A Note to Newcomers
Here you can find a new way of living that offers recovery from compulsive debting and hope for a healthier, happier, more prosperous life. We suggest that you keep an open mind and attend at least six meetings as soon as possible. If you don't like one meeting attend another. The important thing is to keep coming back.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
Stop incurring any new unsecured debt
First and foremost, we suggest that you stop incurring any new unsecured debt, one day at a time. Unsecured debt is any debt not backed up by some form of collateral. Although refraining from compulsive debting may be difficult and painful, it establishes a solid foundation for our recovery.
Attend D.A. meetings regularly
Attending meetings gives us a sense of hope, an opportunity to identify with others, and a chance to meet people who can help us. Find a meeting in your area.
Record your expenses and your income
A good way to do this is to buy a small notebook or planner that is easy to carry. Throughout each day, we write down everything we spend and any income we receive, no matter how small the amount. Do not be discouraged if you cannot keep perfect records. If you lose track, begin again as soon as you can. We believe in progress, not perfection.
Read D.A. literature
You will find useful suggestions and new insights. We also find it helpful to read these books: A Currency of Hope, Alcoholics Anonymous, and the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. When you read A.A. literature, we suggest substituting the words debt and debting for alcohol and drinking.
The Twelve Steps
We suggest that you begin by working the Twelve Steps and by practicing the D.A. Tools. Because we did not arrive overnight at the circumstances that brought us to D.A., solving our problems has required time and effort. While using the Tools of D.A. provides some relief from compulsive debting, working the Steps leads to recovery.
Work the Steps
We suggest that you work the Twelve Steps in order, preferably with a sponsor or an experienced D.A. member who has worked and continues to work the Steps to the best of his or her ability. For us, true, long-lasting recovery results from a spiritual experience gained by working the Steps.
We recommend beginning with Step One. The sense of despair or "hitting bottom" we felt when we first came to D.A. was the first step in our recovery. We saw that our own attempts to scheme and manipulate our debts did not work. We admitted that we were powerless over debt. We were ready to ask for help.
Find a Sponsor
To help you work the program, we suggest asking someone who lives the recovery you want to be your sponsor. Sponsors help us work the 12 Steps, use the D.A. Tools, and carry out our Action Plans.
Ask for a Pressure Relief Meeting
After you have recorded your income and expenses for (preferably) 30 to 45 days, attended at least six meetings, and made a commitment to D.A., we suggest that you ask two members of D.A. (usually a man and a woman) to meet with you in a Pressure Relief Meeting. These two D.A. members should have abstained from incurring unsecured debt for at least 90 days and had two Pressure Relief Meetings, and if possible they should have recovery from issues similar to yours. As the members of your Pressure Relief Group, they will help you review your situation and formulate a Spending Plan and an Action Plan.
We suggest that you practice the principle of anonymity. Who we see and what we hear at meetings and in private conversation is kept confidential. This principle allows all members the freedom to speak openly and honestly without fear that our words or deeds may be used to harm us. Please respect the anonymity of all D.A. members.
If you decide that D.A. is not for you, keep us in mind for the future. You are always welcome. Debtors Anonymous will be here when you need it.
Signs of Compulsive Debting
We have all arrived at this crossroad. One road, a soft road, lures you on to further despair, illness, ruin, and in some cases, mental institutions, prison, or suicide. The other road, a more challenging road, leads to self-respect, solvency, healing, and personal fulfillment. We urge you to take the first difficult step onto the more solid road now.
Here are some signs we have found that suggest debting may have become a problem for us.
- Being unclear about your financial situation. Not knowing account balances, monthly expenses, loan interest rates, fees, fines, or contractual obligations.
- Frequently "borrowing" items such as books, pens, or small amounts of money from friends and others, and failing to return them.
- Poor saving habits. Not planning for taxes, retirement or other not-recurring but predictable items, and then feeling surprised when they come due; a "live for today, don't worry about tomorrow" attitude."
- Compulsive shopping: Being unable to pass up a "good deal"; making impulsive purchases; leaving price tags on clothes so they can be returned; not using items you've purchased.
- Difficulty in meeting basic financial or personal obligations, and/or an inordinate sense of accomplishment when such obligations are met.
- A different feeling when buying things on credit than when paying cash, a feeling of being in the club, of being accepted, of being grown up.
- Living in chaos and drama around money: Using one credit card to pay another; bouncing checks; always having a financial crisis to contend with.
- A tendency to live on the edge: Living paycheck to paycheck; taking risks with health and car insurance coverage; writing checks hoping money will appear to cover them.
- Unwarranted inhibition and embarrassment in what should be a normal discussion of money.
- Overworking or underearning: Working extra hours to earn money to pay creditors; using time inefficiently; taking jobs below your skill and education level.
- An unwillingness to care for and value yourself: Living in self-imposed deprivation; denying your basic needs in order to pay your creditors.
- A feeling or hope that someone will take care of you if necessary, so that you won't really get into serious financial trouble, that there will always be someone you can turn to.