Last week, in the comfort of my home, I had the great pleasure of watching the film CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC with a dear friend who is a recovering shopaholic.

I say “great pleasure” because I can’t remember when I last laughed so hard. The laughter began when Isla Fisher, the film’s star, searched frantically in her freezer for a credit card she had hidden in a container of water. The water, of course, had frozen, and she proceeded to chip away at it until she retrieved the credit card she meant to hide from herself. But, when she “simply needed” to have it to purchase (compulsively) something she felt was necessary to have, my friend’s identifying with the situation caused her to laugh uncontrollably. Her laughter, in turn, was so contagious that I laughed right along with her.

As with any addiction, the addict is controlled by a drug or behavior of choice.  With shopping, the behavior of choice ranges from clothing and shoes to objects of all sorts, often never worn, price tags still on, but owned by the addict, functioning in some way to alleviate the anxiety of the moment.

As a psychotherapist whose sub-specialty is ADDICTIONS, I would never laugh at any addict. This time, though, was an exception. I was not laughing at but rather with a person reveling in her recovery.

One especially memorable and hilarious scene in the film showed Fisher (not yet, of course, abstinent), attending a Twelve-step meeting for shopaholics after shopping much the same way that an alcoholic attends a meeting after leaving a bar.

Having worked hard on her abstinence by not shopping and getting into debt, my friend had celebrated paying off her last credit card that very day.  So, watching the film together was, therefore, all the more special.  A true gift, in fact.  The sort of gift where you can watch someone watch herself objectively, laugh at herself, and truly appreciate what her recovery has accomplished.

Although I’ve been addressing the subject of GIVING in my last few blogs, this holiday time is especially difficult for addicts.  The stress often felt in families, in a marriage, or being alone can be a prescription for any addict’s relapse.  The temptation to comfort oneself with one’s supposed “friend” – be it a bottle of alcohol or buying a new scarf – is the illusion that feeds the addiction. It is the false belief that whatever is felt to be necessary to feel happy will solve the problem of a particular day. Instead, it merely adds to the person’s negative sense of self and overall well-being.

So, in the spirit of this holiday season, I hope that we are all able to find ways to give to one another lovingly and thoughtfully, and that in the process we do not fall into traps, using old survival skills which only prove to be destructive and from which we may not then recover.

My wish for everyone is to enjoy the HOLIDAYS and to have a healthy, fun-filled, addiction-free NEW YEAR !