DEAR ABBY: I'm a shopaholic. I'm constantly shopping the department store sales and thrift shops. It's my "fix" when I'm feeling down or bored. It never used to be this bad. I purchase things and keep it secret from my husband. I don't just buy for me. I also buy for others. I am out of control. It has reached the point where I'm in the hole $4,800.
I never had nice things when I was young, and I tell myself I deserve them. It's like being on a diet and cheating -- I feel guilty every time I do it. The idea of cutting up my credit cards is threatening. I'm sad now, but I'd be really depressed if I had to. I pray every night to stop this cycle, but my prayers go unanswered because I'm not sincere.
I'm a lonely person with few friends. I'm scared and don't know where to turn. Please help me. I can't afford a therapist. -- FASHIONABLY LONELY IN NEW YORK
DEAR LONELY: Please pick up your phone and make an appointment to discuss this with your doctor. Some people become compulsive shoppers because the "rush" it gives them temporarily eases their chronic depression -- and from your letter, I am pretty sure you fall into that category. Medication can help, but it must be prescribed by a physician.
Debtors Anonymous is an international 12-step fellowship that provides mutual help in recovering from compulsive spending. If you contact this group, you will find it provides a phone support network as well as a newsletter, and the primary purpose of its members is to stay solvent and help other compulsive debtors achieve solvency. For more information, write Debtors Anonymous General Service Office, P.O. Box 920888, Needham, MA 02492, or visit the Web site at www.debtorsanonymous.org.
DEAR ABBY: My husband doesn't support anything I do anymore. He thinks I am always wrong, no matter what the situation is. He never takes my part in any circumstance. He took the neighbors' part after an argument that led to me calling the police. He told the neighbors that I was wrong to do it. He has made me look like a fool to the whole neighborhood.
He is always telling me what to do. I never get my way -- it is always his way or no way. I am thinking about leaving him, but I have nowhere to go. I have no job and no place to stay. We have a child together, so I have to provide for him, too. Do you think I have grounds to leave, or should I try to work things out? -- BEATEN DOWN IN COLUMBUS, OHIO
DEAR BEATEN DOWN: Make a list of your husband's bank account numbers, Social Security number, driver's license number and his assets. Get a job and start banking your wages in your name only. Then offer your husband the option of marriage counseling.
If he refuses, point out that it would be cheaper for him than alimony. If he still refuses, please consider some sessions with a counselor to figure out why you have tolerated living with someone like him for so long.
And by the way, your husband is required by law to support his child. An attorney can advise you about whether you have "grounds" to end the marriage.
DEAR ABBY: A friend asked me today if dancing with someone other than your partner is considered "cheating." What do you think? -- C.M. IN SCARBOROUGH, CANADA
DEAR C.M.: Dancing with someone other than your partner is not cheating. However, it is considered rude if your partner is left sitting alone.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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