John H. Memorial Issue
Published November 2001
A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 11/01
This issue of the Bottom Line is dedicated to John H., the founder of DA who passed away early this year. He is truly our Bill W., without his search for a spiritual answer to problems of money and debt, DA as we know it would not exist. In contrast to AA, we in DA do not know much about our history and how this fellowship began. AA has historical archives and preserves and collects oral and written history of the early days of AA. For some reason this has not happened in DA.
This issue contains a number of stories by DA long timers, some of whom spoke at the recent memorial event for John. Our DA history will only be told when more people come forward and report their memories and experience. It is unclear to me at this time exactly how the evolution from the Penny Pinchers of AA to the fellowship of DA transpired. It is clear that it was John H. who was the key person who persisted in searching for a spiritual solution to money problems in the form of a new 12 Step program.
In honoring and remembering John, we are not elevating his personality. He is part of our history and there is much to be learned from hearing about how he founded and practiced the DA program.
It is inspiring to me that one persons life can impact so many others through following the spiritual path of a 12 Step program and I believe that this is true for all of us. Every act of service has a chain effect; every individual's recovery impacts more people than they will ever know. I don't want to even think about where my life would be without having found DA. I would never have figured it out on my own.
This is my first time as editor of the Bottom Line. I hope you enjoy it and I welcome your comments, suggestions and submissions.
MEMORIES OF JOHN H.
by Colin S.
I first met John in the mid-70s. He was making the rounds of Al Anon practically begging someone, anyone, to come to this new program he had started, Debtors Anonymous. Debtors Anonymous? Please. It sounded a little too far out. I had been chronically in debt for years, but I was busy with two programs myself and couldn't be bothered with a third one.
Then one evening in 1979, almost
on a whim, I called John, told him I was planning to go to the bank the next
day and borrow another $2000, and asked him what he thought of that. He said,
"It would be like taking poison," and the next Tuesday evening I was
John was not a man of extremes, but he was big in everything he did and was. He came from a more expansive world than the New York that I knew, an exotic world to me, part Philadelphia, part Catholic, and part businessman. Extremely conservative in many ways, he had a freedom in his thinking that was often startling, sometimes inspirational, and occasionally grating. To say he was obsessed with prosperity would be misstating the case: he sought and preached prosperity the way the prophets sought and preached the word of God.
As time went on he became more and
more minimalist, even Zen, in his approach to recovery, the Program, and how
life should be lived. One time in a pressure meeting I was agonizing about something
that seemed terribly wrong in my life.
While I spoke, John tore a sheet of blued-lined paper out of the miniature three-ring binder he always carried and drew a diagram on it. When I had finished speaking, he turned the paper around and pushed it across the table. He had drawn a large broad "V" with a big bullet or dot at the bottom. "What's that?" I asked. He took his ballpoint and traced the first, downward arm of the "V," saying, "This was your life before D.A." Then he rotated the pen point on the bullet at the bottom, and said, "This is where you came into the program." Then he traced the upward arm of the "V" and said, "And this is your life since you came into the program. What are you worrying about?"
During a particularly traumatic time in my life I found myself one morning unwilling to get out of bed. I did not call John often, partly because it seemed wrong to bring petty cases before the Supreme Court. On the one hand I didn't want to bother him, and on the other, I was not too eager to submit to myself to his somewhat awesome authority. I felt that his pronouncements were binding. But that morning things were so bad that I felt I not only deserved to call John but was hurting so badly that I would do whatever he said. We had a brief conversation, which ended like this:
"What are you going to do now?"
"Well, I'll get out of bed."
"And then what will you do?"
"Well, I'll take a shower and shave and get dressed."
"And then what will you do?"
"Well, I'll get some breakfast."
"And then what will you do?"
"Well, I'll go out and walk to the subway."
John had no use for the concept of "trying" to do something. He would put a glass of water on the table and tell you, "Try to move it. If you just try to move it, you'll never move it." Once at a pressure meeting we were exploring ways that might make extra money, in addition to my nine to five job. One of the ideas was driving a taxi on the weekends. As we were examining first this possible option, then that one, John suddenly leaned across the table, fixed me with an eagle gaze, and demanded, almost shouted, "Will you get a hack license?" I was so startled that without giving it any more thought I said "Yes," and the very next day I took the day off from work and started the process that resulted in my driving a taxi every Saturday and Sunday for some eight months.
If John demanded a lot from others, he imposed an almost soldierly self-discipline on himself, particularly when it came to service in the program. During the period when I was driving the cab I asked John if we might get together some time for coffee. "When is good for you?" he asked. It so happened that four-thirty a.m. was a convenient time for me, since that was when I had to get up to drive the cab. I facetiously suggested that time to John, and to my amazement he immediately agreed. On the appointed day there he was in his blue pinstripe suit waiting for me at four-thirty a.m. in the Silver Star restaurant. This was certainly practicing what he so often preached as being the essence of D.A. recovery once the debting had stopped: Show Up. For some reason I have remembered what he ordered that morning: a steak sandwich.
When John spoke at meetings it was seldom your ordinary tale of struggle or success. He invariably had some new angle on recovery, on God, on life. He listened carefully to what others said. He was not interested in people's problems, only in the solutions they had found. If he heard something he liked he would compliment the speaker, then add his own unique embroidery to what had been said. One came to expect the insight of the week. At a time when some of us were rebelling against the idea that the pressure group could tell us what to do, John would say, "If you don't do what your pressure group says you're never going to recover!" A few months later you would hear him saying just as vehemently, "You only really start to recover when you start to disagree with your pressure group."
If John sometimes took opposite views on a question at different times, there was usually a good reason for the switch. When I was first in the program I was told, "You're not ready for debt repayment," so I stopped trying to pay my debts. But a few months later, when I'd almost forgotten that I still had debts, he asked me, "Isn't it about time you started paying off those debts?"
With all his years of program he apparently had little use for the Fourth Step, which was rarely if ever to be found in his bag of recommendations. But that may be partly because he was a devout Catholic and lived in continuous self-examination. He was totally lacking in that most New York of characteristics: political correctness. He spoke his mind, his heart, and his beliefs, and if someone's toes were stepped on that was their problem. One evening in the Ryan Room, to underscore the seriousness of the debting disease and D.A. recovery, he pointed up at the crucifix hanging over the door and exclaimed, "He died for our sins!" In the same room he said one time that he wasn't in DA. to make friends. We were not his friends, he said, there were people outside the program who were his friends. DA was for recovery from debt.
John pinned everything on God as he understood God, and because of that his personality was free to fill its natural shape. He could be both winning and infuriating, but whether you liked John or not is really not important. He once told me that there was a time in every 24 hours, often at night, when he trembled with fear and was on the verge of despairing, but he always pushed through it, and the place he pushed through to was God. I am grateful to John for showing me what faith is. I am grateful to him for founding DA. I am grateful to him for saving my life.
Oh, one more thing. I met my wife in D.A. Thanks again, John.
JOHN H. REMEMBERED
(This is the Eulogy delivered at St. Ignatius Loyola Church in New York City on September 23, 2001 at the Memorial Service for John H.)
John loved our specific DA culture that he invented as a sort of religion against misery. Everything we have in common today in DA comes from his unusually innovative spirit and vast understanding of the art of 12 Step recovery of lost souls.
John always searched for light. I
remember him many times asking me,
"What is God's will for you? Find it and you will be free and, incidentally, you will also have money in your pockets." If John would be here today he would tell us that God's will for us today is nothing else than to be here together and that our mandate today in New York City after the September 11 disaster is to all climb out of the rubble together, do our work and rebuild our successes.
Many times being around him, John conveyed to me that faith is a state when you know you are meant to succeed and be happy. There is nothing but success all around you.is what he would say DA meant to him a culture that viewed the human soul as meant by its nature to succeed and prosper.
I met John in the fall of 1982 at a meeting at St. Vincent's. I had trouble with work at the time, and I was joining our DA "club" in a hurry. When I came into the room John was explaining how he started something called Pressure Groups and how he discovered that pain when shared with others becomes faith. He had a certain style that made his ideas simple and presence powerful. When you saw him talking you knew that he had something important for you personally.
While impressive, John was a lot
of fun and we all laughed with him. I remember one evening I told him how very
worried I was that I had little money and no work the next day. He looked at
me with complete confidence and told me, "Spend everything you have here
with us tonight and go home. Have a good nights sleep. Tomorrow you
will be OK." Indeed, the next day in the mailbox there was a large tax refund that I had no idea was due to me. His timing in giving this kind of advice, many times, was absolutely perfect.
Last fall I went to visit him and his wife, Sally, on Vashon Island, Washington. They lived there in a beautiful house with white picket fence amidst huge Pacific pine trees. This large picturesque island about the size of Manhattan with a central road, few crossroads and several coastal streets, felt like a piece of American Western paradise, offering next to its lush pine forests and Pacific vistas all the accouterments of consumerism, high tech media, advertising and Internet surfing. John literally enjoyed all this and his retirement there seemed blissful.
I was driving with John, and we were
talking and at one point we got lost and started laughing, noticing that we
managed to drive in circles. We knew that we were both bad with directions and
John started laughing that we may have to call Sally to retrieve us or we may
never make it back home. "We have great ideas but it's in the execution
that we need each other's help for direction and for the courage to execute,"
John said, "That' s what we have in DA, we have each other. It's not the Spending Plan and the babble of gimmicks. It's the people that bring us to success," he concluded as we finally found the Main Street back to his house.
Spending time last fall with John
on Vashon Island made me realize how actively John remained involved in DA.
He never made a big deal of his role as an inventor/founder of DA. Now John
is with us only in spirit and for me, John is the saint of our specific culture
of DA. I talk to John often in my thoughts and there is no one I know with a
clearer understanding of our culture and its depth of purpose than John.
"It's the first 40 years that are tough," he used to say, "then you understand the 11th Step and things get better...you always get better."
New York City
September 23, 2001
COMPULSIVE DEBT IS SPIRITUAL DOUBTING
I see John's eyebrow rise slightly
as he gives his qualification one night at St. Ignatius in the early '80s: "I
told my creditors they don't have a chance if I don't take care of myself first.
That's when I felt the shift inside: I'm not running from them. I am a producer
of wealth." He chuckled. "You see, I'm thinking that the root of the
suffer is really not debt." He hesitated. "The root of the problem is self-doubt. Compulsive debt is about spiritual doubting."
I feel my own eye open. Then I smile too. The debts under which I figured I must groan and starve myself to pay creditors, still feel like a stone. But instead of dragging my tail in the dirt under the strain, I can see a way, perhaps, to climb up on top of the debt. I would like to be able to see myself as a "producer." Could I say, hey, I made this thing, I made this rock? And if I made this, I can make something different too?
Not by myself, of course. I didn't make the debt alone: I had credit card sellers and stores and all kinds of relations with other people to make the debt. But now, I can initiate new action so that the people in my network of connections letting me produce my life get shifted. We change our world, reinvent relations, produce our lives, and I am a worker among other workers all making the world together. I can make new wealth to replace this old debt stone. I can try to dissolve it with new work. Or rather with a new way to approach work.
Indeed, John said that the real way out of debting as a lifestyle was the pursuit of one's right work, i.e., that each person has a vision of what s/he has a need to do, a reason to be. And that the vision is the work of life, to uncover it, to develop it as far as possible. The debting is a diversion from this project, and what we want is to get on track.
I really liked that idea and the feeling I had leaving St. Ignatius that night. I bounced up Park Avenue past the doormen and didn't shrink down like a snail. Instead of being last, backing away from a line of creditors, I was first. I might be broke and poor, but I didn't have to back up anymore. I got my needs met first because I was a producer. I looked in the doorways I was passing by with a curious eye now, admiring the fresh flowers and the Persian rugs. I was a producer of wealth.
On another night John said that he made love to his wife instead of doing his numbers before his recent pressure meeting. He said that love and his wife were the riches of life, and he would do his numbers but it wasn't a punishment or instead of love.
Lucky wife. Lucky John.
I kept coming back to DA continuing to battle my resistance to do spreadsheets and to earn abundantly, which I still struggle with after 15 years, because of such an idea that the money was just a string to follow to livelier riches.
DA is a program for lovers. And for table-turners. John turned over tables with his stories. I'm a movie fan, so I can imagine John acting in a movie scene as the debtor surrounded by creditors and pushed down on the pile of bills on the table: "Pressing me down on that table won't make money. If I don't take care of myself first, who's going to produce the money?" Then the debtor upends the table and seizes the bills like a claim, leading the creditors out onto Park Avenue from St. Ignatius, negotiating with them, a working producer not a pressed pigeon.
I know that John is somewhere high, having a good time, turning tables and telling stories to organize the angels to live their visions forever.
A LETTER TO JOHN H.
(This was originally read at the John H. Memorial Reception on September 23, 2001 in New York City)
Dear John H.,
The tragic happenings in NYC and Washington over the past two weeks reactivate the memory of trauma around my personal situation before I came to DA and met you. Virtually nothing was left standing in my life after years of compulsive debting: friendships and a marriage destroyed, home lost, disgraced on the job, black sheep of the family. You were a tower, a symbol, and a beacon for me. I am forever grateful to you for starting DA and for demonstrating a way out of the incarceration that resulted from the debting disease.
You weren't at my first DA meeting in March of 1983 or at the meeting I attended in my second or third weeks after joining the program. It was a Tuesday evening in my fourth week of DA that we met upstairs in the library of this very church, where today, September 23, 2001, we are commemorating your life and your contribution to a solution for countless numbers of hopeless people and hopeless debtors.
I was broke, homeless, and very, very confused by all the information I was bombarded with since joining DA. I shared all of my confusion in the meeting, and afterwards you bought me dinner and talked to me for a long while. I told you I was overwhelmed by all the messages I was hearing and I couldn't get one of them. You patiently listened to me and, when I was finished, you went straight to the jugular of my confusion.
"Meryl," you said, "just get on a cash basis and everything will follow." You told me what that meant, because I barely understand it: don't use other people's money to fund your life. Not the credit card companies, not the banks, no ones. That was the first of many conversations we had in my early recovery. I was in the program but caught in a rip tide. I couldn't see any way back to shore. You cast me a line, I grabbed on and you and DA pulled me in. When you spoke, I listened. I saw you as the pioneer you were: tough, brave, rough around the edges, determined, spittle on your lower lip, fiercely independent and faithful to your mission and your God. I was a very low bottom case and your spirit ignited my own flame to have a life.
You were keeping track of me, somehow.
You knew when I had had a couple of pressure groups under my belt, and when
I had begun living on a cash basis. I was a few months into the program, when
you grabbed me one night and told me I was going to serve on a pressure group
with you for a married couple. I protested, "I don't know enough! I haven't
done all the steps!" You told me I had to carry the message to hold onto
what I had. So I tagged along.
You were tough in the meeting: a Bible thumper, an evangelist, almost. I heard fire and brimstone and I was in abject terror that a fistfight would break out between you and the husband of the couple. Instead, I watched this man and his spouse get what you were saying and see a solution. I was fascinated. In the next two years, you took me as your sidekick to hundreds of pressure groups. I said little but I was there on your 12th Step calls and I learned about the disease and the recovery. There was nowhere that
I could study our disease in books; we had no Big Book like AA did, and barely any pamphlets. You were my living, breathing example of what we as compulsive debtors have to do to attain sanity and solvency.
As much as I was learning about recovery
in those early months and years, I was resisting some of it, too. I paid my
creditors according to their demands, not proportionate to my entire debt, which
is the DA way. And I did get out of debt only to be sued two weeks later by
my ex-husband's creditors. You and Alex I. listened to me complain about the
unfairness of this for about three weeks in every meeting I went to. Then, you
both grabbed me, and again, you drew a line in the sand that has never been
erased from my consciousness.
You told me that my ex-husbands debt was my debt, incurred out of my infantile behavior and ignorance around money that were byproducts of my disease. You said that if I accepted and embraced this debt as my own, chances are I would never, ever get into such a predicament again. I took your counsel, but I was privately resentful. I paid off that debt the DA way. Your irreverent sense of humor blew the cover on my resentment 18 months later when I wanted to buy a house and was outraged that the banks didn't recognize me as a good credit risk because I had no credit that would qualify me for a mortgage. You told me to ask the collection agency for my husband's debt to be that credit reference. I thought you were crazy, but I had thought that before and been proved wrong.
I asked the collection agency to
serve in that capacity. They agreed and I purchased my first home in recovery!
You then nominated me to serve on the Board of DA. I agreed. It was John C,
John S, Lila, Annie from Boston, Donald from Maryland, Fr. Kevin Madigan, you
and I. The very first meeting was just like the first pressure group I sat on
We were talking about money and there was screaming, ranting and raving. I wanted out after 45 minutes. I didn't want to push through pain. You were always asking me to do that. You did it. I wanted a solvent complacency. You and others lobbied for me to stay. I stayed and two weeks later, The New York Times ran Jerry M's article on debt and there was no time for complacency: 10,000 pieces of mail came into the P.O. box a week and all of us in New York City DA with the help of our spouses and family members wrote hundreds of letters in response to those in need.
It was that Board of Trustees that opened the first DA office, hired the first Office Manager, got an answering service to field phone calls, coordinated a set of volunteers to call people back, orchestrated large scale production and distribution of literature, got DA incorporated as a not for profit legal entity (courtesy of a major New York City law firm who did all the filings on a pro-bono basis), and created the first General Service Boards spending plan for its ongoing solvency.
Many years have passed and I, who had been once on the verge of suicide, followed your lead and helped others, who have in turn helped me by their fresh, hopeful acceptance of the program. The program is very different than it was thanks to God, you and the first members. People often come into DA before they hit the terrible bottoms we hit. Your legacy lives on. You will always live in my heart John. Thank you for starting this DA program for me.
Meryl M., Compulsive Debtor, Spender
WHAT JOHN MIGHT SAY IF HE WERE
By Sally Henderson
(This is a letter that was sent by Sally Henderson, John's wife, to be read at the Memorial Service held for John on September 23, 2001 at St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan where, in the Ryan Room, John started the DA program more than 25 years ago.)
If John were here today, as he always has, he would thank you all for allowing him to share. He would not spend much time on what got him to founding DA. He never went into a lot of detail calling attention to his own biographical story. But he might mention that every year of his life has gotten better and that that has been the reward and promise fulfilled of his life.
On the dark side, John was a man who struggled as many do with his proper place in the world, struggled with how to make his vocational dreams a reality, and struggled with how to be better understood by others. He did not find himself comfortable all the time in the presence of others and often defined himself as an introvert. And yet, I think John would agree that some of these struggles led to the drive to help himself to grow spiritually and to make some contribution for good in the world.
What John could offer is his deep understanding of the human condition and his own coming to terms with this by focusing on daily order, a practice of spiritual concepts, emphasizing a good laugh and true loving.
John was married happily twice. His first wife was a much beloved woman and died early in her life. John was single for many years and then married me. We were also amazingly happy in our marriage. Many people do not know what John knew about being gentle, responsive, and generous. These may well have been gifts of his own nature. Even so, no doubt he nurtured them by his determination to be as positive and affirming as his attitude and actions would allow.
In DA, as in other important programs, people sometimes believe that every want they have and every dream they have ever had will come true. This may indeed happen. It did for me. But, along life's path, I dramatically altered what I was dreaming for. And that made much of the difference. I believe this is what happened for John, too. We knew great joy but we had to take quite a few detours before finding our best pathways.
John extended himself to others, even people whom he did not know well. He made the effort to believe in the best in people and to look for the qualities that made them special rather than the challenges that held them back.
He really was a most intelligent
man. His determination to be positive was not the result of his inability to
notice the heartbreak around him. Rather, it was an enlightened response to
He would say, "Every year of my life things have gotten better." And he would mean it with all his heart.
You may ask where does debt fit into this? Where does prosperity fit into this? Where does money fit into this? I'm not sure exactly what John would say. Perhaps he would say that money has always been part of the foundation, not the edifice, that one builds with one's life. Perhaps he would say that while all of us have been busy reviewing our financial problems or speculating on how to save ourselves in the future, we have been trapped in a cage with no light to the spontaneity, sweetness, and artistry of life.
John might say debting owns us so
that indeed we lose the reality of being free men and women. I cannot say for
sure. But I'm sure he'd have something to say. He was a very philosophical man
who had been wealthy, moderately poor, middle class, and late in his life freed
from the concern with where he exactly fit within these stereotypes.
In closing, I know there is one thing John would say because he shared this idea often with me: "Love Is A Decision." I took that statement to mean that all of us need to continually renew our commitment to moving toward the light, that there is always a vulnerability that we may get distracted getting and spending, and that the deepest reality will always be what lasts, after the assets, after the objects, after the balance sheet, after the checkbook, in fact, after life. Your being here today is the best testament to this value that I know.
Thank you for allowing me to share what John H. might say if he were here today. He was a great joy and is deeply missed. Your honoring his memory is deeply touching.
Vashon Island, Washington, September 2001
HOW JOHN H. STARTED DA
by Solvent Debtor
One of the first persons I heard speaking at my first DA meeting in 1982 was John H. John always spoke with awe about the need for DA and how it all started. In 1964 John and three other alcoholics searching for answers to why they were not prospering, started a group called Penny Pinchers. Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was interested himself in this search.
The Penny Pinchers first thought
that all of their problems came from not having savings. They established saving
books to record their daily savings.
John, who was involved with Bill Wilson in the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous, traveled with Bill Wilson often and worked with him. They were trying to understand how to deal with these economic problems that some recovering alcoholics could not leave behind in recovery.
The Penny Pinchers evolved into DA when John H. introduced the concept of using money like food: you eat, and you don't eat compulsively, at the same time. Similarly, you spend, and you don't spend compulsively, at the same time.
John had heard these words: "you eat and you don't eat at the same time" in a fight he had with his secretary who was in Overeaters Anonymous.
For John, these are the words that in his mind, undoubtedly started DA. John and the Penny Pinchers applied these words to financial matters: "you spend, and you don't spend compulsively, at the same time."
It occurred to them that many Penny Pincher members had maxed out unsecured lines of credit. The Group then realized that they could not discern what unsecured debt was. They thought that accessing money from an unsecured debt source was actually money; theirs to spend, like income, or earned money, or a gift or saved money. It was there. It's money. Why not use it?
When John brought to the Penny Pinchers the concept of using money like food, get what you need but don't go into unsecured debt, unsecured debt is not yours to spend, its not earned money, the Penny Pinchers became aware of their debt issue and DA started.
After the concept of debt was integrated, John and the Penny Pinchers started developing the first tools of DA. These were later published in the pamphlet entitled "Suggested Meeting Format of DA."
John described often how in the early
days, recovering gamblers established the "pressure meetings," as
a Gamblers Anonymous (GA) tool, designed to physically protect
recovering gamblers from aggressive collection methods used against people with huge gambling debts by casino money sharks. In early GA, the terrified gamblers, new in recovery, were represented many times by their "pressure people" in their initial dealings with creditors. Lending sharks were kept at bay and the culture of establishing debt repayment plans emerged.
John created the various components of DA following the AA model. In 1984 the first DA Meeting List was finally assembled. This was one of the first actions sponsored by the early DA Intergroup in New York. Bruce W., an owner of restaurants, spearheaded and funded the DA Meeting List. John and I contributed with meeting information, a graphic artist designed the DA logo, and a lawyer registered the name. Then, sometime in 1986, we had the DA Meeting List and it felt like our new fellowship, DA, was in business.
When John created the General Service board of DA his main concern was that all the literature be conceived as a collective, "ego-less, and anonymous" effort along the lines of the AA Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and following the organizational model of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The ego-less text, its 11th Step inspired success and the usefulness of our early pamphlets comes from John's care to bring into DA the spirit of the Twelve Steps founders.
His idea was that what it is essential is to be of SERVICE. Recovery without SERVICE cannot take place. The subject of how to safeguard our new traditions such as "the DA unity," " the avoidance of controversy, gossip, or criticism at all costs," "the need for DA to remain forever nonprofessional," "the concept of attraction rather than promotion," "the absolute need for personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and film" and finally the spiritual foundation: the "Anonymity ever reminding us to place principles before personalities" were present in all our discussions.
John believed that these traditions would be the model for all the secular institutions of the 21st Century, worldwide.
John remained actively involved in DA as a member among members through the years. He never made a big deal of his role in DA as a founder. At times I wonder if DA, with it's philosophy and its tools of recovery, going to the core of our dark side, is not more encompassing in its search for healing humanity of misery than its big mother, AA, itself.
I have always had a powerful debting streak in me, preferring others to pay my way and identifying with the losers in life. My first DA meeting was in January of 1982. I was driven under the lash of my disease, as the AA Big Book puts it, into the DA rooms desperate for relief and recovery. You see, I had the curious habit of charging lots of wonderful things (such as gifts) and some not so wonderful items as well.
I remember charging some bargain priced olivewood rosaries in the Sinai desert at a Bedouin camp, even though my friends then were all Jewish! I used 5 shiny credit cards in my debting days and it gave me such a thrill to charge because not only did it make me feel grown up but it was at the time of purchase quite painless.
There was one problem or snag in this idyllic situation. I would get nasty phone calls and horrible threatening letters in a month or two for not paying the credit card bills due! My mind, you see, was missing some piece of machinery dealing with CAUSE and EFFECT about money and spending. Thus, I charged my lover's airline tickets between his marine base and my home in NYC. I thought this was patriotic and nice. So did he, but not the Visa people. They just wanted cash.
My house of cards collapsed in June 1982 when I lost my job of 13 years. I didn't have enough savings to pay the $5500 due to creditors. So I did a brilliant thing. I just paid two of them $2000 and the third got zero, zilch! How was I to know that credit card companies talk to each other via credit bureaus? Master Card became Monster Card to me.
I had heard that after 6 DA meetings one could request a pressure meeting, consisting of one man and one woman with solvency. When I heard the phrase "pressure group" my fertile imagination conjured up a vision of large steaming machines, pressure cookers connected to the massive hair dryers used in salons along with hair curlers and hot wires. My poor debtor's head would be inserted in this contraption while the pressure people would chant "No more debting!" My compressed brain would resemble the star of the movie Beetlejuice and I would emerge as the Bride of Frankenstein unable to speak or say "charge it!" anymore but only able to hiss at Boris Karloff, the monster.
I just want everyone to know that my fears and delusions about the pressure group were unfounded. In that first pressure meeting in 1982 I found two people willing to help me as I sweated and detoxed and they remain my friends and sponsors to this very day. What they gave me then, I have passed on to newcomers in DA.
My head has not shrunken one inch, but I believe my ego has shrunken instead. My mind has expanded, however, thanks to DA, to "view a new world swinging into view and a wondrous grand vista called "The Life of Abundance."
I have not used a credit card for
almost 20 years and yet I feel I am as adult as anyone else is. And after many
pressure meetings, my hair is still not permed!!
G-d Bless John H., the founder of DA and all DA members everywhere!-
GRATEFUL IN ALASKA
DA has been such a blessing for me! There have been many financial miracles since I came in to the program. In my first year I had gotten down to about $20 three different times, my shampoo and other personal items were needing to be replenished, and I'd say: "OK, God, I can't borrow any more...I need help!"
Money came in the mail, jobs came from where I hadn't looked while I was out looking somewhere else, it was very exciting! The best part was that God provided and I didn't have to pay anyone back until I was able to.
DA is the one program that has made God real for me. I was traveling when I came into DA, with credit cards as my "security" for emergencies. When I cut them up, DA showed me that I could still travel, not debt and have God as my security and provider.
Over the years, I have lived in small towns where there was/is no DA. I would get to New York about every year, fill up on meetings and pressure meetings, and go back to where I was living. That kept me debt free but not growing in prosperity.
At one point I did not make it to NY for three years and then I had a slip. It showed me I was not perfect and I needed meetings. Luckily, it was a small slip. I met a lady who also needed meetings and we started one.
Now I live in Fairbanks, Alaska...no DA meetings for two and a half years and getting weird with money. I am grateful I was able to get to New York in September, went to some meetings, had a pressure meeting, got phone numbers and email addresses! I was blessed to be able to be at the Memorial gathering for our founder and reconnect with some old timers.
I want to stay connected, get prosperous
and get meetings going here for me and for others. God willing, that will happen.
It blessed me to hear how John started DA. I always wondered how to start DA meetings by myself. I heard that John talked to members of other 12 Step groups. He had a meeting place and showed up there for a year by himself. I hope it doesn't take that long here, in Alaska, for me and I pray that I am willing if it does. I pray that God brings the people and keeps me abstinent.