Experience, Strength, and Hope #14

How did you know you had a problem?

I had no credit cards until my husband left. Then I got five cards in rapid succession, all with low credit limits. I’d already gone through an inheritance, in five installments. The original balance was $150,000 and it was earning 10%. Then my husband left. I worried that using the credit cards was not a good plan when I had to pay for a car repair using three credit cards and some cash.

How did you find D.A.?

A member of another fellowship told me about D.A. I wasn’t talking about my money issues in that fellowship. Then a newcomer in that fellowship shared about a book she’d read. The book was about money. Two of us went over to ask her about it after the meeting. I found D.A. meetings in Portland. I’m grateful I found them.

What have you learned in D.A.?

Anyone in a 12-Step fellowship learns they are addicts. I’m an addict. Maybe we use a different word in D.A. I’ve heard people say we are addicted to excitement in all our affairs. The result is constant chaos. The D.A. program works. Don’t try it alone.

What would you tell newcomers to help them navigate their first 90 days in D.A.?

Do everything they tell you. Remove the words “Yes, but—“ from your vocabulary. Keep trying. It works. In about three days, you’ll learn that you can live on a cash basis. Willingness is the key.

—Anonymous

Experience, Strength, and Hope #13

How did you know you had a problem?

I received an inheritance from my mother’s estate. I had money in savings, but I never moved it into checking account, so I was incurring $1,000 in overdraft charges as the bank shifted money to cover my overdrafts at $35 a whack. That is how I knew for real I had a problem, and that brought me back to the program. This was prima facie evidence that things weren’t working.

How did you find D.A.?

A member of another fellowship told me about D.A. I got tired having too much month left at the end of the money. My friend recommended D.A. I wasn’t happy about joining another fellowship… D.A. was a “fellowship of last resort.”

What have you learned in D.A.?

My paycheck is not my Higher Power. Higher Power takes care of my needs. My wants are another matter. When my wants are healthy, they tend to happen as well. When I try to tough it out and think I’m cured, I fall back into old behavior.

What would you tell newcomers to help them navigate their first 90 days in D.A.?

Bookending is your friend. When I’m in the store with money in my pocket and I see a sidewalk sale, I have to call someone [in D.A.], share my spending plan with them, and ask them to stay on the phone with me until I’m back in my car. Try not to judge. Be patient. Have compassion for your lack of tools. You could build a house with a toy hammer but you wouldn’t want to live in it. Eliminate the phrase “I feel like…” because feelings are one word—angry, happy, sad, fearful. Watch out for your thoughts and beliefs.

—Anonymous

Experience, Strength, and Hope #12

How did you know you had a problem?

My entire life I have stressed about how I am going to pay the bills. There was always stress about money in my household growing up so it translated into my adult life as well. I was always teetering on “pay this bill or eat this week.” Taking good care of myself, doing things I enjoyed, or investing in my healthcare never even occurred to me. I bounced back and forth between paying the minimum balance on my credit cards to having to use those cards to survive. I was 6 digits in debt on those cards, drove a 20-year-old truck that was about to break down yet again, worked in a job I hated, and lived in a crappy house with roommates I didn’t like. I was run down, exhausted, and miserable with my life. I didn’t know what to do but I had to do something soon or I was going to do the unthinkable instead.

How did you find D.A.?

I read a small book about the different types of money dysfunctions; it promised financial freedom in “only 90 days.” It also mentioned that getting help was the only way out. Doing it alone hadn’t worked for me so far. The book recommended many groups, and D.A. stood out the most. I checked in with some of my 12-Step friends and every single one of them told me I need to get to a meeting ASAP. So I checked my local area and made a date to attend my first meeting. Little did I know how much my life was about to improve.

What have you learned in D.A.?

I have learned how to live a life worth living. I have payed off all my debt, moved into an apartment on my own, drive an efficient reliable car, and work for a company I love. I make regular plans to do things I enjoy, there’s always food in the kitchen, and I no longer stress about rent. I focus on my healthcare and well being and make time to take care of myself. I have nourished and improved all my relationships and made new friends through the program. I enjoy life now and even when I stress about money, it’s no longer a battle I have to fight alone.

What would you tell newcomers to help them navigate their first 90 days in D.A.?

Know now that you are worth it. It is a long journey to solvency. You didn’t get here overnight; it will take time to get back out. Listen to our stories, take what you need, and leave the rest. You will hear things that won’t apply to your struggle at all, but you will hear things that will change your path completely. Be patient and go to every meeting you can. Again, you are worth it and you can find your way. Talk it out and let others help you find a solution to your problem. You are not alone.

—Anonymous

Experience, Strength, and Hope #11

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 suggestions do you have for newcomers in their first 90 days?

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

Experience, Strength, and Hope #10

How did you know you had a problem?

I didn’t know I had a problem with money, but it didn’t take long for me to identify. I not only realized I was a compulsive debtor, I also realized that I came from a family of overspenders and compulsive debtors. I don’t know how I didn’t realize my family were debtors; they had declared bankruptcy twice

How did you find D.A.?

I’m a journalist and was working on a story about cluttering, and in my research about 12-Step programs, I also found information about Debtors Anonymous. Since I had recovery in another 12-Step program, I decided to attend a D.A. phone meeting and was blown away. My recovery began the first day I began tracking my numbers

What have you learned in D.A.?

I can’t count the number of things I’ve learned from D.A. Because of all I learned, I paid off my credit card balances and back taxes. Before I did that, I negotiated with the credit card companies and lowered the interest rate I’d been charged. D.A. gave me the courage to do that. In the 11 years I’ve been in D.A., I also bought and quickly paid off two late model cars. I also bought two homes at low interest rates (one at 3.375% and the other at 3.75%). I still own both, but one is now an income property. (I never thought that was possible.) I was shocked that at the end of the first month of keeping my numbers, I had money in my checking account. That hasn’t stopped since the first month. I began saving, purchasing IRAs and investing, also things I thought I was incapable of. I also learned the importance of service during my recovery. I helped start a D.A. meeting in my town and was a speaker at meetings that asked me to speak. There are many spiritual things I learned, especially taking Step 9. Making financial amends lifted so much pressure. I also attend B.D.A. meetings, which I’d suggest to people who are entrepreneurs. Helps you look at your business in a brand new way. Finally, because of everything I’ve learned in D.A., I have clarity around my money today. It’s a wonderful feeling. I have to admit that I was somewhat uncomfortable that I was thriving and abundant during the recession, but my hope is that more and more people will discover D.A.

What suggestions do you have for newcomers in their first 90 days?

Do a 90 meetings in 90 days. It’s really easy to do that with so many phone meetings available every day of the week. Track your numbers day in and day out. You will gain so much clarity. You’ll see where you’re overspending or underspending or both. Learn as much as you can about spending plans, another wonderful program tool. Give service when you can. Get a sponsor, even a temporary one and be persistent in trying to find one. Be a sponsor. Make outreach calls to other people in D.A. Share at meetings. Have Pressure Relief Meetings.

—Viki

Experience, Strength, and Hope #9

How did you know you had a problem?

I don’t know that I fully understood my debting disease/behavior until I started talking to someone about my money “stuff.” I also understood it more when I went to meetings and heard other people’s stories.

How did you find D.A.?

I had recovery friends who were in D.A. One in particular talked to me about the program.

What have you learned in D.A.?

I can’t handle my debting/money disease by myself. Working the 12 Steps with a sponsor is crucial. Clarity around my money (both income and expenses) is very important and has helped me tremendously. The D.A. program really works if I do my part (taking action).

What suggestions do you have for newcomers in their first 90 days?

Go to meetings consistently and write down your money. Listen, listen, listen. It takes time to understand what D.A. is all about and what the program has to offer. Find someone whose recovery you like and ask them to be your sponsor or temporary sponsor. Be patient. Recovery in D.A. is possible if you keep coming back!

—Jan

Experience, Strength, and Hope #8

How did you know you had a problem?

I didn’t. It sounds unbelievable, but I actually didn’t know. My vagueness and unconsciousness were so dense, I didn’t even have the wherewithal to identify I actually had a problem with money, save for the ever continuing belief that I never had enough of it. Someone (an angel) pointed my problem out to me.

How did you find D.A.?

I was in another 12-Step program in New York City. The city was drenched in 12-Step meetings—at least it was in those days of the late 1980s. I was telling this lady that I was moving up to Boston to live with my boyfriend and that I’d told him he’d better buy me a car because I didn’t have any money for a car. She asked if I really didn’t have any money at all. I answered that well, yes, I did, but I wasn’t going to tell him that. This lady/angel then said wisely to me that it wasn’t good to start a relationship based on lies and why don’t I go into D.A. I asked her what that meant and when she said Debtors Anonymous, I retorted indignantly that I didn’t have any debt. “Well, you don’t have to be in debt to go to Debtors Anonymous” came the reply, and you get some clarity on your relationship with money. Cheeky bugger, I thought. I walked off wondering … hmmmm. … D.A. I found a meeting close at St. Vincent’s hospital. I have been going to Debtors Anonymous for 29 years.

What have you learned in D.A.?

Endless knowledge about myself. How there were all kinds of detrimental belief systems that were running my life and blocking me from inner peace, gratitude, joy: the good life. How I had no truly developed relationship with a Higher Power—in fact, I rarely communed with HP at all! I learned in D.A. to be honest about my life, to read fine print, to grow in awareness, to manage my money well, to live within my means. I learned how to value myself and to love myself and to forgive myself, and thus, others… I learned what my life’s purpose is. I learned how to live in abundance and prosperity, and know it, recognize it. Above all, in these later years of my 29th year of life in D.A., I learned that D.A. is not about money.

What suggestions do you have for newcomers in their first 90 days?

Attending meetings is essential. [You] must stop using a credit card (this is the equivalent of the alcoholic stopping drinking). Know that a variety of mixed feelings will likely come flooding up to the surface and that this is OK, and a part of practically everyone’s experiences in the first 90 days. Know that there is NO JUDGMENT on you or about you, regarding your money chaos in D.A. We are all in D.A. for money issues, for self value issues, for finding out about and healing the “not enough syndrome.” Keep your ears open for a sponsor. Above all, know that there IS hope, and recovery is there for the taking.

—Anonymous

Experience, Strength, and Hope #7

How did you know you had a problem?

I was using debt to meet my basic needs. I had been credit card dependent for over 10 years … using one credit card to pay another. Only being able to meet the basic minimum payments, until they became too great also. Being very vague and hopeless about my money. I had many of the D.A. signs that are often read at meetings.

How did you find D.A.?

It was a godsend; there was a meeting at the same place another 12 Step meeting was being held … and against my better judgment … I attended it. I continue to attend meetings toD.A.y after 13 years! Debtors anonymous is a priceless gift.

What have you learned in D.A.?

To live within my means. To be grateful. Not to compare my insides to everyone else’s outsides. That it is an abunD.A.nt and prosperous universe. God will provide. To record my numbers D.A.ily. To work the steps to the best of my ability. When I don’t use credit or other people’s money, it gives inspiration for creativity to get my needs and some of my wants met.

What suggestions do you have for newcomers in their first 90 days?

Go to the debtorsanonyomous.org website. Click on GETTING STARTED. Check out the resources there. Review the “15 Questions” and “12 Signs of Compulsive Debting.” Read about the “12 Tools” of the program. Check out “Frequently Asked Questions.”

SURRENDER! Attend meetings. Read the D.A. literature. Stop incurring debt toD.A.y. Record or write down your numbers . All of your expenses and all of your income. Get phone numbers from other solvent members and call them. Read more D.A. literature and try to identify [yourself] in [the stories]. Know that you are not alone. Read, use, and work the steps with a sponsor. Attend D.A. telephone meetings. Attend D.A. Step study telephone meetings. Ask for help. Your Higher Power loves you immensely.

—Truly blessed & grateful

Experience, Strength, and Hope #6

How did you know you had a problem?

It was pretty obvious to me. I’d incurred about $20k in unsecured debt in a couple of years. I was binge- buying items online as an attempt to overcome my utter demoralization, sense of failure, and despair at being unable to maintain employment despite repeated attempts. My health declined each time I did, and the intervals got shorter and shorter. I couldn’t accept the reality of living on a poverty income after having been a professional.

How did you find D.A.?

I was complaining about how I was just living from month to month to a friend who was in D.A. She told me that even if I had no debt, if I wasn’t earning enough that I would be welcome to D.A. as an underearner. Several years after I joined my health declined, and I became unable to work. Years later, I returned to D.A., now from a place of utter despair and in debt.

What have you learned in D.A.?

By working the steps of this program with a sponsor, I have moved from an unmanageable, miserable, and hopeless state of mind and physical sense of despair to a place of emotional sobriety, peace, happiness, and contentment, in spite of my financial circumstances remaining at 300% below poverty due to health issues.

What suggestions do you have for newcomers in their first 90 days?

Go to the debtorsanonyomous.org website. Click on GETTING STARTED. Check out the resources there. Review the “15 Questions” and “12 Signs of Compulsive Debting.” Read about the “12 Tools” of the program. Check out “Frequently Asked Questions.”

Attend at least a meeting a day, two or three a day if possible. There are both phone, in-person, and Internet meeting options. Listen, keep an open mind. Take phone numbers of people that you resonate with. Give out your contact information (phone number or email) and ask people who have experience, strength, and hope of recovery to please contact you.

Try all different types of meetings. Check out the Saturday group RECORD KEEPING and NUMBERS to learn more about how to track your spending.

There are meetings for self-employed persons, for persons with health issues, persons who are compulsive spenders, persons who are debtors/underearners with clutter problems. See what meetings fit best for you and seem most helpful.

Under FELLOWSHIP [on the D.A. website] check out the DA newsletters, the DA Focus and Ways and Means. Under ABOUT D.A., check out RECOVERY STORIES and HISTORY.

Begin one day at a time to stop incurring new unsecured debt. Start simple: Put three columns on lined paper. First column, write the date. Second line, Category. Under the title “Category,” write down everything you spend each day, one day at a time. Examples are Groceries, Rent, Gas, Car Insurance, etc. Put the amount you spend. Keep this simple! Call and report this to someone in recovery in the D.A. program. Check out the D.A. HOW FORMAT meeting, which is a more structured form of sponsorship in the D.A. program to learn more about the tools and how people are using these in recovery. Most of all, Keep coming back! It works IF you work it AND you are WORTH it!

—Melissa D.

Experience, Strength, and Hope #5

How did you know you had a problem?

D.A. was my third program, and I wasn’t too happy about it. I came into program in January 2007 after learning that my job was going to be eliminated. I was freaked out because in August of the previous year, I spent $10,000 and didn’t know where the money went. I knew that unemployment and blackout spending was a recipe for homelessness, so I went to my first D.A. face-to- face meeting.

How did you find D.A.?

I found my first meeting by Googling the name, which guided me to the Intergroup website and the list of meetings. At my first dozen or more meetings, I thought the program was full of unfriendly, self- absorbed wankers. I tried and tried but couldn’t get a sponsor to save my life. Desperation and a sponsor in another program helped me to continue attending meetings. Finally, I decided to do service in every meeting and that’s how I got my first sponsor in program.

What have you learned in D.A.?

Continuously work on my relationship with HP, maintaining my solvency, working with others, and taking things one day at a time are the cornerstones of my program.

What suggestions do you have for newcomers in their first 90 days?

Attend as many meetings as possible and always volunteer to be of service. Find someone (sponsor or fellow) who will take you through the Steps as soon as possible. Sharing the problem all the time keeps me mired in the problem; sharing the solution grounds me in the solution.

—Happy, joyous and free in New York