How did you know you had a problem?
I sensed something was wrong financially, but I didn’t know the depth of what was wrong with me until much later. I thought I just needed to earn more and pay off my debt, then everything would be okay. Later I learned my problem was not really a financial problem, it was more like an attitude problem. I believed the world owed me, yet I was constantly terrified. I felt like I was special and exempt from the rules that other people must follow–like getting a job and staying there a while, living within my means, being a good steward of my resources, doing my fair share… Instead I acted like I deserved to have anything I wanted, when I wanted it, without paying for it or earning it. Oddly, some days it was the opposite: I felt like I deserved to have nothing, not even air to breathe. I swung back and forth between these two extremes for a long time–years–until it finally became clear to me I had a spiritual illness related to money that working D.A.’s 12 Steps could address.
How did you find D.A.?
I found D.A. through a non-conference-approved book. Then a friend suggested we attend a D.A. meeting. We went. She left, and I stayed, and 22 years later, I’m still here. I’ve been to D.A. meetings in several cities and always feel like I have found a community of people who understand my problem.
What have you learned in D.A.?
I’ve learned that compulsive debting is a compulsion that doesn’t get better, only worse. All the spending plans in the world will not fix it. Only a power greater than myself can offer me some relief. My self-centered fear often blocks me, but when I remember that I can choose to believe in some sort of power greater than me that can restore me to sanity, then my day goes better. After 22 years of working the Steps with others, I am a lot less angry and a lot more calm. I’ve learned to live within my means and to save money in a prudent reserve so I can handle the things that sneak up on me: car repair, dental work, and the like. I’ve learned that my self-worth is not defined by the amount of stuff I have, including the amount of money I have in the bank. I still worry about my future as I get older, but each day, I try to focus on taking action. Higher Power cannot steer a parked car, so I keep trudging toward happy destiny, one day at a time. How I arrive at my future is up to the Higher Power. I focus on not debting, one day at a time.
What would you tell newcomers to help them navigate their first 90 days in D.A.?
Attend some meetings and talk to people. Get some phone numbers. Start recording your income and expenses in a simple notebook. Stop debting, just for today. Cut up your credit cards–or at least put them somewhere where it will be hard for you to get your hands on them without some effort. Don’t borrow from friends and family, just for today. If you have trouble with checks, use cash today. Study some D.A. literature at a meeting, especially the Debtors Anonymous pamphlet. Read about the problem and the spiritual solution. Keep an open mind. After a few meetings, ask someone to be your sponsor and start working the Steps. Ask your sponsor to help you create a spending plan to help you live within your means. Keep coming back. Watch for the newcomer who comes in the door after you. Share your story. We need to pass on what we have learned if we want to keep the gift of solvency we have been given.
—Solvent in Portland, Oregon