My name is Stephen Herrick-Blake and I am a shopping addict.
I’ve always known it but the naked truth is something I’ve always deflected my eyes away from. I mean, nobody really wants to see the truth with all its bits hanging out do they?
It began in my twenties. A life of ease and privilege. I’m not talking about possessing the east wing of the family estate or running pheasant shoots on the family land here. I’m talking about living at home with no pressure to move out, a monotonous full time job and no social life.
Money just built up. Ridiculously. Effortlessly. I stockpiled it.
It was then that I developed that intense love affair with spending. With purchasing product. That self-esteem-boosting thrill you get when you go into a shop, point at something and say, “I’ll take that please, don’t bother with gift wrap”. A mate and I used to go to Birmingham every Saturday and hit the record shops – back in the days when CDs were new and suspicious. I’d choose whatever artist I was into at the time and buy their entire back catalogue. Albums, EPs, singles – both 7” and 12”. Once I spent so much money at a record shop that the cashier actually declined to ring up the amount on the till to save me any embarrassment. Like I cared about the street urchins holding their hands out to me on the way out, begging me for a morsel of my Burger King chicken burger bap – I’d finally got hold of that rare Kate Bush gatefold sleeve that I’d been after for months.
Summer holidays too were an orgy of retail therapy. Oh the joy of being able to mooch around shop after shop and think to myself, “I could buy something in here if I really wanted to.” And so I frequently did. Just for the hell of it. Just for the pleasure and the thrill.
It feels obscene now to look back on it. But I can’t deny that I also do so a little wistfully too.
I have to be tighter with my money now. Carefree spending is a thing of the past. There are monthly bills, there are debts that grow like weeds even when you don’t water them. But that urge – that addiction – is still there. If we go somewhere as a family, for a day out say, I can’t deny I feel a little depressed if I come back without a small purchase. It’s stupid. It’s like the day is not complete or cannot be enjoyed in itself without my spending power being exercised at some point. I don’t feel a valid member of the human race if I don’t acquire a totally frivolous item.
But I’m fighting it. I’m trying.
We did the summer hols this year on the cheap and I am financially at the same level now as I was at the beginning of them. No better off but no worse off either. For me that is a victory.
I blame my addiction on that period in my twenties when I had no responsibilities. It set a trend, see? Gave me a taste for a lifestyle that just wasn’t real and just cannot be maintained.
For all it was a lovely, carefree period I can’t help wishing my parents had kicked me out, forced me to face up the real world sooner before the pattern became too imbedded.
But that is passing the buck isn’t it? Not facing up to my responsibilities yet again.
I should have done something better and longer lasting with my money. Something wiser. Me. I should have done it.
If I had the money now the only thing I’d buy would be hindsight.