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Debtors Anonymous (DA) – 12 Step Program

What is Debtors Anonymous?

Debtors Anonymous is a 12-step program developed for individuals who are suffering from problems due to continually incurring unsecured debt. Compulsive debting not only affects the individual’s finances and personal lifestyle, it also affects their spirituality. The fellowship of Debtors Anonymous offers spiritual solutions to help with these problems that compulsive debtors can face. Compulsive debting is a disease that can be managed and dealt with in this program when members choose to work the 12 steps.

Within the fellowship, members can work together to achieve serenity and prosperity and find solutions to stop incurring unsecured debt. Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, the program utilizes the same 12-step process, while maintaining a focus on the cessation of incurring more unsecured debts, and also provides a similar 12-promise guide that its members can see once they begin working the program.

When did Debtors Anonymous begin?

The fellowship of Debtors Anonymous has been around for many years and has survived many struggles throughout its lifetime. The program began in 1968 when John H. and several other members of Alcoholics Anonymous started discussing some of the issues they were facing regarding money. John H. wanted to figure out the causes and conditions of his debt problems, how they continued to develop and why his behaviors regarding money were so destructive.

The group was initially named the “Penny Pinchers,” later changed to the “Capital Builders,” and was finally renamed to Debtors Anonymous. The group focused on trying to resolve their issues by saving money or not spending money, but this still failed to prevent them from incurring new, unsecured debt. Looking for answers, the group continued attending more 12-step programs including Gamblers Anonymous, Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous, but still couldn’t find solutions to their problems.

Having issues keeping the group alive as members came and went, John H. continued holding meetings and by 1982, there were only 5 meetings in the world. The program struggled financially, one of the many challenges it overcame, and still remained small throughout the 1980s. Now, the program has more than 500 meetings in over 15 countries and offers hope and solutions for every member that joins.

How does Debtors Anonymous work?

Debtors Anonymous utilizes the same recovery process as many other self-help groups, focusing on the 12 steps to provide solutions to debt problems for its members. The fellowship has its own literature for members, including “12 Steps, 12 Traditions and 12 Concepts of Debtors Anonymous” and can be purchased online. On the official website, a questionnaire is available for newcomers who may be wondering if Debtors Anonymous is the right program for them.

The fellowship works because it allows members to build a support system with other individuals suffering from the same problems and try to find solutions for these issues with incurring new debts. Because the fellowship focuses on compulsive debting as a disease that only gets worse and more progressive over time, providing solutions to these problems today can help members find some peace and serenity in their lives.

Many individuals who struggle with money or debt feel like they have tried everything to get their debt under control, so the program provides some relief for those who feel like they have lost hope. Recovery stories can be found online for newcomers to see how the program works, as well as speaker stories from Fellowship Day and the World Service Conference.

Why is Debtors Anonymous effective?

Debtors Anonymous is effective because it addresses the disease of compulsive debting and provides spiritual solutions for members who are suffering from their debts and money problems. Compulsive spending is simply a symptom of the disease of debting, so once members begin to find solutions to how they can stop incurring new, unsecured debts, these symptoms will slowly begin to dissipate. Debting will begin to lose its hold over members once they have stopped incurring new debts. Instead of promising members that they will never be in debt again, Debtors Anonymous focuses on solvency, the idea of not incurring any new, unsecured debts – or any debts that are not backed up by collateral.

Once members have begun working the program and seeing its effectiveness, Debtors Anonymous offers Pressure Relief Groups/Meetings for members who have at least 90 days free of incurring new debts. These groups, which require up to 3 members, provide a place for individuals to begin writing spending plans and action plans to ensure they stay on the right path and continue working the steps towards the recovery process.

Although many of the members of Debtors Anonymous feel like they have lost hope before entering the program, newcomers can find relief once they enter the rooms of Debtors Anonymous and know that they are not alone. Finding a solution to stop incurring new debt is possible if members of the fellowship work the program and continue to seek out solutions with the support of other members.

Common Questions about Debtors Anonymous

How much does Debtors Anonymous cost?

The fellowship of Debtors Anonymous is free to join. There are no fees or dues for membership. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop incurring unsecured debts. While the group does not accept any outside contributions, they are self-supporting and rely solely on member’s contributions. Although the group has struggled financially in the past, members are never required to contribute.

How do I start a meeting?

Anyone can start a meeting of Debtors Anonymous as long as they have the desire to stop incurring unsecured debts. There is an official meeting registration form online and the program does request that all meeting information and contact information be provided, available, and up to date by June 30th of every year. There are free resources for meeting formats, information for newcomers and Debtors Anonymous readings available online.

Are meetings available online?

There are many Debtors Anonymous meetings still available face-to-face, even though some of these meeting locations have changed. All of the locations have been updated via the official website. For individuals who are unable to attend in-person meetings, telephone meetings can be found through the meeting directory page.

How do I know if I am a compulsive debtor?

Because it can be difficult for members to admit they suffer from compulsive debting or money problems, answering a short questionnaire can help newcomers decide whether or not they want to begin attending meetings. For many members, answering 8 or more questions with a yes is enough to consider their debting a problem.

  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?

12 Steps of Debtors Anonymous (DA)

1. We admitted we were powerless over debt—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to compulsive debtors, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


12 Traditions of Debtors Anonymous (DA)

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon D.A. unity.

2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority–a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for D.A. membership is a desire to stop incurring unsecured debt.

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or D.A. as a whole.

5. Each group has but one primary purpose–to carry its message to the debtor who still suffers.

6. A D.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the D.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every D.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. Debtors Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.

9. D.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Debtors Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the D.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

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