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

Experience, Strength, and Hope #4

How did you know you had a problem?

The same thing kept happening over and over, related to money and borrowing cycles. The cycles grew shorter and shorter, and the loans grew bigger, yet were repaid ever more slowly, if at all. In 2008, at 42 years old, I moved from Seattle to San Francisco for several months to try to save a failing business. A bigger market — that’s all I needed. Instead I ran out of money and had to borrow money from a friend to get back home. Within three days I had signed a lucrative contract doing work I hated that kept me busy and well-paid for the next 10 months, in which I saved NOTHING. A two-month lull in income had me borrowing from friends again. At the end of two months, I signed an even more lucrative contract that would keep me busy doing work I hated for the next 10 months. Instead of repaying my loans and setting aside some savings, I immediately signed a new lease on a bigger, much more expensive apartment, committing more than half of my income for the next three months to deposits and moving expenses. Finally! Even I could see how wrecked my relationship with money and debt had become, and I knew that I would never make changes without help. I had begun Step 1 in D.A.

How did you find D.A.?

My [other 12-Step program] sponsor in the early to mid-2000s had been in D.A. for a dozen years or more. As we worked [that] program together, she heard me share about the unmanaged peaks and valleys in my income, about my spending habits, about my inability to save, and about my scavenging for food at work because I always ran out of money between paychecks, despite high earnings. She had a solid program, though, so she never told me what to do. She would listen and give feedback, and every few months or so she would remind me that there was help for me in D.A. When I finally hit bottom in 2009, though, I didn’t turn to this sponsor. I first went to my therapist and asked him to help me develop a healthy relationship with money. His response was that I had found successful recovery in several 12- Step programs, and he would be shocked if there weren’t a program relating to money. I said there was, and we talked about my need for D.A. for the next 30 minutes. I attended my first D.A. meeting the next week.

What have you learned in D.A.?

Thanks to D.A., money is no longer my Higher Power. I don’t want to go back to the life I was living when money was god. A cold, merciless, unfair, self‐righteous god. Plus I’m happier as an active D.A. member than I ever was before. I came to D.A. as a high-earner with huge debt and a debting problem. After 2.5 years in D.A., I still had huge debt, but my earnings had consistently shrunk until I had none. The small savings I had accrued was soon spent, too. Back in my disease, I returned to borrowing just to make ends meet and dropped out of D.A. for 2.5 years. I returned to D.A. in August 2014, five years after my first meeting, and have not incurred any new debt since then, one day at a time. My income is still below the poverty line, and I’ve never been happier or more filled with purpose in my life. I like to say that D.A. has finally given me permission to be happy and poor at the same time. I have faith that as long as I stay in D.A. recovery, continue to use the tools, and practice the Steps, Higher Power will guide my income to a higher place. In the meantime, I’m so busy enjoying my life that I hardly notice the stuff I can’t afford to buy. Especially now, mid-December, that feels like real freedom.

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

Stop debting, no matter what, and get into the Steps as soon as possible, especially if you’ve already worked the Steps in another program. You’re in for a surprise — same Steps, completely different application. If you’re slow to commit, get a temporary sponsor, asking a D.A. member to help you get started on the first three Steps. If that goes well, ask that person to sponsor you for the remaining nine steps. If it doesn’t, ask someone else for help. If you’re told no, keep asking. Life is full of no’s; asking over and over is the only way to get to yes. Back to the first three Steps, we sometimes hear them summarized as “I came; I came to; I came to believe.” For me, I came … to D.A. meetings where I listened as closely as I could, especially listening for members who had debted the way I had debted and no longer debted as a result of D.A. I came to … letting my toxic thinking slip away and letting the healthy sharing of my sponsor, PRGs [pressure relief groups], home group members, and new friends sink in. I came to believe … I know that’s supposed to happen in the second Step, but I’m slow. In the second Step, I stopped refusing to believe. In the third Step, I turned my will and life over to the care of a Higher Power over and over and over again. I came to believe at that point because the more I turned my self and my life I turned over, the better and more healthy I and my life became. Finally, once you do have a sponsor, I suggest you let that person be the sponsor and you be the sponsee. I’ve slipped in and out of self-sponsorship over the years. That always makes things worse. Today I have two D.A. sponsors — one for recovery and one for service — and I listen closely to everything they offer me. I asked them to help; they said yes; it’s now my responsibility to LET them help me.

—Bob A, Seattle, WA.

Experience, Strength, and Hope #3

How did you know you had a problem?

In the half dozen years before I came to D.A. I had tried some desperate measures to solve my money problem. I had inflicted a multi-level marketing scheme on my family and friends, bought an historic home in the Midwest thinking I would move there and be able to live comfortably (I was born and raised in liberal Seattle and the house was a money pit), and finally, I had opened a business I had no business trying to own and run. I worried about money, spent money with no budget, and by the end, I was practically psychotic.

How did you find D.A.?

I was familiar with 12 steps programs already and found a meeting online.

What have you learned in D.A.?

It’s not about the money. Safety, security and serenity are available to me no matter how much money or debt I have. To quote several sources, the sun will still rise, and I will always have that first cup of coffee in the morning.

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

The support of other members is practically the whole point. Talk to people, call people and obviously get and call a sponsor. Things can get better fast. There are a lot of ways D.A. suggests doing things that you have never thought of. A spending plan is probably not what you think. You will be surprised at what your Pressure Relief Group will suggest. Yes, it is hard to ask people to help you and hard to lay your personal info out for them to see, AND it can be life changing. Just do it.

—Jill C., Seattle