A One Time Liar And Cheat Finds A Life Of Honor And Dignity
My story is not unlike a lot of others before me. I was raised in an affluent suburb of a major U.S. city. I had one sibling--an older sister--and we were spoiled rotten.
My father made an excellent income and we had all we wanted, when we wanted it. My father’s story is an interesting one and is part of mine. He was a Depression kid. He had to work--and work hard--for all he wanted. He was determined that his family would never have to do that. Here is one example of some of the unusual things my father would do--he would use a napkin five times so as not to waste it, but in the same breath spend $60,000 on a boat for him and my mom to cruise around on.
My mother also worked and had “her” money separate from the “family’s” money. My model on how to deal with money was screwed up when I saw these things happening.
Needless to say, I had no formal training from either of my parents on how to deal with money. My dad would joke with me and say if I wanted more money to get another job, but in all reality he wasn’t kidding. I had a paper route when I was 10 years old just to keep my dad quiet. But whenever I needed money, my mom would give me some. I learned at an early age how to manipulate my parents to get money out of them. All I needed to do was to get some tears flowing and BANG-–money!
That was my M.O. I worked part time through high school, just as all teenagers did. Of course, there was never enough money so I would always go to mom and ask for some cash and she would say every time, “You know you really should learn to handle your money better, but here you go.” BANG – money!
I also did some pretty rotten things. I would steal money from my mom’s purse, my dad’s wallet, and from the money stashes I found that my parents kept around the house. I also stole from department stores and other shops. The big question is why? I got all the clothes and other things I ever wanted from my parents. Why did I need to steal? It was a great question, one that I didn’t get the answer to until I later worked the Steps of DA. It was to fill a hole, a hole that was there because my dad was never around, always working; a hole that was there because I was a loner and didn’t have a lot of friends. Because of DA I now know why those holes were there, and today I fill them with program.
As I got older the stealing stopped and I went away to college. My college was paid for in full by my parents. Although today I appreciate the fact that they paid for it all, it’s just another example on how I felt I was deserving of everything. While away at a state college I made the decision to come home. I’m not sure why--I just did not feel that the school was for me. I transferred to a school near my home. While I was living back at home I moved into an apartment in a building that my father owned. I was the “maintenance man” of the building--I mowed the lawn, shoveled the sidewalks and changed fuses when needed. The best part was I was living rent free!
After graduating from college and getting a job, I had no idea what to do with the money I was earning. I had no knowledge of how to save, budget, etc. I just spent it as soon as I got it. I’d grown up that way, so why not continue? My mom continued to buy my groceries, and pay my electric and phone bills. It was the old story--spoiled rotten kid grows into spoiled rotten adult.
One day a credit card application arrived in the mail. Since it seemed that I needed a credit card, I filled out the application and sent it in. Two weeks later I got my card and was off to the races. I found a grocery store that would take a credit card for groceries, so I charged my groceries. I kept charging things until I got to my limit and could charge no more. I would pay the minimums, but that was all.
When I had had enough I would invite myself to my parents’ house for dinner (you see what’s coming, don’t you?), enjoy a nice dinner, and as dessert was served and my dad asked the question all parents ask, “How are things?” , my tears would well up and I would explain that I couldn’t pay my credit card bill and that I had cut up the card and would never use one again. BANG--a check would be written for the balance! Once I had check in hand I was out of there. This went on for years, although I eventually did stop. I’m not sure why. Perhaps HP intervened and temporarily restored me to sanity.
So let’s recap the story so far:
Now, there’s a healthy lifestyle!
In 1981 I met a wonderful woman, and we were married in 1983. When we got married I was debt free. In 1985 we started our family with the birth of our first daughter, and in 1987 our second daughter. This is where my spending and debting started up again. I wanted to give my daughters everything they wanted because that is the way I thought it worked. I started hiding money from my wife, lying on expense reports, lying to my wife on how I got the extra money, etc. In 1991 our third daughter was born. Again, I temporarily stopped debting, probably with the help of a Higher Power.
My parents’ health started to become an issue. In 1981 my father had a massive stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side. My mother became his caregiver as well as his wife. In 1993 they moved into a brand new one-story condo so my mother could take care of dad more easily. However, the same year my mother died unexpectedly in her sleep. It was a very sad time for all of us, especially my dad, and it left him paralyzed and in need of care. Because my house was equipped to take care of a wheelchair patient, my dad came to live with us.
And so the stage was set for the next chapter--a man who needs me to take care of him, I am paying his bills, I have a history of debting and spending, but no program to deal with any of it. I would pay my dad’s phone bill by writing a check to the phone company, then write a check to me; pay his cable bill and write a check to me. I felt I deserved it for taking care of him. I got good at signing his name. When one of those charge card applications came in the mail in his name, I signed it and sent it in. Got the card, and I was off again. In no time I had reached the limit of the card.
On any normal day my wife would get the mail and separate my father’s bills from ours. For some reason (thank you, HP!) she opened the credit card statement for my father’s card and saw the balance. I came home shortly afterward and she approached me with it. I denied it all the way: “I don’t know how he charged all that; you know how he is, he likes to get stuff in the mail.” She let it go. An hour later she asked me again, and I again denied it. Yet another half hour later she said that she really couldn’t see how my father would charge so much, and she thought some of it was mine. I finally admitted to her that not only part of it, but all of it, was mine.
My wife was already in another 12-Step program and knew that my debting and spending was an addiction. She told me friends of hers were in a 12-Step program called Debtors Anonymous to help them with money issues, and that I should call them. I didn’t want to, but I did. I called and asked if they could tell me more about DA, and they said “coincidentally” they were going to a meeting that night. It must have been God’s will, because on Tuesday, October 25, 1994 I went to my first DA meeting, and started on the road to recovery one day at a time.
I got a sponsor the next week and have been working with him ever since. My program today is continually working the Steps. I also participate in many PRGs and I work my spending plan to the best of my ability. Today I have a spiritual wealth that cannot be matched. I have acceptance as to where I am. I have balance in my life and of course I do service. Debtors Anonymous saved my life, and has taught me how to be an adult and how to fill the holes in my life with the important things in life, instead of the material things I used to use.
I am forever grateful to DA and to my Higher Power. I pray every day to do God’s will, to walk down His path, not mine; to be the best husband, father, friend, and employee I can be; to be of service and to remember that God has led me this far and will not drop me now.
I know one day at a time that I can live a prosperous life, a fulfilled life, and a life of honor and dignity.
Thank you, DA!