By Lisa F.

When it comes to my struggles with money and debt it seems like it started at a very early age. Even as a child I remember not having "enough". I remember my brothers getting more money for allowance, and when I questioned it, I was told they had to pay when taking girls out. And later when I questioned it further I was told that they had to do hard work outside like mowing the lawn (like doing dishes for a family of eight 2-3 times a day was a picnic, LOL). And, yes, when I questioned it once again I was told not to worry because I would get married one day and my husband would take care of the finances.

Fast forward twenty years and it came as no surprise that I would have issues with money and debt. I suffered in silence with no courage to let anyone else into my pain. On the outside all looked well. I owned a business, a home, and an automobile. But inside I was maxed out on my credit and was months behind on many of my bills. I quit opening the mail--like that would magically make these problems go away. I had an account frozen by the IRS for a mistake on my taxes. The mistake was not my fault but how I handled it, or rather didn't handle it; was. The account also happened to be managed by my brother. Ignoring issues is not a good strategy and it does catch up with you. I also had one of my neighbors come and talk to me about being behind on my association dues and that I could lose my house if I didn't clear it up. My secret was out. I was at a point where it was getting hard to juggle accounts and money--robbing Petra to pay Paula was also not a great strategy.

So when I walked into my first DA meeting in Denver CO in 1997 I immediately found a sense of Hope. It was a small meeting, but 3-5 people all equally yoked in pain was all I needed. There was very little DA literature at the time so we followed a book that was not official DA Literature that was contained some of the tools that we use in DA today. I followed that book sentence by sentence. If it said make a list, I made a list. If it said record my spending and income, I recorded my numbers. I call it “keeping my numbers”. I took all my credit cards and put them in a bag and filled it with water and into the freezer they went. They were on ice. Frozen. Not to be used. At the meeting they said just not to debt one day at a time. I could do that for 24 hours. Since our group was small when someone had a PRG (pressure relief meeting) all or most members attended. We all worked the steps as a group.

It was that group and that book that helped me learn to commit to keeping my numbers and helped me become solvent. I kept my numbers and went to cash for my daily expenses. When I compiled a list of debts, I was overwhelmed by just the process of figuring out what I owed, who I owed, and the exact amounts. I was completely vague about money which is a symptom of being a debtor. When I figured it out the total came to over $52,000. It was a hard number to cope with, but it was my number, and I found instant relief in knowing it.

I started working the steps and keeping my numbers and going to group. Almost immediately everything started to change. I was introduced to the concept of a "prudent reserve"--which is a savings account. I didn't have one when I came to program which was another part of the problem. I opened one and committed to start saving no matter how humble. Every Friday I would empty my jeans, ashtrays in my car, purse and deposit whatever I could scrounge week it was $1.32 the next week $1.68. It was a humbling experience and once teller at my Credit union asked me about it. Here I was depositing $800/$1500 into my business account and $2.62 into my savings account...always in change. I remember being kind of embarrassed but said "you gotta start somewhere". I was determined to establish some savings. My account grew at an amazingly slow rate and was wiped out many times but I found in this program it is that slow methodical, incremental progress that is not only what helped me to become solvent, but after 4 years in the program, retire my debts. I made amends. I had Hope. I spread the word. I even hosted our first DA weekend retreat in the year 2000.

I wish I could say "and I lived happily ever after"- with abundance and prosperity but that wasn't my story. I found myself once again in an all too familiar place when I went back to school. I struggled with debt once again but I found the tools of the program work it you work them. There is always a meeting to attend and there is always steps to work along with the hand of other DA members. After many years in the program I now have visions for my life. I am debt free and have savings and prosperity. I rarely feel vague about money and even though life is not is not without Hope.

3 views0 comments

By Tom W.

My skewed attitude toward money began early. I grew up in a middle class home with very contradictory views of money. On the one hand, it was not okay to talk about things, but on the other hand it was admired too much. We had money but didn’t. The underlying view was that money and related status was a good thing, but it was important to act as though it wasn’t! The result was that I grew up with a sense of entitlement regarding money. Fortunately, that came with a strong work ethic—I began work when I was 13—but the contradictory, crazy attitude was still there. I learned far too easily how to spend more than I earned without batting an eye.

Somehow that attitude, a poor self-image, other factors resulted in my predilection for compulsive behavior. That behavior did not cause compulsive money making—I was reasonably prudent but did not worry much about money. During my late teens and early 20s I drank excessively. Later, I studied to an extreme degree—my compulsive energies went in that direction—followed by extreme work habits, followed by gambling, and excessive spending which meshed well with that addiction. I was then in my 40s, divorced, wanting to still be a good part-time parent, under pressure at a dysfunctional work environment, and often lonesome. Not being responsible about my “money life” and imprudent spending became part of the sad picture.

Fortunately, I did begin a slow road to recovery when my debts and spending exceeded my income, and things were getting worse of course. At the urging of my soon-to-become spouse I stumbled across DA. In fits and starts I began attending meetings. I was very skeptical about the DA program. Frankly, I don’t think I really wanted to recover. I certainly did not want to change my lifestyle to which I had become accustomed. And of course the addict in me did not want to face my debts or stop the debting.

That crazy thinking is part of the disease. However, by working the program, coming to meetings to hear and share experiences, support from friends and loved ones, a short term second job, and staying away from malls and other “triggering” environments. I was able to pay off my debts and stop incurring more debt. At this point in time, I am debt free and can live modestly and happily. I am content and no longer feel deprived or that I’m missing anything by not living a billionaire’s life style!

By Stephanie R.

I sat at my tiny desk looking out over the tree-lined street and the world passing by. The stained glass, vine covered window could be opened on a hot day. I converted a closet and decorated it so I could have a quiet place to pay attention to my money life. The index cards had their own little slot, as did the calculator, pens, DA phone list, the stack of mail and my bills. I had clarity about medical bills and could write payment plan letters to creditors. My life had become more calm and serene.

All of this was possible because I walked into the rooms of DA in 2001 and started listening. A dear friend, the only person I could ever talk to about money problems, had recently died of cancer. The Promises meeting in St. Paul was close to my IT job by the fairgrounds, and I drove over after work one Tuesday night.

My money problems actually began in junior high when I withdrew money from my savings account at TCF bank to buy clothes. Later dysfunctional behavior came in the form of bounced checks, lying to and manipulating my parents. I look back now on my behavior and, in some ways, it truly saved my life in the absence of healthy tools. I felt terrible about myself, so buying clothes to appear “normal” was a coping mechanism. Much later a health professional told me, “you were so smart; you couldn’t have walked down the halls of your high school looking like that,” referring to me, curled up in a rumpled ball on the floor.

The dysfunction peaked in college, when I got my first credit card. Everything about my money life was spiraling out of control. When I was working out of state I needed to pay the registrar for my overdue tuition, and until the bill was paid in full, I could not register for fall classes. My bank closed my checking account so I could not mail a check, and of course the college did not accept credit cards. I decided I had no choice but to recruit a friend to help me. I overnighted $500 cash to her to pay the registrar, and I said the money was for library fines. She told other friends about it, and the situation damaged my reputation. Another time, I waited until the last second to ask my dad to pay my sorority dues. As my enabler, he overnighted me a check right away.

My unhealthy money behavior worked until it didn’t work anymore. We are all familiar with the credit card narrative: we think it is free money, we pay only the minimum, we get cash advances, and the list goes on. I did not realize until recently just how much life energy I have given to FedEx in the name of “it must happen right now!” My disease is that I see only two options: do it my way right now or don’t do it at all. I know now through the grace of this program, that there are often 3-4 options for every situation or crisis (thanks to my sponsor for pointing that out!), and, most importantly, my brain cannot come up with the options. I need the help of others!

My dysfunction was about the money, but it was not about the money. Acting out with money was the problem that caused me the most stress, but it was not my only problem. Another big problem was strained relationships with other human beings. My problem was me. I needed my Higher Power, I needed structure, and I needed to grow up. DA gave me all of that.

I gave up the apartment with the adorable office in 2004 when I got married. I drive by the building, in the Loring Park neighborhood, whenever I can. It was there that my Higher Power came into my life and showed me a new way to live.