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Confessions of a Debtaholic

Confessions of a Debtaholic:

This time last year I didn't want to think about my credit score, who I owed, HOW MUCH I owed. All I wanted to do was push it all away, make it disappear. The "letters" I'd get in the mail would miraculously get lost in my bedroom and then I'd find them weeks afterward and give a quick farewell/ohwell shrug and into the trashcan they'd go. They were already late anyways, might as well wait for the next one to come in the mail...

But I couldn't throw it all away. I couldn't go a day without thinking about them. I couldn't see them, but they were still there. I was still terrifyingly in debt. It was terrifying because I didn't know my credit score, because I didn't know who I owed anymore. But mainly because I didn't know how much I owed. I would fret that the figure had grown astronomically over the two year hiatus I took. I envisioned never being able to buy a car, a house. If an emergency were to ever arise, I'd imagine the ambulance drivers refusing to transport me to the emergency room without putting money down. I didn't know my credit score, but I felt that everyone else did.

I suffered from a severe case of finance paranoia.

"There she is!"
"What do you mean 'who'? The girl who owes $480,000,000!"
"Oh my goodness! She's such a horrible person! Quick! Let's walk on the other side of the street, lest we catch her bad money bug!"

Talk about my finances?! Are you kidding? Who would I talk to? My parents, so they could know that I intentionally ruined my life and let them down? My friends, so they would feel sympathetic to my situation but would cease to want to hang around me? My boyfriend, so he could know that I didn't feel good enough for him and I suffered from such a severe case of dis-financia that I'd probably drag him down with me?

No thank you.

I was content to sit there, terrified of the mail, and do nothing and accept no emotional support from anyone. If no one knew there was a problem, then there was no problem. It was private and personal and it was killing me.

Then the lawyer called, demanding payment or I'd be sued. Who took the call? My dad. My dad who instructed me on the day I moved out to take care of my credit first and foremost before I spent any money on anything else. My mom quickly whispered something about never going hungry once my dad was out of earshot. Yes, that dad took the call from a lawyer saying I owed $650 to be paid before months end or I'd potentially face jailtime.


Whoa whoa whoa... what? Jail? Seriously? It wasn't that far off the mark from how i felt. I felt like I was a bad person. I felt like I deserved to be punished. Paying back what I owed was the least form of punishment they could dish out. After that call, I had to sit down with my mom and explain my situation... most of it. Even when I was finally confiding in some one, I couldn't give the whole story. I couldn't tell her everything, then she'd know and she'd feel as bad as I did. I told her about the two credit cards and the issue the lawyer was calling about... I didn't tell her about the other two credit cards or the broken leases or the other debts that I'd pushed so far off my mind I'd forgotten about; money-nesia.

She was disappointed, but anxious to help. But how could I bring my mom into this mess? How could I put so much financial mental stress on my family, when it wasn't their fault nor their problem? A polite decline and an assurance I'd have it taken care of and I went back to my world of solitary confinement, with only my scarlet lettered credit to keep me company.

In the meantime, I spent money like it was going out of style. Food, beer, parties, movies, gas, cellphone, anything! Everything! I was like a stock broker (BUY BUY BUY!) except not very good at it. Soon I was paying more to my bank on overdraft fees than I was on anything else. Packs of cigarettes went from costing me a little over $5.00 to costing over $40.00. Gas was a little over $3.00 a gallon, but after averaging in an overdraft fee, was easily over $6.00. Some paychecks lasted as long as it took to drive to the bank to deposit them and instantly it was all gone to pay for last weeks siesta, fiesta, or what have you.

I'd have 30 minute conversations with my bank about my account over the phone:
"There is absolutely no way I could have spent that much money. I think I'm a victim of identity theft!"
"Well lets take a look at your account... Did you buy groceries last week?"
"Did you get gas?"
"Food at subway? Burger king? Pizza? Liquor store?"
"errr. Ya."
"Clothes at Ross, Marshalls, Hot Topic, Forever 21?"
"Oh well here's something.. Do you have an online subscription?"
"No! Finally, you see, identity theft!!!"
"Okay well, we'll take a look at this subscription."
"Oh wait... no that's me too."

I'd beg I'd plead and I'd give myself a cheesy grin and a pat on the back when they'd drop one or two of the handful of overdraft fees I incurred. Wonderful news! Of course the bank knew all along, giving me back the overdraft fee enabled me to spend outside my means again and owe them more in the end. I didn't know this. I was just pleased that I had my $35.00 and that I'd "stuck it to the man". *grrrrr*Serious face*grrrr*

And then I decided to take a peak, just one peak, appease my curiousity. Not lose anymore sleep over trying to sort it all out. Time to check out my credit score. Logged on to the free site, entered in more information than I was comfortable with and there I was. Staring face to with my worst nightmare.

One, two, three, four,..... ten, eleven... twelve! I owed twelve different companies, most of whom I'd never heard of! Reading down the list $112, $254, $713, $3600... WAIT!? What? $2500!? What are those... A brief spat of hyperventilating and my eyes regained focus. Like flashes of lightning I worked the total out on a calculator.

Needless to say it added up to a significant sum.

But I knew. I wanted to know then and then I knew. I'd done my part. Continue pushing it all around in my mind, sorting and categorizing and trying to decide which gets paid first.. who gets what? How I could afford it all and how long it would take me.

And if possible I felt worse about myself. How was I to get a loan for school with credit like that? What if I had to stop going to classes because I was a major screwup and one year of fun and reckless abandon was going to haunt me for the rest of my life?

Questions, questions, questions! Nonstop. Worry, panic, fear... what makes me feel better? SPEND SPEND SPEND. More overdrafts, more begging, more hiding...

On the outside, I was physically the same person. I laughed, I played, I worked hard... On the inside, I hated myself for getting myself so in over my head.

What changed between then and now?

Priorities, responsibilities, and the determination to love myself again.

Amazing how much can change in one year. Sitting comfortably atop two debts that seemed astronomical before; while, they're still pretty big I'm biting off managable chunks and I feel good. I've changed financial institutions, politely flipping the bird from one bank to embracing a credit union that genuinely wanted to help me. Everything is manageable and nothing is critical anymore. All of my payments are on my schedule and on my terms.

While I'm not perfect and I don't have the miracle cure for your bad money bug, I can tell you that I was in a place that no person should put themselves in. And I'm surviving and in some ways thriving. And I believe in myself. I can do this.