A DA friend recently helped me see how I was creating unnecessary suffering for myself. While she wasn’t speaking about me in our conversation, her words seeped deep down inside me, creating a growing disturbance until I realized that I was doing the very thing she described. (Please bear with me as I walk you through the path to exactly what I mean.)
I am living on an extremely reduced income right now. It’s been that way for nearly seven months, after losing my private disability insurance. I haven’t adjusted well. In fact, I’d say I’ve acted like an entitled, petulant child stomping her feet to get her way. I wish I could just go back to work to solve this problem, but my body won’t let me.
The “Too Hard” Defense Crumbles
For a couple of months, I “made it work,” but it just got “too hard.” So my sponsor/PRG team lovingly supported my using my savings to augment my income, reassuring me that I am in a difficult situation and not debting, and that this is my rainy day.
But the nagging, gnawing truth about what I was doing has been burbling and gurgling to the surface, despite the way I presented my situation to them (and which I did in all sincerity). The truth is that I am not using my savings for only emergencies. I am justifying its use for all kinds of things, including health-related spending that really does make my body feel better, but is not curing me.
A Partner is NOT a Financial Plan
I realized that if I continue on as I am doing, within two years, and probably far less, I will have no savings left at all. And then what? I realized I am setting up a “dry drunk” situation that will surely end up in my slipping at best and engaging in a full-blown relapse at worst.
I am blessed in that I am married and our basic lifestyle doesn’t depend on my income. But I realized that spending down my savings on discretionary items, which I have railed against in previous posts, by the way, is neither sober nor the measure of a responsible partner, even if I am not the primary breadwinner in the family.
We Can’t Always Get What We Want
In DA, we say that our our spending plan is not to be a budget, restrictive like a diet that one rebels against eventually. But I think I have taken that budget analogy to mean that I shouldn’t have to live within more limits than I am comfortable with … and that may not be the truth for today if I want to live within my means. The fact is that money IS finite. And while I may pout and whine, if I look around me, I have a safe, comfortable lifestyle.
Deprivation is NOT the same as having to say no to myself. Deprivation is “the damaging lack of material benefits considered to be basic necessities in a society” (found that on a Google search).
Living to Spend or Spending to Live?
So I reworked my spending plan in preparation for a PRG to address this issue. And what I discovered is that I deliberately look for ways to spend my discretionary money instead of spending it when I want something. And this is where my friend’s words hit me hard.
Deliberately Feeding the Beast
I have a category simply called “Discretionary.” Each month, I look for what I will buy the next, feeding the beast of craving and desire, essentially seeking out obsession.
Here’s the perfect example. Yesterday, after spending hours on my new spending plan proposal, I was astonished to see that, at least for June, I could make it work without using my savings, even for my monthly debt repayment. It meant some sacrifice. But it is clear that any struggle I’m experiencing is simply a function of my addict mind, because for today (and for the foreseeable future), I don’t need one more art supply, piece of clothing, or book. In fact, I’m surrounded by more than enough, much of it going unused, unworn, or unread.
I was so proud of myself and my efforts, thanking my friend for opening my mind, and my Higher Power for giving me the willingness to be grateful for all I have. I felt calm, peaceful, joyous, and relieved.
Not 15 minutes later, I was watching a video from the library about creating art with polymer clay. And the obsession began. Four hours later, I had six library books on hold and was scavenging the Internet for all the videos I could find as well as looking for classes locally. But once I added up the cost for initial equipment and supplies, it came to well over $100. Probably closer to $200. Maybe even $300.
And then it hit me. I was inciting an internal riot. I had no business whatsoever looking for new artistic outlets without having the money to engage in them. What the heck was I thinking? On page 101 of the Big Book, it states, “So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there.” There is no good reason for me to deliberately sabotage my peace of mind by looking for ways to spend money I don’t have.
It took hours of struggle, but I finally surrendered to the truth and canceled the hold on the library books. For now. Perhaps one day I will have the funds to try this out. But not today.
The Spirit of Recovery
Now I see why even having a three month moratorium on discretionary spending, as I did last year, didn’t have the impact I’d hoped. It’s because I’m still living on the edge. I’m the one dangling the carrot in front of me! How on earth can my Higher Power relieve me of this defect if I don’t make the effort to behave differently? If I want to feel peaceful, I can’t engage in war. And there’s no question that seeking out more stuff to buy when I can’t afford it leads me to wage war with my disease. Unfortunately, I know all too well who will win in the end.
So, just for today, I’m willing to say no to temporary satisfaction in favor of long-term sobriety, because the spirit of recovery is to be free from compulsion and obsession … not to dance on the razor’s edge.