One of the most revelatory and ultimately powerful tools in the Shopaholicnomore program is the dialogue. The purpose of the dialogue is to gain a deeper awareness of your relationship with something that you are overshopping for or something you use in order to overshop.
It might be that 8th pair of black boots, an evening dress from your favorite online shopping site, or for something we use in order to overshop, like a credit card.
The following is a dialogue that an overshopper named Lynn recently had with her Nordstrom credit card, several days after she actually canceled the card. Closing her Nordstrom account had felt good for a bit, but soon thereafter she was in touch with her hunger to open it all over again.
Let’s listen in:
(Lynn) is sitting in front of shredder with the pile of paid off credit card statements and cancelled credit cards. The Nordstrom card starts jumping up and down)
CC: “Hey Lynn! Can we talk?”
L: “sure. What’s up”
CC: “well, to be honest, I’m hurt and confused..you totally side swiped me here. I understand that you feel that you needed to make a change – but completely discarding me, removing me from your life, shredding me to pieces…it just seems so unfair to you and to me. We’ve been together a long time..we had a good thing going on. I was always there for you. When you wanted something I came through for you..no questions asked- no judging! Now I feel like you were just using me…didn’t I mean anything to you?”
L: “Listen, I had to change. You made me feel powerful but it wasn’t real. Having you in my back pocket just made it easy for me to be irresponsible. I won’t lie…I enjoyed those carefree moments, the high I would get from you. But at the end of the day I was in denial. I was left with a quick thrill but then I would owe you more and more and I could never seem to catch up. And I felt crappy about myself not telling my husband about you. Sneaking my packages into the closet…secretly paying you off each month. It was wrong. I tried to ignore how much I owed you and you didn’t seem to mind. In fact you just made it too easy for me. You never set limits on me. You let me keep getting in deeper. You enabled me. This relationship was not healthy for me. But trust me it was not easy to let you go, but it is for the best.”
CC: “Well then won’t you miss me?”
L: “Terribly I fear.”
CC:“And what will you do once you find yourself wanting something expensive? Who is going to be there for you? How are you going to satisfy yourself?”
L: “Honestly, I am not really sure yet. I don’t have all the answers. I only know that I need it to be more difficult for me right now. Not having such easy access to the things I desire will force me to not be compulsive. It will force me to take my time and determine if I really need something and maybe just maybe I can learn to either live without something I desire or learn to save up for something I desire. “
CC: “Yes but what about all the perks that having me around gave you? The free massages, the VIP treatment, all those points! Think of all you will no longer have!”
L: “Well I never used most of those “perks”! And yes the points are nice, but it’s ok to not have them in exchange for not having a mound of debt.”
CC:“And the pre-access to the July sale? Are you forgetting that! Don’t you want me to get you access to all the best deals!”
L: “I won’t lie…I panicked at first when you mention that. It might be hard next July,. But when I think of the $15,000 I spent this past July & August from the sale, I can’t think of one item that I couldn’t do without or couldn’t wait for. And I noticed that after the sale was over and September rolled around many of those items were still on sale! I will be okay without the pre-access. I will actually be more than ok because I won’t have the ability to trip myself up thinking I need everything I see on sale! I am going to work hard to enjoy shopping in a new way. I am going to go with cash.”
CC:“No! You can’t leave me for Cash – that dirty green monster – my arch nemesis!”
L: “But yes I must because you are just not good for me. For all you say you have done for me have you forgotten the 19% interest you would charge me for your part in our relationship. I can see clearly now how much I was actually overpaying for these “deals” I was getting! Pretty sure all those pre-sale items would have cost me a lot more than their non-sale prices with the interest I was paying each month. I was blinded by you and all I thought you had to offer me. But now it’s just not worth it. Our relationship must end and I am going to go to Cash only.
CC: But I do hurt and I sometimes panic over not having you in my life anymore, but I continue to remind myself of the person I want to be and I can’t be that person with you.”
(Lynn takes a deep breath and puts the Nordstrom card in shredding machine slot )
The End .
These were Lynn’s comments when she sent me her dialogue:
When I first started to think about having a dialogue with my credit card I was stumped. How exactly do you have a conversation with a rectangular piece of plastic? But I looked at this plastic and thought about how it made me feel. It made me feel powerful, yet sometimes guilty…exhilarated…yet frustrated. I felt trapped and alone, sneaky and wrong. I knew then that I actually had a relationship with this little piece of plastic that I tucked away into my wallet. And I also realized that I needed to examine that relationship. How much time did I spend with that card? How did it make feel? And most importantly..could I live without it?
I knew that having that card allowed me to be compulsive. I was never accountable because no-one ever saw the bill except me and usually I ignored the bill and just made whatever payment I could make each month. For a long time I was in denial and I wanted to be in denial. The decision to close not just my Nordstrom card, but also my Saks card was very difficult. When I was in therapy a few years back I could not bring myself to actually close out those cards. I used excuses like I didn’t want to lose all the perks I got from the card (the points, etc.).
But yet I realized now that if I still kept those cards it would make it too easy for me to slip and fall again. I needed a lot of help in this journey and I needed to make over-spending more difficult on myself. I had to disable the ability to be compulsive so it would force me to think longer before purchasing something.
In the end, after the card was destroyed I felt both powerful and helpless. Although proud of myself for doing something I could not do before, I would have panic attacks about not being able to just go buy whatever I wanted. I even woke up in the middle of the night in a panic over not having the card! And once when I went to make a return at Nordstrom, I felt a strong urge to go and reopen the card and have some shopping fun!
Now it has been several weeks since I “shredded” the card and closed the account. And it is getting better. I just went back to Nordstrom the other day to return a few items that I had impulsively purchased back during the summer “pre-fall” sale! Things that I “had to have’…were “such a great deal”, but now I looked at them and thought “I don’t really love these things”.
Since my account had been paid off and closed, I received the refund on a Nordstrom gift card. And I am proud to say that I did not go rush around the store and use it right away! I can’t say how long I’ll hold onto it, but I am proud that I didn’t just go rush and spend it that day. I feel lighter without the card…hopeful…and without it I know I can’t get myself back into the situation I had. `
After reading Lynn’s dialogue and her thoughts about it, I asked her the following questions.
1.What kind of frame of mind were you in when you wrote the first part of the dialogue? What was your mood like? Do you remember what your mood was like after you wrote it?
I had closed out my Nordstrom account the day before I wrote the dialogue. I felt that I “had to do this” and I had to do it “quickly” before I changed my mind. So when I wrote the dialogue I was feeling strong. I had accomplished something big and felt I had jumped over a large hurdle that had been blocking me before. I felt like I had truly begun walking the road to recovery. I felt courageous! The dialogue had actually been in my head for a day before I wrote it. After completing it I felt like I really had come face to face with a person. The credit card was now something real and tangible to me. My mood after writing the dialogue was positive. I enjoy writing and being creative but I also felt free. Knowing I could not use this card helped me to believe that I could conquer my compulsive overspending. In the weeks that followed writing the dialogue I came down from my courageous high. There were days I felt frustrated that I no longer had the ability to just go on an impromptu shopping spree. I was scared that I could not buy what I wanted at any given moment. I felt like a scorned child being punished for bad behavior and having a toy or privilege taken away.
2. After you wrote it, did you read it more than once?
I did real it several times. The creative side of me wanted to get across the concept of the relationship I had with debt. Thinking of debt as an unhealthy relationship really got me thinking. I am not the type of person to tolerate bad relationships. I was never one to linger in a friendship or a romance with someone I felt was not right for me. Yet here I was trapped in this underworld of sneakiness, deceit, desire, and regret. It became clearer to me that I did not want to be that person anymore.
3. How did writing the dialogue help you to keep your resolve?
The dialogue made the issue more real for me. I have always been the “good girl”, “rule follower”, “great mom and wife”, “good daughter”. Yet here I was living this secret life that I was not proud of. I realized this is not who I want to be anymore. Going forward having this dialogue to go back and reflect on will be a reminder to me that I don’t want go back into a “bad relationship”. It will also remind me that I have the strength and I have the power in me. I control the plastic card..it does not control me.
In Part II, you’ll be able to listen in on four different commentaries on Lynn’s dialogue with her card, those of her mother, her father, her husband, and her own inner wisdom or higher power.