Fool.com: The Shopaholic [Fribble] June 26, 2000

Fribble The Shopaholic

By Eakina@juno.com (Alessandra Eakin)
June 26, 2000

I read an article recently (in Mother Jones emag) that there is a pill in development to "cure" the mental "disorder" afflicting shopaholics. The indication of shopaholism is binge buying, followed by intense guilt, which is then assuaged by buying more.

Researchers have determined that shopaholics suffer from a more acute form of anxiety and compulsion that requires its own prescription medication. The new pill is a selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI). Incarcerated inmates and the chronically sick take SSRIs to curb aggression and to alleviate depression. Other people take the fashionable prescription to get rid of the blues.

I regard my own "disorder" of living beyond my means (by way of spending sprees) a little differently. My bills were disorganized, I felt entitled to every thing I wanted, I mistook available credit for free money, and so my finances were not in order.

So I have a medical affliction? The heck with personal responsibility -- I could have sent my creditors a note from my doctor saying I am being treated for shopaholism! I can buy everything I want because it's my problem that a pill can resolve. Wow. Why didn't I find this loophole sooner?

I used to live way beyond my means. It hurt. I suffered. I paid back over three long years. Now I live just below my means. I did all on this on self-prescribed therapy and called it a Cash Diet.

During my efforts to pay back debt, I dramatically changed my lifestyle. Since paying off debt, I have undertaken an informal study as to why I ever lived the life of a glutton and why others do too. I am fascinated by the whole consumer cycle our society is spinning in.

When I suffer from the affliction of waaanting what I deserve, I sit on my hands and think it out. I literally sit on my hands and think through a scenario like this one:

I am sitting in traffic, hot, tired, irritable, and hungry. I just want to be home. I see a dreamy car to my right (which is any car but the one I am driving). I imagine it's me in the driver's seat. I am wealthy, beautiful, loved by handsome men (yes, plural), and adored by strangers in lesser cars (that would be ALL of you and, uh, me). I think that if I had the trappings, it would mean my life would be so much better than it is. This despite the reality of living a very privileged, pleasant kind of life.

By virtue of waaanting -- pure covetous envy, sheer delusion of entitlement, and an insistence on deserving to win the lottery, I created a miserable existence for the good life I already have. Coveting a dream for how you want to live your life makes you disregard the good you already have. This was a very hard thing for me to learn. It took a while for my self-prescribed therapy to take.

So in my pill-less therapy:

  • I first recognized when I was dreaming of having a better life. Clue: it is triggered by the desire to own image enhancements.
  • Then I imagined what the best would represent if I owned them.
  • Then I imagined how hard it is to pay (back) for them.
  • Then I calculated how long that would take.
  • Then I imagined how much I would come to resent the shackles of debt, despite how impressive I look.
  • Then I realized my every day is in fact better now than how it would be if I were maxed out and highly leveraged.
  • And then I realized that I have it pretty good.
From learning to appreciate today, I came to believe that tomorrow would be as good, if not better. Then I made my tomorrows better by paying back my yesterdays and by not spending on todays. All this from wishing for what I already had!

Who knows? Maybe I am a blithering idiot, a fanatic Fool. Why work so hard at changing my attitude and my image over the years when a pill could change my attitude over night?

The truth: I am too cheap to pay for unnecessary medication. I guess my therapy worked.

Related Links: Living Below Your Means Discussion Board