Struggling with credit card debt and finances can be an isolating experience. For those trapped in a cycle of debt, the end of your financial woes can seem out of reach. But the truth is, you stand with millions of people across the country who owe various financial institutions a collective $13.5 trillion, nearly 30% of which is unsecured debt from sources like credit cards.
Paying off debt and keeping it paid off is a journey, and it doesn’t have to be done alone. Debtors Anonymous is an organization that attempts to bring people together who hope to break the cycle and climb out of the hole.
Who Is Debtors Anonymous (DA)?
Debtors Anonymous is a program created in 1968 by a group wanting to overcome financial woes associated with overspending and debt. What started as a meeting of just a few people grew to the organization that DA is today, with over 500 sessions across the United States and 15 different countries.
What Does Debtors Anonymous Do?
Debtors Anonymous is more than just a group that teaches you about budgeting. It aims to get to the root of problems that may have been the cause of the debt in the first place.
Debtors Anonymous recognizes compulsive debting is a disease. Our spending habits affect nearly every aspect of our day-to-day, and poorly doing so can send lives into chaos. Debtors Anonymous meetings attempt to instill clarity and mindfulness when it comes to finances. The program encourages members to keep track of their spending, understand where each dollar is going, and to communicate truthfully with creditors.
The Typical Meeting
Debtors Anonymous carries out its mission through group meetings. If you’re nervous about attending a meeting, that’s understandable. After all, you’ll be in a room full of strangers talking about what is likely your least favorite subject.
Knowing what’s coming might help ease your fears a little. There’s no rigid format for each meeting, so you might find something a bit different than what’s described here.
- Stating the Mission and Purpose. Meetings typically start by reading the mission and purpose of Debtors Anonymous. A reading of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of DA may also be included.
- Introductions. Newcomers will introduce themselves. Don’t worry, you won’t have to give a well-planned speech. This is to help you feel welcomed into the group.
- Discussion. This is the meat of the meeting. A designated speaker may go into depth about their struggles and triumphs or a particular topic of the day. The floor then opens for a group discussion in which everyone is invited to discuss their own struggles and successes. You are also welcome to just listen if that is what makes you most comfortable. Participation is not mandatory.
- Announcements. After the discussion has wrapped up, the meeting leader will deliver any important updates about upcoming meetings, schedule changes, etc.
- Contributions. There will be a request for donations, but you are not required to give.
- Prayer. Most sessions end with a prayer. Belief in a higher power is an integral part of the Twelve Steps. However, you are free to interpret this in whatever way you please. DA is not a religious organization.
Who Should Join Debtors Anonymous?
The program is for anyone who feels as if their debt problem is out of control. There’s no “minimum debt” that you must have to qualify. According to the Twelve Traditions of DA, “the only requirement for DA membership is a desire to stop incurring unsecured debt.” Many people that join are compulsive debtors, and will exhibit at least half of the following indicators:
- You feel that your debts create an unhappy home life.
- You feel that your debts affect your reputation.
- The stress and pressure of your debts distract you in your day-to-day life.
- You think less of yourself because of your debts.
- You have given false personal information to obtain credit.
- You have made unrealistic promises to lenders.
- You feel as if your debts sometimes come before your family’s welfare.
- You are worried about what will happen if friends, family, or your employer discover the extent of your debts.
- You have lost sleep over your debts.
- The idea of borrowing brings you relief when faced with a difficult financial predicament.
- Your debts have led to or think about drinking.
- You borrow without careful consideration of the cost of borrowing.
- A negative response is expected when it comes to credit inquiries and investigations.
- You are unable to stick to plans of paying off your debt.
- You feel as if you’ll get a break that will get you out of debt overnight and justify your debts.
As with any addiction, the first step to recovery is to admit that there is, in fact, a problem. If you’ve realized that you have an issue with spending, you are already making progress. You have the right mindset needed to succeed in a program like Debtors Anonymous.
How Do You Join Debtors Anonymous?
Joining Debtors Anonymous is easy. The organization’s official website has a meeting directory where you can type in your city or zip code to find the group nearest you. Meetings typically take place at public locations such as city libraries or church meeting halls and last around an hour to an hour and a half.
Groups can range from half a dozen folks to over 100. Regardless of size, know that you are surrounded by people who know and understand the problems you are going through. If you live in an area without an in-person group, you still have options. There are online and phone groups that can connect you to a community regardless of your physical whereabouts.
Austin is home to four Debtors Anonymous groups. Be sure to read the descriptions, as some meeting groups have a particular focus in their meetings, such as DA literature or underearning and vision.
There is no charge nor a formal membership requirement to attend a meeting. The organization is self-supporting through contributions and donations.
Debtors Anonymous provides a safe space for those struggling with finances to get to the root of their money problems. Relief won’t come overnight, but with hard work, dedication, and some support from others, you can be on your way to a life with minimal or no debt.