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.


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