Shopping can be like an orgasm: Making a purchase releases dopamine, the same brain chemical that’s released during sex. No wonder why I'd leave a store on a high.
For most of my adult life, I've been addicted to shopping, but I reached rock bottom a few years ago. I was stressed out from working long hours at a job I didn’t love, dating men who are best described as players, and avoiding healing trauma from emotional abuse in my childhood. Buying something beautiful was a quick way to relieve the worry and pain in my life. I was chasing the high of feeling good.
I wasn't much of an impulse shopper. I'd envision an outfit or an item, revisit it online or in the store, and then finally commit with my credit card. The more I obsessed over an item, the sweeter that “purchase high” felt. Post-purchase, I'd go home, open the bag, pull back the tissue paper and revel in the item I coveted. I'd lovingly touch my new Isabel Marant dress, Céline tote, or pair of Manolos for a few days. But once I started using what I’d bought, my fascination would fade, and I'd move on to the next shiny thing. This is what it's like to have a shopping addiction: always searching for your next hit.
I valued the items I bought more than I valued money, so I didn't pay much attention to my collection of bills. I always paid the minimum, and sometimes more, on time. I often received balance raises and a kept a high credit score. I looked at each bill payment as making space on my credit card for more buying. I simply dismissed my debt as something to worry about when I was older. I'd pay it off when I made more money, I thought. I did not know how much I owed.
But it all changed after a layoff from my six-figure job at an advertising agency. As I looked at my severance, unemployment payments, savings, and bills, it became clear that I needed to stop shopping. The price of my fashion obsession was $40,000 — a car, a salary, a down payment for a home, or part of an education. And now I had no income to start paying it back.
I panicked. I applied to every job I found, but despite scoring lots of interviews, I didn’t get any offers because we were in the depths of an economic downturn. I had to find another way.
I was too old to sell my eggs and not in good enough shape to strip. Prostitution would be way too illegal — and gross. For even 30 seconds, these possibilities (on paper) seemed more appealing than selling my fashion collection. But in reality, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sell myself just to keep my collection together. That was way too steep a price, and I knew I’d never be able go through with any of it. I may have given money freely in stores, but my body, dignity, and self-respect were too valuable.
It became clear to me that the best option was to sell my designer apparel for far less than I valued it. eBay offered me an international audience and the fastest route to cash.