I am grateful to report that I finally paid off the last of my debt a couple of weeks ago! This is truly a miracle. In the late 1990’s, I first came into DA with $22,000 in debt. I paid that off and found all kinds of reasons to justify leaving the program by 2001.
Fast forward to 2009. I crawled back into DA a broken person after accumulating approximately $34,000 of new unsecured debt and trying to figure out how on earth I would send my son off to college. DA HOW healed me, and one day at a time, I lived within my means and committed what I would spend before spending it. I had PRGs around my debt, paying for my son’s college, and any other financial issues that came up.
Since coming back to DA, I have had to make some hard decisions. For one thing, I became disabled in 2010, which greatly impacted my income. And then, in 2014, I lost the private disability, which cut my reduced income in half. Despite my severe anxiety prior to that happening, I have been able to continue to live within my means, which is another miracle.
With the help of a PRG team after becoming disabled, I became (grudgingly) willing to let my son get student loans to cover his college housing expenses. That was a very hard decision. But I was told that I needed to put the oxygen mask on myself first, and it was not practicing self-care to live in the necessary deprivation to pay for his housing when he could work and get loans to cover it. The fact is, my son is not a compulsive debtor, and he has paid off nearly all of that loan in just two years! My guilt lingers, but it truly showed him (and me) that he could step up to the plate and be responsible for himself.
As far as the debt, I continued to pay it down despite all the setbacks, which was truly my HP at work. My husband, by sheer accident, found a credit union that had a one time offer to transfer any balances for a lifetime interest rate of 2.99%. This was just a few months into my recovery. So by the grace of my HP (and my husband), I reduced my interest from over 20% down to 2.99!
Then, I contacted the credit union after becoming disabled and was able to negotiate a lower minimum payment. So instead of paying $562/month, I paid $352.
Over the years, I’ve wanted to just take my savings and pay it all off. But the guidance of my PRG team was to stay the course and not give into the discomfort of delayed gratification. Besides, they reminded me that I might need that cash.
So, month after month, I continued to make that $352 payment.
Then, a few weeks ago, a windfall came into my life (more about this in another post – it’s a very long story). I had a category that already contained the remainder of the debt in it – $2,132.95. In deliberation with my team, we decided that it was now time to pay the balance.
So, for the first time in probably 12 years when I had a brief year or two solvent, I am debt-free. Unlike last time, I remain committed to my DA recovery. I know from hard-won experience that the next step is not to step off the cliff.
The truth is, I was high for about an hour after paying off the balance of the debt. And then, life continued on. And I know I must continue to be as vigilant about living within my means as I was diligent about paying off that debt. For me, living within my means is accomplished (in part) by:
- Keeping an accurate spending plan in which I assign every penny I earn to a category.
- Reconciling with my bank account no less than once a month (I usually do it two or three times) to ensure what I think I have is actually what I do have (it’s easy for me to make mistakes!).
- I commit every penny I spend before spending it to ensure I remain accountable and don’t go off on a spending binge.
- Finally, I practice delayed gratification and acceptance. That means if I really want some new clothes and there isn’t enough left in that category this month … I sit with that discomfort and wait until next month to buy them … even if there is the sale of the century for one day only.
That is the “physical” part of my recovery. But the spiritual and emotional healing comes from:
- Working the steps in my daily life
- Doing a daily Inventory (and turning it over to my sponsor)
- Going to meetings, sponsoring, and having/giving PRGs
- Meditation (invaluable for helping me learn how to sit with discomfort)
So, for today, I am debt-free. I have no credit cards. And I live within my means. I have all my needs met … and a lot of my wants. What on earth could be better than that?