Frequently Asked Questions


I'm new. What do I do next?
If you are having problems with money and debt and think you may be a compulsive debtor, you have come to the right place. Debtors Anonymous can help you. We offer face-to-face, telephone, and internet meetings, and we suggest attending at least six meetings to have an opportunity to identify with the speakers and become familiar with DA before deciding whether this program is for you. If you identify with some or all aspects of compulsive debting, we hope you will join us on the path of recovery and find the joy, clarity, and serenity that we have found in Debtors Anonymous

What is a Pressure Relief Group?

After you have recorded your income and expenses for (preferably) 30 to 45 days, attended at least six DA Meetings and made a commitment to DA, we suggest that you ask two members of DA to meet with you in a Pressure Relief Meeting. These two DA members should have abstained from incurring unsecured debt for at least 90 days and had two Pressure Relief Meetings, and if possible they should have recovery from issues similar to yours. As the members of your Pressure Relief Group, they will help you review your situation and formulate a Spending Plan and an Action Plan.

What happens in a DA Meeting?
While formats vary from region to region and meeting to meeting, there are some common elements to all of them: a reading of the preamble, a member chairing the meeting, announcements, a collection for the meeting’s financial support, and sharing by others. Additionally, meetings may dedicate time to read the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, the Signs of Compulsive Debting, the Tools of D.A. and other literature. Usually meetings allocate time during or after a meeting on a monthly basis to hold a business meeting. Why is it important for newcomers to attend meetings regularly? We gain a sense of hope. We identify with others. We meet people who can help. DA meetings have some guidelines so everyone can feel safe and free to talk, even about uncomfortable money topics. We respect each other by using the principles of anonymity and confidentiality. For instance, we identify ourselves by first names only, and we do not repeat what is said in meetings or in private conversations between members. We also keep in mind that there is enough time for everyone. If time runs out and some of us can’t share during a meeting, we can speak with other members after the meeting or call someone on the phone later. NOTE: There is never any pressure to talk in a meeting, you don’t even have to use your real name, your anonymity is part of our name and it’s both a step and  tradition practiced in Debtors Anonymous. We like to say, What we say in meetings stays in meetings!

What is compulsive debting?
Compulsive debting is considered a disease in Debtors Anonymous. We have found that it is a disease that never gets better, only worse, as time goes on. It is a disease, progressive in its nature, which can never be cured but can be arrested.
This disease affected our vision of ourselves and of the world around us. It led us to believe that we were “not enough” – at home, at work, in social situations, in love relationships. It also led us to believe that there is not enough out there in the world for us. The disease manufactured a sense of impoverishment in all that we did and saw. In reaction to this, we withdrew into a dream world, fretted over money, and avoided responsibilities.
What are the signs of compulsive debting?
Consider these 12 signs of a compulsive debtor. If you relate to them, then Debtors Anonymous might be right for you.
  1. Being unclear about your financial situation. Not knowing account balances, monthly expenses, loan interest rates, fees, fines, or contractual obligations.
  2. Frequently “borrowing” items such as books, pens, or small amounts of money from friends and others, and failing to return them.
  3. Poor saving habits. Not planning for taxes, retirement or other non-recurring but predictable items, and then feeling surprised when they come due; a “live for today, don’t worry about tomorrow” attitude.
  4. Compulsive shopping: Being unable to pass up a “good deal”; making impulsive purchases; leaving price tags on clothes so they can be returned; not using items you’ve purchased.
  5. Difficulty in meeting basic financial or personal obligations, and/or an inordinate sense of accomplishment when such obligations are met.
  6. A different feeling when buying things on credit than when paying cash, a feeling of being in the club, of being accepted, of being grown up.
  7. Living in chaos and drama around money: Using one credit card to pay another; bouncing checks; always having a financial crisis to contend with.
  8. A tendency to live on the edge: Living paycheck to paycheck; taking risks with health and car insurance coverage; writing checks hoping money will appear to cover them.
  9. Unwarranted inhibition and embarrassment in what should be a normal discussion of money.
  10. Overworking or underearning: Working extra hours to earn money to pay creditors; using time inefficiently; taking jobs below your skill and education level.
  11. An unwillingness to care for and value yourself: Living in self-imposed deprivation; denying your basic needs in order to pay your creditors.
  12. A feeling or hope that someone will take care of you if necessary, so that you won’t really get into serious financial trouble, that there will always be someone you can turn to.

Family & Friends

What are the DA Tools members use to arrest Compulsive Debting?

The Twelve Tools of Debtors Anonymous Recovery from compulsive debting begins when we stop incurring new, unsecured debt, one day at a time. (Unsecured debt is any debt that is not backed up by some form of collateral, such as a house or other asset.) We attain a daily reprieve from compulsive debting by practicing the Twelve Steps and by using the following Tools.

1. Meetings: We attend meetings at which we share our experience, strength, and hope with one another. Unless we give to newcomers what we have received from D.A., we cannot keep it ourselves.
2. Record Maintenance: We maintain records of our daily income and expenses, of our savings, and of the retirement of any portions of our outstanding debts.
3. Sponsorship: We have found it essential to our recovery to have a sponsor and to be a sponsor. A sponsor is a recovering debtor who guides us through the Twelve Steps and shares his or her own experience, strength, and recovery.
4. Pressure Relief Groups and Pressure Relief Meetings:
After we have gained some familiarity with the D.A. program, we organize Pressure Relief Groups consisting of ourselves and two other recovering debtors who have not incurred unsecured debt for at least 90 days and who usually have more experience in the program. The group meets in a series of Pressure Relief Meetings to review our financial situation. These meetings typically result in the formulation of a spending plan and an action plan.
5. Spending Plan: The spending plan puts our needs first and gives us clarity and balance in our spending. It includes categories for income, spending, debt payment, and savings (to help us build cash reserves, however humble). The income plan helps us focus on increasing our income. The debt payment category guides us in making realistic payment arrangements without depriving ourselves. Savings can include prudent reserve, retirement, and special purchases.
6. Action Plan: With the help of our Pressure Relief Group, we develop a list of specific actions for resolving our debts, improving our financial situation, and achieving our goals without incurring unsecured debt.
7. The Telephone and the Internet: We maintain frequent contact with other D.A. members by using the telephone, email, and other forms of communication. We make a point of talking to other D.A. members before and after taking difficult steps in our recovery.
8. D.A. and A.A. Literature: We study the literature of Debtors Anonymous and of Alcoholics Anonymous to strengthen our understanding of compulsive disease and of recovery from compulsive debting.
9. Awareness: We maintain awareness of the danger of compulsive debt by taking note of bank, loan company, and credit card advertising and their effects on us. We also remain aware of our personal finances in order to avoid vagueness, which can lead to compulsive debting or spending.
10. Business Meetings: We attend business meetings that are held monthly. Many of us have long harbored feelings that “business” was not a part of our lives but for others more qualified. Yet participation in running our own program teaches us how our organization operates and also helps us to become responsible for our own recovery.
11. Service: We perform service at every level: personal, meeting, Intergroup, and World Service. Service is vital to our recovery. Only through service can we give to others what so generously has been given to us.
12. Anonymity: We practice anonymity, which allows us freedom of expression by assuring us that what we say at meetings or to other DA members at any time will not be repeated.
My partner struggles with their finances, can DA help them?
Debtors Anonymous offers hope for people whose use of unsecured debt causes problems and suffering in their lives and the lives of others. But not all people want to become free of compulsive debting. We find people may need DA but wanting recovery is the most promising beginning.
If your loved one is having problems with money and debt and they think they may be a compulsive debtor, we believe DA can help.

We offer face-to-face, telephone, and internet meetings, and we suggest they attend at least six meetings to have an opportunity to identify with the speakers and become familiar with DA to learn more about this program. 

If your loved one or friend can identify with some or all aspects of compulsive debting, we hope they will join us on the path of recovery and find the joy, clarity, and serenity that we have found in Debtors Anonymous. You can find more information and resources offered by the DA worldwide organization. 

How do I support my loved one?
There is no magic formula that enables you to help someone stop—or cut back—on their addictive behavior. Debting like any addiction is a complex problem, with many related issues.

Though not affiliated with DA, has helped many friends and loved ones of those trapped in compulsive behaviors. Perhaps they can help you learn how to cope with the challenges of someone else’s addictive behavior. To learn more, click here!
What is Solvency in DA?
Solvency, the primary purpose of Debtors Anonymous, is the practice of not incurring any new unsecured debt one day at a time and carry the message to the newcomer who may be suffering with the disease of compulsive debting. Unsecured debt is any form of debt that is not backed up by collateral.


I'm a news reporter, how can I do a story on Debtors Anonymous?

In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience with the newcomer, and to reach out to other debtors.

The purpose of this page is to collect information from DA members currently doing Public Information (PI) service in our region. Our hope is that this sharing of PI service information will provide simple tools and ideas that will help other members take action in carrying the message of D.A.

Many of us who have done PI service find that our own recovery is strengthened by taking the simple actions you will find suggested. To see the list of reported PI activities, click here. For more complex PI info and ideas, you may want to download DA’s PI Starter Kit or PI Manual.

I'm a therapist. How do I refer clients to DA?

Some professionals suggest DA to their clients and offer them the address of this website. The potential newcomer can then look through the times and locations of DA meetings in our area. You may also contact the General Service Office of Debtors Anonymous.

Many helping professionals have found the following World Services, Inc. publications helpful in their work with debtors. To obtain copies, contact the General Service Office or members of the Northwest DA Intergroup  Please see our contact page.

Here are DA titles you may find informative — The Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions, and Twelve Concepts of Debtors Anonymous (Thirty-Six Principles of Recovery)A Currency of Hope (2nd edition); the Pressure Relief Groups and Pressure Relief Meetings pamphlet; and the Sponsorship pamphlet, available as a free download.  

You will find other free DA literature here

I'm a bankruptcy attorney, can DA serve my client?

Referrals from Courts and Treatment Facilities
Today numerous DA members come to us from court programs and counseling services. Some arrive voluntarily, others do not. DA does not discriminate against any prospective member. Who made the referral to DA is not what interests us … it is the compulsive debtor who elicits our concern.

Sometimes a court asks for proof of attendance at DA meetings. Some groups, with the consent of the prospective member, have the DA group secretary sign or initial a slip that has been furnished by the court. Other groups cooperate in different ways. There is no set procedure. The nature and extent of any group’s involvement in this process are entirely up to the individual group.

What DA Does NOT Do

DA does not keep attendance records or case histories, engage in or sponsor research, affiliate with “councils” or social agencies (although DA members, groups, and service officers cooperate with them), offer religious services, provide housing, food, clothing, jobs, money, or other social services, provide domestic or vocational counseling, provide letters of reference to parole boards, lawyers, court officials, or social agencies.