I bet you didn’t know there was a Debtors Anonymous, huh? :) Indeed there is though, and it sounds like an awesome resource. Here’s a brief bio from their website (DebtorsAnonymous.org):
“Debtors Anonymous offers hope for people whose use of unsecured debt causes problems and suffering in their lives and the lives of others… For many it is a false crutch that feeds fantasy and magnifies obsession… In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience with the newcomer, and to reach out to other debtors.”
How cool is that? And totally makes sense that this is around too. I mean, we’ve got it for drugs and alcohol (and sex, sex, sex!), why not something equally as disastrous to our finances? And to our lives, for that matter? If you’re in need of attending D.A. it’s safe to assume you’re in dire straights. And it doesn’t sound fun :(
The 15-Question Debt Test
Here’s their 15-question test in order to gauge whether you’re a compulsive debtor or not. If you answer “yes” to at least 8 of these, chances are you should seek help:
- Are your debts making your home life unhappy?
- Does the pressure of your debts distract you from your daily work?
- Are your debts affecting your reputation?
- Do your debts cause you to think less of yourself?
- Have you ever given false information in order to obtain credit?
- Have you ever made unrealistic promises to your creditors?
- Does the pressure of your debts make you careless of the welfare of your family?
- Do you ever fear that your employer, family or friends will learn the extent of your total indebtedness?
- When faced with a difficult financial situation, does the prospect of borrowing give you an inordinate feeling of relief?
- Does the pressure of your debts cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
- Has the pressure of your debts ever caused you to consider getting drunk?
- Have you ever borrowed money without giving adequate consideration to the rate of interest you are required to pay?
- Do you usually expect a negative response when you are subject to a credit investigation?
- Have you ever developed a strict regimen for paying off your debts, only to break it under pressure?
- Do you justify your debts by telling yourself that you are superior to the “other” people, and when you get your “break” you’ll be out of debt overnight?
Just reading these makes me sad :( But how awesome is it that this organization EXISTS??? Maybe some of y’all reading this right now could use the extra help? I do my best to encourage y’all to pay attention to this stuff, but I’m not the most believable person to talk to when it comes to the debt doo-doo department – having never (fortunately) dealt with a ton of it myself (outside of mortgage debt, which doesn’t count here – that’s “secured” debt). It would be interested to attend one of these though and see how it all works… maybe offer an ear?
The 12 Steps of Debtors Anonymous
And since I know you’re wondering, yes – Debtors Anonymous has a 12-step plan too. Very similar to that of A.A. actually, from a quick comparison. In fact, I think if you just swap out “alcohol” with “debt” in the respective places you’ve got it?
Here they are:
- We admitted we were powerless over debt–that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive debtors, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
There’s also a handful of pretty amazing recovery stories too, if you want to check those out. Reading those steps up there for the first time though, I’m actually surprised of the number of times God is mentioned? Are these programs religious based? I can appreciate that as a Christian myself, but I wonder how hard/different/strange it is if you’re attending without a belief in something greater than us all? Or if it scares anyone away from attending? Probably a topic for a whole other day though, haha… Or site for that matter ;) Not trying to get anyone riled up here!
Tips on Coping With Debt
Lastly (and my favorite part), here are some tips they offer to coping with debt:
- 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.
- 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. (<—– YES!!! I’m totally stealing this for my money coaching clients :))
- 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.
So an overall great source of help for anyone in troubled waters. It’s hard for a lot of us to fathom it (myself very much included), but debt can destroy a life like no other. Owing tons of money to people can lead to illness, despair, ruin, prison, and worst case even suicide. It’s no joke.
If you know of someone who needs help, or if YOU need help yourself, please go over to DebtorsAnonymous.org and get started on the recovery process. Then, come back here and inspire us all :) There’s no shame in admitting we have problems, baby!
// End J. Money’s PSA