Alcoholics entering a life of sobriety are morally and spiritually bankrupt. In addition, they are usually in pretty bad shape financially. When a person's life is controlled by an addiction, it is hard to stay financially sound. Active alcoholics tend to burn through a lot of money on divorce, lawyers, legal problems and body work on their cars.

The Promises in AA's Big Book tell us that "Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us". It does not say anything about getting rich or even of being financially sound, but we will no longer have all of the financial fears we used to live with. It has been my personal experience as well as that of countless other recovering alcoholics that I have witnessed that once a person starts living a life of sobriety and doing the next right thing, a person's financial affairs stabilize over time.

I keep a shoe box tucked in the back of my filing cabinet. Last weekend, I pulled out this box as a reminder of where I was financially 11 years ago next month. This box is where I accumulated my collection agency notifications and other overdue bills when I was still drinking. I kept all of them because I figured that if I ever got sober, I would have to take care of these debts. I just did not know if I was going to die, got to jail or get sober first.

Among the overdue debts that I had at the time was: $20,000 judgment from an car wreck, $4,000 credit card debt that was in collections, $1500 owed to my parents for a car I was driving but had not made the promised payments in about a year, $600 hospital bill that was about 2 years old, $200 phone bill and miscellaneous smaller amounts. This was all insurmountable debt for me when I was drinking and hopping from job to job.

By the end of my drinking, I could not make it to work five days in a row. I was staying with friends, the backseat of my car and occasionally at my parents. All of my belongings were in a friend's shed. I guess I was homeless, but did not realize it at the time.

Once I turned to Alcoholics Anonymous and actually listened to them and did what was asked of me, every aspect my life began to change. I began working in a factory for minimum wage within about a month of starting this new life. I needed the structure in my life and had to gain the self confidence that I could hold a job before I could try for a better paying job in my field. I also was not sure if this whole sobriety thing was going to last and did not want to burn any more bridges in my field of work.

I had moved back into my parents house at 32 years old. As soon as I got my first paycheck, I formed a plan to start repaying my financial debts. I made a list of all of my debts and started making small payments each week to the smallest of these debts. Twenty dollars to this one and thirty dollars to that one. I soon found myself checking some of these debts off my list. An accountant would tell you to determine the interest rate of each debt and start paying the one with the highest interest rate. For me, I needed the reinforcement of being able to reduce the number of creditors. I also was not yet in a position to tackle the largest of my debts in any meaningful way.

By the time I was six months sober, I had gotten a job back in the field of work for which I had gone to college. I was now ready to start on the largest of my debts - the $20,000 from the car wreck. It was one of the hardest phone calls I have ever made when I called the law firm representing the people that I had not made one payment to in over a year since I received the debt notice. I was able to work out a payment plan with them. It took about seven and a half years to pay it off, but that debt is long behind me now.

I write this article as a reminder of where I was and where I could be again if I one day decide to go back to drinking. I also hope that by sharing my experience, someone new in sobriety reads this and sees that they too can get out from under what seems like insurmountable debt.

One day at a time.....