Part 2: Relationship Challenges & Money

As discussed in the previous post on relationships and money, there are unique challenges when a DA member has a partner and/or children.

  • Children need to get used to the new parent who will no longer feed their every spending whim.
  • Partners need to adjust to your new way of handling money, which may be in conflict with what they are used to.

Guilt is Inevitable

  • Accept that you may feel some guilt and pain when your children weep over your cruel refusal to buy them what they want the moment they want it. (I hope you realize I’m being facetious here. 😉 )
  • Accept that you may feel guilt when your partner gets angry at your new “cheap” attitude or when you say you need to wait when a discretionary purchase suddenly comes up.

These are just two examples of the guilt you may find yourself experiencing.

My Guilt

In my case, I still feel sick inside when I think about the fact that my son had to take student loans for his Junior and Senior year in collge (he’s now a senior). I paid cash for all four years of tuition and for his living expenses Freshman and Sophomore years. But when I unexpectedly had to go on disability in the Spring of his Sophomore year, life changed dramatically.

I wanted to use every penny of my newly developed savings to keep this promise to my son that I would pay for his college (his dad wouldn’t contribute).

Never mind that my compulsive spending and debting landed me into $34,000 of debt. Certainly, the payments to the credit card company I wouldn’t have had to pay could have made the difference. However, I was in recovery now. And had to start from where I was at that moment.

My PRG group has been adamant for the past two years that I NOT use my savings for my son’s college loans. As they told me, “In an airplane, we put the oxygen mask on ourselves first before we can save anyone else.”

To both of them, not having savings while I am disabled and nearing 60 years old is not the way to work my DA program. And, I have to say, this has really helped my son to grow up. He has worked for three years and is highly responsible with his money. And let me tell you, that when I got into Recovery, he was angry that I insisted he work his Freshman year to help out. It was a war zone.

The worst summer of our lives was the one before he went to college. I was newly Recovering in DA HOW and realized that he would have to work to help out. As a sign of my own disease, please note that my son had never had a job before that and felt a sense of entitlement, I believe, that he didn’t need to get one. He happens to have friends with wealthy parents, so once he was at college, it was even more difficult for me to say no.

He refused to get a job Freshman year, so we actually engaged in war. I refused to send him money. And, in a blustering attempt at stubborn self-righteousness, he starved … or so he says. I was sick with anxiety and fear, but my network kept me strong. And in the end, by the summer after Freshman year, he realized I was serious, so he got a job and has been working part time at the same job for three years.

So, don’t get me wrong, my first year in recovery was a rude awakening for him and one which was, in retrospect, the best gift I could have given him.

Now, I sit with the discomfort (make that agony) of not providing this one thing that meant so much to me. For today. The loans, which will total $15,000 in the end (gulp) are not even due to begin being repaid for another year.

The old me would say that I should not have any money for clothes or entertainment or any discretionary category so I could pay for college. But I know in my heart that deprivation is not the way to salvation. And the price for not indulging in my desire is that I continue, one day at a time, to stay abstinent and balanced in my spending.

The me in recovery knows, with every fiber of my being, that deprivation would lead to resentment on a deep level and a return to binge spending that would lead to debting with no way of earning additional income. And being disabled for now, is that really where I want to end up?

Plus, there have been so many miracles that have happened to me in DA every time I thought a situation was hopeless. For instance, I already see the remarkable maturity in my son for having to be responsible for himself. Sometimes, what appears to be the worst thing possible, actually turns out to be for the best. We can only know with hindsight. We have to trust that doing the right thing will turn out to be the right thing.

So when you are self-inflicting guilt or having it heaped on you by your family because of the way you behave in recovery, just remember that you are not alone in this program. We each have our relationships to work through as we recover from this demonic illness.

I still have more to say about relationships and DA abstinence, so in my next post, I will continue…

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