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by Dana George | Updated July 21, 2021 - First published on Jan. 3, 2020
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Debt impacts more than your bank account. It can also make you physically ill. Debtors Anonymous can help.
Debt is a serious problem for Americans. By the end of the first quarter of 2019, total public and private sector debt in the U.S. amounted to a whopping $70 trillion. But statistics fail to tell the stories of everyday people who are crushed by the weight of personal debt, people we know and care about.
You may realize that your debt has gotten out of hand and you need help, or you may wonder if you're quickly approaching that point. That's where Debtors Anonymous comes in.
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Debtors Anonymous is a 12-step program that gives guidance on how to get out of debt and take control of your finances. It also provides a safe space (either physical or virtual) for talking about your debt issues with other people who are in similar situations.
Debtors Anonymous was born out of an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting in 1968. As with other 12-step programs, the first step is to admit powerlessness over debt. You are encouraged to take specific actions to decrease debt, including monitoring your finances and keeping detailed financial records. Once you have a clear picture of your spending habits, you can develop healthier habits to take their place. Debtors Anonymous can also help you discover ways to maintain your quality of life while paying off debt.
Although we don't know how many people attend Debtors Anonymous meetings, we do know that there are more than 500 registered meetings scattered throughout more than 15 countries. Meetings are held in person and online.
Doing anything for the first time can be nerve-racking. The first thing you can expect once you commit to attending a Debtors Anonymous meeting is to feel anxious. After all, you're entering a room full of people who immediately know you have a problem. The balm here is that each person in the room has the same problem and understands what you're going through. Here's what else you can expect:
To find a Debtors Anonymous meeting near you, visit their website. You'll be asked to type in your zip code and offered a list of meetings in your area.
If you're crunched for time, unable to leave home, or not quite ready to meet other people face-to-face, Debtors Anonymous offers online meetings. Their website walks you through how to get started. Like live meetings, you will hear other people's stories and learn more about what goes into getting into debt and how to reverse the process.
If you're in too deep, you don't need anyone telling you what you feel. Still, it's important to understand the way debt hurts more than your bank account.
A report in the January 2016 edition of Psychology Science found a correlation between unemployment and the number of over-the-counter painkillers purchased. Financial concerns not only hurt your bank account and credit report, the weight of those concerns also causes physical pain. Researchers found that simply thinking about financial insecurity is enough to increase pain. Here are some of the other unpleasant side effects of living with debt:
Debt can be a tool or a weapon. We can use it to move us forward in life (as long as we responsibly pay off personal loans and other debt), or we can use it to kneecap our financial future. These are the signs of compulsive debt accumulation, and they could be clues that you need help, according to Debt.org:
You don't have to be drowning in debt to be welcomed at a Debtors Anonymous meeting. They are for anyone who wants to gain control over their spending and debt habits. If you're still able to pay your bills but are worried about the direction you're headed, Debtors Anonymous is a safe place to begin.
Once you have control over your debt, you'll keep working on those steps one day at a time. The goal is to achieve and maintain financial solvency in order to lead the healthiest life possible.
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