A Shopping Intervention: Lauren and Carol

A Shopping Intervention: Lauren and Carol

Bridgette's penchant for shopping seems to have been passed down to her youngest daughter. "When I see Carolline in a mall, there's no one else that exists. She's looking at everything. I can see it in her eyes that she's looking all around, and she's thinking, 'What store am I going to hit next?'" she says. "What alarms me the most about Carol is her turning into me."

Michael agrees. "Bridgette and Carol are like partners in crime," he says. "Like mother like daughter."

Her eldest daughter, Lauren, weighs in. "My sister has followed in my mom's footsteps, but way worse," she says. "My sister and my mom, they couldn't wait for the camera crew. They just left so they could go shopping immediately, because you guys were like slowing them down."

Carol doesn't think she has a problem. "I love to shop," she says simply. "It doesn't really affect me."

Lauren believes that their behavior is starting to spin out of control. "She's let Carol live the life of a celebrity — getting everything she wants, being spoiled rotten." She recounts the repercussions of a lifestyle of extravagance. "We don't have discipline. I dropped out of high school when I was 16. We don't know how to go out in the world," she says.

"Do you think that she's made to feel like, 'I am loved and valued and special,' and that gives a boost?" Dr. Phil asks of Carol's shopping sprees.

"Sometimes I do, but not all the time," Bridgette admits.

Michael jumps in, "I think all the kids are kind of angry at Bridgette for shopping a lot, and making me, as they see it, making me work. But I have to own up to my own problem. I've been a lousy dad and a lousy husband. I think I'm a real good doctor. God knows, I have enough practice. I should be."

Bridgette places some of the blame on her kids. "I have to say this about my children too: They are moochers," she says. "My son totally takes advantage of me. Carol doesn't work. They all have cars. Lauren doesn't work. We've given them everything. So I have a lot of anger toward my children, because I've given them everything."

Lauren protests, "But I feel like you spoiled us."

Turning to the couple, Dr. Phil says, "I want you to assume that shopping is a symptom of the problem, and not the problem itself, OK? What we have here is a situation where the two of you have a lot of unfinished emotional business. Would you agree with that?"

"Absolutely," Bridgette says.

Dr. Phil gives some family history. "You have a lot of resentment toward him. He's gotten involved in addictive behavior with Vicodin and all of that, and 10 years ago, hit bottom, right?"

"Hard bottom," Michael stresses.

Bridgette is not so innocent either. To her, Dr. Phil says, "You have had affairs inside of this marriage, correct?"

"One affair," she corrects. "He's had an affair also."

"Well, excuse me if I don't look shocked," Dr. Phil declares.

Michael explains, "The first year of our marriage was very rocky. I had an affair in my internship year, 24 years ago. Since that time, I'm guilty of working, and doing drugs and hitting a bottom. We lost everything except, I like to say, my health and my family. But all the stuff went away. And it's taken me this much time to make it all back, and I don't want to lose it again."

Addressing the fact that Michael's affair was 24 years ago, Dr. Phil says, "Time heals nothing; it's what you do in the time. And you don't

deal with anything. You have emotional issues. You have relational issues. You have family issues — and you deal with none of it. You don't talk about it. You rage at each other, but as soon as the rage is gone, what do you do? Nothing. You go pour it all into work. You go pour it all into shopping. You never give a voice to your feelings. You never do any resolution. You never get any closure, because you don't ever deal with it."

The couple shouldn't attempt to find a short fix for their marital and family woes. "Tell you exactly how long you need to work on this — until. You don't need to work on this for a month, or two months or three months or four months. You need to work on this until you get it right. Whether it's together, or individually, you people have wounded spirits," Dr. Phil observes. "Your psychological skin has been burned, both of you ... Are you two going to be together 10 years from now? I don't know. But do you know what I do know? I do know that that is a choice you need to make through clear eyes."

 

Michael and Bridgette need to get real about their issues, or they are headed for ruin. "If you don't stop the bleeding right now, you're headed for bankruptcy," he tells them. To Michael, he says, "I know how much money you make. It is probably the top 1 percent of the nation. When you go to calculate it, it is not near enough."

Bridgette tells Dr. Phil that her needs are simple. "All I want is for him to spend more time with me. That's all I ask," she says.

"I would love to," Michael says quietly.

Bridgette thinks she's making progress. "I have cut my credit cards up, except for a few," she tells Dr. Phil. "I am willing to do what it takes to get this man home with me."

Dr. Phil is skeptical. "You said, 'I shredded up all of my credit cards, well, except, I kept like a dozen or so.' You've got to be willing not only stop what you're doing wrong, but start putting some constructive things in its place."

Michael has some work to do as well. "You're about as warm as a spider," Dr. Phil informs him, pointing out that Michael has been monotone and not engaged with his wife. "That's not who you really are. It's who you've become because you have numbed yourself to the pain and the attacks ... I'm just an old Southern Baptist country boy, but they taught me that the role of the man in a family needs to be a provider, a protector, a leader and a teacher. That you have to do all of those things that you bring to the table. And what you're doing is throwing money at a problem."

Dr. Phil proposes a drastic remedy for Bridgette's spending. "You've got to agree that you aren't going to go and buy things that the two of you don't discuss ahead of time. And at this point, it pretty much needs to be groceries. You've got to eat," he says. Turning to her, he continues, "Here's what I want to do. I'm going to send you home with a camera, and every time you have an impulse, I want you to turn that camera on and talk to me, so I can be there in that moment with you."

Bridgette is in for another shock. "I want you to go home and get everything you've purchased and never worn — never taken the tag off — and you're going to take about $100,000 worth of stuff back to the store. Let's actually get water running back up hill. Then I want to arrange for someone in your town to start working very closely with me, with you," he says. "I want you guys to start itemizing and giving your feelings a voice. Not hiding them in work and shopping."

 

The children promise to participate as well.