After my retirement, I began to work out regularly at a gym. But that gym happened to be within a shopping mall. This was an environment that gradually developed into a tempting “set up” for me to combine my trips to the gym with slipping in a little shopping.
Motivated by the retail marketing strategies to lure me through discounts, sales and coupons, I started to become obsessed with looking for “bargains.” Whether I needed the item became unimportant to me—it was the excitement of getting those bargains! What a bargain! What a deal! What a sale! If I liked one in a particular color, my reasoning went that surely I’d love even more of them in several colors!
I began recognizing my problem
Then one day when entering a back room of my house, I recognized that I had a problem. I recognized the problem for what it was when I saw that room loaded with a well-organized supply of ladies’ clothing. It looked like a miniature ladies’ clothing store! I realized that I couldn’t wear all of the clothes there in several lifetimes!! This stirred me to soul-searching and action. Even though I consider myself to be a logical person, I realized that this behavior was totally illogical.
I quickly realized that I had a spiritual problem—I was violating the Tenth Commandment against coveting. I was lusting for things I didn’t need, couldn’t afford, and didn't have room for. I began fervently asking God to forgive me and help me.
I thought about seeking professional “shopping addiction therapy.” That would not have been bad, but as it turned out, I didn’t require it.
It was so embarrassing for me to tell friends and family. One family member tried to help by just telling me to “stop it.” But that didn’t help because my addiction had become too strong to solve that simply.
I analyzed my family background as a possible contributing factor. Though we owned a house while I was growing up, we didn’t have much money for personal enjoyment. My dad kept tight control of the budget, allocating money to my mom only for family essentials, and not for personal items. Even though that background was no excuse for my behavior, could it be that I was overcompensating for my mother's restricted situation? Lamentations 3:40 says, “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord,” and this was part of my self-examination.
My road to recovery
I recognized that I didn’t need another thing. I had everything I could possibly need, physically speaking. I needed to “get a life.” So a struggle against this compulsion began within me.
For a short time I became ill, and that distracted me from shopping.
Then I took the many credit cards out of my purse, and left them at home in a desk drawer. But that wasn’t a sure solution because those retail stores told me that for my convenience, all I needed was to give them my Social Security number to make a purchase. They sure make it easy for anyone to spend money!
Those retail stores still send me “sale” coupons in the mail, but I ignore them and let them expire. Every day I look into that back room and just say to myself, “I don’t need another thing.”
I’ve made huge progress. I strongly believe that God has answered my prayers by removing this obsession to “shop till I drop.” Since early 2011 I’ve not had a compulsive desire to go shopping. But I take it one day at a time. [Editor’s note: Be aware that God does not promise to remove temptations every time someone prays for help. However, God does promise to help us if we are praying earnestly in faith while putting forth major effort to overcome.]
Since I became determined to break free from this addiction, I’ve been studying the Bible more and my mind has been opened to greater biblical understanding. This leads me to believe that my shopping obsession had been hindering my spiritual growth. What Jesus described in Mark 4:19 had come to fit me perfectly: “And the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” My desires (lusts) for “things” had become raw materialism.
My overcoming of this shopping addiction has led me to a greater understanding of and appreciation for Christ’s words: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).