March 26, 2013 at 9:18 AM ET
Author and journalist Buzz Bissinger spent half a million dollars in less than three years as part of a shopping addiction he writes about in a GQ magazine essay published Tuesday.
“I own 81 leather jackets, 75 pairs of boots, 41 pairs of leather pants, 32 pairs of haute couture jeans, 10 evening jackets, and 115 pairs of leather gloves,” writes the 58-year-old author of “Friday Night Lights.”
Bissinger notes he keeps meticulous track of his finances on his computer and has every spending category under control except for one: Clothing.
“It wasn't until the preparation of this story that I actually took a detailed look at the items I have purchased from 2010 through 2012. I was afraid, quite candidly, although a total of a quarter of a million dollars would not have fazed me,” he says. “I was somewhat off: $587,412.97."
Since the release of the essay, Bissinger has checked himself into rehab but has not disclosed the reason.
In a statement to NBC News, he said he wrote the essay to help others struggling with addiction, “as well as self-expression and the damage that can be done by denying who you are.”
“I wrote it because it was the only way I knew of coming to terms and getting the help I am now getting. I have no regrets about what I wrote but I also have nothing to add. The story speaks for itself.”
Bissinger compares the feeling he gets from buying clothes — his most expensive item is a $13,900 Gucci ostrich-skin jacket — to that of doing drugs or having sex. He also admits to sexual confusion that led him to seek answers by experiencing wild raunchy nights and wearing women’s clothing.
“I began to wonder about sex and sexuality and where exactly I fit in in the complex spectrum. I did go into the sexual unknown and the clothing I began to wear routinely gave me the confidence to do it, to transcend the rigid definitions of sexuality and gender,” he said.
Bissinger says his addiction started shortly after the youngest of his three children took off for college and his wife left for a job in Abu Dhabi. Clothing, he said, fulfilled his writer’s need for stimulation and attention.
“There was a time earlier in my life when I loved to write, the same feeling of orgasm that I now get with clothing,” he says. “But in my mid-fifties the words were harder to find, the excuses to (expletive) around more pronounced, the anxiety multiplied that whatever I was working on would never reach the dizzying heights of 'Friday Night Lights.'"
Brad Lamm, an interventionist who has worked with people struggling with various types of addiction, said it’s not unusual for people to become dependent in the second half of their lives.
“For so many people struggling with addiction there’s a Dr. Jeckl-Mr. Hyde thing where the secret is the defining thing, and also living in secret provides a dopamine rush. It’s an adrenalin rush,” Lamm said Tuesday on TODAY. “The brain chemistry actually changes when you’re acting out on that behavior. But people do get well. There’s lots of help for folks who struggle with this.”