One woman’s 12-step path of recovery from debt addiction. Step Seven involves humbly asking a higher power to remove our character flaws for us
We looked at the things in our life that were not working and we asked for help in changing. I had a few problems with the wording of this step. (Of course, I did). First, the word humility. I didn’t like it. It sounded old fashioned. If I was humble, would I have to bow my head, avoid eye contact? Curtsey?
Furthermore, what were these shortcomings they spoke of? This language upset me. It also didn’t square with the zeitgeist: the current ‘love yourself all the time-Go Girl you are amazing and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to crush your sparkling and wild individuality’ culture doesn’t really line up with this idea of having shortcomings. The idea of having “areas of growth” was not a problem for me: I’d been in therapy for a while. But areas of growth sounded so neutral and nonjudgmental and aspirational. The language of this step — shortcomings — sounded very finger-wagging.
PREVIOUS STEP: Why spending money makes you feel special
As with previous steps, my understanding of this step had to be completely reworked before I could really embrace it. Cue: supportive sponsor, many old timers in the program, and years of pain that made me willing to try new things. (Again, I had taken Step One in which I realized I was powerless, so despite my noisy tantrums, I was actually ready for this step.)
Humility, I learned, is not humiliation. In all areas of my life, I was being taught that humility was a better way to live. Swanning around town in taxis and eating out at rooftop bars every night when I owed thousands to banks and creditors? Not humble. Leaving town and not giving my address to a student loan company because I couldn’t be bothered to pay them? Not humble.
My defects were really the defects of character what we all have; my crazy behaviour with money had magnified them and turned them into dysfunctional ways of living.
Alex, the artist in LA we met earlier on, discovered that dishonesty and denial were two of her core defects. “I was living in a complete fun house when it came to my numbers.”
NEXT STEP: Make a list of the people you’ve harmed
She adds, “it’s taken me months, and multiple sponsors flagging me down, to realize that I have to live within a spending plan, and that plan does not allow me to have a personal trainer.”
Susan, a writer, and editor in North Carolina struggles with perfectionism. That’s one of those defects that doesn’t sound like a defect, but wait for it: “I’m a single mom and I’m self-employed: if I allowed perfectionism to cripple me, I would never finish a single project because they wouldn’t be “perfect” enough, and I would not be able to bill, and I would not be able to feed myself and my daughter.” Susan starts every day with a prayer to her Higher Power to remove that defect of character.
What I learned:
- That there was nothing wrong in admitting shortcomings. It was, in fact, a sign of strength.
- I didn’t have to believe in God to embrace this step: I just had to admit I had some bizarre ways of coping with the world and that I needed a different approach
Tips on what to do:
- Reword this step (and any other step, really) so that it is helpful to you. The core of most therapy is to admit you need change. That’s really all this step is saying. If the old-time-y religious language turns you off, reword it so that it makes sense to you.
- Revisit step one. If everything was totally tickety-boo, then you probably would not have come in crawling and admitting you are powerless over money. I know it took a sound besting for me to admit I was out of moves and needed help. Every time I would find myself fighting the steps, I would revisit step one and remind myself that nothing else had worked.
Jane Dough is a pseudonym. The writer has decided to remain anonymous
Read the full Debt Diaries series:
Step 1: ‘I was trying to fix my pain with spending‘
Step 2: ‘My higher power cares about money’
Step 3: ‘I surrendered my free will to finally control my debt’
Step 4: Stop blaming other people
Step 5: Admit what got you into this mess
Step 6: Why spending money makes you feel special
Step 7: Ask a higher power to remove your defects
Step 8: Make a list of the people you’ve harmed
Step 9: Make amends to those you’ve hurt
Step 10: My money problems can’t be fixed by reading ‘The Wealthy Barber’
Step 11: How meditating helps me with my debt problem
Step 12: My urge to binge shop won’t go away
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