Under-Earning As An Addiction

One day this past week, I listened five times to talk #8 from Underearners Anonymous. Every time I listened, I felt like I shed a layer of defensiveness and denial.

Pam: My sponsor reminds me that we’re either channeling our Higher Power or we’re channeling the disease. Either channeling the solution or the disease. Either channeling God or the disease.

I’ve been in 12 Step programs for some time. I find this disease cunning, baffling and power. It keeps me in bondage to fear, desperation and hopelessness. The choice I have is to realize this bondage and to turn this over to my Higher Power and allow better operating procedures to come through.

Every one of the symptoms was operating with the volume cranked up.

1. Time Indifference – We put off what must be done and do not use our time to support our own vision and further our own goals.

2. Idea Deflection –We compulsively reject ideas that could expand our lives or careers, and increase our profitability.

3. Compulsive Need to Prove – Although we have demonstrated competence in our jobs or business, we are driven by a need to re-prove our worth and value.

4. Clinging to Useless Possessions – We hold onto possessions that no longer serve our needs, such as threadbare clothing or broken appliances.

5. Exertion/Exhaustion – We habitually overwork, become exhausted, then under-work or cease work completely.

6. Giving Away Our Time – We compulsively volunteer for various causes, or give away our services without charge, when there is no clear benefit.

7. Undervaluing and Under-pricing – We undervalue our abilities and services and fear asking for increases in compensation or for what the market will bear.

8. Isolation – We choose to work alone when it might serve us much better to have co-workers, associates, or employees.

9. Physical Ailments – Sometimes, out of fear of being larger or exposed, we experience physical ailments.

10. Misplaced Guilt or Shame – We feel uneasy when asking for or being given what we need or what we are owed.

11. Not Following Up – We do not follow up on opportunities, leads, or jobs that could be profitable. We begin many projects and tasks but often do not complete them.

12. Stability Boredom – We create unnecessary conflict with co-workers, supervisors and clients, generating problems that result in financial distress.

It was really about deflecting realizing dreams, about being fully myself, about allowing myself to be adequately compensated…

As I got into my 50s, there was an enormous feeling of utility. I don’t have that much time left. What can I do? It was like the parting of the heavens to even hear about this program. I was in the other money program on and off (Debtors Anonymous).

When I first heard the symptoms of underearning, I felt sick to my stomach.

We come in in tremendous pain. It is important to be as gentle and loving to yourself. If I listen to my disease, I will continue to whip myself unmercifully. I find that some of the tough love approaches, because they are so black and white, they are appealing, but as time goes on… I’m damaged. To recover, I need a sense that this is a place I can trust, I can love, let in my Higher Power, and let in the love and caring of other people in the program. It is critical that I treat myself with love and compassion during this journey. I don’t like where I am and I have been unable despite my best efforts to stop it.

There are so many things we can do in the program, it’s unnerving. Early on, an old timer asked me for my goals. I got confused and he said, ‘Your first goal is to become happy, joyous and free. That’s all you need to be concerned about. And the way you become happy, joyous and free is to work the steps.’

The tools we have are wonderful but the real change comes from doing the step work, allowing ourselves to surrender, cleaning house, and it doesn’t matter how many times we have done it…

One of the biggest gifts of my recovery in this program is to have shame removed. Shame was interwoven in so many of my behaviors. That came out from doing a definite inventory and working steps six and seven.

In my other programs, I was able to have recovery and still compartmentalize God in certain aspects of my life. With this program, I no longer compartmentalize. I have my Higher Power operating at all times. Everything I do is up for looking at at night.

I’ve been looking at — what does a rich life look for me?

Was my Higher Power big enough for me today? When I get in a fear place, I think nothing can help me and then I remember, I have a Higher Power big enough to help me with this.

Another question I ask myself — was I willing to allow prosperity today? What did I feel good about what I did today? Did I laugh or dance or sing today, or I hope all three? That’s my best barometer for how my life is.

A great way to get started is to have an action partner. When I was getting started, we each wrote a paragraph on how one of the symptoms was operating in our life and each day read it to each other.

I find it helpful to have a daily check-in point and to be clear about where I wanted help. One of my biggest character defects is not following through. One way for me to follow through is to call my action partner every day. I have two action partners I talk to every day about my plans for the day and accounting for what I did the day before.

I needed to stay away from the goals pages until I had done the step work. I found the goals pages to be daunting and scary. If I started to work with what my goals were, I got quickly into my brain and ego and fear. I have never been able to solve this disease on my own but I continue to try.

I am in a goals group now. It is a gentle group but still showing up on a weekly basis.

Part of the brilliance of the 12-step process is to focus on today. When I look into the future, it brings the fear back. It is critical for me to remind myself that I have a daily reprieve from my illness. That brings me back to talking to my action partner about what are the baby steps I can take today.

It was 500 miles into the forest. It will be 500 miles out. It won’t be quick. I want a deep sustained path, walking with others on this path. I need to focus on what are my right actions for today.

My sponsor suggested that I write a letter to myself one year out in the future, looking back, and writing a letter of encouragement to myself at that time.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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