TODAY   |  March 26, 2013

‘Friday Night Lights’ author has shopping addiction

Buzz Bissinger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of “Friday Night Lights,” admits in a new article for GQ magazine that he has a shopping addiction that has cost him nearly half a million dollars. NBC’s Matt Lauer reports and addiction expert Brad Lamm discusses shopping addiction.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> but let us begin this half-hour with an admission from h. g. bissinger . he has an addiction to shopping. author buzz bissinger has inspired an emmy-award wing tv series and a hollywood movie . but in the april issue of "gq" magazine, his words carry a candid confession. he writes, my name is buzz bissinger and i am a shopaholic. in a personal essay, bissinger details a shopping and fashion addiction that costs him $587,000 since 2010 . bissinger tallies some of his most expensive items. a $22,000 gucci lamb's wool coach, an ostrich skin jacket that cost him almost $14,000. and $5,600 leather pants. bissinger, 58, writes that as he entered his mid 50s, buying and wearing expensive clothing gave him a new sense of self-expression and an intoxicating rush. i wasn't mainlining heroin, just impossibly gorgeous leather jackets and gloves and evening jackets. it's the kind of honesty bissinger is famous for, most recently sharing intimate details on "today" when he discussed his book about his son who has brain damage .

>> you hear your child say my brain isn't right. it crushes you.

>> in a statement to nbc news, bissinger says, i wrote this because i love beautiful clothing, too much obviously. but also because i believe it will help others who are 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'm now getting. brad lamb is an addiction expert. good to see you. good morning. i think there might be a temptation on the part of some to say it's a shopping addiction , it's almost humorous, it's not serious, it's not like drug addiction or alcohol addiction , and yet the truth is the opposite.

>> or food. i mean, if you couple even food and digital addictions and shopping together, it's hundreds of millions of americans struggle with that, and yet most will never find relief. we see this guy who's a winner and he's plowed through most of his money. you think now the world did that happen?

>> and what drives him to do this? it seems, according to his admission, that this is something that developed rather late in his life.

>> and i think it's not unusual, though, for people to -- in middle age , to try to make themselves feel better in different ways. a lot of folks struggle with chemical addiction. they start drinking just as they retire and their loved ones around them think why in the world is this happening now? but it's the drive to feel different and better and we get that with shopping.

>> he talks butt a trip to milan where he says i spent $100,000 or more and began to seriously grapple once and for all with a compulsion that could cost me more than just my life savings. my name is buzz bissinger , father of three, and i am a shopaholic. what do you take from this very public admission? he's a writer. this is his tool, this is his craft. what do you take from the fact that he decided to go so public with this?

>> it's sort of the 21st century mantra. the idea of anonymity is out the window. with facebook and twitter, people are getting better or hitting bottom in social media . we've seen him bottom, i think, which is the moment you say hey, i'm going to stop this and try to do something different. we understand according to reports he has checked into rehappen. we don't know specifically what hi is in rehab for, but in the article, bissinger talks about some confusion over his sexual orientation and admits that in some ways, the feeling he gets from shopping is equal to the feeling he gets after a sexual experience. is that common?

>> it's common in that for so many people struggling with addiction, there's a dr. jekyll, mr. hyde thing where the secret is the defining thing, and living in secret provides a dope dopamine rush. but people do get help. there's lots of help for folks who struggle with this.

>> he gets out of rehab, goes home. does he have to get rid of all those things he purchased while suffering from his shopping addiction ?

>> look, i don't know that he'll shred his leather pants, but folks, try to change the people, places and things that they've struggled with in the past. so we're talking about a lot of change in the future for him, i imagine.

>> i know i'm cynical here, but i did think for a second, this is a guy who loves projects. could this be part of a project? could he release this letter and then be sitting back to see the reaction as some kind of social experiment? too cynical?

>> i don't think so. i think it reads too raw, too real, really a desperate moment of hey, this is my bottom, i'm going to work to get better.