“We desperately used our compulsive debting to avoid feeling the pain of an empty hole in the center of our soul, the void that only our Higher Power could fill.”
Page 18, Twelve Steps of DA pamphlet
I actually didn’t use compulsive debting that way. I hate debt. It makes me profoundly uncomfortable to owe anyone anything. For me, it is compulsive spending that I used to try to fill that hole. Or, to be more accurate, compulsive wanting. The pain of that itch unscratched is nearly unbearable when I am active in my disease … and not much better in recovery. The difference is that I recognize it when I am in recovery and have tools to deal with it.
Am I entitled to have what I want the second I want it?
Am I entitled even if I don’t have the money to purchase it?
Am I entitled even if I DO have the money to buy it, but the habit of giving in to impulsive spending makes my life unmanageable?
For me, the answer is no.
Dealing with Obsession
How do I deal with the obsession, that breathless, heart-pounding, adrenaline pumping feeling that I will DIE if I don’t get what I want NOW (whether I have the money for it or not)?
- I pause for at least 24 hours before I buy it if I feel that feeling. in fact, I try to wait until the feeling subsides before making the purchase.
- I talk to my sponsor and network when I feel that way.
- I am honest with my sponsor and am blessed that I have a sponsor who knows me well enough to know when I am in that obsession state even when I don’t recognize it, because I talk about my feelings surrounding wants and needs and spending.
- I practice sitting in the pain, not fighting it. Meditation, Step 11, really helps with this as I learn that I won’t die from feeling uncomfortable.
- I pray for the courage to bear the discomfort until comfort comes.
- I can remind myself that I can have what I want once I have the money to purchase it accrued in the appropriate category.
What if My Want and My Bank Account Aren’t in Sync?
Then there are the times that I WANT something but don’t have enough money to buy it today. This is happening to me as I write this. I want a musical instrument. And I am so proud of myself that I found one that is vastly less expensive than the instrument I was hell bent on buying a year ago (the desire for which eventually dissipated). Still, I don’t have the money TODAY to buy it and the waiting is causing me extreme discomfort.
I know someone in DA who saves up for what she wants from her Discretionary category. I do that in many categories with equanimity (such as clothing). But when I WANT a discretionary item with that adrenaline pumping DESIRE, waiting seems impossible. Yet, I do it. And sometimes, when I wait, I find that in the end, I no longer want the object of my desire.
Waiting for a PRG
I have quite a bit of money waiting to be dispersed/saved during my next PRG. For me, all dispersion of excess money involves pressure, so I know that it is in my best interest to do this within the context of a PRG. I also know that my “best” decisions as to how to spend or save that money are often not in my best interest, though it sure seems that way in my mind!
I only need a fraction of the money that is waiting, in addition to my entire Discretionary for next month, to achieve my desire. But there is no guarantee that my PRG will see the wisdom in my decision. It may be that I have to wait for two months to purchase the instrument, which will involve using all of my discretionary money for that sole purpose. Just writing about waiting two months makes my head spin!
Acceptance is the Key
But when I remember that I live in today only, and for today, I have to accept the things I cannot change, one of which is that I cannot afford that musical instrument, I have three choices.
- One is to be a kicking, screaming dry drunk, enraged that I cannot get my way.
- I could throw my recovery to the wind and justify the spending by saying it’s my money and it is not debting … but knowing in my heart that such willfulness is the first step in losing my abstinence.
- I can choose to live in the solution, which is to accept that my disease may kick up in the form of obsession and desire, but my recovery can keep me from acting on it or making it worse for myself.
If I remember that acceptance is the key to all my difficulties for today, then I can be in the present and enjoy what is in front of me with peace … and not focus on what I don’t have with resentment.
For today, let’s remember that eventually, we can purchase what we want if we still want it when the funds are available.