What do you expect if you attend a Debtors Anonymous meeting?
The first thing to know about DA meetings is that anyone is welcome regardless of your financial situation or personal beliefs. We are here to support each other and no one is judged on their situation or belief. Although we talk about “God” or a “Higher Power” in 12 Steps, in our literature, and in our discussions, we are not affiliated with any organized religion. You can think of “Higher Power” as the God of your faith or you can think of it as anything that you believe in. It could be a belief in yourself, the support of people around you, or the universe. It doesn’t matter.
There isn’t a formal invitation or requirement to attend a DA meeting. You simply find a meeting that is convenient for you and then just go! It can be hard at first, but once you attend your first meeting you will immediately see how you relate to others with similar issues and similar backgrounds. It’s probably a good idea to go a few minutes early to your first meeting so that you can introduce yourself, become familiar with some of the regular members, and ask any questions you may have.
When you first come to the meetings you will notice that on one of the tables there will be various DA literature that is offered for purchase including many pamphlets on specific DA topics, the official DA book A Currency of Hope, as well as other DA literature. All of the proceeds go back into our group’s literature fund so we do not make any money from the sale of these items.
Like the word Anonymous suggests, we use our first name only when we introduce ourselves or when we speak at the meetings. This ensures the privacy of DA members and makes it more comfortable to those who would otherwise not be willing to participate in the meetings.
If you are familiar with 12-Step meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Al-Anon then you are already familiar with the format of these meetings. We read from 12-Step literature and talk about the disease of compulsive debting, compulsive spending, or underearning just like dealing with the issues of alcoholism. In place of sobriety, we discuss how we can attain solvency. We find sponsors and regularly discuss our pressures and issues with them just like other 12-Step groups.
Before the meeting begins, someone volunteers to be the chairperson to lead the meeting using the meeting guide. Often times the chairperson is chosen at the beginning of the month during the business meeting that is held once a month. This person is then the chairperson each week for that month. Other than the chairperson we have a treasurer that keeps track of the group’s finances, a secretary that informs everyone about events and policies, and a General Service Representative that is someone who represents our group for the Intergroup meetings and World Service Conferences that are held annually.
Meetings typically begin with introducing ourselves using our first name only. Each person then reads a step from the 12 Steps of Debtors Anonymous. We then follow a monthly format where each week we read a chapter or section from specific DA literature or a part of a chapter from the AA book. One person reads a paragraph or two from the literature out loud and then the next person reads, and so on until a chapter or section is finished.
After we read the literature, the meeting is open for sharing. Depending on the number of people attending the meeting each person will get a set amount of time to share. This is strictly voluntary and you are not obligated to share. There is a recommended format for sharing that is passed around. This sharing guide includes talking about Pressures with the program, Endorsements of what is going well with the program, immediate Actions that we need to take, and Visions of what we would desire to do, aspire to be, or like to have. People may also choose to discuss the literature that was read or they may simply talk about a specific DA issue or step. Obviously, as a first-time attendee, you’re not obligated to share, and you can simply say you will pass and just listen to the others. One important aspect of sharing is that there is no crosstalk, meaning those of us who listen may not interrupt, comment, or give advice during sharing. This rule regarding crosstalk is important because it makes DA members feel more comfortable about sharing, the focus is completely on the person that is sharing, and no one is ever judged or criticized about the things a person shares. It also gives equal time to everyone who wants to share.
Once everyone has finished sharing, we pass a basket for anyone that is able to donate a couple of dollars to help with costs such as rent for the room and administrative costs. This is known as the 7th Tradition which is one of the 12 Traditions of DA. The 7th Tradition states “Every DA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.” We also ask if anyone wants to contribute to send a General Service Representative to the DA World Service Conference which we are planning for next year. All donations are strictly voluntary. As a newcomer or someone who doesn’t have the means to spare any money, we want you to come back because you and your recovery are more important than your money. So if you can’t contribute, it’s perfectly fine.
Once the donations are collected we then take a few minutes to go over any DA related announcements. The secretary usually gives a quick update during this time and if any other people have DA related news or information they would like to share.
Before the closing of the meeting, we each read an item or two from the 12 Promises of Debtors Anonymous and then pass it on to the next person so they can read, and so on. Finally, we turn over the sharing guide where you will see The Serenity Prayer. Everyone stands up in a circle, holds hands, and recites the prayer together.
This concludes the meeting and some people stay to ask individual questions to other members, purchase DA literature, help put away DA literature, or simply catch up with people in the group.
On the first DA meeting of every month, we hold our business meeting during the last ten minutes of the meeting. Business meetings are the forum for our self-governance with respect to format, finance, service positions, and anything else affecting the group as a whole. Once our regular meeting has concluded with The Serenity Prayer, we begin the business meeting that involves the monthly Treasurer’s report, updates from the secretary, and decisions on any new changes or events. As a newcomer, you are not obligated to stay or participate at the business meeting but you are welcome if you choose to do so.
We hope that this answers any questions you may have about the DA meetings but if you have additional questions, feel free to ask by clicking HERE to go to our Contact page.