This is the second part of my No One Talks About Money series. In this series I discuss my financial crisis, credit card debt and the reality of my shopping addiction. Read Part One here. Please know, it gets pretty damn dark and I’m nervous AF to put this out in the world but it’s my truth and I just had to push POST. I hope this helps you understand that wherever you are on your journey, however far down the rabbit hole you are… you can get out. You might have to drag yourself out screaming, it might take years, but you can and you will.
If you need to talk about this please do not hesitate to reach out. I am here for you.
I got my first credit card in college, unless you count the American Express my dad opened for me when I was born with the hopes that he could establish credit for me. Yes, I have an amex that says member since ‘84. It’s since been cancelled… but that’s for another post.
My first card was an American Express Blue for Students. I was approved for a $2000 credit limit and 11.99% APR. Yup, I had no idea what any of it meant. I just knew that I needed things and I needed them fast. I went ahead and maxed out my card to buy a new laptop which I truly did need, but at the same time could have made my desktop work (yes it was a dell and huge and loud and so cool when my Dad got it for me 4 years prior to college).
Then came the Discover and the Visas and the Mastercards and the Diners Club… just kidding, I didn’t have a Diners club card… or did I? I didn’t.
All of them were maxed out and I was just totally 100% not living within my means.
I justified that first purchase of the computer through this story that I told myself: “Well, my parents won’t buy me one. I need one and since they won’t buy me one I’m going to get it on my own. Obviously I’m a burden to them and they don’t love me. I’m going to love myself and get it for me. I deserve it. Fuck them, I’ll show them!”
Seriously, you can’t make this shit up. Did I mention that I just uncovered this story in therapy… yesterday? Yup, yesterday.
It was pretty obvious by now that I had officially developed a shopping addiction and I was only around $5,000 in debt at that time. Ah, those were the days. The shopping was a coping mechanism for the shame that I felt around my sexuality and, real talk, for the shopping. Like, I was so ashamed of my money issues that I would go shopping to make myself feel better. There has to be a scientific term for this… oh wait, that’s what addiction is. Great. Perfect. Glad we figured that out.
I was standing in front of the ATM and looking at my checking account. My mom was on the phone. I told her that I needed to enroll in another class and had to pay for it because it was outside of my allotted credits. She said she would send the school a check and I said it would be better if she just transferred the money into my account so I could pay for it myself.
She obliged and I overdrew my bank account with good faith that the transfer would go through. I did not enroll in another class. I went and bought TWO PINS FROM LOUIS VUITTON. Yes, pins. Like something that you attached to your backpack or jacket. Life was dark friends. I must have told that lie to my Mom at least 3 times… I don’t even remember what other things I bought.
My parents had opened a college account for me when I was born and saved enough money to pay for tuition at any school I wanted to go to. It was the summer between Freshman and Sophomore year and I had just got home from a month in Italy studying classical voice and shopping… I mean Italian. Since there was only a month before school started again I came home planning to just have a lady of leisure moment.
Well, that got old very fast and I managed to get ahold of the checkbook that was linked to my college account. I spent the entire rest of the summer writing myself checks, cashing them and going on shopping sprees. I would leave the bags in the back of my car and sneak them out in the middle of the night so my family wouldn’t know what I was up to.
One day I was looking in the mirror, decked out in the fancy clothing I had bought with the money that was meant to pay for my schooling and I all I saw was a sad sad boy staring back at me. It was then that I knew I needed help.
I was sitting at my computer (you know, the big clunky one Dad had bought me) and was setting up a bank transfer to my maxed out American Express to pay down the balance from my college account when my Dad called me. He told me that he had just finished a call with his accountant who said that there was a lot of missing money from my college fund. He told me that he was worried my Mom was stealing money from my college account to go shopping. Now, if you know my Mom she would NEVER do this and I couldn’t let my Dad think that she would do anything of the sort. I blurted out “it was me!”
The game was over… for now.
Three days later my Mom drove me back to school. She cried for the first half of the ride and spent that night on the phone with my Dad having a very audible conversation with him about how I embezzled money. The shame was real and you guessed it. I only knew one way to deal with that monster.
to be continued…
Thank you for allowing me to share this story and for holding space for me. Want to be notified when part three is up? Subscribe to my weekly Self Love newsletter and get your free Self Love mantra sent right to your inbox!
For support with any addiction the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) maintains a Web site (www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov) that shows the location of residential, outpatient, and hospital inpatient treatment programs for drug addiction, alcoholism and other addictions throughout the country. This information is also accessible by calling 1-800-662-HELP.
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