Spending addict who wasted £150k and attempted suicide is saved by Stevenage support group
- Credit: Archant
A man who attempted suicide when his addiction to spending money led him to waste £150,000 on things he didn’t need and saw his debts spiral out of control is raising awareness of a support group that helped turn his life around.
With Christmas just around the corner, people often feel pressured to spend well beyond their means on presents - perhaps so their children can be as trendy as their peers - but Mike, a member of Debtors Anonymous in Stevenage, is keen to tell his story to warn people not to fall into that trap.
He said: "I started work straight from school when I was 16 and as soon as I started earning money there was something in me that wanted to immediately spend it all.
"I would buy gadgets, and over the years I racked up loans and credit cards to buy these things - things I didn't need but I felt compelled to buy.
"It was to fill a hole. I was adopted when I was born and I felt like I didn't fit in even in my own family, although my parents were very supportive.
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"I isolated myself straight from school and felt quite lonely. These gadgets gave me something to do. I called myself Gadget Boy and people were attracted to me, but for the wrong reasons.
"To order something, wait for a package to arrive and then receive it - it's a buzz I imagine people on drugs get. It lasts five or 10 minutes and then you need to fill that hole again.
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"I reckon I wasted £150,000 over the years and was £20,000 in debt at any one time."
The compulsive spending and consequential debt affected Mike's relationship with his parents, and later with his wife.
He explained: "It started putting a strain on our relationship because there were always secrets. It got to a point that our marriage was on the line. That was my lowest point and it led to an attempted suicide three or four years ago.
"Even after that, I started disappearing because I couldn't handle talking about money.
"I realised something had to change and it had to come from me. That's when I found Debtors Anonymous, through a simple Google search."
Debtors Anonymous is a worldwide organisation which uses a 12-step programme to help people who want to stop incurring unsecured debt. The programme includes regular meetings and enourages careful record-keeping and monitoring of finances.
Mike has been attending a Debtors Anonymous group in Stevenage for two-and-a-half years and is now debt-free.
He said: "The support I have received from them is just something I can't describe. Being in a group of like-minded people makes you realise that you are not alone.
"In today's society, everyone is in debt of some kind and I thought I was like everybody else, but the difference is that my situation was unmanageable.
"My wife and parents didn't understand it was an addiction and neither did I. My parents helped me out so much by paying off some of my debts - and I paid them back - but the desire to change needs to come from the individual. With any addiction, it's about acknowledging it and finding a way to believe in yourself again and love yourself again. I don't have any shame about my past now, but I don't feel like I will ever leave the group. It keeps me where I am and helps others to know there is a way out.
"Every day I write down what I spend, and I have removed online retail apps from my phone."
Mike says pre-approved loans, one-click online ordering and contactless payments are making it easier than ever for people's debt to mount up and he is warning people to beware.
He said: "I personally know people who should be in a Debtors Anonymous group, so it's about raising awareness.
"Debtors Anonymous has groups around the country, but not enough. I want to raise enough awareness so we can open more groups."
As Mike has proved, it can be difficult for compulsive debtors to recognise their addiction. Perhaps you could ask yourself: Do your debts make your home life unhappy, distract you from your daily work or cause you to think less of yourself? Have you ever given false information to gain credit, or made unrealistic promises to creditors?
To get in touch with Debtors Anonymous, call 0207 1177 533 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit debtorsanonymous.org.uk
If you need someone to talk to you can call Samaritans for free at any time, 24 hours a day and from any phone, on 116 123.