How to Overcome Financial Shame When Buying a House

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How to Overcome Financial Shame When Buying a House
How to Overcome Financial Shame When Buying a House


The underwriter called and left a voice mail about items on my credit that needed clarification on in order to move forward. They asked about my student loans and my work history and why I was hospitalized at the end of 2017, and how that affected my ability to work. They asked intrusive, uncomfortable questions that made my fight or flight kick in hard and I was either going to tell them what I thought of their nosy behavior and just where they could shove it, or I was going to run.

In recovery one of the lessons I’ve learned, or you could say, one of the tools I have in my tool box is what so many before me have pointed out as, “contrary action.” Doing the opposite of what you would normally do. In my active alcoholism at my worst, I am a liar and a cheat. I manipulate and I push and pull and I want everything the way I want it because everything is always and has always been about me.

Previously, I would have wanted to buy this house so bad, blindly and compulsively a swirling dust devil towards my goals. Without thought or concern for others. Borrowing money and falsifying history and documents to make myself appear more desirable to the loan officers. Begging and pleading. Using personality and charm. That is me in active alcoholism.

Me in recovery is honest and upfront. Who knew, right? I called a friend of mine (a sober friend I might add) that recently went through the home buying process on her second Southern California home, and I told her my fears. I’m not going to be approved? What if my work history has too many holes from times when I was too hungover to make it to the job? What if I am approved and I’m doing the wrong thing and I can’t possibly do this because I’m incapable and undeserving?

My friend simple stated, “So what if you do.” She asked, what are you actually going to lose? Well, nothing actually. I have an apartment that I rent in Long Beach, CA and it’s walking distance to a job I’ve held for quite some time that I enjoy and am good at. I have savings and am building my credit history. I am paying off debts and making amends and my life is quite stable and peaceful. Buying this house is only something I want to do as a fulfillment to a lifelong dream. It does feel like a step in the right direction as far as goals and dreams go. I have visions of drinking coffee on the porch while watching the sunrise over Joshua Tree. Sitting under the stars in my backyard and building an outdoor shower. Gardening, and home projects. Guests and family enjoying the space I own. But am I losing anything if I don’t get approved? No, I’m not.

I mean sure, I would be losing this one particular house, this one gorgeous little perfect for me house, but there are others.

Here we go. The lessons I learned in the home buying process. I should preface as I hinted towards it but didn’t fully explain. I am buying a home in Joshua Tree. It’s just outside of Joshua Tree in Twentynine Palms, three miles from the park entrance and is the cutest little historic home ever. I plan to use it as a vacation rental and personal retreat as well as for my friends and family to go and experience one of my most sacred and beloved places on the planet. I have obsessed over home buying for many years and in my newly sober life decided that I should try towards making things happen for myself.

It doesn’t feel that way. I know. But they are and they simply have a job to do. We are mostly familiar with the mortgage crisis and the recession after 2007 that lasted until about 2010 and resulted in many foreclosures. It was a hot mess, and it is up to the mortgage lenders and the underwriters to determine risk in order to avoid default and this type of crash again. They don’t want you to default. They want you to be able to afford the home and pay your mortgage on time.

When I was able to come to terms with this and not view my underwriters and lenders as the enemy but more like a really really efficient employee of sorts that loves me a little too much as is maybe a lot in my business, I was able to relax. I just showed up, as I like to say. I gave them anything they asked for each time without hesitation or fear. I reminded myself that they had a job to do. That if I was not a desirable loan candidate at this time, I would learn from them what I need to do in order to get there. Each time I delivered what they asked, we moved onto the next item, and then the next.

This part was the most uncomfortable. Strangers looking over the numbers in your bank account. Strangers seeing how often I order Postmates when I should be cooking dinner because there is food in my fridge. My statements show I just went to Trader Joes the day before. When I mentioned to my friend about the underwriters looking at my bank statements and feeling embarrassed about my spending habits she suggested that maybe I just eat out less. A simple solution really. If there is shame in my spending, remove the shame.

I have since way cut down on eating out and buying coffee at coffee shops. I work on saving and giving 10% of my income to charities and small businesses. Our money is our power. I think especially as women and especially as sober humans that come from places of not being able to manage money at all. I remember in my addiction scrounging for change in my couch cushions to be able to buy a tall can of Coors Lite. I am now buying my own home. Things change. People change. You can change your spending habits and manage your finances.

My credit score is not great. It’s steadily going up as I work on improving it constantly. I pay off debts, pay my student loans on time, and have a secured credit card that allows me to build. I keep the balance low and pay it to zero each month. I was approved for a loan that allowed for a 3.5% down payment with a decent interest rate. The cool thing here is, I was approved. We moved past that part and that was scary. I’m not someone that gets approved for things on my own so this one was a win. But I just continued to remind myself that if I’m not approved, it’s okay. Breathe. I’ll reapply when the score gets higher.

The past couple of weeks I have been experiencing more fear and anxiety than I have through out the whole process. I think because I haven’t seen the house in the past two weeks or so, and it is becoming so real as I am now in escrow and have a closing date. I’m going to the desert for a home inspection next Friday and it’s all happening for real.

Yesterday I came across a post on Instagram by a woman I follow who is successful and an entrepreneur and a leader in the mental wellness community. She is friends with people I admire and she is someone I admire and think of often when I am reflecting on my personal/career goals. Turns out that she just bought a house in the desert as well. She posted a pic of herself in her new kitchen and she wrote about not feeling worthy and deserving of good things. That creepy little thoughts get to her too. Lies like, I’m not capable, I’m not good enough. What if something goes wrong. What if I can’t do this.

The hardest part of this entire process has been believing in myself. My motto consistently and minute by minute most days was, “I can do this.” And I would repeat it over and over, out loud and in my head and I repeated it while driving to meet my realtor at the house right before making my offer, some 200 times on the two hour drive to the desert. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

My same friend that I keep referencing said something that really stuck with me, she said, “What if it works out? What if it all works out?”

Well. What if it does.



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