We recently spoke to former Clouds House resident Sarah* about her compulsive buying addiction. Here's what she had to say:

When did your shopping habit begin?

I think my habit actually started when I was a student at university

What do you think was the trigger for your habit? 

The stress of university finals.

What kind of things were you spending your money on? 

It was mostly clothes, bags and makeup.

Roughly how many hours a week were you shopping (including online)?

It would vary, but it was definitely at multiple points throughout a given day. I don't think I can put a specific time on it but these days with smartphones shopping is never far away.

How much debt did you get into? 

I was lucky and didn't get in to a vast amount of debt as I have a good job. I will say though that I have very little savings, which I deeply regret.

Did social media such as instagram worsen the problem?

Oh yes, adverts constantly pop up on social media, especially for sales or the latest bag. Also, the adverts know which brands you’re most likely to shop at, which is dangerous.  

When did you realise you needed professional help? How bad had things got by that point?

When my life was chaotic, I had been treated for other addiction issues and I had been alcohol free for a year, but I realised I was instead getting my "fix" from process addiction (shopping) and that very much had to stop.

Briefly describe your treatment and how it helped you.  

The thing with treatment is you know you've got a problem but admitting the extent and having the honesty and awareness to do that is key. When you have an active addiction, life is chaotic, but going into residential rehab gives you structure and focus.

Also, being away from social media and the internet really helped. At Clouds House, addiction is treated with the 12 step programme and these are amazing to help you realise your addiction and face up to it. It gives you hope as you see the serenity it brings to those in recovery. Hope is something you lose when in active addiction; Clouds definitely gave that back to me.

I had extensive group therapy, one-to-one therapy and assignments from my counsellor. I looked at me self-esteem, my anger and my control issues. The thing with rehab is you get what you put in and if you're honest and work at it, there really is nothing stopping you. Active addiction sucks but being free of the chaos it brings is awesome.

Learn more about residential rehab at Clouds House.

*Sarah is not her real name.