I’ve had a misconception of what recovery from compulsive debting and spending means. Somehow I thought that sobriety with money guaranteed me financial wealth, security, and monetary reward (along with the fame that I craved). As if that Higher Power I was urged to believe in was really “HP Santa,” whose sole job was to reward me as I saw fit for being a “good girl” and doing the right thing.
How wrong I was.
Recovery from compulsive debting is not about “cash and prizes,” though that is a side benefit for some, because once we stop debting and spending, if we are physically able, we can focus on ways to increase our income, such as finding a better job or beginning a new career. We are no longer sliding down the path of self-destruction and can work toward building a more financially abundant future.
But the healing in recovery is really about the ability to be satisfied with what we have, to live within our means successfully, to quell that constant urge to acquire more, more, more, to be of service to others, to connect with a Higher Power and in so doing, bring out the best of who we are.
Nowhere in our literature does it say that we are guaranteed a lot of money. The Big Book, on page 84, promises that we will lose our “fear of economic insecurity.” DA does promise that “we will begin to live a prosperous life, unencumbered by fear, worry, resentment, or debt.”
There is no question that paying off our debt without incurring any new unsecured debt will lead to increased financial prosperity whatever our circumstances. And when I think about my own recovery experience, I most definitely have often felt prosperous and blessed, despite having less. It’s been a matter of becoming grateful for what I have rather than focusing on what I lack.
What am I Doing Wrong?
At a recent meeting, someone shared that while many on the meeting talked about their struggles, he wanted to tell us about all the financial abundance in his life. I was one of the people who had shared. For whatever reason, I was left feeling that I must be doing something wrong because I’m not rolling in dough.
But a few weeks ago, I celebrated six years of abstinence from compulsive debting one day at a time. A year after becoming abstinent, I became disabled. I received disability, which kept me solvent. Three years after that, I lost the private disability portion, leaving me with a fraction of what I earned when I was working. And still I continue to be solvent and not debt one day at a time. And my debt will be paid off in less than two years.
Living within my means under my present financial circumstances is a real challenge. I have had to use some of my savings, which felt profoundly uncomfortable. But I am becoming increasingly willing to let go of more and more discretionary spending in order to live within my means. I am working on turning my attitude around so that I don’t perceive this as deprivation, but as a celebration of my commitment to recovery. And I continue to do my best not to compare my situation with others, which goes a long way in keeping me grateful for what I have.
It’s that willingness to take the sober action, to do the right thing, to live in reality and clarity rather than fantasy and vagueness, despite how we feel about it, that tells us that we are working our program to the best of our ability.
So no, sobriety with money doesn’t ensure cash and prizes, which means that successful recovery isn’t dependent on material wealth. Sobriety with money simply levels the playing field so we can focus on the solution instead of the problem. But when we are right-minded and willing to do what it takes to keep from incurring unsecured debt, we are rewarded with a wealth of riches that money can’t buy.