Vagueness is Our Enemy

There are few things as dangerous to our recovery as vagueness around money. Vagueness can cause us to over- or under-estimate need in an area, which can lead to debting. For instance, I didn’t give a thought to saving for taxes until a member of my PRG team brought up his concerns. I receive disability payments that have no taxes taken out. I have merrily gone along my way with a spending plan that uses every penny of money, with no idea how much I might owe, thinking that I would just use my savings to pay for it. Not a good idea, my PRG team said in unison, pressing me to create a category specifically for taxes and to figure out what I will owe to the best of my ability (I use TurboTax, so this is easily doable).

While this may sound like overkill to a “normal” person, it is vital for my recovery that I accrue for what I need specific to a category. While we cannot think of every single item, when we are aware of a need, it is in our best interest to specifically fund that need. And once I did the exercise in TurboTax, though I couldn’t know exactly how much, it gave me a realistic range, which was higher than my husband thought, and lower than my fearful anticipation.

Vagueness In Our Spending Plan

When we first do a spending plan, it is suggested that we have 30 days worth of spending written down, so we have some idea of what we spend in various categories. Even so, it takes a long time, maybe months or even a year or more, for our spending plan to feel like it’s funded properly. A few weeks ago, I actually revised my entire spending plan with my PRG based on my current needs. I strongly advise everyone do so every few years.

Some categories need to be continually tweaked based on circumstances. For instance, properly funding the food category to ensure there is enough can be challenging, especially for those in a 12-step food program or those with children. Pretending you need less in a category than you actually need to keep from living in deprivation can lead to resentment and, ultimately, acting out with money. Alternatively, over-funding a category can just be compulsive spending in disguise. If you fund every category, including savings and debt repayment, so that no money is leftover from your income, you will more easily see where there might be an issue.

For instance, my clothing category was properly funded for a time, and then it appeared as if it was over-funded when I needed money elsewhere and I had a large accumulation in that category.

Progress Not Perfection Regarding Vagueness

If you haven’t come across a situation until now in your program, you wouldn’t have thought about the need to save. That is why it is good to look at sample spending plans, which give you a list of categories. You can download the Excel spreadsheet in the sidebar on this site or get the excellent DA pamphlet, “The Numbers: One Approach.”

Even so, it is normal to come across situations you hadn’t thought about. For instance, I didn’t think about any of these items until the need came up the first time:

  • Car registration
  • A (discretionary) tip for my hairdresser at the end of the year
  • Annual dog license
  • Computer paper and toner cartridges
  • AAA membership dues

So my sponsor and/or PRG team helped me either create a new category or combine it into another.

Vagueness Around Our Debt

When we first come into program, many of us have been terrorized by creditors to the point that we have no idea how much we owe or where our debt stands because we won’t open the mail.

As you can see, vagueness will happen to all of us. It is what we do once we recognize it that is the key to recovery. Do we stay in the darkness or bring the issue into the light?

In my opinion, the first steps we take in abstinence from compulsive debting are:

  1. Cancel and destroy all credit cards, lines of credit, loans, etc.
  2. Write down every penny you spend.
  3. Total up your assets.
  4. Figure out what you owe in secured and unsecured debt.
  5. I would add to that, open all the unopened mail and read it.
  6. For those of us working DA H.O.W., we also call in our spending daily and don’t spend any money without committing it first. And we read and write daily, reporting that as well.

Once you see the truth of your financial situation, you may cry, feel sick to your stomach, panic-stricken, horrified, ashamed, humiliated, or any other manner of emotion, but the truth is still the truth. Pretending it isn’t doesn’t change the fact of it.

For me, when I was willing to face the pain of what I was using my drug to avoid, I became willing to put the drug down. As I’ve written before, the truth is never as dark as our worst fears. The truth may, in fact, BE our worst fears come true, but there is something about pretending that makes the imagining worse than the real.

No Longer Alone

Once you accept and acknowledge reality, no matter how horrifying, you can start the business of healing and changing the things you can. And then, you are on the road to recovery, as we all have been, maybe working out payment arrangements, maybe having a moratorium on payments until you have enough money for your needs. But all of this is worked out with others in program. You are no longer facing and dealing with the challenges alone.

No matter how bad things are, once you are in program and willing to do what we have all done to get and stay in recovery, you will have an abundance of help and support. What you won’t have are people to support your living in vagueness, because those of us walking the path ahead of you know the dangers of doing so, and prefer the pain we may face in reality to the torment of the not knowing, which brings only suffering.


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