The holiday season is in full swing, and everywhere you look is a shopaholic’s paradise. The end of this year is different from all the past years, because I am not out buying stuff I don’t need and cannot afford. I have been in the shoes of a shopaholic for a long time, starting from teenage and up to my late twenties. The addiction to shop is not something that is taken seriously, and society sees it as a ‘first world problem’ of the ‘rich’ or ‘privileged’. Truth is that I was none of those things, but a prisoner of my bad habits and disastrous choices.

I remember getting myself into a car accident a few years ago, just because I was running late for a flash sale. Like any other person, I had problems in life and shopping was my preferred escape. I was born in a middle class family and the third of four siblings. My parents were penny pinchers; throughout my childhood, I was deprived of brand new and finer things. It was an endless cycle of hand-me-downs and cheap quality goods.

Finally, as a grownup who was educated and eligible to earn good money, it was time to fulfill all my suppressed desires. I could independently walk into the biggest malls and buy anything I wanted. Then I got my hands on the magical ‘credit cards’ and there was nothing stopping me. As if all the glitzy stores in my city weren’t enough, online shopping opened doors to bigger sales, from the comfort of my home. My interests did not fall into a particular category, so I was ordering everything from fashion items to household crockery.

Whether I was sad, angry, or anxious, walking into towering shopping complexes and returning with multiple shopping bags always made me feel better. It was too late when I figured out that this was a serious problem. The truth dawned upon me a couple of years back when a colleague and good friend visited my apartment for the first time; she jokingly asked me if I was a hoarder!

I realized I had numerous ‘outfits’ in my wardrobe that I had never worn. Several untouched items were stacked under my bed because the cupboards were out of space. My tiny apartment was overflowing with unused stuff that I could not even recall buying in the first place. Next, I was fumbling through dozens of unpaid bills, and threatening mails of lawsuits by credit card companies. The situation was so stressful that I wanted to run off and shop again, but I felt the guilt.

At first, I did not know what to do, and thought of fleeing the country to elude the consequences. Unfortunately, I did not have the resources to follow up on that plan and contacted friends and family for advice instead. Luckily, my parents knew a whole lot about budgeting and reminded me that I had it in my genes. I needed extra motivation to get rid of all my credit cards; I regretted it for months but the pain eventually faded away.

I tried to restrict myself to work and home, and only went outside with limited cash. I deleted all the online shopping apps from my phone and installed apps for selling my unwanted stuff instead. Relapses did occur, but I had people in my life to help me cope with major breakdowns. A friend of mine got me signed up for a group therapy for shopaholics as well, and it was good to know that I was not alone.

Today, I am still under a considerable amount of debt, and continue to hold on to many irrational things I bought in the past. Nonetheless, I have a bunch under control and hope to be debt free few years from now. It has become easier to control my urge to spulrge, and I keep telling myself that I already have more than I need.

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