Feeling Your Feelings

Background image by Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Background image by Brocken Inaglory (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Let Me Start with “Jane’s” Story

I want to tell you a story about a fictional person we’ll call Jane.

Jane goes to a job interview that she really wants. She’s already nervous about making a good impression. Unfortunately, she senses the interview goes poorly because it was quite short. When she leaves, she begins to ruminate on why it didn’t go well. She replays it over and over thinking about what she might have said or done differently. She starts beating herself up, telling herself she’s just a screw up and thinking about all the ways she failed. Now, her anxiety over this is ratcheting up.

As her vague discomfort becomes more pronounced, she is feeling more and more aware of the pressure building. But she keeps trying to shove it down or ignore it. Jane goes about her day, but on this subliminal level, she’s continuing to feed herself these negative messages.

When she comes home, as soon as she walks in the door, her husband greets her by asking her to give him a hand with something or other.

BOOM!

Seemingly out of nowhere, Jane starts screaming at him that he’s always wanting her to do something, that he doesn’t appreciate her, that she’s had a long day and why can’t he let her be! Now, she’s furious, adding to the pot she’s been stirring her misplaced anger at her husband .

She storms off into the bedroom, slamming the door.

Jane is also a compulsive spender.

When she’s finally alone, when she has nowhere else to turn, she feels desperate to make herself feel better, to purge this alien tormenting creature that has grown to monstrous proportions inside of her, now finally overcoming all her coping mechanisms. She can no longer ignore the simmering emotions that have burst into flames.
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Losing Your Balance

Click here to listen on our podcast site, “I Cant Stop Spending!”

crackThe one thing I know from decades in 12-step recovery is that I can’t do this alone. “This” means anything I can’t otherwise stop doing compulsively or stop using as a mood-altering drug, from spending, eating, drinking, sexing, Interneting, raging, underearning, co-dependent-ing, adult child-ing, “you name it.”

And when I say alone, I’m talking about my need for help from other humans, not so much the relationship with a Higher Power (or HP), which is fundamental to recovery, but for me, a big part of attaining that spiritual relationship includes my turning to others for help as well as extending my own hand in support. The fact is, my HP most often speaks to me through other people. Continue reading

Being a Militant Realist

Click here to listen on our podcast site, “I Cant Stop Spending!”

militantrealistI know that many of you are not in a 12 Step program around your spending. And that’s totally fine. I believe my message can be helpful to anyone who wants to recover from this debilitating addiction. Of course, I also hope it will resonate enough that you will at least give a program like Debtors Anonymous (DA for short) or Underearners Anonymous a chance to change your life.

I brought this up because I’m going to write about living in reality and making some hard decisions around money, and in doing so, I’ll be mentioning a tool of DA. But the point I’m making is relevant to anyone who wants to recover from compulsive spending regardless of their approach.

What is a Pressure Relief Meeting?

In DA, we have a tool called a pressure relief meeting, or PRM (also called “PRG” or pressure relief group). These meetings generally last an hour to an hour and a half and are comprised of two members in recovery helping a third member.

For beginners, the first order of business is creating a spending plan. Now, bear in mind that the two members aren’t financial planners or experts. They’re just sharing their experience, strength, and hope with the third person to help them along the path of recovery. Once the spending plan is created, the meeting may be about refining the spending plan, shifting priorities, allocating a windfall, or paying for an unexpected expense. And sometimes, it’s purpose may be to find a way to fund a vision.

It’s an amazing (and often healing) process both for the person receiving and the two people giving the help. Even after seven years of recovery, I still have a PRM every couple of months.

So, at a recent DA meeting, we were reading from the DA Spending Plan pamphlet (click here to download the DA literature form to order this and other literature). The first page talked about the process of creating a spending plan at a PRM. And then we read this:
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A Perfect Day for Recovery

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Click here to listen on our podcast site, “I Cant Stop Spending!”

As I write this, it’s a little over a week before Christmas and Hanukkah. And it came to me that it’s the perfect day to begin a recovery program or to re-commit to recovery around compulsive spending. What better time to let your addiction know that you mean business then to affirm your commitment in the midst of the frenzied spending around the holidays.

In fact, if you suffer from any addiction, now is the time to get the help you need to become and stay sober or abstinent or clean or solvent or authentic or whatever describes your addiction. This is the season of excess, whether it’s food, money, sex, alcohol, people-pleasing, anxiety, sadness, anger, or whatever else you are powerless over.

I’ll tell you why this came up for me today. I attend a Debtors Anonymous (DA) meeting where we read and share on DA pamphlets. This week, while working through the Recovery from Compulsive Spending pamphlet, we read and discussed “suggestions that have helped many D.A. members recover from the pain of compulsive spending.” (from the pamphlet)
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Gift Giving Guilt

Want to hear the podcast for this post?
Click here to listen on our podcast site “I Cant Stop Spending!”

conscientious5

The holidays are upon us. Well, almost. And I’m hoping this post will give you the space to pause before lurching into yet another December avalanche of spending you can’t afford because you feel guilty about only spending what you can.

Look, emotionally, I’m pretty much right with you. A big part of my compulsive spending was around gift-giving. Giving extravagant gifts really gets me high. Picking just the right and special and, of course, expensive item was the way I proved I love you or, at least, was the way you’d remember that I am a great gift giver.

And then, there are the office presents, or those that we feel we just “have” to buy even if we feel annoyed and resentful about doing so. Even then, we might sink into feeling competitive or just wanting to ensure we don’t look cheap compared to everyone else.

In recovery, we may still suffer with some of those feelings. But the difference is that we don’t act on them. When we fund our gift-giving categories, hopefully, beginning in January in the case of December holidays, and annually prior to birthdays, etc., we become clear about how much we will spend in total and fund each category with 1/12th of that amount each month. Then, when it’s time to buy the gift, we may still feel like it’s not good enough, but we can also find peace knowing that we are living within our means. Over time, as we practice giving gifts that are reasonable based on our income, the pain of not being the gift-giving big shot subsides.

So, I’m posting this on December 11, 2016. If you’re reading this today, you have two weeks until Christmas. Hanukkah begins on December 24th. I’m not sure when other gift-giving December holidays fall this year. But, if you’re like me, you have waited until now to begin the frenzied shopping that, I promise you, will not change the recipients’ life one bit. So, I urge you, before you enter the fray, which will, I promise you, cause you to not to think clearly around spending your money, please take some time now to make a list of all the gifts you need to buy.

Then, if you don’t have a spending plan, ask your Higher Power to help you be right-minded about how much you can afford. In fact, and this may sound shocking, I know, but ask your Higher Power if there is anyone on your list who really doesn’t need you to buy him or her a gift, someone who would prefer the gift of your time, a hand-written letter, or maybe a home cooked meal instead. Or maybe, a charitable contribution in honor of one or more people on your list would be far more beneficial than more stuff that they eventually feel a need to declutter and get rid of them.

Now, go back through that list and write next to each person either a maximum dollar amount you will spend or the more meaningful alternative you have chosen. Add up the amounts.
Now, this is where the rubber meets the road.

Ask yourself:
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10 Tips for (Sober) Holiday Gift Giving

One of the hardest aspects of recovery for many recovering compulsive debtors and spenders (especially newcomers) is putting the brakes on extravagant (i.e., expensive) gift giving, especially around the holidays. The idea that more is not only better, but required, is a part of our disease that is fueled by the media and even those around us (think kids who may have gotten used to feeding the “gimme gimme” monster).

We who are so used to being the big spender, especially around holidays, find our whole sense of self tied up with giving the biggest and best gifts. But if we are committed to recovery from compulsive debting and spending, then we get willing to sit through our discomfort as we actively live within our means around gift giving.

So here are 10 Tips to help you maintain your sobriety with money during the holidays: Continue reading