Bouncing Back From Bankruptcy

dw_piggy_recoveryAllison is a pseudonym for a DailyWorth reader who shared her story of bk recovery.

I remember the day I went bankrupt. It was the moment my debt finally outweighed my shame. I'm bipolar, and one of the trademark signs of being manic is excessive spending. When I was switching medications in the fall of 2003, I went on a wee shopping spree.

Buyer's remorse
Before I knew it, I had $38,000 in credit card debt: I had bought plane tickets for myself and friends, a Vespa scooter, designer clothes, electronics, and leased a BMW.

To make a very long story short, months later I found myself weeping as I left a courtroom, after a judge officially declared me bankrupt.

But while filing Chapter 7 erased my debts, it has taken me years to recover, financially and emotionally.

An upward battle
The temptation to spend is always there. If I let myself, I could get in the same situation again. So I have ONE credit card with a $300 spending limit. I charge one small thing each month and pay it off in order to re-establish my credit. My credit score is 610 now—after seven years of building it back up.

With the help of my therapist, I'm stabilized on my meds and I've learned to cope with the temptation to spend and—learned to save.

I managed to stash money away in a bank account that was located in another state. It was inconvenient—but that was the point. Having to go that extra step to withdraw money gave me pause to remember the situation I had been in. Within a few years, I saved $25,000.

More than money
Strange to say, the post-bankruptcy process has made me appreciate all the things in my life that don't cost anything—family, friends, and my health. I have less of a need for material possessions; l have "zen-ified" my life.

I had bought and bought and bought so many "things" to make me happy, and they didn't make me happy at all. They made me miserable. Now, I think twice before I buy anything. I research. I ask myself if I really NEED it, or if it is just a thing to soothe me in the moment.

Sure, I pamper myself—but I am more likely to take a long walk or make an awesome dinner than spend on material possessions. And spend time with those I love. Not spending takes creativity and willpower, but trust me, it's worth it!

What to do if you're in over your head:

  • Call the ACCC (non-profit credit COUNSELORS, not CONSOLIDATORS) and see if they can get your monthly payment down to a reasonable amount: 1-800-769-3571
  • Confide in someone—you'll need moral support
  • Go to the library (or bookstore) and read "Bankruptcy for Dummies". Take notes.
  • Contact your local Bar Association, if you have one. Many hold free clinics for people who need bankruptcy advice.
  • Read the DailyWorth Debt Diet series.