Debtors Anonymous: Step Two — Turn to a higher power - MoneySense

How finding a Higher Power helped me kill my debt

The Debt Diaries, Step Two: Accept that a greater power will restore my sanity


One woman’s 12-step path of recovery from debt addiction. Step Two involves believing in and finding a power greater than ourselves to lean on and restore our sanity

I grew up atheist, in a house surrounded by books. Religion was for kooks and weaklings. It was, to quote Karl Marx, the opiate of the masses. Step Two was a hard step for me to take. But again. Back to Step One. I had tried to fix this myself. All my attempts had failed. Could I be open to the idea that there was a benevolent higher power who wanted the best for me, who wanted to restore me to financial sanity?

PREVIOUS STEP: ‘I was trying to fix my pain with spending

Alex (a member of my Debtors Anonymous group and, like the others, not her real name) explains her Higher Power this way: “For me, God is in the numbers. I now have a spending plan that I developed with members of DA. If my spending plan allocates $500 for vacation, then that’s it. That’s what I get to spend. In the past, I would just say, well, I want a vacation, so I’m going, and it’s going on credit. Now, it’s simple. If God wants me to do something, then there will be money for it.”

Ruth, a nurse in New Jersey, and an Orthodox Jew, already believed in God when she came into DA. But she didn’t really check in with God about her spending. A self-confessed spending addict, Ruth spent thousands on designer clothes, bags and shoes before taking Step One. She came to believe that the same God she prayed to in synagogue would help her with her spending addiction.  “I have never believed in God that is a distant white guy with a beard,” she explains, “but now I turn to God for help with all my decisions, including financial.” How do you do this? Stay tuned for Step Three.

What I learned:

  • I could make up my own Higher Power. If I didn’t believe in God, fine, but I had to believe in something other than myself and my own cleverness. I could believe in the program, in the meetings, in my sponsor, in the Protestant God my grandparents believed in. Just not me and my own ability to “figure it out.”
  • Everyone’s concept of a higher power is different. And that’s fine. Again, doesn’t matter. Just has to be outside your own head.
  • Believing in a Higher Power didn’t make me stupid or weak. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results was crazy. I needed to believe in something bigger.
  • My Higher Power cares about money. I initially thought a Higher Power was too lofty and ethereal to care about my bank balance. But in time I realized that a benevolent Higher Power did not want to see me in financial chaos over and over again.

Tips on what to do:

  • Become open to the idea that you need help
  • Go to meetings; any 12 step will do
  • Find someone who has changed in this area using spiritual means
  • Ask them how they did it
  • Quit the debating society; have an open mind
  • Listen to new ideas and try them out; is there wisdom in new perspectives? If so it might be, gasp, from a Higher Power
  • Figure out a source of wisdom for you that is not yourself, your friend, your spouse. Something big and benevolent, and not human. For some it’s nature; regular church, traditional Judeo Christian God, or the 12-step group they attend
  • If you have a bad history with religion, write out what a benevolent higher power might look like for you. If you grew up with a punitive god, you need a forgiving one. If you grew up with an absentee one, you need a reliable, punctual one.

Jane Dough is a pseudonym. The writer has decided to remain anonymous

Read the full Debt Diaries series:

Step 1: ‘I was trying to fix my pain with spending
Step 2:  ‘My higher power cares about money’
Step 3:  ‘I surrendered my free will to finally control my debt’
Step 4: Stop blaming other people
Step 5: Admit what got you into this mess
Step 6: Why spending money makes you feel special 
Step 7: Ask a higher power to remove your defects
Step 8: Make a list of the people you’ve harmed
Step 9: Make amends to those you’ve hurt
Step 10: My money problems can’t be fixed by reading ‘The Wealthy Barber’
Step 11: How meditating helps me with my debt problem
Step 12: My urge to binge shop won’t go away