Compulsive Spending/Debting

spend-401kcalculator-orgA number of years ago, I read Les Meserables, by Victor Hugo. The hero in this novel, Jean ValJean, is sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s children. His long odyssey begins with his inability to find a job in 18th Century France. He has a trade as a carpenter, but simply cannot find work. This incredible novel covers all the issues related to the struggles people encounter in trying to live a decent, good and moral life.

While very difficult to face, some people simply do not have enough money to live. Sometimes, jobs are scarce. Sometimes the only employment you have been able to locate pays less money than your family needs to live. Things happen. People get sick and face often horrendous medical expenses. Tragedies occur. The car needs enormous repairs. Your water heater blows up or your propane bill is more than you have.

People do what they have to do to survive. Sometimes this involves spending money you do not have. This is not an addiction, compulsive spending or debting. This is tragedy.

In compulsive spending or debting, buying things and/or borrowing money to do so becomes a drug for you. Remember, in our discussion of addictive diseases, you normally have relatives going back to your great grandparents who have varying addictions like alcoholism or gambling.

Then you find that if you spend money on things you feel better. Now everyone feels some degree of happiness when they buy a new car, dress, shirt or item they desire. It is fun to purchase new things. However, compulsive spenders feel better in a different way than most people. In this series on addiction, we have called this the allergy. You are allergic to the chemical or chemicals in your body produced by your behaviors. In the beginning of most addictions, people feel smarter, more talented, and actually have a faster reaction time to physical events.

This would be wonderful if it were not for the issue of tolerance. Unfortunately, you soon find that you need to purchase more and more items to achieve the same glow. This involves borrowing money and using credit cards, i.e., debting. Hand in hand with tolerance is progression.

Unfortunately for every addict, the amount you need to achieve your high always increases. So you need to continue spending and spending and borrowing more and more, racing to keep up with yourself and your need to feel better. Eventually, you find you need to borrow and spend just to kill the pain of your spending and debting. Against their morals and better judgment, some people begin stealing or embezzling money from their employer.

As your tolerance increases, so do the consequences you experience for your behavior. Spending money you do not have and borrowing money you cannot repay have multiple consequences in every area of your life–emotional, social, family, spiritual and legal. Your family faces stresses that create divorce and or family violence. You are hounded by your creditors day and night and are facing bankruptcy. You do not know where to turn for help and still you are driven by an inner tension to spend and borrow.

As with all addictions, you have mental defenses against your own awareness of your behavior. You deny to yourself and others the extent of your dilemma. You hide your bills and court papers. Maybe you stop answering the telephone and throw away your mail. You use any of a thousand techniques to hide the reality of your situation from yourself. One day, if you are fortunate, your ability to hide from yourself reaches the limit and your house of cards falls down.

I say fortunate because there are solutions to the mess you find yourself in as a result of compulsive spending and debting. There is a twelve step program for you. Debtors Anonymous has as it’s primary purpose: “to live without incurring any unsecured debt one day at a time and to help other compulsive debtors to achieve solvency.”

You can find meetings at: They have face-to-face, phone, and online meetings.

On their website, they have a series of 15 questions to see if your problem is compulsive spending or debting. Here are the 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?

Coaching is for people who have taken care of their active addictive disease. They are in a 12-step program, have a sponsor, spending plan, and are living a life incompatible with addiction. It’s then time to dream a bit, wish for more, and reach your potential.

Contact me if it’s time for you to dream.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

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