When Being in Debt is Better

When Being in Debt is Better

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I’m restless today.  Irritable.  Unmotivated and uninspired. I’m impatient and I’m tired of being in debt.

I hate when I get in funks like this but it happens every so often.  Sometimes when I’m focusing on a goal, I obsess about it. The more I focus on reaching the goal, the longer it seems to take to get there. When I go through these phases, I make a conscious effort to shift my mindset back to one of gratitude instead of wanting and self-pity.

For the past ten months, I have been relentless about paying off my credit card debt. It’s almost gone…all $8,000. It’s been a rollercoaster ride. I feel the highs of making those $800 payments and then the lows of being set back by unexpected life expenses.

There is nothing pretty about paying off debt. There’s no easy way to do it, no quick way to fix it.  It tries you emotionally.  It tests your dedication and your persistence.  It’s hard and it’s gritty and some never succeed.

How I got here

Paying off my credit card debt to this point has been an especially emotional journey because of how I accumulated the debt in the first place.

Fourteen months ago, I was an alcoholic that had nothing to offer the world or anybody in it. I was jobless, penniless, and would’ve been homeless if it weren’t for a couple people looking out for me. At the end of my drinking, I couldn’t even get out of bed without a blood alcohol level of about .2%.

Not .02%.

.2%.

Yes, I was in debt…even worse than I am now.

But I was also out of hope. I couldn’t find very many things to be thankful for in my life and I was running out of places to turn. I didn’t know what the future looked like for me. Most of the time I didn’t even know what the next day looked like. I didn’t know what I wanted, who I was or what I stood for.

Yes, I was in debt.

But, even worse, I was morally bankrupt

I had surpassed being in debt in my personal life.  I was bankrupt, at the point of no return.   Hitting the reset button and starting over was my only option.

As I continued down the rabbithole of addiction, I turned into somebody that I had never thought I would be. I broke the law, putting myself and others in danger. I was a burden to society.

There wasn’t anybody in my life that I hadn’t pushed away. I treated them poorly, manipulating, using and taking advantage of them. I said things to people that I would never say sober, things I could never imagine saying and doing now.

When I was asked what my goals or ambitions were, I didn’t know what to say.  My addiction got me to a place where I had no hopes or desires other than to wake up and get wasted.

I hated myself and what I had become. There was a good person inside of me, but that person was drowning in booze. The only logical next step in my life was the one that I didn’t want to take. I had to get sober.

I finally filed moral bankruptcy in April 2016

It took an act of force to get me into treatment. I had violated my probation and the only way I could get myself out of jail was to agree to be on an alcohol monitor. The criminal justice system gave me an ultimatum: stay on the monitor or go to treatment.

I chose treatment. I didn’t want to live the way I had been living anymore. So I chose treatment.

I went to treatment for 25 days, worked hard, graduated and went home.  I got my drivers license back, did my community service, went to AA six days a week and didn’t worry about getting a job right away.

Yes, I was in debt.

But my debt wasn’t my first priority. My recovery was my first priority because I knew that if I didn’t focus on myself and getting better, I would relapse and go back to being the person I was. The morally bankrupt person. That was not what I wanted.

Why I’m grateful for my debt

In those two months between getting out of treatment and me going back to work, I all but maxed out my credit cards trying to pay my fines and fees related to my DWI, stay caught up on my bills and stay healthy. I topped out my credit card debt at $8,000.  But I also saved my own life.  I was sober.

Today I am feeling restless because I am getting close to the end of that $8,000 in credit card debt and I just want it to be gone. Once my credit card debt is gone I can focus on other financial goals.  But maybe it’s not such a bad thing to still have $1400 in credit card until the beginning of next month when I pay it off.

Because while I’m still in debt today, I’m also a good person that has something to offer to others and to the world. My dog isn’t scared of me anymore and my niece and nephews know who I am.

I have people that turn to me for advice and others that depend on me to be there when they need a friend. I’m reliable.

My family and friends don’t have to lay awake at night anymore, scared about getting a phone call hearing that I’m dead. I have a bright future and I’m going to be a millionaire someday.

Today is not that day.  Yes, I’m still in debt.

But I’m not morally bankrupt.  I’ll take that over being debt free any day.

 

Do you have debt that you’re “grateful” for?  Are there worse alternatives?

Leave a response comment24 Responses
  1. Logan @ Millennial Money Club
    June 12, 23:53 Logan @ Millennial Money Club

    This is very inspirational and memorable since your story is not the typical personal finance blog debt post. Thank you for sharing. You will go far!

    reply Reply this comment
  2. Eawoods
    June 14, 05:36 Eawoods

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s great to hear that you’re making progress towards your goals. Others can learn a lot from your experience. Best of luck!

    reply Reply this comment
  3. Mrs. Adventure Rich
    June 14, 05:40 Mrs. Adventure Rich

    What a powerful post. First off, congratulations on the year of hard work and dedication to your goal of getting out of “moral bankruptcy”. That is truly inspiring.

    Secondly, thank you for sharing this. Pressing “publish” could not have been easy… it is a such an honest and personal story that will help many (including me!) remember that there are many things in life more important than whether your net worth is positive or negative.

    Keep tackling your goals each day… and thank you inspiring me today.

    reply Reply this comment
    • Lauren
      June 14, 15:20 Lauren

      You’re welcome and thank you for your kind words. We don’t grow unless we make ourselves uncomfortable and do things that are difficult and/or scary!

      reply Reply this comment
  4. Dustin
    June 14, 07:54 Dustin

    This is an excellent and very inspirational article, thanks for sharing. Best of luck to you.

    reply Reply this comment
  5. Sinecure
    June 14, 08:56 Sinecure

    Hey Lauren, great job! As a friend of Bills, it just gets better, and better, and better! Kind-of like saving money and pursuing FI, one day at a time, making the next right decision, it can feel like a slog, but keep it up. Thanks for the reminder, I’m on the road for work and was feeling a bit down, but now, again focusing on gratitude, thank you.
    Tom

    reply Reply this comment
    • Lauren
      June 14, 15:17 Lauren

      Hi Tom,
      I’m glad my post could help shift your mindset. Gratitude is so important in recovery, without it we don’t go anywhere. I frequently remind myself of what one of my counselors used to tell us “a grateful alcoholic never gets drunk and a grateful addict never gets high, that’s why we focus on gratitude every day.”

      reply Reply this comment
  6. Sam
    June 14, 08:59 Sam

    Thanks for sharing your story! Debt definitely needs to be put into perspective – its not the worst thing in the world. How lucky for us that we CAN get credit when there’s an emergency situation and things must be paid for. I would not have been able to afford to get an education without debt – but it made all the difference in my quality of life. I got out of poverty, and am now debt-free.

    reply Reply this comment
    • Lauren
      June 14, 15:13 Lauren

      Good for you, that’s awesome! I often think about whether I would trade back my degree for my debt and the answer is definitely not.

      reply Reply this comment
  7. Dreamer in Chief
    June 14, 13:46 Dreamer in Chief

    Wow. That’s very powerful. I admire your courage to not only take back control of your life, but to share that journey with others. It’s a healthy reminder that debt isn’t the end of the world – it can also be the beginning.

    reply Reply this comment
    • Lauren
      June 14, 15:10 Lauren

      Thank you! It really is the beginning and I try to remember that when I’m feeling frustrated. It’s easy to get caught up in the little things and forget about the big picture!

      reply Reply this comment
  8. Melanie @ Dear Debt
    June 14, 15:09 Melanie @ Dear Debt

    Thanks for sharing your amazing and courageous story. You will get out of debt and it will help your recovery and start a new life. You can do it!

    reply Reply this comment
  9. Laurie@ThreeYear
    June 14, 18:44 Laurie@ThreeYear

    Your story is so brutally honest. Thank you for sharing it. When you look back on these years in your life, I can’t imagine that you’ll remember the debt. I bet you’ll just remember the strength and courage you displayed in saving your own life.

    reply Reply this comment
    • Lauren
      June 16, 13:38 Lauren

      I know I won’t regret the debt, I may remember it. It’s all part of the journey and I wouldn’t change it. Thank you!

      reply Reply this comment
  10. Femme Frugality
    June 16, 18:20 Femme Frugality

    Congrats on getting sober! And I think it’s so awesome and important that you’re sharing your story. Not all of our decisions should be made on the basis of having perfect finances. There are far more important things in life. Keep up the great work in all areas!!!

    reply Reply this comment
  11. stepbystep
    June 19, 21:49 stepbystep

    I am grateful for my terrible car loan. I have no idea why they gave me a car loan, I certainly did not qualify for it…but they did…at 9.9% for a car with 5k on it. Its a six year loan, I am so underwater I can see whale dung, but that car has enabled me to get my job, and do other things like Lyft (don’t do it…seriously, don’t) or Mobee, or survey.com, or other small things that let me chip away at my debt. That car is freedom, and dates (no cute girls date girls without cars). And worse case? Homeless? I have a car. And I can move.

    reply Reply this comment
    • Lauren
      June 20, 15:47 Lauren

      I like your attitude! Things can always get worse. I feel your pain, though. I have lived out of my car before. I slept in my Honda Civic outside of the college I was attending for awhile. It wasn’t that I had no place to go, I was just too ashamed to talk to anyone about what was going on in my life and I didn’t want people giving me crap about my drinking.

      Just keep going, though! Keep chipping away at your debt and put one foot in front of the other. In a year you may look back and see how far you’ve come and it will all be worth it.

      reply Reply this comment
  12. The Lady
    June 20, 13:33 The Lady

    Wow. I sooooo get this.

    I hit rock bottom February 2016 and also found myself jobless, carless, homeless and broke. I had emotionally and physically isolated myself to the point I really didn’t see a way out. And of course, at that time, everyone else was to blame. While I didn’t rack up too much additional debt (thank God for free place to stay), I continued to flail around financially….and emotionally.

    My saving grace was embarrassment at owing my friends money. I prioritized eliminating that debt first. That got me turned around enough to empower me to FINALLY do something about my mess. I’m still solidly “in the red” but I dream of the day things turn to black.

    You are brave for sharing your story. There are worse things than debt, I agree. Congrats and keep at it!

    reply Reply this comment
    • Lauren
      June 20, 15:50 Lauren

      Hey that was about the same time I hit rock bottom! Our stories sound very similar. The emotional and physical isolation I totally understand. I was living in a friend’s basement and wouldn’t even leave the house unless it was to go buy booze.

      Kudos to you for starting your journey to turn your life around as well. There is nothing easy about it, but nothing worth having ever is.

      Thanks for your kind words, Lady!

      reply Reply this comment
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