Living Simply

Live simply, so that others can simply live. ~ Pema Chodron

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned in AA was the concept of prudent reserve. I came into the program heavily in debt, with 2 bankruptcies, and I could not rub two nickels together to make a dime! I had learned my concepts of spending from an alcoholic father who would blow all his earnings and live two paychecks ahead of his earnings. It was either feast or famine in our home. I remember if one bank “overcharged” him for bad checks, he would go to the other bank in town, and start all over.

So, I took that same attitude with me when I left home. It did not pan out all that well. I remember trying to raise my son on little to nothing. For the last two weeks of each month, we had to decide between peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and soup or potatoes, carrots, and onions in a very meat lean stew and crackers. My son only had one pair of shoes each school year. Am I proud of this? Of course not. It took a heart wrenching amends to him that I had placed him in harm’s way and did not provide as best I could. I do believe what Maya Angelou said, “You only know what you know. When you learn better, you can do better”. That sounds a whole lot nicer than self-blame or shame.

My sponsor taught me to set aside a little bit each week, for a slush fund for emergencies, much like we do in our meetings. At first, I thought $300.00 was substantial, until I started experiencing the relief of having a great deal more tucked aside. I got rid of all credit cards, paid only in cash, and stopped ordering stuff via mail/online. I still look through the ads, but I set the sale brochures and pictures on the table. If at the end of the month, I still feel I need something, I give myself permission to buy it locally, thereby saving on shipping. If I do not have the cash, I do not need it. If I do buy one thing, I take two things out of my house. The life of being clutter free and cash only, and living within my means is a symbol of living simply, so that others can simply live. Living freely is recovery to me.





Prudent Reserve

Every group ought to be self supporting, declining outside contributions.

~ AA 12 traditions 

This is one of my favorite traditions because it has been so liberating to apply this in my personal life. When I first came into the programs, I was deeply in debt, living 2 paychecks behind, and playing beat the bank and con the creditors games. I spent a good deal of time making up reasons why I could not pay the bill or why once again, I had more than 10 bad checks to pay off each month. If the bank confronted me or “unfairly” overcharged me for bad checks, I would stomp out and go down the street and start up an account with another bank.

It took a very strong and kind sponsor to teach me a new way of acting on life that I have used for over 20 years:

  1. Pay off all debts.
  2. Create no new debt.
  3. Put something into savings each month in a bank outside of town.
  4. Get rid of all credit cards, checking accounts, and credit/debit cards.
  5. Live on 1/3 of my income, purge unused things, downsize, and live simply so that others can simply live.                                                                                                          Life has never been better. It feels good to sleep unfettered by money nightmares.   Living on a cash only basis gives me freedom from surprises at the end of the month. And, when there is an emergency repair or illness, there is a prudent reserve to draw from. Tradition 7 works when you work it.