Over a year ago, I was reading a book on fashion when I had a punched-in-the-gut moment.

I wasn't actually punched in the gut, it just kind of felt like it.

You might be wondering how a book on fashion could make a girl feel that way.  Did I realize how horribly unfashionable I was?  Did I find out my favorite pair of pants was so "last season"?

No, it wasn't that.

Perhaps I should back up.  I had recently heard of a book called "You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes reveal About You".  Can you believe that my pastor quoted from it?  The premise sounded interesting, and I like fashion and clothes as mush as the next girl, so I picked up a copy.

I started the book and read the introduction about the "psychology of dress".  So far so good, and the book was interesting.  Little did I know the next chapter would hit home in a way I wasn't expecting.
I read about a woman who was in debt because of her tendency to buy things she didn't need.  I didn't relate.  I don't spend money I don't have on clothes.

But then the author started talking about reward centers, and dopamine surges associated with finding the perfect item, and self-soothing, and I came to a disturbing realization.

I was addicted to shopping.

Today the term "shopaholic" is thrown around as something funny or charming, but all of a sudden I hated that word.

As I read, my patterns of behavior became all too clear to me.  When I was stressed about something, I would treat myself to a new bottle of nail polish.  When I was unhappy with being alone so much (Derek was traveling a lot at the time), I would pack up the kids and update our wardrobes.  When I felt bored or sad, I'd buy something new for the house.

I was so disturbed by this that I mentioned it to a few people, and some assured me that it wasn't that big of a deal.  I wasn't spending money I didn't have - so what was the problem?

The problem was that it wasn't just about not spending too much money.  I knew deep down that I was self-medicating with boots, and blouses, and throw pillows.  I recognized the boost I felt when I got something new.  It made me feel like I had something to look forward to, like my life was a little more exciting again.

I didn't like the idea that I was self-medicating with things.  I was trying to fill a hole in my life with material items.  The problem with this is that the satisfied feeling never lasted very long.  The next time I didn't feel good about something in my life, I had to buy something else to give me that temporary "high" again.

But what hurt me most was that I realized that this "addiction" of mine was hurting my relationship with Jesus.  I should have been letting Him fill up the empty places.  I should have been taking my worries, stresses, and sadness to Him, instead of giving myself temporary relief by buying something new.  I should have been drawing my comfort from the Word of God, instead of material possessions.
Enter the punched-in-the-gut feeling.

In a very subtle, socially acceptable way, I had been putting clothes in a role that only God was made to fill.  There is a reason shopping highs don't last very long.  It's because shopping was never meant to be my comfort.  God was meant to be my Comforter, and I had accepted a cheap substitute instead of being satisfied by the comfort that only comes in Him.

I had to stop and ask for forgiveness right then for letting things replace Jesus.  And it hurts me even now to type that, because I hate the thought that I ever thought they could.

I'm not saying I'm completely over my shopping addiction.  I still struggle with emotional shopping, and there are times when I still give in.  I am so grateful for the grace He gives as I work on this.  I am trying to remember that material things will never fill my holes.  I need to fill my mind and heart up with the truth of God's Word, with the love and grace that He is always ready to pour over me.  When I am filled up with Him, the temptation to try to fill the holes in my life with other things fades.  He is the only One that can truly satisfy.
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Meghan said...

Great post Callie. I am right there with you. This blog,, helped me identify with the reasons I was really shopping. (Very similar to yours) It has given me much more perspective and also encouraged me to stop buying just to receive that high from getting something new. A work in progress for me, but I am thankful for being more metacognitive about it now. Thanks for sharing your heart on this.

Kate Craig said...

I could have written this about food! I'm not overweight, so it's easy to say it's ok, but I recently I had to teach a lesson in gluttony to my high school girls and it was so convicting. I realized the same thing - I turn to food (or TV!) when I've had a bad day instead of turning to God.

Natalie@She Builds Her Home said...

I can definitely relate to this!! I came to a similar realization, well, I'm not sure when, but awhile ago. It is hard to admit. Sometimes for me I almost felt like I was "stealing" from my husband too, because even though we had the money, I knew I didn't need a new bag or pair of jeans so I didn't really tell him about it. Not like totally hiding it, but I know my intentions weren't good and that was really bad!! I am going to have to check out this book. I think I have calmed down a lot with it in the last year or so, but only because we are trying so hard to save money for the adoption and with our move this last year it was tighter, but I'm not sure I've worked through it spiritually. Thanks for sharing your heart on this!

Susannah said...

Wow! How amazing that you were able to realize this and start to change it. You've given me a lot to think about.

Alaina Beth said...

I have this same problem, but with food. Have a bad day? Order a pizza. Feeling icky due to PMS? Make brownies. While not always a bad thing to treat yourself with foods that you love or order food when you are exhausted, it was becoming a habit...a way to fill the void of emotions or frustration with something that wouldn't help solve the problem. The food, like your shopping, was becoming a crutch and an addiction, a way for me to fill the void that wasn't healthy. It is something I am still struggling with and working on, but I do think it is getting better than it has been in teh past.

Shawnelle Eliasen said...

Thank you for being so honest. I can relate. I struggle with this, too. I love that you reminded us of the truth that only He can fill the empty places, but also of the truth of His love and grace. How precious...

Unknown said...

This is a really great post that really affects a lot of people. I know I struggled with this when I first moved to a place where I didn't know anyone. Instead of going out and meeting people, I would shop online. It wasn't until that I started blogging that I realized some of my habits! I started spending more time in the word instead of online shopping, and really learned to enjoy the people around me instead of the clothes I was wearing!

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