‘My spend­ing ad­dic­tion landed me in £50,000 of debt’

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - #ONEDAY - By Sharon Bull

I opened the wardrobe door, and ran my fin­gers across a silk gown I’d bought for a New Year’s Eve trip a few years ear­lier. Un­til re­cently, my closet had been crammed with de­signer dresses bought dur­ing my spend­ing mad­ness, a pe­riod that left me £50,000 in debt. But the glit­ter of the few re­main­ing pieces now seemed so unattrac­tive. As I posted these rem­nants of my lav­ish life to their new eBay own­ers, I wasn’t sad to see them go.

That was 29 April 2011, Prince Wil­liam and Kate Mid­dle­ton’s wed­ding day, and the be­gin­ning of a new chap­ter in my own life. I’d just turned 50, and was mov­ing back in with my mother.

I bought my first house in 1997 af­ter start­ing my dream ca­reer in sales, and it felt fit­ting that my home should re­flect this. It was bor­rowed money, but it didn’t seem a big deal then, as banks only re­quired a small de­posit.

As my ca­reer took off, I felt a pres­sure to live up to an im­age – and I think that lack of self-be­lief trig­gered my ob­ses­sion with spend­ing. I’d left school with no qual­i­fi­ca­tions and suf­fered my first bout of se­vere de­pres­sion not long af­ter. Deep down, I didn’t be­lieve I was good enough to be suc­cess­ful. So, sin­gle and with­out chil­dren, I was to­tally fo­cused on try­ing to prove oth­er­wise – to my­self and ev­ery­one else. I went on cruises and spent hun­dreds on Ver­sace dresses and flash jew­ellery. When I maxed out one credit card, I just ap­plied for an­other.

Shop­ping was the an­ti­dote for every­thing bad: work stress, dis­ap­point­ment in my life, even grief for the loss of my fa­ther. A pur­chase gave me a few mo­ments of ela­tion – of­ten fol­lowed by nau­sea and re­gret. I re­mem­ber once try­ing on three Just Cavalli dresses. In­stead of choos­ing one, I bought all three.

The first ma­jor warn­ing sign came in 2008, when I had to sell up and move into rented ac­com­mo­da­tion. I could no longer af­ford the mort­gage, along­side my loans, bills and credit-card pay­ments. Then in 2010 I was made re­dun­dant, and every­thing be­gan to un­ravel. My com­pany car was col­lected. I started get­ting threat­en­ing calls from cred­i­tors. I’d fooled the banks, but also my­self, and sud­denly the enor­mity of the sum I owed be­came clear. For the first time, I was un­em­ployed and claim­ing job­seeker’s al­lowance. I be­came de­pressed again, started drink­ing, and, now on an­tide­pres­sants, my state of mind be­came scar­ily in­co­her­ent. On the eve of the royal wed­ding, I was con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide, but passed out drunk be­fore I could do it.

When I woke up, I told Mum every­thing, and a weight lifted from my shoul­ders. With­out her help and sup­port in my re­cov­ery and new ven­tures, I’d have ended up home­less – or worse.

Over the next two years, I slowly re­paid my cred­i­tors and trans­formed my think­ing. Ex­er­cise, mind­ful­ness and med­i­ta­tion helped my re­cov­ery, and are now all part of my life.

A year af­ter mov­ing to Mum’s, I found my­self near Har­rods, a place where I’d once loved to shop. That day, I felt noth­ing and knew my ad­dic­tion was be­hind me.

I’ve also re­alised that, by shar­ing my story, I can in­spire oth­ers – es­pe­cially as the num­ber of peo­ple de­fault­ing on their credit cards and loans has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly. So now, five years on, I’m a mo­ti­va­tional speaker and have just writ­ten my first book. My ex­pe­ri­ence res­onates with so many peo­ple who try to live a per­fect life­style on the out­side – but aren’t be­ing true to them­selves within. ‘Stripped Bare’ by Sharon Bull (Mata­dor, £9.99) is out on 28 Au­gust. Has one day changed your life? Email us at stella@ tele­graph.co.uk or tweet us @stel­la­m­agazine #One­Day

‘A pur­chase gave me a few mo­ments of ela­tion – fol­lowed by nau­sea and re­gret’

Above Sharon in 2005, at the height of her ad­dic­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.