Music Mondays – Sober

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Music Mondays – Sober

I’m safe

Up high

Nothing can touch me

But why do I feel this party’s over?

No pain

Inside

You’re my protection

How do I feel this good sober?* 

Over the past two years, I have worked with clients of all financial shapes and sizes who have various financial challenges. I’m currently working with a few right now who at one point were members of Debtors Anonymous or DA as they call it; and I have to confess, until I heard one of my clients talk about this, I honestly had no idea that the group existed.

I’m well aware of the other “anonymous” programs like Alcoholics Anonymous or Gambler’s Anonymous, but I didn’t know there was a similar program for debtors. What I have gathered from my clients is that these programs are all very similar and at the core of it, they’re trying to address people’s addiction issues. For the DA crew, it’s not an addiction to debt, but rather an addiction to spending.

Dealing with Addiction

It’s been interesting for me working with these clients because I’m personally very familiar with addiction challenges and the help that I give them is very similar to the help you would give someone struggling with any other temptation in life.

I feel for these clients more than my others because I can truly see the struggles that they face as they fight to get financially healthy. For them, it’s not a simple numbers game; it’s an emotional battle that is real and painful. With each new struggle we uncover, though, we find another solution that works; and this is exactly why I believe in individual solutions rather than a cookie cutter approach to financial planning.

Unique Solutions for Unique Individuals

Each one of these clients was given a similar financial plan with similar exercises to help them combat their spending struggles; however, as they each set on their journey, I quickly noticed that they had different triggers and personal struggles.

For one client, we needed to focus more on clarifying her goals and giving them the emotional importance of spending. This was no easy feat as spending holds such a strong power over her as any other addiction, but we broke through and I’m happy to say that she recently declared that she officially has more money than she’s ever had in her life. The look on her face when she said this to me was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received in my life.

For another client, we work on replacement tactics where he might not get to spend money the way he would normally spend it, but I get him to spend in a more financially healthy way and help him realize that it feels just as good. I want him to feel just as good “sober” because this means more money in his bank account. I see his struggles firsthand as well, and I’m inspired by his commitment to build a better life and one with less shame around spending.

One of my newest DA clients has a great deal of shame around her spending. She feels good when she’s on the high of spending money but then when she realizes what she did, she reports in to me kicking herself and filled with disappointment. For her, we focus on the minor victories and we set very short-term goals to help her feel successful throughout her journey.

I hate to hear anyone kick themselves or get depressed about something that’s already done. What I continue to point out to her is that the past is done and all that matters now is how we move forward. Her journey is one of baby steps; however, I’m so proud of her for continuing to take those.

The Spending Addiction is Real

My point of this post is to point out that people have real struggles with money just as people have real struggles with drugs, alcohol or gambling. It’s easy to judge and point fingers but until you walk in someone else’s shoes, you truly have no idea the pain and agony of their journey. I feel blessed that I get to travel with them and prop them up along the way. My heart goes out to anyone struggling with money, but I can tell you firsthand that change is possible.

There is a way to feel good sober and there is a great life ahead, but it involves hard work, commitment and sometimes a path of nothing but baby steps. If you struggle with this, the first thing I would say is to forgive yourself and understand you’re human. The second thing I would say is to find someone. I know you may feel shame and embarrassment, but the only shame and embarrassment lies in doing nothing and not making a change.

I am proud of my clients who are working to change their spending addictions and develop a better relationship with money. I know that they are realizing that they can not only feel good sober but they can actually feel better sober because they are financially in a better place.

*Copyright Pink Sober 2008

Do you know anyone who belongs to Debtors Anonymous? Have you ever struggled with spending? What is your advice to anyone struggling with a spending addiction?

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Shannon is a financial planner who left a “traditional” financial services firm to start her own company, The Financial Gym, because she felt traditional financial services firms did not have the tools or resources to help people in their 20s and 30s who are starting out and trying to build assets while also managing debt. She realized that the key to long-term personal financial success is a commitment to financial fitness and making smart financial choices. Through her blog, Financially Blonde, her book, Train Your Way To Financial Fitness, her podcast, Martinis and Your Money and The Financial Gym, Shannon is committed to making financial fitness fun, easy and accessible for everyone.

19 COMMENTS

  1. I’m aware of DA, but do not know anyone who belongs. With any addiction it first starts with the person wanting help or making a change in their lives. It’s difficult for them to have success unless the really want it, unfortunately sometime it takes a rock bottom moment for that to occur.

  2. Interesting post! I know A LOT about addiction because it is prevalent in my family. While I’m not an addict obviously, it has been very interesting learning about alcoholism and it’s affect on people. I haven’t really explored it from any other perspective, like debt, but I imagine (like most programs), it’s similar. I can say that not having a credit card has helped me stop spending. I highly recommend anyone who is a spender to not have a credit card whatsoever.

  3. I have never heard of DA, but it does not surprise me that such a group exist. If many of us searched within ourselves we would discover something we have problems doing.

    For example, I have a problem with gambling, but as long as I stay away from a casino I never get the itch. As soon as I go alone the problem surfaces like a bad rash.

    I run from machine to machine like a bad rerun. My best coping method is to never go in a casino.

    Not creative, but it works for me.

  4. I’ve heard of it but don’t know anyone personally (to my knowledge) that’s in it. I try not to judge people who have spending issues because it really is a deep-seeded emotional issue. It’s not like the money in their hand is more evil than in someone else’s. It’s benign. It’s what WE do with it. I think we all need to be more respectful of everyone’s journey!

  5. I’ll just be honest here…I love to spend! If I had an unlimited supply of money I’d spend it. I’ve had to work really hard over the years and develop the discipline to hold my spending in check. For me I’ve come to realize that my personal value is not tied up in what I own. That’s helped me keep perspective and spend a lot less money along the way. The good news is that money I would have been spending has gone other places (paying off debt, family vacations, giving) which has provided much more value.

  6. I’d never heard of DA before this post. I’d heard of addiction help for shopaholics, but not for debt more generally. It’s really wonderful to know these type of support groups exist, because I can imagine there is less tolerance for overspending money. That seems like more of a “come on snap out of it” response you’d get than with drinking or drugs.

    • I am personally glad these groups exist as well and I love that I can help my clients in addition to the group. It’s easy for financial planners to just invest money but it’s really difficult to work through client struggles.

  7. I think you can be addicted to just about anything and need help trying to quit any destructive behavior. I don’t know anyone who attends DA, but I probably could have used a meeting or two at the height of our debt.

  8. It makes sense that it’s a similar kind of addiction. They all start out as ways to feel good and we all know that spending on fun stuff creates an awesome adrenaline rush – until you go to pay it off. Good for your clients for recognizing they have a problem and working on it!

  9. I’ve never heard of DA, but it makes sense because it does seem to be a big problem for many people. As with other addictions, I’m pretty sure the first step is to admit that you have a problem and seek help to fix it. I’ve always been disciplined with money and spending, and had a hard time understanding how people could rack up so much debt and continue to do so. To me, it’s just a numbers game but for many people, emotions play a big role. Addictions are complicated where people from the outside see the problem while the addict is in denial. It’s great that there is a support group for them.

  10. It must be a good feeling to have helped many people to be in a better financial situation, Shannon. Willingness to change in their part is really important in during this process for them to reach their own financial goals more easily.

  11. I had never heard of DA, but you’re right in that spending can definitely be an addiction. I have to admit, as someone who is extremely responsible with money (almost to a fault lol), it can be hard to empathize with those who seem to spend all they have and then some each month. Your post was a great reminder that we all have different mindsets when it comes to how we handle money – and once we realize that, it’s easier to help those that are struggling. Thanks for the great & informative post!

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