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Shopaholics Anonymous

I have conquered and contributed greatly to the economies of shopping havens like Paris, London, Melbourne and Singapore. On Sundays, you can almost invariably find me at Sydney’s Pitt St Mall or the markets at The Rocks. On holiday? Forget simply basking in the sun at the beach or taking in the normal tourist sights. I get cranky if there isn’t a day set aside for the pure and simple joy of consuming.

Friends have long since learned that one of the ways to cheer me up is to take me shopping. Even my boss knows I will be engaging in some sort of retail therapy on my days off. People have taken to threatening to tie me down whenever we walk past shops on our way to somewhere.

Give me a credit card, seven hours without interruption and a shopping complex. You will get a very happy camper by the end of the day. I have literally suffered from withdrawal symptoms when stranded in rural Australia for weeks where the local grocery store was the only form of shopping. Until a few months ago, it wasn’t so much the purchasing that consumed me. After all, I was virtually living the life of a fresh graduate with bills to pay but no means of doing so. But even window-shopping and the occasional ring of the cash register and attainment of a blouse satisfied me.

Life has certainly changed drastically for me now that I am employed full time with a consistent paycheck. I don’t get into a shopping frenzy per se, but the ability to buy something without having to worry too much about my finances most certainly helps.

Shopping now is not so much done with a "need to have" reason, but spurred more by the emotional reaction of "ooh, that looks nice." Within the last two months, I have successfully become the Princess of Consumerism. After all, I now have the means to look the part of a fashionista, wearing the latest outfits in the coolest colors complemented by the trendiest accessories.

Hi, my name is Melody Tan, and I am a Christian.

I have been redeemed through Christ and am trying to contribute to the work of the church in making the world a better place. On Saturdays, you can almost invariably find me at church, worshipping God and attempting to deepen my relationship with Him.

Friends have long since learned that I am happiest when working for a nonprofit organization, striving toward helping others. Even my boss knows I will willingly engage in some sort of project that will help others achieve hope, a better lifestyle and the ability to alleviate suffering. I strive to be Christlike in everything I do. Except, I’m responsible for the deaths and suffering of people all around the world. Deaths and suffering resulting from my inadvertent need to consume. A need spurred on by society’s pressure to look good in the latest and trendiest.

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" asks Jesus (Mark 8:36).

There are so many things under the sun that I can gain with my shopaholic tendencies. There are, in fact, many things under the sun that I have gained with my shopaholic tendencies. Clothing made by small children and women paid far below poverty wage in sweatshops where only two bathroom breaks are allowed in a 14-hour workday. Non-Fair Trade chocolate made from cocoa beans harvested by slave laborers who should be in school and not being beaten and working in such harsh conditions.

Hi, my name is Melody Tan, and I have forfeited my soul.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not calling for the mass boycott of shopping malls all over the world. I am too addicted to do that without suffering major emotional implications. I’m simply asking for all of us to be more aware of the items that we are consuming. To be aware that the items we buy may have been made through the exploitation of fellow human beings.

To be aware that through our very actions, we may have become an accessory to the murder of a woman in a sweatshop, to the continued abuse of a young child in the farms. To be aware that consuming is not bad in itself, but blind consumerism is. To be aware that as a decent human being, we should participate in some form of responsible shopping that will help make the world a better place.

Hi, my name is Melody Tan, and I would like to become a responsible shopaholic.

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