Spending that First Compulsive Dollar

I continue reading aloud the first 64 pages of the Big Book with my All Addictions Big Book Step Study Sponsor. Last week, we finished reading the chapter “There is a Solution.” Here is the passage that jumped out at me:

These observations would be academic and pointless if our friend never took the first drink, thereby setting the terrible cycle in motion. Therefore, the main problem of the alcoholic centers in his mind. (page 23)

It’s funny. As I read this passage, my automatic association is with the food. It’s so easy to compare the food to alcohol because we ingest it. For me, alcohol is just processed flour and sugar.

It’s much more of a conscious effort to think about money and debt. But this passage rings true for me. My debting begins with an irrational thought and a justification of the first compulsive spending, which inevitably leads to debting. When I look at it in this way, it’s not a hard translation at all.

Sometimes, I need to get rid of all my cash first and only then do I turn to debt. Or, as I did so many times, had the brilliant idea (from my husband, who does this successfully) that I should use a credit card for my daily expenses and then pay it off at the end of the month to get whatever benefits the card would give for my using it (I don’t even think I had that going on when I tried this ridiculous idea). What ended up happening is that I way overspent on the card after a few months, usually inching it up month by month.

There is no question that compulsive debting is just as deadly a disease for me as food or drink. But it is more insidious in deluding me that it isn’t. It starts out so subtly, my descent into spending Hell, with a small nudge of a craving, which, as the passage says, centers in my mind, convincing me that I’ll be able to pay for it, or maybe, just urging me on increasing the pressure until it feels unbearable, like an itch that must be scratched. Maybe I start out by overspending by just a little. Or finding an excuse to use a credit card instead of the cash I have. And then more and more and more delusional spending until I am drowning in debt again.

Even in recovery, it took me years to stop subconsciously wanting to spend down my savings by creating needs out of wants and managing to delude my PRG team as well as myself that these were urgent matters. For today, I am grateful that my first thought is how to accomplish unexpected spending without touching my savings. And my second thought is to take a step back and hold off when the object of spending seems urgent and critical. I wait until my next PRG and by then, because I wait, my perspective becomes increasingly clear and I am graced with willingness to fund the item abstinently or decide not to fund it because I no longer feel I need it.

For today (and every day), let me remember the Hell of debting and compulsive spending. Let me remember the feeling of constant craving when I am in it. Let me remember that my disease may mask itself in the delusion of urgency. Let me remember this when I now have cravings that I don’t give into. Let me remember what it was like when I did.

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