Dealing with Substitute Addictions: Shopping


Shopping Feels Good

We live in an economic world that encourages us all to be good consumers. Much of this encouragement comes in the form of advertising. We are bombarded with commercial appeals for us to obtain a product or service that will satisfy some fundamental need of ours. And we have to admit to ourselves that making a purchase does give us a little lift, it makes us feel good. Unfortunately, this effect doesn’t last very long, and so we go shopping once again to obtain relief. Before long, our homes are full of stuff. Some of us even rent storage facilities to save more stuff.

Shopping Seems Harmless

This substitute addiction appears harmless, but it insidiously takes control of us until we are exhausted. Little by little we yield to temptations. Just this once, just this small thing. Before we know it, we’re hooked. We’re headed to the mall where we can charge to our heart’s content.

But then the bills arrive, and we kick ourselves for giving in to temptations. We see how sneaky our inner Addict is, how it tricks us and hides behind our hopes. No one likes to be taken advantage of, but we let the permissive side of our personality do it to us all the time.

If we are to attain sobriety in this area, we will have to reveal to a counselor, therapist, or good friend just how it has gotten us into so much trouble. We need to learn how to exercise self-restraint, and meanwhile we can be accountable to someone we trust. This may occur with another person in recovery or in a therapeutic setting. We want to develop a sense of confidence in ourselves, so that we do not act out of insecurity or unhappiness.

Richard G. Hartnett, MA, MS, LCADC is a former Jesuit priest who now lives with his wife, Kathy, by a lake in northwestern New Jersey. He has served as the chaplain at Hazelden New York, pastoral counselor at the Chemical Dependency Department of the International Center for the Disabled in NYC, and continuing care counselor at the outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of High Focus Centers in New Jersey. Currently he maintains a private practice in New Jersey. He is the author of The Presence at the Center, Renewing Your Fourth Step, The Three Inner Voices: Uncovering the Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, and Sobriety and Inspiration: Entrusting Ourselves to the Source of Our Healing and Creativity.


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