Avis Cardella was living the life many of us can only dream of--she worked as a fashion model and later as a writer in the fashion photography industry. Both her words and her image appeared in some of the top fashion publications in the world. But she was battling some inner demons--she was a compulsive shopper whose habits were driving her further and further into debt. She chronicles her habits, and how she was able to overcome her compulsive spending, in her memoir Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict. Avis was nice enough to sit down and talk about her book and the life that inspired it.
Q: In your book, Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict, you talk about your own struggles with shopping addiction. Can you talk a little bit about how your “pastime” became so serious?
AVIS: I started spending more time shopping after my mother’s untimely death. I found that spending time in shops felt safe, comforting and could keep negative emotions about my loss under control.
Q: Do you think your careers as a model and fashion journalist were enablers for your habits?
AVIS: I found the fashion industry was an easy place to hide behind this image of someone who needed to look perfect, always have new things to wear, so in this respect it did provide certain opportunities to believe that shopping every day was normal. I do think easy credit—access to credit cards-- enabled me to shop. Credit cards allow for impulse purchasing.
Q: This is a problem that is probably much more common than people realize. What are some of the signs of shopping addiction?
AVIS: Researchers estimate that as many as 1 in 20 Americans has a problem with compulsive shopping. The research also reports that shopping addiction cuts across gender, age, and socioeconomic lines.
Some of the warning signs include: obsessive and constant thoughts about shopping, spending time shopping when you should be working or fulfilling other obligations, lying about shopping, accumulating unmanageable debt and buying things that you don’t want, need or use.
Q: For those who haven’t read the book, how did you get your spending under control?
AVIS: My road to recovery was a long process and too lengthy to detail here. But, I did go on debt management, that was the first step... then I needed to apply some self-therapy and try to understand why I was shopping compulsively. What was I searching for? What are we all searching for in the things we buy?
When I began to understand that my shopping was related to deeper emotions is when I began to recover.
Q: How do you handle shopping these days? Do you still feel the urge to buy compulsively?
AVIS: I am a healthy shopper today and am no longer plagued by compulsive urges. I still love fashion and shopping but know how to fit these things in my life in a balanced and healthy way.
I believe that understanding the deep emotional issues that were driving my shopping was the key to this recovery.
Q: Finally, what do you hope readers gain from your experiences?
AVIS: Spent is a personal story but in a way, it’s about everyone who shops. It is a story about a culture of consumption—it traverses nearly thirty years of everything from the beginning of mall culture to the “me” generation, easy credit, luxury label fever, Sex and The City... up until today. I’ve woven these cultural aspects into the story hoping that readers may rethink their relationship to shopping and their power over it.
I’ve come out of this addiction having answered the question: What was I searching for? It’s a good question to ask yourself, and it's very liberating when you find the answer.
Thanks, Avis. For more information, visit http://www.aviscardella.com/