I’m a coach who helps clients recover from compulsive, addictive behavior in relationships, yet I’m still working on my own addiction. Hello, I’m Shannon and I’m the Imelda Marcos of dresses. I own 78 of them. 78.
Where am I going to wear all these freaking dresses?
- I write from home, usually in my pajamas.
- I volunteer at my kids’ schools in sweats because they’re teenage girls and really embarrassed if I look “too fancy” while I’m on their campus. Because it’s “show-offey.”
- I go to Shell to pump gas, on fleek in my hoodie.
- I go to a meditation workshop where you basically hyperventilate until you see God wearing yoga pants and a t-shirt that says, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish.”
My Dress Buying Triggers
- When I weigh more than I want to, I buy a dress.
- When a book publisher passes on my book, I buy a dress.
- When I find out someone I know sold their substantially inferior book to Hay House, I buy a dress.
- When a client thanks me for helping them, I buy a dress.
- When my self-published book wins a Kirkus Star, I buy a dress.
- When the elderly masseuse is massaging my butt and asks if I work out because I have a good body, I first worry I’m in a Happy Ending parlor, and then I go home and buy a dress to congratulate myself.
I’ve come to understand that it’s not Adult Shannon who is buying the dresses.
It’s Little Shannon.
She looks disquietingly like my grim daughter Clare when she was 14-months-old.
My goal is to stop desiring new dresses and instead desire the dresses I already have. (This can also apply to husbands.)
In my recovery from addiction this is the time to work Step One in 12-Step Recovery, adapting it to my circumstances.
“I admitted I was powerless over Compulsive Spending, and that my life had become unmanageable.”
(You can substitute the phrase “compulsive spending” for your addiction; whether it be to a toxic relationship or a substance.)
Admitting I’m powerless over compulsive spending means I have to cancel all catalogues mailed to my house.
It means, I can’t “casually” peruse dress sites on my phone while sitting in the orthodontist’s waiting room.
I also have to come into awareness of how compulsive spending makes my life unmanageable. In my case, my self-esteem plummets and I feel ashamed. Shame can lead to more self-destructive behaviors like:
- Jealousy toward Facebook friends whose lives seem more exciting than mine
- Anger at myself that I’m powerless over compulsive spending. Why can’t I peruse dresses like a normal person would? (Reminiscent of an alcoholic being angry he can’t drink like a normal person.)
If I notice my character defect of “impulsivity” and don’t buy a new dress, I suddenly sense and feel the GROWN-ASS WOMAN inside of me taking charge of Little Shannon.
(The photo below is how I see my adult-self comforting my little self. In reality, this is my favorite photo of Clare and me. I often have to tell her ‘no’ for her own benefit. As her ‘adult’ it’s my job.)
Often, as my mature adult self, I’ll talk to that stomping, demanding, whiney, tired, greedy little girl inside of me and say aloud:
“I’m sorry you can’t get that dress. I know it’s beautiful and you’ll feel so pretty in it, but you’ll also feel this horrible pit in your stomach of undeserving-ness and I don’t want you to feel that way because I love you.“
Then I pray to my Spiritual Guide and ask to have my character defects of “poverty consciousness,” “greediness” and “impulsivity” removed for that day.
(Knowing they’ll crop up again and that I’ll have to make this same request on future days.)
So, if you take a look at, and honestly write down what you’re powerless over and how it makes your life unmanageable, you can take action on Steps 6 & 7 of 12-Step recovery.
Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Step Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Unmanageability: I’m resentful at my boyfriend because he won’t marry me and it makes me so angry that it’s the only thing I think about.
Character Defect: Denial. He said marriage wasn’t for him, but I thought I could change his mind.
Prayer: “Higher Power, please make me willing to have you remove my denial. It’s scary because if I allow myself to see the truth, I may have to leave my boyfriend. Please help me be willing to have you also remove my fear.”
Unmanageability: When I date, I fall into bed too quickly and let my genitals fall in love with people who aren’t appropriate.
Character Defects: Confusing Sex for Love, Impulsivity, People-Pleasing and Lust.
Prayer: “Higher Power, I feel rebellious about waiting to have sex because .. A. I’m horny and he’s hot and B. I was raised in a sex-negative, shaming religion, so I want to do the opposite of everything I learned there, even though it ends up making my life a mess.”
“I humbly ask you to remove the defects of character above so I can take care of my body and my heart and my spirit. Choosing a partner based on values, not just sexual attractiveness.”
Your specific prayer about your specific powerlessness and unmanageability can be made daily, because in my case, I don’t have to release these character defects once.
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It took years to develop them, and will take years to shrink them. I take Steps 6 & 7 daily in some capacity.
Most days I win, some days another dress ends up in my closet, but my spiritual journey isn’t about being perfect, it’s about coming to love myself through consistent spiritual evolution each and every day.