DEAR ABBY: I'm a 25-year-old married woman who has a lot of free time on my hands while my husband works. The weekends are the worst.
Abby, my problem is that I shop to fill my time. This is very expensive, and I think I'm becoming addicted to shopping. How can I control my shopping binges?
Is there such a thing as a shopaholic? -- MALL-HAPPY IN FLORIDA
DEAR MALL-HAPPY: Yes, there is. And people who binge-shop to suppress feelings of boredom or sadness frequently wind up with significant credit problems.
Volunteer work is a far more fulfilling way to utilize your free time than shopping. One way to control the binges is to concentrate on giving to others instead of to yourself. More volunteer opportunities exist than I can name in one column, but a few that come to mind are: nursing homes, hospitals, Meals on Wheels, schools, libraries, mentoring, charities and political campaigns. Not only will they provide fulfillment, you'll also meet new people and make friends.
Another constructive way to fill your time would be to join a special-interest club or take classes at a local college.
If none of these are effective, ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist who can help you understand the underlying causes of compulsive behavior, because there is help for it. There is even a 12-step support group, based on the principles of AA, called Debtors Anonymous, which offers mutual help in recovering from compulsive spending. Founded in 1976, it is international, with more than 400 chapters. To contact it, write: Debtors Anonymous, P.O. Box 400, Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. 10163-0400.