Is There A 12-Step Program For That?

My name is Diane, and I’m here to confess my addiction.  No, not my addiction to tools.  This is a different addiction altogether.

I can withstand it for long stretches of time, but it always drags me under in the end.  The high is ecstatic.  Then comes the slow sobering, followed by guilt and shame.  After that comes the steely resolve to do better, and sometimes I vanquish the demons for a while.

But sooner or later, I succumb again.  The longest I’ve ever stayed clean was several years.  I really thought I’d beaten it that time.

I was wrong.

I’m talking, of course, about Costco.  I gave up my membership years ago, but in a weak moment I asked one of my friends to take me this past weekend.  It wasn’t the ugliest relapse I’ve ever had, but it proved that I am and always will be an addict.

For those unfamiliar with Costco, it’s a wholesale-style outlet that sells everything from food to electronics to furniture to clothing.  In gigantic bulk quantities.  Usually at lower-than-retail prices, and occasionally at screaming discounts.

I have a five-pound tin of baking powder I bought at Costco over fifteen years ago.  It’s still good… but it’s also still half-full.  In another fifteen years, I might actually finish it.  I have half-gallon jugs of onion powder and cinnamon that date back to that period, too.  There’s something about large quantities of food that I just can’t resist.

Maybe it’s because my dad was a child of the 1930s Depression years.  Nothing was ever wasted in our household.  The tiniest scraps of food were saved and incorporated into the next meal, and staple foods were purchased in bulk to get the best discounts.

So I harbour two horribly conflicting attitudes toward groceries:  Large quantities are magnificent; and: Waste nothing.

You can see my problem with Costco.  They have large quantities!  Of everything!  What could be better than five pounds of chocolate chips for the price of two?  Three water bottles for the price of one?  More toilet paper than you can fit in your car?

It’s magnificent, I tell you!

When I walk into their cavernous building, my pulse races and the demons begin their seductive chorus:  “Look how much there is.  And for such a cheap price!  It’s an excellent buy!  Large quantities are magnificent!

Euphoria seizes me and I buy.  And buy.

Then I get home and realize what I’ve done.  Yes, I scored a case of my favourite Ataulfo mangoes for a fabulous discount.  But Hubby doesn’t like mangoes, and I can only eat so many of them before they rot.

Guilt and anxiety kick in.  I must waste nothing!  I must eat mangoes morning, noon, and night!

I managed to avoid gross excesses this time.  I bought what I needed and could use within the foreseeable future.  (Except for the water bottles – I needed one, not three.  But hey, it’s not like they’re going to go bad, right?)

And I split that giant package of cheese curds with my friend, so it was a good buy.


I think I’m improving.

Maybe I should go back again this week just to be sure…

55 thoughts on “Is There A 12-Step Program For That?

  1. We’ve pretty much trained ourselves to deal with big-box discount stores with a reasonable (-ish) degree of sanity. We have Sam’s Club locally here in West Texas, and we shop there for things like trash bags (the big boxes last for months and don’t cost much more than the little boxes at the regular grocery store), grape tomatoes and the little yellow sunburst ones (we eat them like candy, and they’re cheap there), the little beer and wine that we drink (just over half price from anywhere else), and occasionally a book, a shirt or two, socks, and like that. See? Total sanity at work here.

    Until we went to the Costco in Denver with our niece who lives there. HOLY FLAMING COW! We went freaking berserk! Not one but TWO SETS of those remote control candles! TWO CASES of those great jumbo green olives stuffed with jalapenos and whole cloves of garlic! (It’ll take a 24-step program and two months of detox to get me off those things!) And Christmas decorations? I don’t even want to think about what we spent on those. The whole back end of her station wagon was filled higher than the seat backs with our little dab of luggage and the whopping great piles of plunder and swag we hauled outta Costco! Oh, and the back seat was full, too.

    This we did on our niece’s membership. The next time we went up, we got a membership card of our own. Did you get that? We have a membership card at a store that there isn’t one of for nearly three hundred miles. And we trade at the one that’s six hundred miles away.

    I’m pretty sure that a mere twelve steps would only get us halfway out of this addiction. Maybe not even that far…


  2. I let my membership expire years ago and I haven’t returned since. The secret? I got so frustrated with the shopping cart traffic jams and long linups that went up the main aisle and wound around the back. It helps to be impatient, so if you want to kick the habit, go when you have very limited time to get in and out. 🙂


    • I’m impatient and I don’t like crowds, so I don’t even have to add a time limit in order to complete the aversive experience. In fact, the irritating crowds were the major reason I managed to stay away so long. But my friend goes to a Costco in one of the small bedroom communities south of Calgary. It’s only a little bit farther to drive and it isn’t nearly so busy. And I succumbed. *Sigh. *


  3. Always a Costco fan. With four kids in their teens bulk buying was the way to go and then the habit just stayed. My oldest daughter says you can find everything at Costco including a husband. My son-in-law works there.
    In Ukraine, shopping is the exact opposite – because pensions and wages are small, money is scarce and the smaller the package and price the more likely someone will have enough money to buy it.


  4. LOL! Hubby and I went to Sam’s Club (similar to Costco) a while back and I vowed to follow a list. I got out with spending just over $50, (51.78 to be exact) I’ve been edgy and depressed ever since. 😦


  5. I’m in the same boat. have to remember that I don’t have kids at home any more so don’t need all that stuff in the pantry. I do love to go to Costco for certain things and hardly ever get out without spending $100……….know what you mean!


  6. I also was raised by depression era parents. Mom wasn’t happy unless her cupboards, ‘fridge, or freezer were so full that there was no room for an extra tortilla. I’ve been in Costco a few times with my addicted siblings during family reunions when it makes the most sense to buy a flat of fruit and cereal boxes so huge it takes both hands to pour a serving – when else will you be in a situation to feed dozens of people for so many days? Don’t even mention the Kirkland Ice Cream buckets! We are a family whose folks were so in love with ice cream, our father bought an ice cream parlor franchise and kept 5 gallon containers of the best ice cream ever made in our metro area in our home freezer at all times. I’m so tempted to get a membership for the ice cream alone.

    I live with one cat and can’t rationalize filling my tiny house with bulk quantities of anything. The Costco addiction is still strong in me, and the only way to fight it is to never buy a membership.


    • Oooh, gallons of ice cream! YUM! I’m an ice cream fanatic. I always have at least 5 flavours in my freezer, and I eat it almost every day in the summer. I couldn’t afford to own an ice cream franchise – I’d eat all the profits.

      I hadn’t yet discovered the Kirkland Ice Cream buckets – this could be dangerous. Like you, I refuse to buy a membership, but apparently that’s not stopping me…

      P.S. Nice to “see” you again – welcome! I’m still chuckling (ruefully) over “Cadmium Blue”. 😉


  7. Uhmmm I don’t think you need to be going to Costco anytime soon! hehe.
    It’s ok…because you see I have a really bad addiction too…I love stationary and I love books..and it can get expensive!! So I just do the smart thing and either stay away from them or keep my credit cards at home and take a minimal amount of cash 😀 It works…but makes me feel so frustrated!!


    • Oh, I feel your pain! I have 100 square feet of wall space dedicated to bookshelves in my basement, and the shelves are stacked two layers deep. And that’s just the print books. I have a Kindle, too, and that 1-click purchase option is a killer. I’ve finally managed to make myself stop buying stationery, though…


  8. Part of the problem is those enormous shopping carts that still look half empty, long after you’ve passed the three-hundred-dollar mark. We have to pay 45 dollars to cross the bridge to the nearest Costco, plus the price of gas and the 55-dollar membership fee. It’s hard to save that much on olives and shampoo, but we’re addicted, too.

    Great post, Diane.


    • Thanks, Charles! I’m glad to hear you’re willing to go to even greater lengths than I to feed your addiction. Somehow it makes me feel better to know I’m not alone. And hey, olives and shampoo are expensive in the “real” stores. I’m sure your Costco trips are very economical in the long run. 😉


  9. I think you just need to go more often. Eventually you quit buying gallon jugs of sundried tomatoes and stick with buying multiple cases of beer (do not ever go bad), toilet paper (ditto), and blocks of cheese (as if). Incidentally, your baking powder has most definitely gone bad.


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  11. Very funny Diane – I can relate as a former Costco card holder. We now have two co-op shopping buddies, one locally and my sister in Peterborough, so two opportunities for bargains!! My husband is the addict. I desperately try to keep him on the straight and narrow when we shop together with ‘the list’. We have been known to have a tug of war in an aisle, after an animated discussion :-). When he goes ALONE with his yoga buddy, he is out of control. Last trip an enormous bottle of Epsom salts. Mangoes by the way make wonderful smoothies & salads, the best & biggest Altaulfo mangoes we ever had came from Costco.


    • LOL! Epsom salts – always a critical item! But that’s the problem with Costco. You don’t even know you need stuff until you see it there and realize how vital it is to your continued survival…


    • I don’t know about Singapore, but my Swedish friends find our bulk buying craze amusingly incomprehensible. They don’t even have gallon pails of ice cream there. Which is horrifying to me – I love ice cream!


  12. Always best to be sure, Diane.
    Can you have more than one addiction? Doesn’t the second one have another name or something? I may have dreamed that though whilst dealing with one of my own addictions.


  13. What you need is a Costco buddy–somebody willing to split the big items with you, so you get the good prices for half the bulk. Co-op shopping. If I didn’t live on the other side of the continent from you, I’d volunteer. I love mangoes.


    • That’s a great idea! Mmmmm, mangoes! And cherries, and five pounds of chocolate-covered almonds, and an entire beef tenderloin three feet long, and, and…

      Um, perhaps my compulsions might strain a friendship somewhat…


  14. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when you’re there. 🙂 I’ve actually never been inside a Costco. My addiction is Target. Not necessarily bulk items there, but I always find far, far more than what I went in there for. It’s gotten to the point where I try to just use a basket instead of a cart, so I won’t load up more than I can carry!


    • That’s good idea – but I wouldn’t stop picking stuff up. I’d just supply the day’s entertainment for the Costco shoppers watching me juggle two cases of engine oil, a sheet set, six towels, two jugs of hand soap, and a bushel of cheese curds, all while balancing a case of cherries on my head…


    • Every now and then they have fresh pickerel… mmmm! I doubt if you’ll find my paperbacks there – Canadian distributors don’t want to deal with my printers in the States. My only option is to sell on consignment, which means I’d have to pay for all the books up front, do all the supply and shipping to all the stores… and after they took their pound of flesh for the onerous chore of ringing up the sale, I’d make about 20 cents per book. That’s why almost all my sales are online… but thanks for thinking of it! 🙂


  15. This is so true! We had a Costco card at one time and just went bonkers a few times. I finally shocked into reality when my entire guest bedroom was taken up with canned goods, paper products, spices, staples of things I would never use! However, my parents were the same way as far as “waste not, want not” and I came up on the heels of that. I will say that I can make a pretty darn good meal from small scraps. I just don’t need to do that now. Just me and hubby now so I can’t justify buying a pallet full of anything. (why is it still such a temptation tho’?) We have a Sam’s Club in this area and it’s pretty much the same thing. I do have a card there but I got it when I had a small business and just kept it for the convenience. Thank goodness I can stay away from there for long periods of time. I can understand the “pull” of the temptation tho’ Diane, so just hang in there. You can do it. LOL


  16. You should start a 12 step program. Stand in the Costco parking lot, identify the people who are coming out of Costco with a full pallet of paper towels and invite them join you. Good luck.


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