A Focus On The Basics Pays Big DA Dividends
(Reprinted from the 2nd Quarter 2008 issue of Ways & Means)
I joined Debtors Anonymous on February 15, 1987, in Palo Alto, California. I found DA in the phone book, called, asked for help and literature, and a member sent it to me.
I was in debt and could not get out of debt no matter how hard I tried. I could not keep my checkbook balance above a few dollars, often less, had credit card and college loan debts, and had mortgaged my car to pay bills; then I had that payment to make, too!
I was working below my education level at a job I hated that didn’t pay enough. The little extra income I did make from working at a job a few hours a week that was at my education level was so far away geographically that I barely broke even driving to it after all that time on the road. I was sober and clean from drugs since January 15, 1977 and from alcohol since June 17, 1979 and regularly participated in AA and still do. But I could not get the money thing, nor get out of debt. I needed extra help.
From the first meeting I attended I loved DA. These people were dressed nice, their hair was kept nice, they had jobs, were positive, were working the DA program, and paying off their debts. They too had been where I was, so they understood. I was welcomed. It felt good and I felt relieved. I did what they told me to do--attended meetings, kept daily records of my income and expenses, cut up my credit cards, closed accounts, had pressure relief meetings for myself, was on pressure relief groups for others, and started paying off my debts. It worked.
I went through withdrawal at first from not debting. It was a weird feeling, almost like a drug withdrawal. It passed. Where once money looked like a green piece of paper that had no weight, substance or meaning, it began to have value. I lost my first two Ideal Income Spending Plans: I think it was sabotage, as when I did them I found areas I had deprived myself and just how much I had been out of touch with hopes, dreams, my real feelings and my own life.
I used the 12 Steps to help me deal with those feelings. The third Ideal Plan I was able to bring to a pressure relief meeting. I sweated so badly I had to remove a shirt and sit there in my tee shirt! My PRG people helped and supported me. We also used a guide which I liked because it is a methodology format to follow that kept us focused. It worked.
I took my year and a half’s experience in DA in Palo Alto with me when I moved back to the Midwest to see my ailing grandmother. There were no meetings, so I started one. I kept in touch by phone with friends in California and kept on working the program. I got out of debt on October 15, 1989 that way. DA helped me take a spiritual pilgrimage to Garabandal, Spain, buy a vehicle, visit the grandmother whom I cherished, helped me get a degree in art painting, and a prudent reserve. When I was ready to move on to the Southwest, I had the money to do so.
I’ve been in the Southwest since 1991 and still do the DA Tools of daily recordkeeping, including projected income and spending plans, adding to my prudent reserve so I have it to use when I need it, and I recently finished a 6-month literature service position. I sponsor a man, also. I talk confidentially to my priest and work the Steps with him. And thanks to DA I bought my own mobile home and art studio and truck. I paid cash and have no mortgage, which was one of my goals. I do artwork, get paid for it, and teach part time.
I am still in process and keep on repeating the basics to maintain and grow. Working the 12 Steps specifically with a DA focus has created a shift inside me that I just could not seem to find in Alcoholics Anonymous, even though I love AA and have worked it faithfully for 30 years. I guess there was something in my mind that still needed a psychic change and a Power I could trust with my whole life, including money, work, spending, time, and a real deep healing around pain and relationships. It is getting better. I am growing closer to being my real self and have so much today, free of so much baggage--resentments, fears, old ideas, and pain. I stll use the Steps and Tools to live daily life, mature, and feel more of a sense of belonging, relaxation and peace, knowing that I do have a Higher Power that hears and cares for me.
There is a sense of stability now, and willingness on my part to trust this Higher Power. This is a big step from being a kid who had nothing, not even hot or cold running water in the house on the farm, and no phone until I was 9. Due to very severe childhood and adolescent abuse, I thought God was deaf and did not care, so I gave up on God at age 9. It has been a very slow, piece-by-piece process to get to trust a Higher Power that I now know actually hears me and does care. I see evidences of it in my personal life. Daily I practice letting go to this Power, talking with it and trying to work with it better.
I don’t understand even half of what and why things are the way they are on the planet, but I personally have a part to play and I am committed to playing my part. It helps a great deal to have the 12 Steps, Tools, meetings, and service work. We are very lucky to have these things. We have a way out, a way that provides us with a sure anchor, a sure method for dealing with our fears, resentments, confusions, successes, numbers, actions; a way out in which there is a program to empower us to be who each of us really is, and to deal with pain and suffering in the world. I feel more peaceful, optimistic, and relaxed than I ever have.
It feels good to have a nice home and not be homeless. It feels good to have money in the bank, some nice clothes, do my artwork painting guardian angels for people and pets, and actually get paid for it. It feels good to be of service. It feels really good and a big relief to have a Higher Power to ask, “Hey, what do I do next? You want me to do what?How do I do this? What is my business? I need more courage than fear to do my part here!”
Thanks to DA and my Higher Power, I am no longer alone. I never was.