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4 Hours Gone. 2 Stinkin’ Bills Paid.

I need to pay my bills. I want to pay my bills. But actually paying my bills is almost always a process fraught with confusion, frustration, and exhaustion. Debtors Anonymous has helped me enormously — to stay back from the edge, and to manage my ADHD symptoms.

I am a member of Debtors Anonymous and I have attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD). It’s taken me years (and not a small amount of self-analysis) to arrive at a place where I can say this without cringing. I am not perfect, and I’m working on it — which is better than the alternative. I should know because I wholeheartedly did not work on it for most of my life.

Let me tell you about a typical Saturday from those days.

On my kitchen counter was a huge stack of mail, which I loosely organized into stacks of bills and not-bills. One day in the week, I went through and opened them. In the process, I might find the overdue DMV notice that I’d been anxious about for months, and have no clue how it got past me. I might heave a sigh of relief that no smog test was required, and set it aside.

One day, I stumbled across an overdue utility bill and gaped at the amount due, sure I had paid this one. I found the checkbook register indicating I had written a check for it. Everything in my life is on autopay except for my rent and this bill, which I pay manually to prove that I can write checks in a timely fashion. Who am I kidding?

I was still worried about the utility bill so I went online, and could find no trace of the check in my account. So apparently, I didn’t mail it. Sigh. I have a problem with not mailing checks. An undercurrent of subtle anxiety about not having enough money makes me hate to part with it, but really? Not mailing a check? That’s bad even for me.

Also, I found several notices from the hospital, one for a lab test, the other for an emergency-room visit on my birthday, which totaled $75. Not bad, but they sure sent out a bunch of bills in a short time, plus a phone call I didn’t return.

[Self-Test: Could You Have Adult ADHD / ADD?]

At least the AAA bill was not overdue. And the AARP renewal was not urgent; I’d been meaning to do that for months.

That night, I went to my Debtors Anonymous meeting. But it turns out there wasn’t one; I had missed the announcement the week before, but I met up with someone else who missed the announcement, and we had a great time. Afterward, I headed home to write checks for the few bills I have. It would take 20 minutes tops, I told myself.

I reach in my purse to get the checkbook. I got it at a garage sale for $2. The lining is thin and satiny, and I wasn’t going to start using the purse until I fixed the bottom seam. So I sit down right then and hand sew the bottom seam, but the fabric is so thin I’m going to have to create a whole new lining anyway.

Then I see the t-shirt my husband asked me to mend weeks ago. It’s a beautiful, thin cotton long-sleeved knit with a hole along the seam. The ‘new Levon’ does not wear clothes with holes. I’ve been putting if off because I don’t love mending, but I believe in frugality, so OK. I try fixing it, but the fabric is so gone that sewing it makes more holes. After some discussion with my husband, we decide it is a great soft rag for cleaning silver maybe.

Wow, what I won’t do to avoid writing a check.

[Free Resource: 19 Ways to Meet Deadlines and Get Things Done]

I return to the checkbook to find we’re down to the final check. I need the next book, and a discussion ensues about how many checks we’ve used in two years, and when we likely need to order more.

Then I decide to pay online. Which, of course, requires me to set up an online account because I’ve never done that. Whew. Then I decide to pay AAA online as well. I start to set up the account, get bogged down, and quit. I’m tired and very hungry so I go make us all grilled cheese and tomato soup. It occurs to me then that the only check I can write today is for my housekeeper because

  1. she is right there
  2. isn’t going to leave without it
  3. I like her a lot and know that she needs it

Nap time.

It took HOURS to pay one bill and write the second check.

It hasn’t always been this bad; it has been worse. I have actually received shut-off notices. I ‘lose’ the bills. I pay them when I get the envelope that has the red ink on it and then all the other envelopes miraculously appear.

I have ADHD, so I get regularly sidetracked, lose focus, and dither. I have learned in Debtors Anonymous that most people there get regularly sidetracked, lose focus, and dither. They also experience emotional issues around spending money, feelings of not amounting to enough, built-up resentments that have nothing to do with the current task but are impending it anyway, and so on.

One of the DA tools that helps me now is ‘book-ending,’ where I call or text someone in my group to say I’m going to write 2 checks and should be done in 15 minutes. Then, at the end of 15 minutes, I text or call again and state that it is done. The pressure of being accountable to someone else really helps to stay focused on a task and the other person gives positive feedback, which is helpful too.

DA also taught me to call my sponsor and discuss what is holding me back. I can’t always remember our discussions, but she is very good at reminding me what we have talked about relating to this and give me a great idea or some other form of support. Action buddies are helpful, too. I sometimes pair up with someone and set goals for the day or week, and then we are accountable to each other on our next phone call.

If these solutions sound like they might help, Debtors Anonymous (DA) offers an online self-test and strategies that may help.

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