Part 1: Depriver or Spender

In DA, the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop debting. However, it is interesting to note that regarding our use of money and what causes people to come into program, in my opinion, there are two basic types of members:

  • Those who cannot stop spending (often out of fear of not having enough)
  • Those who cannot bear to spend (often out of fear of not having enough)

Those in either category may have no debt at all, yet the program of Debtors Anonymous can be just as miraculous for them as for those of us with debt. A compulsive spender without debt is just a debtor who hasn’t run out of money yet. As for the depriver-type, the pain can be just as excruciating as for the compulsive spender. In this post, I’m going to explore why I believe this program can work just as well for those who are anorexic with money as for those who binge.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

On page six of the book, Drop the Rock, it says that deprivation and over-consumption are flip sides of the same coin. The point of recovery is finding balance.

I am a compulsive spender. Money burns a hole in my pocket. I debted because I spent way more than I had. I was never, until program, able to save money for more than a brief period. Even now, on the first of the month, it often feels like PARTY TIME! Just the act of paying my bills can get me high.

Then, there are those who essentially hoard money, afraid to spend anything. My husband, not a member, is like this. He is not fabulously wealthy, yet has more than enough for his needs and many of his wants, should he choose to purchase. But his fear often clouds his vision that he can afford what he wants in a given situation. It often paralyzes him with anxiety and fear.

I have seen him panic at having to spend $100 on a repair … as if he doesn’t have enough money when he knows rationally that he has plenty. I have watched him walk around with holes in his shoes because he didn’t want to buy new ones. I have seen first-hand the angst this state of mind causes him and the extreme difficulty he experiences in deciding whether to spend money on either wants or needs.

Living in Balance

Either as a compulsive spender or a depriver, for me developing and living by a balanced spending plan is the key to recovery in DA. I trust my spending plan and live by my categories. If I have $200 in my clothing category and I want clothing, I use it.

For a compulsive spender, like me, it is an act of faith that I will get enough clothes for $200. In fact, every time I go clothes shopping, I do end up with more clothing than I can afford. And I now look at making choices as a DA practice rather than grieving over what I cannot have.

For a depriver, $200 may seem like an outrageous amount of money for clothing, though it may have accumulated in the category over months. For that person, the act of spending the clothing money is the DA practice, seen as loving self-care.

An Analogy from a Food Program

In my food program, being a compulsive over-eater is the flip side of being an anorexic. I am a compulsive overeater, so there was never enough food to satisfy me when I was binging. I was a bottomless pit.

However, I have lived by a food plan for over 15 years. I weigh my food, eat three meals a day, and nothing in-between along with no flour or sugar. On this food plan, the debating society is over. Some meals, I am famished as I am eating. Some meals, I can barely finish. Either way, how I feel about it doesn’t change the fact that I eat my meal and no more … and no less.

I know on the days I’m starving that this was more than enough yesterday. And on days that I feel stuffed halfway through that I was aching for more just a few meals ago.

It’s not the food, it’s me. And because I simply live by my food plan:

  • I trust that I am eating enough and in a balanced manner.
  • There’s always another meal coming if I’m hungry.

So, too, with an anorexic, who may think she is binging by eating the meal, she can be comforted knowing that she is living in balance despite what her mind tells her.

Using Money for Its Intended Purpose In DA

Now, using that analogy with my spending plan, if I have worked with a PRG team I trust to develop my spending plan and have a balance between my needs, my wants, my savings, and my debt repayment, then whether I feel guilty or fearful about spending the money isn’t the issue. If it is available for use in a particular category, I know that I can abstinently use it for that purpose, be it a need or a want.

More importantly, if I choose to live in balance in DA, it is part of my recovery to spend that money as it is intended to be used. In fact, if too much money accumulates in a category, my PRG team sees that as a warning that too much is being allocated and we reduce the monthly amount and reassign the additional money to other categories that need more funding. If I don’t use my money for its intended purpose, but instead have a secret agenda for its use that I don’t share with my PRG team, then I am reverting to old behavior by not being honest.

That is not to say that we haven’t shifted money between categories. I’m talking about deliberately accumulating money in one category for another purpose. For instance, a few months ago, I decided to get a haircut every two months instead of monthly. If I continue to fund the category for a monthly haircut thinking that I can use the extra for art supplies eventually, and don’t reveal that information (because I don’t trust that “they” will “let me do that”), I am not working my program with integrity. In such a case, I need to find the humility to get honest with my sponsor and PRG team or I will surely slip away from recovery and back into compulsive spending and debting.

End of Part 1.

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