Hello, my name is Audrey, and I am an H+M addict.
2003: I was 18. I was a seasoned mallrat, and I had a circuit of all my favourite haunts. But this day, I was with my sister when we spotted a new store – H+M. It was so white – white tiles, white walls, bright lighting, soft music, no posters and adverts – absolutely nothing flashy. It stood in direct defiance to the darkly painted, heavily decorated, loud and colourful sale posters, and blaring music of the stores around it. In fact – it looked like a cheap department store. Except for the clothes – which when compared to my wardrobe of Deliah’s, Pacific Sunwear, and Forever21, were basically the coolest clothes I had ever seen. AND they were cheap – $14.99 for a hoodie, not $39.99? Retro designed tops with vintage reprinted fabric for $18.99? Dresses for $24? WHERE AM I?
There were clothes everywhere in the shop – all over the walls, on racks all over the floor, just everywhere – all arranged by colour. It was overwhelming and so exciting all at the same time. I’m pretty sure it took me close to two hours to make it all the way through the shop, and I left from that first trip with about $150 worth of clothes. And lo, I had a new favourite place to shop.
2004: I was 19, and I applied for my first credit card – in an attempt to start building my credit history. I was an unemployed college student and I received a brand spankin’ new platinum Master Card with a $3,000 limit.
“I will spend a little bit, once a month, and immediately pay it off. Otherwise, this is for emergencies only.”
Also known as, my most infamous last words.
Over the next three years, my depression spiked, and coincidentally, so did my shopping habits. And H+M became my go-to place of solace. Since what little paycheck I had went to school, my car, going to the movies, and travel expenses, I rarely had money for spending on myself. So I used my credit card. I mean, why pay for something immediately when I can pay for it over the course of 6 years – with exorbitantly high interest rates? And yes, I could make “He didn’t call me tonight – he never calls me so I shouldn’t be surprised but I’m still disappointed” into a use the credit card emergency.
My closet (and dresser, and floor), were littered with H+M goods – most of them with the tags still attached. It got to the point where my friends stopped going in with me, because they didn’t want to support my “problem.” I knew I wasn’t making the best choices, and that I didn’t need that many clothes, and that I wasn’t even wearing half of them, and that I wouldn’t get around to returning them, and that I was sublimating my depression for shopping, but damn I had some cool clothes and that’s really all that mattered – right?
2006: I was 21, and I was on the phone with someone from my credit card company. I was getting the news that I ran my credit card up and over it’s limit – and that I now owed a $667.86 payment in order to bring it back to order. My final balance was $10,667.86. Just on that card. I had 2 others that added up to about $1,200.00. Nearly $11k in credit card debt. I hung up my phone and crawled into fetal position, where I stayed for the next 10 years.
It took about 4 years for me to pay all the cards off. And another 3ish years to pay off my emergency card when I ran THAT one up again. And again.
Somewhere in that time, I revoked ALL my H+M privileges. I knew what I was – an addict. As an alcoholic can’t be around booze, and opiate addicts have to take Tylenol when they break a bone, I can’t walk into an H+M without wanting, needing, to buy everything. It was a crazy, gnawing, almost physically painful obsessive feeling, this need to purchase something and take it home with me. So I just cut it out of my life – cold turkey.
I had 3 years of H+M sobriety, and I felt really good about it. I could walk past an H+M without immediately diving in. If I did go inside, I browsed through the racks without the obsessive feelings, and I tried things on and didn’t buy them. But if I did buy something, it was something I needed, and I never put it on my credit card. If there was a chip for H+M Sobriety, I would totally have it.
Today though – today was a different story. I was out with Joel’s mum for a girl’s afternoon, and I finally got the chance to wander around the new 3 story H+M at the Pitt Street Mall. She mentioned that she wanted to buy me a couple of things for my birthday since we were here, and she was going to get me a voucher anyway. And I instantly thought I CAN BUY STUFF HERE.
I had the urge to GET IT ALL, I NEED IT, JUST LOAD IT INTO MY BAGS. After 2 hours, I had at least 40 items to try on, delirious with the end of year sale items and all mustard gold coloured things and all the $15 high-waisted super stretch pants (omg did I really just put that on the internet). In my delirium, everything fit like a dream and I saw infinite outfit combinations with everything I already owned and oh I can patch that up and I can lose some weight to fit into this dress better. All I needed was a bubble bath full of foam and I would have reached Alex at the end of A Clockwork Orange levels of euphoria.
I was plotting ways to afford my bounty when caught myself thinking “Well, I could just put it on my credit card and pay it off slow–” and that’s when I crashed. I looked around and just felt ashamed. Yes, I need some professional clothes that fit, but I didn’t need all of this. And I sure as hell didn’t need to put it ANY of it on my credit card. Sadly, the delirium cleared. I had a stack of clothes that wouldn’t match anything I already owned – besides jeans. I had colours that I never wear once I buy them. And when have I ever lost weight just to fit into a dress I bought 2 sizes too small because it was the only size available? And these pants definitely give me camel toe. The dream burst, and the hangover was intense. I cherry picked the best items, what would fit in with the clothes I already had, what I could see myself wearing in the future, and most importantly – what I could afford. I did buy a $7 dress that was way too short for me JUST because, but everything else was amazingly practical.
My heart was breaking as I stood in line to pay for my stuff, and I could hear myself saying “go get those flannel button downs!! You can afford it! This time you won’t throw them out at the beginning of summer!” All the lingering “what if’s” and “but only’s” were painful. We left the store with my bag, and I realised that was my very last H+M trip. I can’t go back.
It goes to show – an addict can’t do a little bit of heroin. And I can’t do a little bit of H+M.
Next on the goal block: STOP BUYING ALL THE CLOTHES.