History of DA

If you don’t know the history of Debtors Anonymous, you might want to read about it here: http://debtorsanonymous.org/about/about.htm.

Struggling for Definition and Membership

John H., DA’s founder, struggled and failed over many years, with the group disbanding and having to restart the program on his own. It was a challenge just to figure out a bottom line and physical method to find recovery from this deadly disease. They tried all kinds of ideas to find a way out, as stated,

They first called themselves the “Penny Pinchers,” and attempted to control through will power the amount of money they spent. Later, the group renamed itself the “Capital Builders”, convinced that their financial problems stemmed from an inability to save money. They tried to cure this by making daily deposits into savings accounts, but this, too, failed to resolve their problems.

Solving our problem with money seems not as simple and clear-cut as the solution for alcoholism because we need to use money nearly daily. But, in the end, here is what they discovered:

Finally, as more years passed, they began to understand that their monetary problems did not stem from an inability to save or control the amount they spent or earned, but rather from the inability to become solvent.

By 1971, the essence of the DA Program unfolded in the discovery and understanding that the act of debting itself was the threshold of the disease, and the only solution was to use the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to stop incurring unsecured debt one day at a time, and to stay stopped.

That is why the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop debting. If I never pick up a credit card or unsecured debt for any reason, I will never be in debt again. A simple solution … but how we achieve that is the challenge.

Some Need Added Accountability

All of us in the program work the 12 Steps of DA for our spiritual recovery. Most everyone who stays solvent uses a spending plan of some kind. But while the DA founders determined that purely by committing to not debting, you will be solvent, for those of us who find success using the H.O.W. format, we discovered that we needed the additional step of committing our money before spending it as our way to accomplish that.

DA does suggest using a spending plan and tracking one’s numbers as tools to prevent debting. For some people, having the spending plan and keeping their numbers is enough. In theory, that works for me, but my disease is cunning, baffling, and powerful in how it will trick me if I don’t commit my spending.

I have seen this happen to me too many times. I end up justifying spending more than is allocated in one area and the dominoes fall as I take from category after category until I feel that there is no choice but to debt. I watched myself go from hard-won solvency with zero debt of any kind into $33,000 of credit card debt for that very reason.

Without the added accountability, and honesty, open mindedness, and willingness to turn my spending over a day at a time to a sponsor before spending it, I slide into vagueness too easily by manipulating the spending plan and moving money from one category to another without thinking through the implications.

Gratitude for Those Who Came Before Us

I am eternally grateful to John H. for his persistent determination, in the face of so many challenges, to create the program of Debtors Anonymous. So, too, am I profoundly grateful to those who created the additional instructions and tools for living one day at a time debt-free that we call the H.O.W. format.


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