My Debtors Anonymous Story
By Cathy R.
I grew up in a small suburb with my parents and my younger brother. We didn’t have a lot of money. My mom tried to save money buying by my clothes at garages sales, and they were mostly boys clothes. I was so embarrassed. I wanted to wear cute stylish clothes like my friends. My dad was an alcoholic. My parents fought a lot when he was drinking. My Dad was a bar owner and was never home. He drove a convertible Cadillac and also a Limo. He dressed very flashy. I don’t know if we could afford it or not.
I started working at age 15. I wanted my own spending money. Early on, I got into the habit of going shopping with friends and buying new clothes after each paycheck. I did not save any of my money. No one told me about saving money. If they did, I don’t remember. When I started dating, I would buy clothes and presents for my boyfriends. I also bought presents, meals and drinks for friends. I had to impress them - I wanted them to like me. After high school, I worked in retail and I really liked it. I worked in a clothing store so I spent time looking at what I would buy on pay day. Of course, I got a credit card there. I never paid more than the minimum payments. I opened a few more credit cards. If there was a perk, I would get the card. I felt so grown up seeing my credit cards lined up in my wallet and I felt so important handing my credit card to the cashier and then I would leave with a bag of new clothes. I moved out of home after high school and worked in retail for a few more years and then went into the insurance industry.
I should have been able to pay my bills I made enough money, but I just loved to spend it and then did not have any money when the bills came due. I also was waiting to meet a guy to marry that would support me. He could rescue me from all my bills! In my early 20s it got to be so bad that I started asking my mom for help. I am embarrassed to say that I would call her crying and ask her to help me with bills. I was also very lonely and could not find the right partner, so I even asked my mom to help me pay for a membership to a dating organization! I cannot even imagine my adult son asking me for money like that! I became very depressed and knew that I had a problem with money and at times I just wanted to die. The spending would only make me happy for a short time and then the guilt would set in. I started to hide my purchases from family and friends.
I tried to stop spending on my own. I bought self-help books. I was in another 12-step meeting, but no one there spoke about spending money or debting. I did not bring up my money problems in that meeting. I read about Debtors Anonymous in a recovery newspaper. I thought about going to a meeting for a few months and then I finally drove to a meeting that was close to my home. I think there were only two meetings in MN at the time and one was within 3 miles from my house! Looking back, I know that was my higher power working in my life! The first couple of times I sat in the parking lot but did not go into the meeting. The 3rd time I went in! That 1st meeting was a great meeting for me. It was small and everyone was so welcoming. I kept coming to the meeting each week and also to other DA meetings as new meetings we started up in the area.
I got a sponsor and I had regular PRG meetings. I was also able to be a part of other PRG meetings. I have learned something from each PRG meeting – no matter which side of the table I sit on. Fast forward a few years, I was dating a guy that I met through a newspaper ad – it was in the early 90s. Things were getting serious with us. He knew that I attended DA meetings. We were talking about getting married. I was just about done paying off my last credit card. So, I had to ask if he had credit cards, and how much debt did he have. He did have some debt, so, I invited him to attend meetings with me. Thankfully he agreed and he continued to come to meetings for quite few years. He doesn’t come to meetings right now but we continue to work this program together. We are able to have calm discussions about money. We used to end up fighting all the time. Now we are able to talk about anything having to do with money now and come to an agreement. When we got married, we paid for the wedding in cash. It was not extravagant, but it was perfect for us.
I have had the opportunity to do service at all levels. I have been two World Service Conferences. I have been a part of MN Intergroup and held different positions in the meeting. I have to force myself to do some of these things because I am an introvert, but I want to give back what has been given to me.
Back in 2008, I began to miss meetings here and there. I missed for a while and I thought I am still doing pretty good on my own, maybe I don’t really need the meetings. I continued to miss meetings and then my life started getting busy with other activities. I ended up buying some jewelry online on a credit card. DA had lost its priority. I didn’t go to meetings for seven years and I did a lot of damage. We are still trying to clean up the wreckage. I was back to my careless spending and debting behavior.
Here is what happened in that 7 years away from the DA program:
· We refinanced our home twice to pay off credit cards and took out extra money
· I started a home party business and took out a home equity loan to buy product
· We paid for two musical instruments for our son on credit
· We were on vacation and bought a timeshare
There were times when I thought about going back to the meeting but I felt so bad that I had left. I kept putting it off and tried to forget about the mess we were in, and I prayed for a miracle.
I got in touch with a couple of DA friends who encouraged me to come back. I finally made it back in 2014 and I am so grateful! Even though I was happy to see other group members come back to meetings after being away, I felt so ashamed about being gone for so long. Plus, I really got myself into a lot of debt and I knew I needed to be honest about that. It took me while to get honest with myself about what I was doing!
I now know without a doubt that I have to stay in this program and want to! It is life or death for me. I get so much help and hope here. I see people paying off their debt, living their visions, working the tools and steps, and I see the promises coming true in my DA friends, and they are for me as well.
After coming back to DA, I was honest with our son who was in middle school then. I told him where I was going on Saturday morning. I let him know that we now have a spending plan and we only have a set amount of money each month so we can’t spend any more than that, and we have start to save more certain things we needed or wanted as a family. We had to tell him many times that we did not have money for something he wanted. My husband and I both have had addiction issues, as do other family members. We had a lot of fear that he would have the same issues. I had a PRGs regarding our son going to college, and how much we would help him and how we could guide him to be self-supporting and not look to his parents for money, like I did.
Our son got engaged near the end of college. All I could think of was that I could not afford a wedding! He saved his money and bought the engagement ring. He did not ask us to help. I talked to my sponsor about the wedding and what we could give. We contributed $4,000 for the wedding. I wanted to know what the bride’s parents were giving, but that was none of my business and the money that we gave did not have anything to do with how much we love our son. They were grateful for our help. I thought we had to give them more money, but we did not.
I recently found an old vision list and a lot of those visions have come true. I am not out of debt yet, but these visions have come true:
· We got rid of our time share by deeding it back to the company because we could not sell it
· Our son has a college degree and he is self- supporting
· Our son is much better at handling his money than we were at his age
· We paid for our house to be painted and new roof last year
· My vision regarding my work environment, my manager and my salary came true
· An abundance of vacation days
In closing, I would like to say Debtors Anonymous has given me so much. I have so much to be grateful for and I am constantly reminded of that. Please keep coming back and don’t quit before the miracles happen and your visions come true!