In recent years it has become fashionable to refer to shopping as “retail therapy.” A mindless distraction that takes our mind off of our troubles. We purchase items that make us stand taller, look prettier, feel better about ourselves. But what happens when shopping becomes much more than an afternoon escape, or ‘well-deserved’ indulgence? By some estimations as many as 17 million Americans suffer with oniomania (the clinical name for the compulsive desire to shop). Nearly 90% of them are women.
Fashion writer and former model, Avis Cardella, struggles with a shopping addicition. She grew up entranced by the glossy images of fashion models in the pages of her mother’s fashion magazines. Her fixation with those carefully crafted, airbrushed images, recollections of childhood shopping experiences laden with emotion, memories of her glamorous mother who died suddenly, and the equation of fashion with a sense of self worth led to an unhealthy shopping obsession lasting several decades.
In Spent – Memoirs of a Shopping Addict Cardella recounts her struggle with compulsive shopping and its impact on her life, relationships, and finances. Most importantly she reveals the underlying emotions connected with her shopping obsessions and her views of clothing and other possessions. It is her willingness to carefully peel back the layers and make us privvy to the pain, bad choices, and resulting consequences that make this memoir compelling.
Cardella reveals that a career in the fashion industry gave her a “false sense of importance.” Being fashionable was expected, necessary. But somewhere along the way shopping was no longer done because of need or even as a guilty pleasure. Instead it became an intense, physical need. Cardella recounts how she often shopped impulsively, mindlessly, as if she were on autopilot. Each episode followed by regret and sadness. Her purchases often ended up thrown in the back of her overflowing closet, still carefully wrapped in the prized bags from her favorite stores: Bergdorf’s, Barney’s and Bloomingdales. Never to be worn.
As her shopping habits intensified she found herself spinning a web of lies and half-truths to cover up the enormity of her growing shopping addiction and mounting debt. Then there was the grief over the loss of her mother left unaddressed, yet constantly fueling the fire of her addiction.
Avis Cardella’s memoir, Spent gives readers a window into the world of compulsive shopping addiction and the courage to forge beyond the underlying pain, issues of self-esteem, and sadness that often accompany it.
Spent – Memoirs of a Shopping Addict by Avis Cardella is available on Amazon and at booksellers everywhere.