DH = Dear Husband
When I was a child, I used to wet the bed. That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about me, but I’m going somewhere with this. I have vague memories of my parents waking me up to take me to the bathroom a few hours after I’d gone to sleep in the hopes of avoiding a wet mess. I have slightly guilty memories of them cleaning the sheets and wiping down the bed in the morning. And embarrassing memories of sleep-overs gone wrong. Eventually, I grew out of it.
One of our daughters was a bed wetter. The invention of pull-ups allowed us to avoid the mess of my own childhood, but we still did the late night trips to the bathroom, and we patiently waited for the “grow out of it” part to happen. Five years old. Six years old. Seven years old. Eight years old. Nine years old. I got increasingly worried with each passing year, and started to see professionals. Our doctor. A urologist. A psychologist. A psychiatrist. No solution. Until . . .
We bought a bed-wetting alarm. The alarm attached to our daughter’s pyjamas, and it went off as soon as urine came into contact with the sensor. We were advised that it would take 6-9 months, but if I remember correctly, it only took 3. At first, the alarm would go off in the middle of the night, and while everyone else in the house would wake up, our daughter slept soundly through it. DH and I would have to go into her room, wake her up, get her out of bed, take her to the bathroom, change the sheets if necessary, and then put her back to bed. Sometimes, it would happen again before morning. It was exhausting, but we were determined to see it through.
After a few weeks, she would wake up to the sound of the alarm before we came into her room. A while later, she would wake up to the alarm and be in the bathroom before we’d reached her room. And then we’d wake up after a full night’s sleep and find out she’d gone to the bathroom without the alarm going off. When many nights in a row passed by without any alarm sounding, we knew it was over. And it was.
In 98% of chronic bed-wetting cases, it’s a matter of unusually deep sleep. No need for a doctor, urologist, psychologist or psychiatrist. Just a need to wake up. I’ve had the opportunity to talk about bed wetting alarms with a handful of parents in the years since our experience with our daughter, but only a handful. Bed wetting is not something people talk about. Sort of like debt.
The “rock bottom” alarm
People talk about their rock bottom experiences in many different contexts. Laura, whose weight loss story was featured at Fruclassity over the last two weeks, remembered how awful it was not to be able to bend down to tie up her own shoes. It was this rock bottom experience that led her to lose 90 pounds. The financial distress that DH and I faced, when we were maxed out and dealing with reduced income from job loss, led us to our financial turn-around. So the rock bottom phenomenon, while miserable, has the saving grace that it leads to positive change. It’s the alarm that wakes us up from our deep sleep of denial.
But some people have unusually deep sleep.
Sleeping through the alarm
DH once worked with an extremely obese man who said his doctor had told him that if he didn’t lose weight, he’d die. He’d say this at the vending machine as he bought Mae West chocolate cakes. He died.
Charles Duhigg, in his book Power of Habit, tells the story of Angie Bachmann, a woman who went bankrupt because of her addiction to gambling. A few years after losing everything, she lost her mother – and gained a $1 million inheritance. She gambled “just once” a few times, and then started to receive incentives from a casino. Free concert tickets. Free hotel. Even free money. She lost every cent. Even more than every cent. She went into debt with the casino – which sued her for the amount owed. Bachmann took it to the courts. She was helpless against her addictive gambling habits, she claimed, and the casino had manipulated her. But Bachmann lost the case and had to pay it all back.
Duhigg concludes that the judgment was fair. “It is just that Angie Bachmann should be held accountable . . . Bachmann . . . was aware of her habits. And once you know a habit exists, you have the responsibility to change it.”
Educating the “FINANCIALLY CLUELESS”
Earlier this month, J. Money from Budgets are $exy wrote a post about the pitfalls of payday loans – in the hopes of reaching people who don’t generally read pf blogs. In the comments section, Beth wrote, “Okay – This really addresses a question that I ask myself everyday (and never come up with an answer). HOW DO WE HELP EDUCATE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT INTO PERSONAL FINANCE AND ARE FINANCIALLY CLUELESS??”
I think that Beth is talking about people who don’t seem to recognize “rock bottom” when they hit it. Bad experience is followed by worse experience, but the alarm doesn’t waken. I think she’s talking about the deep sleepers.
And what is the answer to her question? I have some ideas:
- Recognize that there is an addiction going on. The person really doesn’t have the power to overcome through willpower.
- Extend understanding. This will be easier to do if you’ve ever struggled with money management yourself, but even if you haven’t, there is probably another area in your life (eating? exercise? mood swings? troubled relationships?) where you have felt a frustrated powerlessness. Just transfer that understanding.
- Assert the possibility of change, and the fact that it takes different strategies for different people. A good book on finances might be enough for one person. Another person might need the support of Debtors Anonymous. Do what it takes.
People who are deep sleepers when it comes to money are aware of their destructive habits, but many can’t change them on their own. My daughter needed an alarm and a support team to overcome deep sleep bed wetting. The best we can do for deep sleep debtors is to provide a similar combination of wake-up and help. There’s a tricky balance to strike in sounding the alarm on the one hand – refusing to support the lie that “it’s just fine” – and on the other hand, to point the way to constructive help compassionately, without judgment. But I think it can be done.