An Entrepreneur Finds Recovery Through DA’s Primary Purpose
I didn’t know there was such a thing as a compulsive disease called “debting.” I thought I was either bad or dumb. As I spiraled further and further down into debt, I tried to treat what I thought the problem was. To cure being dumb, I read books, hired consultants to tell me how to run my business, took classes, went to networking groups, and talked to other people in my field to try to learn how to work “smarter.” To cure being bad, I did the 12 Steps multiple times in other programs.
But until I found out what the problem was--compulsive debting--I couldn’t apply any of the solutions people gave me. The best news I ever got was at my first Pressure Relief Meeting when one of the people said, “You’re not bad or dumb. You’re just insane.” Thank God! I knew from previous experience where to go to be restored to sanity. Later, I heard someone say at a meeting who had come to DA from another 12-Step program, that “the credits don’t transfer.” That explained it.
When I came to DA I was going to kill myself over my debts. I had no idea how much they were, nor exactly to whom I owed money; I just knew I owed a lot. I did know that I owed the IRS; they had placed a lien on my business because I had collected payroll tax money from my employees but hadn’t paid this money to the IRS (this is called stealing). The state had also place a lien on the business for unpaid payroll AND sales tax (more stealing). I also wrote many bad checks. As part of my insanity, I wrote bad checks based on payments I knew were coming in. They always came, but later than I planned. So I incurred the humiliation of bouncing the check, and the financial pain of all the fees owed to the bank. Then I would cover the bad check one or two days after it bounced. I knew this was insane but I couldn’t stop.
It took me five PRGs to finally get an accurate accounting of all the money I owed. It totaled a number in the mid six figures. I felt so ashamed of myself for incurring this much unsecured debt. The funny thing is, now when I do PRGs for people and they owe $20,000 or $75,000 or even $250,000 or more, I can tell them not to worry. I owed more than that. Today because of DA, I am debt free.
I don’t know what happened to me exactly. I know ultimately it was the grace of God. I didn’t do anything to merit such a dramatic turnaround in such a short time (it took two years and five months from the first day I walked into DA until all my debts were paid). I did work very hard in the DA and BDA programs once I found them and realized my problem was compulsive debting, but lots of people do that, too.
A speaker came to talk to our group when I had been in the program for three months. I was still in terrible fear and pain. (Things got worse on the outside before they got better.) I knew I wasn’t fit for much service to the program. I had no experience, strength, or hope. The speaker said, “Do what you can where you are.” So that’s where I started. I stacked a lot of chairs, smiled at a lot of newcomers, handed out literature, and picked up after the meetings ended.
I also took the Steps.
I knew from my other programs that our spiritual awakening comes from the Steps. Someone advised me to write my history with money to see my powerlessness and to help me take Step 1. When I did that, I was surprised to find I had been insane about money a long time. My underlying belief was that if I had enough money, I didn’t have to trust God.
When I first came in to DA, I stopped using credit cards. But I kept writing bad checks and paying bills late. I was underearning and didn’t have the money to pay my bills. I was still writing bad checks when I started doing the Steps. I thought I should have stopped debting before I started the Steps; what happened was that doing the Steps helped me stop debting. Doing the 12 Steps saved my life and gave me a foundation for my continued abstinence from incurring unsecured debt.
Part of the amends I owed were to my employees. I was no prize as a boss, but my greatest transgression was paying them late, and worse, occasionally bouncing their paychecks. I thought I would die of shame having to call them and ask how I could right this wrong. Paradoxically, the hardest part of these amends was the anticipation; actually making the amends was deeply freeing, and some of them are friends today.
On the surface, the money that paid all my debt and gave me a comfortable prudent reserve came from selling my business. People say to me “Yeah, but you had something to sell to get yourself out of debt.” The funny thing is, when I first started working the program, having PRGs and doing the Steps, selling my business wasn’t even a possibility. Possibilities and solutions appeared as I worked the program. When I did my first few PRGs, I figured it would take me twenty years to pay off all my debt. Somehow, my Higher Power managed it in less than three years.
I do the best and feel the happiest when I know in my bones that my HP is my source. Among all the other miracles this program keeps giving me, that one is the most profound, and the most life changing. When I live in that certainty, anything can happen.