037: A Perfect Day for Recovery & Inspirational Reading 12/24 “Breaking the Cycle”

In this Episode

00:50 It’s a Perfect Day for Recovery
You don’t have to wait until January 1st to begin your recovery from compulsive spending! I tell you why today (a week before Christmas and Hanukkah) is the absolutely perfect day to begin!

Read the post for this podcast on our sister site: Getting Out from Going Under

08:29 Inspiration from the Daily Reader for Compulsive Debtors and Spenders: December 24th: “Breaking the Cycle”

Resources Mentioned in this Podcast Episode

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Post: A Perfect Day for Recovery

Click here to listen to the podcast for this post.

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)

It was when we read this bullet point that I had my epiphany! “Attend D.A. meetings regularly for group support to counteract advertising and other societal pressures to spend and debt.”

Now, I’ve long heard people in various programs talk about the importance of attending meetings so we can give back what we’ve so generously been given, and how newcomers need meetings to really understand how 12 Step programs work and to develop a network of support.

But I’d never thought about meetings as a tool and a defense against the consumer marketing monster and societal messages urging us to spend money. And when is there more pressure on people for such a sustained period to buy, buy, buy as the lead up to Christmas, Hanukkah, and other December holidays? So when would there be a better time to get support than when the clock is ticking down to frenzied gift buying during this holiday season? You can make a commitment to recovery from compulsive spending to keep you sober with money now, today, not next week or next year.

Sure, there are other holidays where we feel pressured to buy. Never mind the other days that give us an opportunity to practice love, consideration, and giving of ourselves. I’m thinking of all those stupid Hallmark holidays that insist that the only way to show your mother or father you love them is to buy them an extravagant gift you probably can’t afford, which must be given to them on a particular Sunday in May or June in order to count.

Then there’s the message that you’d better give a big fat piece of jewelry to someone on a random day in February along with chocolate and flowers or someone will be hurt and believe you don’t love him or her. (don’t get me started about Valentine’s Day and where that holiday came from! Here is a link to an article I wrote about that.)

And, of course, there’s the Friday after Thanksgiving. But I’ve already covered why that’s the day for amateur spenders in this article, so you don’t need to bother even revving up your engines.

But the month of December is the granddaddy of spectacular spending pressure … because it starts in November! And there are so many gifts we think we need to buy. For compulsive spenders, once we make that first out of control or “I have to or they’ll be upset” purchase, we don’t know where it will end. But it’s usually not a happy ending. So why not stop it now?

You don’t have to wait until January 1st to make the decision and commitment to recover from compulsive spending. You can start today. Yes, you can.

Now, I’m about to say something shocking.

Are you ready?

You could cut up all your credit cards and cancel all the accounts today (or even just one account).

Oh no, I just heard a collective gasp from you all.

OK, breathe.

I realize you are probably going to need help to accomplish that step. I’m just saying you could do it in theory. Listen, I’m not suggesting you run a marathon today, but you can start by taking a walk around the block today. You can start by asking for help with your addiction.

You can get support to help you have a sober holiday season this year. There’s nothing magical about January 1st. People in recovery don’t make a list of resolutions once a year because we recommit to our recovery every day.

In fact, if you begin now, you can start to work on your spending plan for next year, so that you won’t be scrambling around holiday spending next December.

That’s why I say that there’s no better day for recovery than today. Stand up to your disease and you can have an army of support behind you.

Remember, there is no need to hit a bottom any lower than the one you’ve already hit. You can choose today to be Day One of recovery. There are many who have been just where you are who are waiting and wanting to help you. You may not know it yet, but there’s also an arsenal of tools available to support you.

If you are suffering from feeling beaten down by your compulsive spending, and know that you are just winding up to create more out of control debt during this holiday season, why not give 12 Step recovery a try? Both Debtors Anonymous and Underearners Anonymous have many phone meetings, which are incredibly convenient, as well as lots of live meetings.

Yes, I know that there is not just one road to recovery. But this is a road I have personally walked and I paid off over $34,000 of debt in seven years and I am still living within my means today (just one day at a time). And, just so you know, I only attend phone meetings. Plus, 12 Step Fellowships are 100% free for members.

All the help you need is just waiting for you to walk through the door or pick up the phone. It is offered freely and given to you with love. And it is available today and every day you want it, one day at a time.

036: Gift Giving Guilt & Inspirational Reading 12/15 “Holiday Gift Pressure”

In this Episode

00:47 Gift Giving Guilt
You still have time to keep from creating a mountain of debt around holiday gift giving. I’m here to give you a pep talk and some tips on how to make it through without creating financial chaos.

Read the post for this podcast on our sister site: Getting Out from Going Under

06:00 Inspiration from the Daily Reader for Compulsive Debtors and Spenders: December 15th: “Holiday Gift Pressure”

Music Attribution

“Life of Riley” (Intro and Outro), “Carpe Diem,” “Christmas Rap” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Help with Your Spending Plan

I can help you overcome the fear of looking at your numbers, create the foundation for your spending plan, and provide one-on-one technical help to teach you how to use your spending plan software. Click here to read how I can help you with your spending plan

Please Leave Comments, Questions, and Suggestions

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this podcast. Please share your comments, questions, and suggestions. You can leave a voice message if you have a microphone (see the link on the right side of each page and on the Contact page), email me from the Contact page, or leave a comment below.

Pay it Fast or Pay it Slow?

Click here to listen to the podcast episode 034 for this blog post.

arealcompulsivespenderaI’ve often said that for a true compulsive spender, living in deprivation is a sure way to set off the compulsion. Now, that is not the same as living within one’s means, which may include not buying everything we want the moment we want it.

However, I stand by my belief and that of those in 12 step recovery from compulsive spending, that we do not put our creditors first. We do not live in abject deprivation in order to pay off our debts quicker.

Now, I know Dave Ramsey is one of the top gurus of personal finance and responsibility. I get it. However, as I’ve told you before, his philosophy is all well and good for everyone … except compulsive spenders.

The Experts Don’t Understand Us

Look, experts like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman provide amazing tools and guidance to help people make sound financial decisions and get out of debt, but for those struggling with compulsive spending, there’s just no way they can simply “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and live responsibly with money, as these experts advise. Plus, as I have said, compulsive spenders often feel shamed by the implied message that they could succeed if only they tried harder. And that very thought, in fact, has caused me to go on a spending binge more times than you can imagine. Or maybe not, if you’re like me.
Until you deal with the underlying addiction, all the tools in the world are meaningless. But let’s say you do start to recover whether it’s through 12 step recovery or some other method. The fact is that if you are a true compulsive spender, you will do best with a balanced spending plan that enables you to live with some wants as well as needs while you pay off your debts.

I know this because my own experience, and those of others, shows me time and time again that, otherwise, we bounce between excessive restriction and breaking out of that prison into spending binges.

Paying Off Debt in Record Time Means an Unbalanced Life

So, when I, once again, heard Dave Ramsey lauding the efforts of a young man explaining how he paid off $41,000 in student loans in 13 and a half months, I wanted to cry.

Now, please bear in mind that this guy never said he was a compulsive spender. This was student loan he was repaying. But if you are a real compulsive spender and hear this story, I don’t want you to be deluded into thinking this is the path to recovery. No! The path to recovery is to learn sanity around spending money.

He says that he worked so much that there wasn’t time to spend money. Yeah, well for any true compulsive spender, there’s ALWAYS time to spend money. And the build up of pressure will only cause people like us to find a release valve … which is usually buying something … or a lot of somethings.

For me, sobriety means that I balance recovery, life, work, and repaying my debts. In his nightmare scenario, there was nothing but debt repayment. Hearing this story is manna for our addiction. Whoopeee! Let’s get our adrenaline really amped up and use force of will.

Trust me, it just doesn’t work for a real compulsive spender.

Free at Last!

In the episode, this man talked about working up to 80 hours a week in the beginning, missed vacations with his friends, and basically had no life at all. He was, naturally, jubilant about becoming debt-free and said he has plenty of cash flow. The implication is that since there’s money, life is grand.

Yeah, unless he’s a real compulsive spender who reacts to zero balances the same way a race horse reacts to the sound of the start pistol.

Two things. I’m not arguing that we can make choices about where we spend our money. So, maybe it was sober to skip the vacations. Sounds sober to me. But what doesn’t sound sane or sober is to stop doing anything that can balance out one’s life and to make one’s creditors our Higher Power. Secondly, it’s great that he has a tremendous cash flow. Not everyone does, though. And that makes balance even more important for those of us who need to recover from both the addiction and accept the reality that we only have so much money available.

Ramsey praises him for getting this done in a year and says it’s a “band-aid rip-off.” Ramsey also called this guy a hero.
Now, why on earth would we applaud living life so out of balance?

How I Hit My Bottom & Paid Off $34,000 in Debt

Right before coming back into recovery in 2009, I hit my bottom. I was $34,000 in debt. My son was getting ready to go to college. I had put away money for tuition, but hadn’t considered housing and living expenses, which would be another $7,000 more per year. Where was I going to get another $7,000?

When there was nowhere to turn, I hit my bottom. The depth of my pain, shame, and self-loathing were indescribable. One non-compulsive spender friend tried to be helpful and advised me to get rid of cable tv, eat canned food, and live on a tight budget to get it all paid off as quickly as possible and be able to pay for my son’s expenses. The Dave Ramsey path, right?

But just hearing it made me feel much, much worse. I knew, all too well, how many times I had made solemn promises to myself and others to put the brakes on. I had paid off thousands and thousands in debt before, only to believe the lie that I was cured and rack up even more debt the next time. Oh yeah, sure, I would just grin and bear it, live a life of complete austerity. Get that debt paid off. And never do it again.

I always had the best of intentions every time. But inevitably, within short order, I found myself blasting out of the self-imposed imprisonment with even more credit card debt and more stuff that I was convinced I would die if I didn’t buy.
Hitting this bottom, I knew I couldn’t do it their way. But I knew in my heart that there was a better way. Because I had found it before and walked away from it after paying off $22,000 of debt in early 2000s. See what I mean? It’s a progressive disease. $22,000 then, $34,000 in 2009.

Again, there is not just one path. But the way I was able to make a shift was through the 12 steps. And through working those steps and with the support of others who had gone before me, I was able to see clearly that the budget mentality, that putting my creditors first, that living in utter deprivation was just another tool my disease used to beat me up. And the weirdly bizarre ability of my addict mind to forget the pain once I experienced some relief was the biggest lie I had to face … and overcome. Because it is only by not forgetting that I am willing to continue in recovery once the pain is removed.

Once again, I was helped by others to develop a reasonable spending plan, not a budget, where I could have my needs met, some wants satisfied, and still work toward paying off my then $34,000 of credit card debt. Now, you can hear my explanation of the difference between a budget and a spending plan in episode 14 – icantstopspending/014.

The next year, 2010, I became disabled, and eventually lost half of my income. Still, my support system helped me refine my spending plan, which did mean, yes, I had to cut back even further, but not cut out. I contacted the credit card company and negotiated a hardship reduction in my payments without an increase in my interest rate (an unbelievable 2.99%, which is another miracle). But I continued to live within my means one day at a time, and still make regular payments to the credit card company.

Yes, there were pain points, there were agony points, but there was no spending binge backlash from not allowing myself to have any enjoyments of life, because I felt a need to punish myself by living in complete deprivation as penance for what I had done.

For non-compulsive spenders, maybe such a choice is just that. Penance. And maybe for a goal-oriented overachieving non-compulsive spender, it would make sense. But for this compulsive spender, I would never have made it.

So, instead of paying off my $34,000 in a year, I paid it off in seven. But in the end, I am just as debt-free as the man in Dave Ramsey’s podcast. And I didn’t have to destroy my health further or punish myself as a penance.

And because of this recovery, which is even more conscientious than my previous one, I didn’t lie to myself afterwards that
I could now do it on my own. I made sure that I remember the truth. I know I am powerless over compulsive spending and debt and need to wrap myself in the program of recovery that saved my life. And, by the way, everything worked out with my son’s college expenses.

So unlike the old me, and many I have known, I didn’t return to my old ways after I finished paying off the debt. I didn’t feel like I deserved a reward for getting out of debt and paying penance.

I implore you, if you are a true compulsive spender, heed my words. There is no need for you to destroy your life to pay back your creditors. Be responsible. Get help to figure out what you need to live, and how to find balance between the needs, the wants, and the debt. But please, don’t make your creditors your HP.

This time, my reward is continuing to live one day at a time within my means and not having to go through this process ever again. If I don’t pick up the credit card, I will never again have to pay off debt. If I don’t make the first compulsive purchase, I will never have a spending binge again. Today, I have tools that wrap me in a cloak of protection against the demon. yes, the demon may speak to me. I may even make a poor spending decision here and there. But like the prince in Sleeping Beauty, I have a sword to cut through the brambles and keep that demon at bay, a sword of recovery that will help me to reach my goal of sobriety that keeps me safe as long as I use it, so that one day at a time, I never have to go down the rabbit hole of addiction with money ever again.

The Magical Tool of Delayed Gratification

And by the way, there was another incredibly valuable lesson I learned by not behaving compulsively around paying off my debt. Believe me, there were times I wanted to move it along faster. But my support people were amazing in holding me back.
The lesson I learned was about delayed gratification. I saved this for last, because if you have never yet experienced it, you won’t understand why this is so miraculous. But once you do, you get it.

I often say that delayed gratification is the forgotten magical tool of recovery. If I plowed through, paying the debt off at the expense of all else, I wouldn’t have really experienced the spiritual fulfillment of that day when it was finally paid off. Instead, I would have drowned in a sea of exhaustion and adrenaline. And by the way, it would have been not much different from coming down off a spending binge.

Any spending, even debt repayment, can make me high. The point of recovery and sobriety around money is to learn how to spend in a balanced manner. The point of recovery around debt and spending is not to race to the finish line, but to learn to find serenity and peace on the journey.

034: Pay it Fast or Pay it Slow? & Inspirational Reading 11/28: Fit Spiritual Condition

In this Episode

00:54 Should You Pay Your Debts Off Fast or Pay Them Slow?

Read the post for this podcast on our sister site: Getting Out from Going Under

arealcompulsivespenderaOnce again, I take exception with Dave Ramsey’s philosophy when it comes to compulsive spenders. I explain why revving your engines and going all in to get that debt paid off in record time just won’t work for true compulsive spenders.

16:46 Inspiration from the Daily Reader for Compulsive Debtors and Spenders: November 28th: “Fit Spiritual Condition”

Resources Mentioned in this Podcast

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027: Tips to Prevent Compulsive Spending Part 1 & Inspirational Reading 10/9: “The Best”

In this Episode

01:00 Tips to Prevent Compulsive Spending Part 1
First in a series of podcast episodes giving you some tips to help prevent compulsive spending.

10:54 Inspiration from the Daily Reader for Compulsive Debtors and Spenders: October 9th: “The Best”

Music Attribution

“Life of Riley” (Intro and Outro), “Carpe Diem,” and “Fretless” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

How I can help you with your spending plan
I can help you overcome the fear of looking at your numbers, create the foundation for your spending plan, and provide one-on-one technical help to teach you how to use your spending plan software. Click the link above to read more.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this podcast. Please share your comments, questions, and suggestions. You can leave a voice message if you have a microphone (see the link on the right side of each page and on the Contact page), email me from the Contact page, or leave a comment.

020: Conversation with Terry Shulman on Clutter, Accumulating, & Compulsive Spending & August 18th Reading: “More”

In this Episode:

Note: This podcast is close to an hour, so it’s longer than usual! But I promise you, it is worth listening to if you struggle with too much stuff and can’t bring yourself to let it go!

I’m very excited about today’s podcast. It came about because I was asked to talk about clutter, hoarding, and accumulating as it relates to compulsive spending. It seems like this topic has appeared all around me lately! It then became clear that the attachment to stuff and the extreme discomfort around letting it go was as much an addiction as the acquiring for some of us.

After doing some research, it struck me that there is no need to reinvent the wheel when I can speak to the expert on the nexus of these challenges! So I invited Terry Shulman, Founder/Director of The Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending & Hoarding to talk with me. He is a compelling advocate for sanity around “stuff,” and his passion and knowledge made for a fascinating discussion.

While I put in a few time-stamps below to give you a sense of what we discussed, I urge you to listen to the whole conversation, as it is full of insights, connections, and helpful suggestions.
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018: Buying What You Can’t Afford & Reading 8/7: “Obsession’s Fallout”

In this Episode:

afford00:00 Buying What You Can’t Afford
My husband and I watched the fabulous 2015 movie The Big Short (again) last night. This led to thinking about buying what we can’t afford. [This movie was based on the book, published in 2010.]

11:53 Daily Reader for Compulsive Debtors and Spenders:
August 7th: Obsession’s Fallout

Music Attribution

“Life of Riley” (Intro and Outro), “Carpe Diem,” and “Daily Beetle” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this podcast. Please share your comments, questions, and suggestions. You can leave a voice message if you have a microphone (see the link on the right side of each page and on the Contact page), email me from the Contact page, or leave a comment below.

017: Post Interview Thoughts, Lending Money, Painful (Inconvenient) Honesty, Online Group, & Reading 7/31: “Sisterly/Brotherly Love”

In this Episode:

00:00 The Podcast is Now on YouTube
Just to let you know, I’m starting to post some episodes on YouTube. What’s cool about it is that if you click on the time stamp, you can go right to that section. Still just the audio, but this way, if you get bored, you can just move right on to the next section! Click here to go to my YouTube channel.

02:42 Thoughts about my conversation with Lauren Greutman

Feedback from a listener shifted my perspective!

25:26 Lending Money
Thoughts on lending money when you are a compulsive spender, underearner, and/or debtor.

29:38 Painful (Inconvenient) Honesty
A story about my bottom line.
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016: Interview with Lauren Greutman & July 29th Reading: Fear of Creditors

In this Episode:

[Note: This podcast is longer than usual, nearly an hour.]

00:00 Introduction to the Interview
Where I introduce my guest, Lauren Greutman, author of the upcoming book, “The Recovering Spender.” I talk about my trepidation regarding the interview, and explain why I decided to proceed.

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