By Anita Doberman: Local columnist
A few weeks ago I went to the commissary with my five children. Going to the grocery store with all of them isn’t easy, so when my husband deploys I often go to a small and extremely expensive store that is very close to our home. But on this particular Sunday, I needed lots of items so I decided to go to the military commissary.
Once there, I zoomed through the aisles; the place was packed and the kids were fussing so I wanted to get back home as soon as possible. Our cart was overflowing and we stood in line for a long time. I couldn’t wait to be done, so I quickly gave the cashier my debit card only to hear her say loudly: “It’s declined maam”
I thought that when she uttered those words the entire store went completely silent and everyone looked at me. I am sure they didn’t, but I was embarrassed and left in a hurry without food and with crying children.
I was shocked, how I could have let this happen! I am not a young girl starting out. I have taken care of our finances for years without problems. More importantly, how could I, a former Wall Street Investment Banking Analyst who dealt with other people’s money for years, let this happen?
The answer wasn’t related to money or lack there of. Like many compulsive behaviors my over-spending or careless shopping happens when I feel lonely and in need of comfort. It’s as if buying things is a way to numb my loneliness.
I went back home and decided to get right back on track. One tough month isn’t going to put us over the edge, but many could. I created an easy program for tracking our finances, calculated our income, expenses and cash flow and separated everything into categories. I then allotted money for my sad/needy days so that I can splurge once in a while.
I know I am not the only one who uses a behavior to soothe my inner needs and avoid facing my fears. I have seen many people, and often military wives who are alone for long periods of time, using food, alcohol or pills, trying to comfort their aching hearts. It isn’t easy to keep it together and deal with past and present problems and we all have defense mechanisms.
Ever since this experience, whenever I have the impulse to buy something I ask myself why. Do I really need this item? Do I feel sad or lonely? What am I trying to do? And I talk myself out of it with a little help from above.
There is still one thing that bothers me though. Will I be able to go back to the commissary looking like myself or will I have to wear a disguise?
Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. The family expects to be moving to Cannon Air Force Base in the next year. Contact her at: