My latest Addiction and Recovery column.
By Bob Gaydos
The holiday season, with its drumbeat of eat, drink and be merry, holds special challenges for people with addictive tendencies. For some, it’s more like overeat, drink ‘til you’re drunk or spend like you really have the money. Recovery from the less-publicized third leg of that addictive triangle -- compulsive debting -- is the purpose of Debtor’s Anonymous, a 12-step program based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.
A society whose economy is dependent on people borrowing money -- to have the perfect house, the right car, a college education, the newest electronic gadget, lots of gifts under the tree -- is rife with opportunities for some people to borrow money even though they have no means to pay it back. According to Debtor’s Anonymous, “Unsecured debt, which is debt not secured by some form of collateral such as a house or car, becomes an addictive and unmanageable part of their lives. Debting is more than just sensationalized shopping. It can cripple and ruin someone’s life. Debt is like alcohol for the alcoholic, food for the compulsive eater, and gambling for the compulsive gambler.”
If you’re wondering whether your debt is something out of the ordinary, DA offers 15 questions to help you decide:
1. Are your debts making your home life unhappy?
2. Does the pressure of your debts distract you from your daily work?
3. Are your debts affecting your reputation?
4. Do your debts cause you to think less of yourself?
5. Have you ever given false information in order to obtain credit?
6. Have you ever made unrealistic promises to your creditors?
7. Does the pressure of your debts make you careless of the welfare of your family?
8. Do you ever fear that your employer, family or friends will learn the extent of your total indebtedness?
9. When faced with a difficult financial situation, does the prospect of borrowing give you an inordinate feeling of relief?
10. Does the pressure of your debts cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
11. Has the pressure of your debts ever caused you to consider getting drunk?
12. Have you ever borrowed money without giving adequate consideration to the rate of interest you are required to pay?
13. Do you usually expect a negative response when you are subject to a credit investigation?
14. Have you ever developed a strict regimen for paying off your debts, only to break it under pressure?
15. 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?
If you answered yes to eight or more of these questions, DA says chances are that you have a problem with compulsive debt, or “are well on your way to having one.”
The good news is, Debtors Anonymous offers hope and help from people who have been there and have learned to deal with the addiction. The suggested approach for a beginner is to record your income and expenses for 30 to 45 days, attend at least six meetings, and make a commitment to the D.A. philosophy.
It is then suggested that you meet with two recovering members of D.A. (usually a man and a woman) in what is called a Pressure Relief Meeting. The goal of the meeting is to review your situation and formulate a spending plan and an action plan. And then, one step at a time, to lessen the chaos, drama, compulsive shopping, frequent borrowing, embarrassment, overwork, and deprivation from your life. Contacting DA could be the best gift of all for the holidays.
In the mid-Hudson, the DA website lists meetings in, among other places, Chester, Kingston, Woodstock and Rhinebeck. There are also telephone and online meetings. For more detailed meeting information, go to the website and use the find-a-meeting tool: http://www.debtorsanonymous.org.
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-- http://www.empirestate.org (serving the Hudson Valley and Catskills region)
-- Debtors Anonymous General Service Office
Toll Free: 800-421-2383
PO Box 920888
Needham, MA 02492-0009