and am finding what makes me happy when I wear it. I shop a lot less.

    I long for the kinds of friendships you do. But I have found too that most people don’t want deep friendships, they just want the happy family Facebook kinds. I want friends who know me and all my idiosyncrasies and are willing to put up with them. Those seems to be in short supply. But at least we can feel our loneliness and are no longer stuffing it by mindless shopping. For me, I am learning to trust God to provide friends, if He thinks I need them. Until then, I am content with my wonderful husband and doggie.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for sharing about what you tried to fix through shopping, Anne. You really experienced a lot of loss in a short period of time and I can see how shopping became a way for you to experience even small bursts of joy. I’m glad that my blog helped you to be more honest with yourself and to get to a better place with shopping and your wardrobe. Those changes are hard, but I’m finding the friendship issues even harder. I agree that most people don’t want deep connections. I don’t really understand why, as I crave them so deeply. But like you, I’m trying to trust that it will happen if it’s meant to for me. I try to be grateful for what I have, which is really a lot. I am surrounded by love every day with my husband and two cats, I have great connections through the blog, and a few people with whom I can talk deeply. I’d love to have some people to do things with where I live, but that isn’t everything.

  24. I shop in my search for beauty. I find it is an activity that requires no planning whatsoever and can be spontaneous and something you can do when you want to be alone but not at home. I go, look, try and then I put everything back!!
    Your willingness to share your feelings is remarkable. I would suspect that your loneliness is due to an introverted nature and not an inability to make or be a good friend. It can take years to make a good friend. You are a courageous person and thanks for sharing.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      How great that you’re able to shop and put everything back, Andrea! It reminds me of what Jill Chivers called the “art gallery method” of shopping, in which we can appreciate beautiful things without having to have them. I’ve gotten better at doing that recently. You are right that my loneliness is due to an introverted nature. I CAN be a good friend, but I don’t develop deep relationships easily. You’re right that it can take years. I’m trying not to be so impatient. Thank you for your kind words about my openness and courage.

  25. OK, Debbie, beam me from the South over to San Diego! I don’t drink coffee but I could get tea and we could chat in person. Totally agree with everything you posted and have myself shopped for most of those reasons. Like someone else commented, while my husband was busy growing his business, I was home alone and bored. My friends were the QVC hosts and the UPS guy. I was very adept at receiving a box (nearly every day), hiding whatever I purchased in my closet and then taking the box out to the trash so the evidence was gone. Your blog has helped me and your other devoted readers so much! I am much more honest about my shopping behavior and have made progress both in paring down my wardrobe and doing less shopping. Thanks for all the hard work you put into your blog! I always look forward to reading it. Many hugs to you!

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I’d love to beam you from the South, Kim, or beam myself over to you! I don’t really drink coffee anymore, either (decaf occasionally), but it would be nice to share some tea and conversation with you. I can identify with what you wrote about shopping while your husband worked a lot. I, too, used to receive packages most days and hide what I bought, as well as all of the evidence. It feels much better to be honest how. I’m glad my blog has been helpful to you! The comments have been beneficial to me, too, and I like connecting with all of you. I appreciate your acknowledgment of the hard work I put into this blog. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s totally worth it if it helps people (plus, it helps me, too)! Hugs right back at you!

  26. Debbie- I so wish I was not separated by thousands of miles and in another country( although I am not as far away as your sister is on the east of Canada from you) because I would love for us to sit and have coffee whenever. Although I know that none of us here at your blog can be there physically, we all are here as “friends” for you cheering you on your journey through this life and sharing in your good or bad times.

    Now you mentioned in this post if we had any suggestions and I do have one that may or may not be feasible- are there any senior facilities or residences or agencies near you( or perhaps even some seniors living near you?) So many seniors do not have anyone to visit with and my god they are some of the most interesting people in the world to talk with( I could spend hours listening and learning from their experiences). Perhaps you might befriend a lonely one or two which would could change both your lives for the good

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I feel the cheering on of your and other readers, Abgurl, and I really appreciate it! I truly value my online connections and I don’t want any of you to think I discount them. I feel far less lonely because of this blog and it’s been a great thing. Your suggestion to reach out to seniors is a good one. I could see how it could be a mutually beneficial activity. I know there are many seniors who don’t have family nearby or just don’t have family. In fact, as someone who doesn’t have kids, I’ve often thought about how it will be when I’m old, especially if I outlive my husband (although the man is as healthy as a horse and it will likely be the other way around). I think this is something I will look into – thank you.

  27. Hi Debbie,

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences so openly. I just wanted to comment that although you seem very uncertain about yourself, from where I’m sitting, you seem to have accomplished many goals that most people can only dream about: creating a successful, widely read blog, being a published author, being mentioned in a mainstream magazine. I wonder if your loneliness has led you to underappreciate all of these amazing achievements.

    For the loneliness thing – have you tried simply identifying some concrete steps you can take to get out there more: For example:

    – If you’re interested in learning something new, have you gone to the local community college or community center to check out class / topic listings? This could be a skill like knitting, a new language, art history… *anything* that sparks your interest and you’ve always wanted to know more about

    – Have you checked out local resources to see if there are book clubs, movie clubs, other group social activities that would overlap with any of your interests?

    – Since you mentioned your cat – have you looked into volunteering time at the local animal shelter? Or helping out with any programs to take animals around to visit hospitals / nursing homes?

    Trying to approach a goal like “fix my loneliness” is definitely overwhelming and feels undoable. But if you break it down into a concrete next step, hopefully that will lead to another concrete next step, and get you moving towards your goal. What do you think?

    • I make friends slowly, and so I tend to take Karen’s approach of committing to activities I care about. These almost always result in a sense of community that I really enjoy, if not deep friendships. Even so, I overshop! It started because I gained weight and needed the clothes, but now I have a wardrobe i like, and I haven’t stopped. I think there is something physically addictive about the “score” and that I am going to have to go cold turkey.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your kind words and encouragement, Karen. You’re right that I tend to discount some of my accomplishments, as I think I have a very narrow view of what it means to be successful. Chalk it up to my upbringing and the viewpoints espoused by my parents and other authority figures in my life, but I could definitely use a shift in perspective. Thanks for the reminder!

      As for dealing with my loneliness, I have tried all of the suggestions you’ve mentioned, but just not recently. It did help me to take classes, join groups, and volunteer in the past, so I’m sure I would also find such methods beneficial now. My main reason for not doing these things in recent years has been my poor health, which has been a major focus for me this year. I guess that even though I still don’t feel great much of the time, I could take baby steps to “get out there” a bit more. I agree that having a goal of “fixing loneliness” can seem daunting, but taking little steps in the right direction can get me to where I want to be eventually.

      Kate, I don’t think that taking steps toward being less lonely will necessarily stop one from overshopping, as shopping is often something we’ve used for years to address a whole host of emotional needs, including but not limited to loneliness. It doesn’t really work, at least not long-term, but it can be very compelling. Many people have found taking a shopping hiatus helpful in their journey to shop less and more mindfully. Jill Chivers wrote an excellent guest post on this topic that you might find helpful: http://recoveringshopaholic.com/how-a-shopping-hiatus-can-help/ Such an approach isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve never done it before, it might be worth giving it a try. Even just a short break might allow you to regroup and examine what’s underlying your shopping compulsion. During your break (if you decide to take one), I highly recommend reading and doing some of the exercises in “To Buy or Not to Buy” by April Benson (the link is on my Resources page). I have done many of the exercises (I need to go back and do the rest) and learned a lot about myself in the process. Best wishes to you!

  28. Debbie, Although I am not a compulsive shopper, I stumbled onto your blog several months ago and found it so interesting, so well written, so honest, that I do check in a few times a week.
    I was thinking about this recent post, and I think some of the problems that you face are more “situational” than anything else.

    From reading your blog, I think you said you moved to your area fairly recently. Am I correct in stating that you mostly work from home, and that you do not have children? For alot of people, living in a town for years, working outside the home, and having children are where they meet their “friends”. Most women in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s have made their friends from these areas. And if they have worked outside the home, once their children go to college, reach adulthood, etc. they still are rooted in their jobs. Also, if you move to a new area, even if you have been there several years, you don’t have the “roots” that others may have who have been there for 20-25 years.
    I have been living in my town for 26 years. My husband is from the area, I am not. I still feel like an outsider when I am with a group of people and they begin talking about their past, highschool, who knew who, etc. etc. But because I have been here so long, raised 3 kids here, and have a few of my husband’s family here, I do feel somewhat connected.
    The problem for me is that I never had a full time job outside my home. So when my last child left the roost a few years ago, and some of my friends left town, and others sort of disappeared, I felt extremely lonely, useless, and not fulfilled. Everyone was working and I honestly did not want to get a part time job just to fill my time. I did begin teaching in our religious school, very part time, and felt connected there, as my children had attended.
    What happens is that as you reach your late 50’s and beyond, everyone begins retiring, and looking to make friends. They are all in the same boat, and it is almost like starting over. But the trick is to live somewhere where this agegroup congregates. I used to cringe at the thought of moving to a retirement community, such as those in Florida and Arizona. But now, I GET IT. People want to be with others like themselves. People want to be connected to their peer group, and all of these people are now on a level playing field. They have tons of free time and are looking to connect with others.
    I know this post is long, but I too, have been going through what you so eloquently express. And I have been thinking about all the variables. So, hope my thoughts may be of some help.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Welcome, Sherri, and thank you for your kind words about my blog and my writing. I appreciate your insights into my loneliness problem and I agree that much of the issue is situational. I have lived in my current location for over 12 years, so I’m not exactly new here, but I do lack the connections one would have with a full-time job outside the home and/or children. I did have more connections when I was involved in Toastmasters and other organizations, but a lot of those friendships have fallen by the wayside. I think that some parts of the country/world are more geared toward community than others and where I live is not very community-oriented at all. That said, people can and do form bonds here and everywhere. I have not lost hope for making new friends and I admit I haven’t made a lot of effort in that direction as of late. I need to turn that around, but I’ve been placing most of my time and energy into dealing with my health issues and connecting with people online through this blog and other online communities. I value my online connections, but I now truly understand that I need to bond with people locally, too. Both types of bonds are necessarily for me and I need to put myself out there more in my own community. Perhaps when I’m a bit older, I will move to somewhere like Arizona for the reasons you mentioned. But I’m here for a while and I need to make the most of it. Thanks for sharing your insights!

  29. I know I’m late to this party but I can really relate to what you said about dysfunctional relationships. After getting through my divorce I realized what a terrible influence my ex had been on me in many ways, including financially. I’m still paying off one of his education loans that I cosigned. 🙁 Also whenever I didn’t want to be home I would go thrift store shopping (since our finances were so terrible) and then not want to admit to myself that I didn’t need these things or in many cases even like them. Thanks so much for your honesty, I think it really helps us all be honest with ourselves.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      I appreciate your comment, Sarah, and you’re not really all that late to the party at all. I’m glad that my honesty in this post and others has helped you to be more honest with yourself. I can definitely see how going through a difficult divorce could drive you to shop. I’m sorry to hear that you are still paying off one of your ex-husband’s loans. Hopefully that will be behind you soon. Hindsight is always 20/20, but my hope is that we can all learn from our pasts and be much stronger in the future. Onward and upward!

  30. Hey Debbie, gosh I often have so much I want to say on your posts, but I don’t b/c as I’ve mentioned in the past, I have health issues too, which include needing to limit my time typing and being on the computer, unfortunately. 🙁 But I had to pull out my ergonomic keyboard to say here, I am so very sorry about the loss of your dear cat, and I utterly and completely understand the long-lasting pain that comes with it. I recently lost my dog who had been with my husband and I since the beginning of our marriage 13 years ago, and it’s like the best years of my life are over.

    Not everyone can comprehend or validate this particular brand of loss – as you may know, it’s considered in psychology circles a type of “disenfranchised grief”, where the depth of your pain is not necessarily acknowledged or validated socially and the extent of your need to grieve is not accommodated. For me, things had become especially difficult a year or so before the end, as our dog’s many health problems advanced and he required even greater amounts of special care (and expense). I discovered that that “pet caregiver burnout” is a thing. Also confounding was the fact that we keep moving around and having to find vets that were up to the level of care we wanted/needed for him, and who could provide properly for him at the end when the time came. (Incidentally, I also discovered that “compassion fatigue” is a phenomenon among vets, and they can be exposed to death up to 5x more often than medical doctors.) We were fortunate that at the end we were being supported by a practice of exceptionally compassionate and skillful vets.

    In addition to being in many ways a “furry kid” (we have no children), he was also a best friend to both of us, provided a tremendous amount of emotional support, and was a primary source of positive interaction/experience which has left a huge void in our lives. It will be a relief someday when (hopefully) the pain and grief has subsided from this crushing and crippling level, but I am not at all surprised, Debbie, to hear that shopping was/is a way to escape the pain and you are still missing your cat years later. I expect it will be the same for us with our sweet boy. But for right now the physical pain of the grief is still acute and exhausting. I have a terrible need to talk about it and an agonizing inability to do so, as the words just stick in my throat.

    I know I’ve said a lot here, but mainly I wanted to offer my support and acknowledgement of Debbie’s loss of her beloved cat, and to thank her for bringing up this often unrecognized and devalued source of intense pain and grief. I would like to ask that if others would like to comment on anything I’ve said, please do so with extreme sensitivity (for instance, I’m not really looking for advice or platitudes or anything of that nature in regards to pet loss or the grief process.)

    For those who have not experienced the loss of a beloved companion animal and would like to learn more about it, please take a look around this website (and of course, it’s a fantastic resource for those who have lost a pet):
    http://joydavy2013.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-6-worst-things-you-can-say-to-a-person-grieving-the-death-of-a-pet/

    Thanks again Debbie, and while I can’t always comment (much as I’d like to), I’m here reading and benefiting from sharing the journey with you. All the best 🙂

    • Debbie Roes says:

      It’s great to see you commenting here again, Claire, and I really appreciate what you wrote. I understand about not being able to type much, as I have the same problem and often push myself so much that I end up with a lot of aches and pains (even though I have an ergonomic keyboard, mouse, monitor, chair, etc). I appreciate your taking the time to write such a long and heartfelt comment. I truly feel like you “get” what I went through with the loss of my cat, although I’m sad that you have gone through something similar with the illness and passing of your beloved dog. My cat also suffered with illness on and off for quite a long time before he passed and I often felt like I couldn’t talk about my anxiety during that time with anyone other than my husband. I always feared that people just wouldn’t understand, as so many hadn’t in the past. After he passed, I didn’t talk to almost anyone, as I feared the types of comments that were in the article you linked to (reading them was like nails on a chalkboard to me, as I can totally imagine people saying those things).

      I think that there are many people who bond with animals the way you and I did – and do. I met some of these people when I used to volunteer at the local humane society, but I haven’t been in that environment for a while now. My cats have always been a source of companionship, support, and joy for me. I think that for those of us who are home a lot due to illness, that bond can be even more intensified. And if we are a caregiver for a pet for a long time, it multiplies all the more.

      It was very heartwarming for me to read your comment today, Claire. I especially appreciate what you wrote in light of your recent loss. My deepest condolences on the loss of your beloved dog. If you need someone to talk to, please know that you can contact me anytime. The pain does become less intense over time, but sometimes it works in hills and valleys, just like any other kind of grief that a person may experience. If you have another sick pet or if someone close to you loses an animal companion, it can come crushing back to you as if it were yesterday. Creating a memory book for my cat helped (I used MyPublisher) and I look it at it often. I still have photos of him around the house, too, as well as the paintings my mother-in-law (who’s an artist) did of him and his first companion who we lost years earlier. It used to make me sad to see the photos, but now I have happy memories more often when I see them. I wish the same for you, as well as healing and peace for you and your husband.

      • Thanks so much for your kind words, Debbie, and for letting me know you are there if I need to talk, as well as sharing some of your personal experiences regarding your loss. While I wish it was easier to communicate, and that health and distance didn’t pose such a roadblock, your thoughtful reply means so much to me and does bring some measure of comfort. I can tell that you really “get” it too. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Please always know that I’m around rooting for you and supporting your journey despite my low frequency of comments. You’re a star! 🙂

        • Debbie Roes says:

          Thank you so much, Claire! I appreciate your kind words and support. No need to comment all the time. I read a number of blogs, but don’t comment very often on many of them, as I’m busy with that here. I still root for those bloggers silently and hope they feel my support even if I don’t chime in all that often. I know that you and many are on my side and it means a lot to me. I’m rooting for you, too!

  31. Deborah (Deby) says:

    At first, I overshopped because I was a single mom, and although I was quite successful in my career, I felt that I was socially looked down upon in my community because I wasn’t married. Overshopping for me was a way to tell myself that I was just as good as all those married people out there. I didn’t want to be married, but I didn’t like people feeling sorry for me because I was single either.

    Fast forward a few years: my son moved in with his dad and went to college, and I moved back to my home town because my mother had suffered a major stroke and my father was floundering. Within six months of moving back, I found myself involved with a charismatic man who was a closet (no pun intended, lol!) alcoholic and led me on a merry dance for several years regarding his level of commitment to me. When I learned, after 2 years together, that he was an alcoholic (he was VERY good at hiding it), I sought to understand and help, thereby wasting another 2 years trying to be a therapist. During those 4 years I overshopped voraciously. (That is how I got my burgeoning closet of 500+ pieces that I often speak of in my comments.) I was the poster child for letting a bad relationship turn you into a shopaholic.

    To give you an idea of how bad I felt over my excessive shopping at this time–the high often wore off BEFORE I left the store, but I was too embarrassed to turn around and return it.

    • Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing some of your reasons for overshopping with us, Deby. It is completely understandable that you would turn to shopping during those difficult times. You may have been a poster child for shopping as a result of a bad relationship, but now you’re a poster child for recovery. I have been so impressed with all of the positive changes you’ve made since you first started commenting here! It seems that one you “got” what you were doing and decided to change, it was full speed ahead for you. I can understand about the high of shopping wearing off quickly, as that is what I experienced as I moved along in my recovery. I was ashamed to return things, too, and would often drive far out of my way so I could make the return elsewhere. Fortunately, we are both in a much better place now!

    • I was right there with you Deby! I spent eight years with and married a man who ended up being an alcoholic, along with some other serious mental illnesses and finally traumatic brain injury! I say we forgive ourselves because who knows what might have happened without SOME coping behavior?

  32. Karen Sue B says:

    Thank you for this post. It has helped me think more clearly about why I feel myself magnetically pulled towards shopping and things I could be cultivating to get myself out of this cycle.

    • Thanks for your comment, Karen Sue. I’m glad you found this post helpful. I think a lot of us feel that magnetic pull toward shopping, but realizing that we’re using shopping in the wrong way can be an important first step toward powerful change. I wish you all the best!

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