Before I start I need to say that this is not an advice article, this is purely my story when it comes to debt and if you are here because you have debt I urge you to seek professional help from charities and organisations who have experts in dealing with debt. At the same time if you are feeling that there is no way out from this financial mess and you need someone to talk to please call the Samaritans. Having survived being over £50,000 in debt trust me there is hope but the best thing you can do is to ask for help.
Some say the Bible is irrelevant but for me it is not only the word of God but it is full of wisdom such as 1 Timothy 6:10 which for me one of the most spot on verses in the Bible especially when it mentions “many griefs”. I know because having foolishly put myself in debt I have suffered those “many griefs” which wanting wealth caused. And trust me it was foolishly because whilst there are many reasons people end up in debt, sometimes not of their own causing, I ended up in debt because I got addicted to gambling; yes I was a gambling addict, a fool’s game for the foolish.
But as I say, God can take the bad times, the mistakes and the things which once you might have felt defined you as a failure and use them for good. As such I have realised some things and learned some things through having gone through debt myself which I am going to share with you.
1) Running with the Ostriches
So my debt issues were of my own causing having turned to gambling not only because I was trying to live a life I couldn’t afford but because of self esteem issues. As such my story is in many respects quite typical as it started with one credit card which became many as every time I maxed one out I would be applying for another, desperate to find one as what I was earning would be wiped out covering my overdraft. And credit cards became bank loans and then a huge loan which I got to pay of all my debts and consolidate into one. Great idea except instead of destroying the paid off credit cards I of course went and maxed them out.
Eventually like a tap being turned off my flow of money options ran out and facing credit card bills, loan repayments along with reminders landing on the door mat pretty much daily. This then led to phone calls as they tried to speak to me which then escalated to debt collection agencies sending some strongly worded letters. All the time this was going on I was running away, and like an ostrich burying my head in the sand hoping for a miracle for it all to go away. There were many nights I chose not to return home because my life was in a mess and to be honest I couldn’t see a way out of it.
Whilst you might not want to hear what I have to tell you, you need to hear it because running away from financial problems only makes them worse and the longer this goes on the worse the situation can get. But the minute I sat down, in fairness was forced to sit down, and really face up to the financial mess I was in, having asked for help the better things started to become even though nothing had changed as it meant I was no longer facing this issue on my own and having to try and hide it.
2) Confronting the Beast
You know how they say when you try to pull a plaster off slowly it is worse, well when I confronted my debt it was like pulling off a never ending plaster. I had to sit down with all the bills I had ignored, all the unopened demand letters as well as those phone calls which would be daily. I had to write down who the original debt was for, who was now handling it, how much it was for and what interest was being paid. I also had to sit down and work out exactly how much I needed to get through each month, only essentials, and then with what I had left allocate it to each debt. It was a horribly humbling experience but the start of things getting better. And I will say again there are charities and professional organisations which can help you do this and whilst I had support elsewhere I suggest you seek their advice.
Ironically whilst t was the start of things getting better my situation got worse as whilst I was confronting my financial mess I ended up having to quit work due to ill health and so ended up on benefits for a while. Fortunately it was during this period I met someone who knew how to deal with debt collection agencies and credit card companies having helped others in similar situations. And so I negotiated with each of those I owed money to freeze the interest and to pay a minimum payment on agreement that when I cleared one debt the money I used for that payment would be used to clear the next. Yes it took me many years to pay off my debts, often finding ways to take advantage of early repayment deals to knock off sometimes thousands of what I owed; I did eventually reach a day of becoming debt free, crack out the bubbly and celebration cake. And there is something which is quite encouraging when you start to see the total of your debt come down and the number of debtors get lower with a snowball effect.