Getting into debt can be a lot like any addiction. Spending addiction has all of the same feelings that any addiction has including remorse, loss and trying to feel something through the addiction. The result is also the same as drugs and alcohol.  The addict wakes up with another $500.00 or more on our credit card that we cannot afford to pay rent or the mortgage is due and they still need groceries. With our society based on consumerism, more and more people are falling into spending addictions without even realizing it. it's normal to want to buy new clothes. It is not normal to have so many clothes that you cannot make your rent payment. We have provided you with some information below to go through the 12 steps and see if you relate. The way to find out if you are an addict is very simple; be honest with yourself.  

Do you have a Spending Addiction  

There is a list of "12 steps" for spending addiction that we can all access for free. I have been in 12 step recovery for over 30 years for alcohol and drug addiction. Let me provide you some really quick tips on going through the 12 step process without getting religion involved because the 12 steps were originally based on biblical principals.

If you are a person of faith, apply your higher power by name, otherwise, "Good Orderly Direction" works as well.  A lot of people are not addicts, they just like overspending or overindulging. Go through this list below and see where you fit. If you need to get help for a 12 step recovery group, click the link above, if you need help from debt counseling, try this link to get direction from the USA Gov. There are a lot of free services out there so shop around. (I'm assuming at this point you are a good shopper.) 

(I'm assuming at this point you are a good shopper.) 

 The 12 Steps are the same for gambling, overeating, drugs, and alcohol with one word changed in step one, "spending". I want to provide you with how we direct a newcomer through the steps. 

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over spending—that our lives had become unmanageable

  • Start by making a list of how your life is unmanageable with spending. Try not to talk about and look at only money. Money is not the problem, like all addictions, its what we do with it.
  • Example of unmanageability: The time you have to spend getting something done when you do not have money like if you need to book a vehicle or rental truck? Pay for a flight online? Reserve anything without a credit card. Who are you going to ask? Does anyone still trust you? 
  • How is your personal life affected? Example: My family no longer trusts me. I manipulate people to get money/loans. My spouse left me, my kids do not trust me
  • Do you and your wife, children, parents, coworkers fight about money? Example: My wife/husband has cut up the credit cards because they do not trust me. My family members and friends will no longer take my calls because they think I want money
  • How does this affect you? Example: It's humiliating-embarrassing. We are losing our home or car
  • Can you still walk into your bank and talk to them? If you cannot, your life is unmanageable

Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity

Let's call the "Power greater than ourselves" your core group of people that support you, a debt counselor or someone that you can trust. When addicts stop working on or listening to people that want to help them, we are in our addiction. Addicts have a tendency to stop looking outside themselves for help and make all decisions without talking to anyone. Addicts do not want someone to tell them no or to interfere with what they think they want. They are operating in their addiction and that addiction is driving their life.

Once again, if you are a person of faith, you are going to stop playing God and let your God take over. Simply, turn it over.

At this point in your life:

    • You are not making good decisions so who can you trust to help you make good decisions?
    • Who will you listen to? This is usually the hard one.

  • Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. To be restored to sanity, you first need to understand insanity. Are you running up the credit card and thinking magically it will get paid off
  • Have you continued to spend and expected that somehow everything was going to be ok
  • The most common thing that addicts do is hide debt from the people that they love and try to handle the stress and pain alone. We all need help.
  • Addicts are as sick as our secrets. Tell someone what you're doing and shine some light on the issues. This starts the process of recovery

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him

As mentioned above, God can be "Good Orderly Direction" and come in the form of a debt counselor, a trusted friend or a support group. Are you willing to turn over your spending requirements to someone else? Are you out of control and you need someone to direct your life for a while. They call this "self-will run riot."

For those of you that follow a faith, the step three prayer is quite beautiful. 

God, I offer myself to you
To build with me & to do with me as you would.
Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do your will.
Take away my difficulties, 
that victory over them may bear witness
to those that I would help of your Power, your love & your way of life.
May I do your will always!

Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Write down a list of all the ways spending has affected your life and how you have lowered your self-image/self-esteem with your spending habits. A moral inventory is referring to ways you have spent money where you are very disappointed with yourself. Example: Take money from your kid's education fund. Blew the rent or mortgage money. Used the grocery money on something that was not important

In so many cases, we use the money to help deal with our feelings of low self-esteem or worthlessness. Try to identify times that you shopped or drank or spent to feel better or to stop feeling altogether.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

Go to someone you trust and tell them all the ways you have used the money to feed our addiction. Talk about what you have learned in step one about how unmanageable your life has become. 

Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

Now that you have created this list in step four, it's time to stop beating yourself up about it, forgive yourself and start working on moving on.

Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings

You should have learned from the exercise in step 4 and 5 that you have bad habits with spending. Now it's time to turn these wrongs over to your god as you understand him or your collective group and move on.

Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all

Who have you affected by your poor spending habits? Write out the list.

Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others

Now you contact all of the people on your step 8 list and let them know how you're going to repay them the money you have borrowed. Be very careful with this process. Do not contact them until you have the money to start repaying the debt on time and in full. The big issue in this step is regaining trust, respect, integrity, and responsibility.

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it

This step is about keeping an eye on yourself. If you start to slip, contact a trusted friend or family member and ask for help.

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out

This step is about staying grounded and out of fantasy thinking. Just because your credit card is almost paid off does not mean you're out of debt. Stay focused. For the people of faith, you are not God and this step keeps us focused that we serve a higher power.

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to other spenders, and to practice these principles in all our affairs

Step 12 is about passing it on, helping others and the continued process of trusting others in your life. You no longer are doing everything on your own, no more secrets and no longer living isolated in your thoughts and actions.

Here are a few other links that will help you with the steps of dealing with debt including an excellent spreadsheet for detailing your income and debt. When you are done populating this spreadsheet, you will be organized.

Here is a video from MyFICO. Number one way to improve credit? Always pay your bills on time.

Here is a link to help you with debt consolidation.

This link explains how to improve your credit score when you cannot get credit.

Another organization called Debtors Anonymous have 15 questions to help you decide if you have a problem. We have included their questions below and provided you a link to their site to get additional details on finding a meeting and free literature.

15 Questions

Most compulsive debtors will answer “yes” to at least eight of the following 15 questions:

  1. Are your debts making your home life unhappy?
  2. Does the pressure of your debts distract you from your daily work?
  3. Are your debts affecting your reputation?
  4. Do your debts cause you to think less of yourself?
  5. Have you ever given false information in order to obtain credit?
  6. Have you ever made unrealistic promises to your creditors?
  7. Does the pressure of your debts make you careless of the welfare of your family?
  8. Do you ever fear that your employer, family or friends will learn the extent of your total indebtedness?
  9. When faced with a difficult financial situation, does the prospect of borrowing give you an inordinate feeling of relief?
  10. Does the pressure of your debts cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
  11. Has the pressure of your debts ever caused you to consider getting drunk?
  12. Have you ever borrowed money without giving adequate consideration to the rate of interest you are required to pay?
  13. Do you usually expect a negative response when you are subject to a credit investigation?
  14. Have you ever developed a strict regimen for paying off your debts, only to break it under pressure?
  15. Do you justify your debts by telling yourself that you are superior to the “other” people, and when you get your “break” you’ll be out of debt overnight?

How did you score? If you answered yes to eight or more of these questions, the chances are that you have a problem with compulsive debt or are well on your way to having one. If this is the case, today can be a turning point in your life.

We have all arrived at this crossroad. One road, a soft road, lures you on to further despair, illness, ruin, and in some cases, mental institutions, prison, or suicide. The other road, a more challenging road, leads to self-respect, solvency, healing, and personal fulfillment. We urge you to take the first difficult step onto the more solid road now.


If you need help with addiction, please follow the 12 steps above, they work if you work it. Contact SA or DA in your community to find the help you need. Taking another loan of any kind while in your addiction will not solve any problems for you.