After growing up with an alcoholic father, Debbie Page was told in college “If you have alcoholism in your family, you’re going to be attracted to that in a partner.” Being a very level-headed woman, whose father got sober when she was 16, she thought that was ridiculous, until she met her gregarious, fun-loving future husband in her early 20s. That began nearly 20 years of justification, lies, shame, rehab, financial infidelity and eventually divorce. An eventual understanding of the term codependency.
Debbie is a certified money coach and an internationally recognized and award-winning entrepreneur, business coach, and advocate for women’s economic independence. She is recognized as a leading authority on cash flow and profitability for women in business. For over two decades, Debbie has worked with women and money and has acquired, scaled, and sold two businesses of her own. Her clients achieve stunning success with profitability because of her commitment to accountability, execution, and the systems and processes to create sustainable and scalable businesses.
Debbie met Arwen when she was looking for a very specific kind of business coach: a woman who specializes in working with other women. Today, Debbie joins the podcast for a frank conversation about how she survived a destructive marriage, constant deception, and her decision to leave – all while running multiple highly successful businesses and being a major figure in her industry.
Overcomer Playlist Recommendation
Pearls of Wisdom
- Whatever it is that is a challenge for you right now, you will get through.
- Your biggest responsibility is being fully responsible for yourself.
- Survival isn’t always one day at a time – it literally is moment by moment.
- Build your network early so that it’s there when you need it.
- Why the words “Go for it” have so much meaning in Debbie’s life.
Tweetables“Current problems may seem like they’re going to be there forever, but they’re temporary. They always are.” - Arwen Becker Click To Tweet “I have immense capacity. And just when I think I can't go further, I always do and so will you. ” - Debbie Page Click To Tweet “The pain that I went through had a purpose to it because it's going to help somebody else in the future” - Debbie Page Click To Tweet “You're going to regret the things that you never did and always wonder what if. You will never regret the things that you did, even if they don't work out the way you ‘probably would.’ So, go for it.” - Debbie Page’s Dad Click To Tweet
- She Handled It, So Can You!: An Inspiring and Empowering Financial Guide for Women
- Women’s Business Profit Lab
- Codependent No More & Beyond Codependency
- The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
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Connect with Arwen Becker
Arwen Becker: I was 20 years old and I had just moved back home for my third year of college with my parents and I so clearly recall this day that I was walking up the stairs in my parents’ house to get some gum out of my mom's purse. As I started kind of rummaging around in it, I found an Alcoholics Anonymous pamphlet, and I pulled it out of her purse and I was just looking at it. I was like, “What is this?” My mom didn't drink, my dad didn't drink, or so I thought. At that moment, what I realized is my mom had been able to shelter my sister and I from the very stark reality that my stepdad – he pretty much raised me - that he was a closet alcoholic. And it was one of those moments that people say that your life flashes before your eyes within a brief second and, for me, that's exactly what happened.
Within this moment, I can recall all these incidences throughout my life as a child and my teenage years where he would fall asleep while eating in his Lazy Boy chair or he'd be preparing dinner in the kitchen and he'd be stumbling around trying to stand up and I'd be like, "What's wrong with him?” and my mom would just tell me he was tired. Because of her own shame surrounding that, she did her best of what she thought was going to be best for my sister and I and would cover it up. And so, for 18 years, I guess it really worked until that moment.
In those days that followed, I had so much anger and confusion because I felt like I had been lied to by both my dad and my mom. And it was never my mom's intention to hurt my sister or myself but her ability to enable and this protecting of my dad from her own shame and wanting to keep things packaged up, it actually taught my sister and I skills we didn't even know that we were learning that eventually led both of us to also marry alcoholics.
And one of the things that I've noticed in talking to people over the years who either grew up in an alcoholic home or married to an alcoholic is a lot of us learn how to package things up and make it look better than it is and just not talk about it. It's because carrying this personal shame that so many of us have, we do it but yet, we're doing it for somebody else's decision. You know, I was basically in my 40s when I began exploring Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon and getting the support that I needed so I could recognize these negative codependent enabling behaviors that I had, that I had learned so well. It's just so interesting to me how long in my life I was spent believing and thinking that through my own effort, I could somehow fix the alcoholic in my home, and yet learn very quickly, especially through Al-Anon that I couldn't fix somebody else's dependency. And my guest today knows this full well.
Debbie Page is a certified money coach and an internationally recognized and award-winning entrepreneur, business coach, and advocate for women's economic independence. She is recognized as a leading authority on cash flow and profitability for women in business. For over two decades, Debbie has worked with women and money and has acquired, scaled, and sold two businesses of her own. Her clients achieve stunning success with profitability because of her commitment to accountability, execution, and the systems and processes to create sustainable and scalable businesses. Debbie is the proud pet parent to Mr. Harley Hounderton, her 14-year-old Labrador Retriever and doggy love of her life.
Arwen Becker: Debbie, my friend, I am so happy to have you on the show today.
Debbie Page: Thank you so much, Arwen. I love hearing that introduction. I have to say shamelessly when I wrote it, I didn't know how much joy it would bring me to hear people say, “Mr. Harley Hounderton, Labrador Retriever, doggy love of her life.” Like I had no idea how that would just warm me up every time. So, I'm sitting here with this big grin on my face so thank you.
Arwen Becker: I just so love that. That is so cute. Well, you and I were introduced by a mutual friend, somebody that I've known, Kimberly Johnston, for over two decades and it was just so funny. She was like this giddy schoolgirl, when I said, “Hey, I'm looking for a business coach, specifically a woman who specializes and works with women. Do you know of anybody?” And she was just like, “Oh, my gosh, I can't believe but I've been waiting years to finally give this recommendation to somebody that I really, really believe in,” and that's how the two of us initially met. So, she obviously thought the world of you.
Debbie Page: Yeah. I still remember that email and the subsequent introduction and those were her exact words, “I have been waiting so long to make this introduction. I just knew I have someone.” And then we met and it was like kindred spirits, women on a similar path with a very similar purpose. I have spent so many years working in financial services and just have a heart for women who are committed to the conversation and cause around women and money. And when I met you, just your energy and your passion and your drive and your commitment. And meeting your husband, Randy, and seeing that partnership and just the dynamic interaction between the two of you and between your team, like I was in. And at that point, I was even thinking to myself, I'm like, “I don't even know if she's going to pick me to be a coach with her but I know this, this woman doesn't know this yet, but she is going to be stuck with me for a very long time.” I’d already started to like plot this idea of like, “Okay, if she doesn't pick me as a coach, no big deal. I always love meeting new people but she doesn't know this yet but we're going to be friends.”
Arwen Becker: You're so like me. I very much had those thoughts too. We will be friends for a very long period of time. No doubt about it. Well, before we get into today's heavier topic, I know that you had brought a song to add to our overcomer playlist. Can you tell me a little bit about that one?
Debbie Page: Oh, my gosh, yes. So, it's Beautiful Day by U2 and this became an anthem for me during these many dark nights of the soul, and everyone listening to this conversation today has had their dark night of the soul. And whether it's one night or a series of consecutive nights or however it works out, we've all had it. And for me, U2 was a band that I didn't even know about until I went to college. I grew up in a small town.
Arwen Becker: Wow.
Debbie Page: Yeah. I grew up in a small town in Central Washington and your choices were the country station, the Christian station, Hispanic radio, or if you were in exactly the right place, you could get the heavy metal station. And that was it. So, I go to college in 1988 and I was like, my upstairs neighbor was just playing this music so loud and we were in a dorm where girls were on one floor, boys were on another, and they sandwich them up like that. And I was like, “What is this music?” And so, I had to go upstairs and I just sat there on the floor and I was like I don't know who this band is but I'm hooked, and that was the beginning of my infatuation with U2. And then when the song came out, it just really spoke to me. The lyrics themselves there were always moments that pieces of them really, really touched my heart. And I just remember so many days where things were so hard and the song would come on or I turn it on because I was fancy and actually had an iPod with the little circle-ly thing that you had to dial it around and like click, click, click.
But when the chorus will come on and they would start just like so loudly saying, “It's a beautiful day. Sky falls, you feel like,” and I would just be crying and it made me think, yes, I know it feels like everything is coming apart. Still a beautiful day, kid. Come on, you can do this like you can get through this. And so, that song became an anthem. And still, to this day when I hear it, I am either going to be breaking out loudly in song and being that crazy lady on the highway or/and I might also break into tears simultaneously. So, never quite sure what's going to happen.
Arwen Becker: Yeah. Beautiful Day comes on and you're like, "It is a beautiful day. Life is good and everything is wonderful. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and everything's great.” But then just like you said, then there are those nights and maybe those nights turning into weeks and maybe those weeks have gone into months and maybe those months have even gone into years. And yet we still need to know that that light exists and to be reminded of that during those moments. So, I love that song. It's a beautiful day. I can't sing this.
Debbie Page: I was going to say I think you're a heck of a lot better singer than I am. So, I'm just going to leave it to everyone listening or imagination. I encourage you to belt it out right now. Be loud and proud and sing your song.
Arwen Becker: Yeah. And you know what, unless you've been living under a rock or in a really, really small town that only gets the Christian and the country station, you've probably heard U2 by now.
Debbie Page: Yeah, exactly.
Arwen Becker: So, on to a serious topic. As you and I have grown in our friendship, we've talked about a number of things and you have alluded to during different times your past marriage to an alcoholic, the financial infidelity that came along with that, and ultimately, the decision to leave that marriage. And a lot of these things in your life were occurring while you were still running a very successful business, maybe even multiple businesses at that point, and maintaining a lot of visibility in your industry. I have to imagine that had to have been really tough to still have this public persona while a lot of things were coming apart. So, why don't you take us back to that time period?
Debbie Page: Yeah. You know, so I want to start the story with a couple of things. I grew up in a household. My dad was an alcoholic. So, in the beginning, when you talk about that, my dad was an alcoholic, he got sober when I was 15, 16, and never touched another drop of alcohol again. And I remember though those drunken moments, he was a beer drinker and somehow that was socially acceptable like putting away a full case of beer in an afternoon was, hey, right? And my dad was the fun drunk and so I had this vision but there was something that happened for him, whether it was a conversation that he and my mom had. Again, we didn't talk about those things but he got sober and he just quit cold turkey. He was done. He never touched another drop. And so, that was my memory and I, somewhere in college someone had said, "Oh, if you have alcoholism in your family, you're going to be attracted to that in a partner,” and I was like, "What? That's ridiculous.” And I met my then-husband when I was in my early 20s and he was this gregarious, fun-loving Irishman with a great sense of humor.
When you're in your 20s, Arwen, and I think many of us can relate to this, at least myself and the crew that I was hanging out with, we would work hard during the week and then we would get together on the weekends and we would go out and we were dancing or we would go to some fun bar and listen to some show or whatever. And so, drinking was this social experience. It was part of this social interaction and you overindulge. I might have one or two times and you'd wake up and then you go for brunch and you'd have a mimosa, but this was like kind of the culture of the 20s. And so, this was me and this was in the early-mid-90s. But somewhere in there, people ask me to this day, "When did you know he was an alcoholic?” And I can confidently pinpoint the moment where I thought, “Uh-oh.” I was 25. We were just engaged, not even married yet and I went, "This could be a problem.” But, like many women I talked to, guess what I did? I rationalized my way out of it. I said, “No, no, come on. Like you guys are just having fun and whatever and he just overindulged, and it was a one-time thing and whatever.”
And again, like a good alcoholic, we would get into this rhythm, overindulge, pull back for a while, because at that point you still could overindulge, pull back for a while. And then pretty soon the overindulging wasn't just on weekends. Drinking was happening every night in the house. Drinking was happening of all sorts of alcohol during the day then we got into sneaky drinking, lying about drinking, just the whole way. I mean, anything that was related to alcoholism I experienced and I had so much shame, Arwen, because I couldn't fix him.
Arwen Becker: Yeah. I bet you tried.
Debbie Page: But I tried, right? It’s not my responsibility like rational, well-educated, solid, two feet on the ground Deb knows. It's not my responsibility. I know this. And yet, I tried. I tried everything. I threw away wine glasses because I thought somehow if I threw away the wine glasses, he wouldn't drink. Nope. He just would pour the wine into another cup.
Arwen Becker: Paper cup, right. Go into a mug.
Debbie Page: Right. It didn’t matter what the vessel was.
Arwen Becker: Directly from the wine bottle. Whatever.
Debbie Page: Yeah. Seriously, right? And so, that really began to take a toll on me and we really hit kind of this critical mass. In probably 2011, 2012, we had sold a business. We had been working together. He really lost I think a lot of his purpose for a number of years, had really lost his way. And his personality, he was starting to turn into a mean drunk and I was starting to be fearful and I never experienced that and I didn't understand at that point that I was in an abusive relationship because women like me didn't stand or stay in abusive relationships. That happened to other people, right? I am not a Lifetime movie character. Come on. I am a well-adjusted solid, headstrong, super-smart woman like I am not in an abusive relationship. And then I started therapy and I started to realize that abuse takes on all sorts of different forms. It was in that moment that I realized I needed help and there was a particular night that I will always remember, and I was terrified. I was terrified. I was terrified he was going to hurt himself. I was terrified he was going to hurt me. And I did the thing I thought I'd never do. I called my therapist and I said, “I need you here now,” and I called his brother and I said, “I need you here now.”
And that was the first time that I'd ever reached out to anyone in his family. See, everyone knew he was a drinker because that's how you talked about it. Nobody wanted to say he was an alcoholic. And there’s shame all the way around and there's love and there's like so many layers, but I remember that night and I called. My therapist arrived, my brother-in-law and his wife arrived, and I was terrified for what was going to happen in that conversation.
Arwen Becker: The fallout. Sure.
Debbie Page: And I was terrified of what was going to happen afterwards. They encouraged me that night to leave my home, which I never thought I would do. And so, I packed a bag and I took my beloved Harley Hounderton with me and I went to my brother and sister-in-law's house. And I was lost and I was scared and I stayed there for a number of days and then went to my parents’ house and stayed there for a while. He was going to change and things are going to get better and blah, blah, blah. And then we started on this cycle again. And then finally, I went back to my folks' house. I moved out for a period of time. Now, keep in mind everyone, no one knows. No one.
Arwen Becker: No one outside of that sphere of family knew this was going on.
Debbie Page: Immediate family. Yeah. None of my business friends, not even my best friends, no one because I had so much shame around what was happening. So, finally, he agrees to an inpatient program, goes in for 30 days, and I was able to see him after I think about 10 days, two weeks, something like that. They invite the families to start coming back in. I really start diving into addiction, codependency, alcoholism, really becoming a student of who I am in this mess and recognize clearly what I need to do now, which is to take care of me. And, honestly, Arwen, there was a freedom in knowing that the cat was out of the bag. Like, at this point now, everyone in his family knew the severity of the situation. And so, I didn't have to pretend that we couldn't come because of some other commitment. Because do you know how many lies I told to people about why we couldn't go to this?
Arwen Becker: Absolutely.
Debbie Page: “Oh gosh, I'd love to come over for dinner but we have other plans.” No, we don't have other plans. It's just, A, he's either already drunk and I can’t take him there.
Arwen Becker: Or he’s going to, yes.
Debbie Page: Or he's going to be and I am going to have so much shame about this. So, I would do things like even in the business community, I would start lying to him about things that I was going to where you would normally take your spouse or partner, but I didn't want him there because I didn't want to have to babysit. And so, I would just say, "No, it's a ladies-only event.” And so, I would go by myself and everyone would say, “Where is he?” And I would say, “Oh, he had something else.” And so, you get into all these lies and secrets, and it's so sad.
Arwen Becker: And it's exhausting.
Debbie Page: Oh, girl.
Arwen Becker: It's exhausting because when you're living in a place of lying, I mean, you're just having to lie to be able to not have to feel the shame, not have to be honest with people about what's going on, not have to answer the questions. Now, then you're like, “Okay. Well, what did I tell those people? And did I tell them something else?” And just how exhausting that is. I mean, a codependent relationship is exhausting when you're trying to constantly tend to and clean up after somebody’s mess and going, “Oh, great. Okay, so now you've had, yes, so you’re going from drink number three to four. Okay, now I have to completely eliminate everything that's the rest of my night to now become the babysitter, make sure that we get home safely, make sure that we do these things.” And that part is exhausting and yet, it's amazing how strong, capable, well-meaning confident women, that you would look and say they have it all together, how would they ever allow a relationship like this to continue?
And yet it's amazing how we can find ourselves in that place and then rationalize ourselves into staying so much longer, and then get to that honeymoon phase of everything. I'm going to change and I'm going to be different and I won't do that to you and I'm so sorry and you don't deserve this And then you find yourself a week, two weeks, six months later going, "Look, nothing changed.” And I'm just now six months down the road and still finding myself in the same position. How long were you guys married?
Debbie Page: So, we were married for 18 years and we were together for 20 years altogether.
Arwen Becker: Yeah. That's a long period of time.
Debbie Page: That’s a long time.
Arwen Becker: That’s a lot of history.
Debbie Page: My gosh, the negotiation that you would do and there was something else you were saying there a minute ago with the lies and the covering up and then the isolation that comes from that. Like, you have isolated yourself because you are trying so hard to “protect them” and to protect you from that and the judgment. And I remember it was my 43rd birthday, and I love my birthday. And so, that year, my 43rd birthday, we had gone down actually to the Oregon Coast and had rented a little place and he was back to drinking. So, we are now post-rehab and I think he might have been, I can't even say sober. He didn't drink for maybe two days once he got out and then he would be back at it again.
Arwen Becker: Wow.
Debbie Page: Yeah. And of course, wouldn't go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings because those people were all messed up and avoided a sponsor like the plague and ended up crewing up with these other guys who just their addictions had a grip on them just like he did. And so, they would joke about how they had all flunked rehab and they would laugh about it while they were drinking. And so, my 43rd birthday and we go down to the Oregon Coast and having a lovely time as you do when you're in a codependent, addictive relationship. You can't take things for face value because everything is a lie. And so, he went into the bathroom and I looked through his bag because that's what you do. And sure enough, there was booze in it and we had promised there'd be no drinking that weekend. And so, I was sad and devastated, confronted him about it, and he got mad and left and walked down the boardwalk. I was like, “Alright, fine. Whatever.” So, I hung out with the dog and read and cried and took a nap and thought, "Well, this is some 43rd birthday.” And several hours past, Arwen, and I was like, “Hm, this is different. So, I guess I better go find him.”
And so, I head out to the boardwalk and I see a crowd of people around this figure that has fallen on the ground. And as I walk up, I see that it is my husband and he was so drunk. He fell face-first into the concrete and completely cut his face open. The EMTs were there. I said he was my husband and they said we need to go in. He's obviously inebriated and I said it's fine. So, we took him to this little community hospital and he was not compliant. It was a horrible experience. I was terrified. They cleaned him up and basically handed him back to me and said, “Good luck.” And I shoveled him into bed and I went outside and I sat on the deck and I prayed. And I prayed like I never prayed, Arwen. I prayed, I prayed, I prayed. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for strength. I prayed for a sign. I don't know how many more signs God was going to need to give me. Like, I prayed and I prayed and I prayed and I negotiated with God as one does. And I said, “God, I promise you this. One year from today, I will not be in this situation anymore. And I don't know what that means but one year from today, I will not be in this situation.”
And I didn't know at that point whether that he was going to find the Holy Spirit and get sober, whether, God forbid, he was going to drink himself to death, whether I was going to get the strength to walk away. I didn't know. And keep in mind, nobody in my family had gotten divorced. Everyone is a sticker-outer. Good times and bad, sticker-outer. So, I was convinced that we were going to stick this out. I kept thinking that my guy was going to find the strength that my dad did and get sober. And so, we left and went on about the next year, and obviously, things did not get better. I went to Phoenix that following year for a conference and to do some speaking. It was Valentine's Day. My husband's father had passed away the previous fall and he was going to meet me there and we were going to meet his mom and take her out to dinner for Valentine's Day. I was already in Phoenix the morning that he was supposed to catch his flight. You know, he didn't call and I immediately went into hyper overdrive, “Oh my God. He didn't make the flight and he didn't make the flight because he was drunk.” Because at this point, his cycle of drinking was so bad, Arwen, that he would drink until he passed out. And then he would wake up and feel so bad, he would start drinking again until he passed out and we just did this cycle over and over again.
Arwen Becker: Wow.
Debbie Page: And so, he finally surfaces around 11 o'clock that morning with a phone call and says that he missed the flight, some story again.
Arwen Becker: Some excuse.
Debbie Page: Right. Exactly. Some big story. Come to find out he was so drunk, they wouldn't let him through security. And so, he went home and figured out some other way. Got on a later flight. Got himself sober enough or not drunk enough I should say to get on the plane. Got there later that night and was so drunk when he finally arrived at the hotel and had missed dinner with his mom. So, then that left me now going to her place and saying, “I'm sorry, he couldn't make it,” and actually saying the worst to her for the first time and looking her in the eye and saying, "Because he was too drunk to get on the plane.” And here's this sweet woman who loves her children so much, I mean, just the pain and the anguish. And so, when he finally got to the hotel, he was so drunk and out of it, I just shoveled him into the room and went outside and sat. The next morning, we got up and went for a really long walk in the desert. And I always wonder what my intention was like that I don't know if I was hoping I was going to get lost and never be found. Like, I don't know what it was but I started my negotiating with God again and I started this long conversation.
Previous to that like I didn't always have like this deep faith in God like I was pretty skeptical about God and how he worked in people's lives and had been known to say things like it was a bunch of mumbo jumbo and whatever. But on that walk, I remember sitting on this rock in the middle of the desert and saying, “I can't do this anymore and I can't do it by myself. And I promised you a year ago that I wouldn't be in the same position that I was then. And I have nine days to keep my promise and I am tired. I'm tired. I'm tired of lying and I'm tired of breaking promises, and I have to keep this promise.” And so, I called a dear friend of mine here who's a realtor and I said, “I need to rent an apartment and I know that's not your deal but can you help me?” And I had never talked specifically to her about how bad the drinking was but she knew and she met me where I was and she said, “I'm on it.” And so, I landed the next day. She picked me up at the airport. She took me to see three places. I cried my eyes out because I felt like such a loser.
Twenty-eight days later, I moved out. I took a bed, my desk, my computers, some personal things, a few boxes and I moved into this little apartment and I had my little chair of contemplation. This was on a Thursday and I needed to go back to work on Monday to do my client work and I was hosting an event for 200 women on Thursday. And nobody knew because I was desperately trying to keep it all together. And I know that, Arwen, the more that I talk about this and the more that I tell my story and the more that I share and the more that women who you're having conversations share, what I didn't realize was courage. It gives other people to use their voice and to not feel so alone.
Arwen Becker: It's so true. Oh, my goodness, I just think of how many people are hearing this that are in the same situation that has had the same thoughts and conversations with themselves, with God, who think a lot of people around them don't know which I think that's the part that I think sometimes we're a little bit delusional.
Debbie Page: Yeah. Oh, they know.
Arwen Becker: That they recognize something's not okay but the vast majority of people in your life, of course, aren't going to know those kind of things. And yet, four days later you were giving that conference with all those women?
Debbie Page: Yeah.
Arwen Becker: Two hundred women. I have to imagine that the strength that you felt when you stood in front of those women having actually walked through the fire, that big unknown of, “I have to leave this toxicity. I have to leave this behind,” I have to imagine that there was a renewed sense of purpose and power in your own life to feel like you are now coming out from underneath this veil of shame and guilt and, "What did I do wrong? What should I have done differently?” whatever it might be. Did you feel that way?
Debbie Page: Yeah. I absolutely did and I completely believe that it saved me. I completely believe it saved me. Being able to stand there and to know that, not that night, but someday in the future, I would talk about what had happened. And to know that there would be some woman in that room who would have been there that night, who would have seen me and thought, “You have got to be kidding me,” you had no idea. No idea.
Arwen Becker: That's totally true and that's the whole basis of this podcast because we all go through stuff and all of us still we're in the midst of things that we're dealing with and yet, when you get to that point in your own life where you talk about, and I'm sure you're definitely at that space too, where you kind of talk about this person from the past that was you but when you've had enough distance and time and clarity and you've had enough conversations, you kind of feel like you're talking about an old friend of yours, like this person that you used to know and yet the negative emotions that come along with those situations have enough time and distance to be able to say, "Yeah, right now, it feels like you're never going to get past this. It feels like rebuilding is going to take forever and you're going to die in this mode barely getting by,” or whatever it is. And yet that day comes. The day comes where you stand on your two feet and you go, “I did that. I got past that,” and if I can do it then I know that somebody else can do it. And that means that the pain that I went through had a purpose to it because it's going to help somebody else in the future.
Debbie Page: Yeah. For sure. And I am so proud of her. I am so proud of her. And I have so much compassion for her and, sure, I went through the stages of grief and, A, I was mad at myself for a long time. I wasn't mad at him. Like he had a disease and I was mad at myself, right? I was mad at my ignorance, my compliance. I was mad. You know, there's a journal somewhere that I burned, thank God, about all the things that I wrote. I've never been a journal saver. Like, once I get it out…
Arwen Becker: You're like, "Get rid of it.”
Debbie Page: Off you go. I’m glad that got out of me. But yeah, I'm so proud of her and everything that she accomplished, and even in the messiness of it. Even through it all, I am so proud of her. And I remember the day that I left and I think that there was so much denial for him. As the boxes would start appearing in the dining room, I was like I'm done. This is real. This isn't just me pretending because I had done what many women in addicted relationships do. I unpack a bag and gone to my parents. I packed a bag and driven away for a weekend, but I'd always come back. I never packed boxes. I've never signed a lease. I'd never done any of that. And this is another thing. So, the money girl in me, right? So, I was the one who had handled the finances in our household. I had paid the bills. The utilities were all in his name when we bought our house. He was first position in the mortgage, the cell phone bill, he was first name, I was second, but I paid the bills.
Oh my gosh. Have you ever tried to separate your phone bill when you're going through a divorce and get your own cell phone only to be told, “Gosh, missy, and you don't have a payment history with us so you're going to need to put a $400 deposit down. We're going to hold that for the next year.” And I'm like, "But we've been with you since whenever like years and my name is on that account too and I'm the one who pays the bills.” And they're like, “Yeah. Well, it doesn't work that way. Just go and sign this.” Like I went on a rampage for days about, "Women, keep your own cell phone account. I don't care what kind of a deal it is. Never lend your cell phones. Just the crazy things that we get stuck on.
Arwen Becker: Because, I mean, when you guys separated and eventually, I don't know, maybe it was in the process of divorcing, you started realizing there was a bunch of financial mismanagement that had been going on that you were unaware of.
Debbie Page: Yep. I absolutely did and this is the financial infidelity piece and this goes back to more of the shame and the guilt and you're a smart woman and you should have known this, blah, blah, blah. At some point, in one of our negotiations, he had felt powerless in the relationship. He felt I was controlling and that I handled everything, which I did because that's what I do. I just get things done. And the finances had fallen to me over the years partly because he didn't seem to really have an interest or care. And early in our marriage, he traveled a lot. And so, it was just easier for me to consolidate and take care of the bill paying. And so, I did that and it was fine, and then as he had lost his purpose, we would have our monthly financial family meetings. I come from a finance background and I was a big advocate for couples having conversations, monthly conversations about money. And we did. We would look at bills and expenses and we had the joint account, and money would go into a separate account, and he could do whatever he wanted to do with his. And I had a separate account, I could do whatever I wanted to do with mine. The joint account took care of the big household bills and whatnot.
And then we have some other accounts like many families do. We have retirement accounts and we had this account that was earmarked for nothing in particular. I think, at some point, we had talked about it as it was going to be the next-step-up house, right? So, it was money that we're putting away for our next house. Like, we bought our first house when we were first married and this money was going to be that, and it had accumulated to a significant amount of money. And then one day, I went to look and it was gone. And it was an account, Arwen, that I didn't look at every day because it just didn't have a purpose. And so, money was transferred over there but I didn't look at balances in it. Shame on me, right? I just didn't because I didn't need it. It was out of sight, out of mind. I was kind of subscribing to the envelope system electronically of managing money. And then it was gone. And I like I still feel physically like I could throw up thinking about that moment because I was distraught.
Arwen Becker: Violated.
Debbie Page: Yeah. And I thought, "Oh my God, we had been hacked,” like that was my first thought is like we have been burgled. Somebody has electronically stolen our money and I went upstairs and I said, "We have been robbed,” and he hung over and he's like, “I don't know what you mean.” And I said, "We have been robbed.” This account is like down to practically zero. There was like a thousand bucks in it and prior to that, there had been multiple tens of thousands of dollars in it. And he just kind of looked at me. His face is white.
Arwen Becker: The look on his face.
Debbie Page: Yeah. And I went… Oh, God. And then I went back and I looked online and I started to look at the transaction history and where the money had gone. And as is typically often the case with an addict, there is more than one addiction and the second addiction was gambling. And so, over the course of a period of time, the withdrawals had continued to happen. Thousand dollars here, $5,000 there, $4,000 here over the course of not a very long period of time. And so, the lies just continued.
Arwen Becker: You're talking about these things and I'm having just these flashbacks to my youth because that was a significant issue with my dad. And I'll never forget here I was in my early 20s and I decided after I got divorced at 24, my next car that it was a bright yellow BMW M3. This is a used car but still, it was like everything completely outside of my personality and I was just like so proud. And when Randy and I got married or leading up to it, I was watching my nephew quite a bit and he couldn't fit in the backseat in his car seats. And so, I was like, “Okay. Well, we're going to be having kids at some point so I got to get rid of the M3.”
And yet, it was one of the few times that I bought gap insurance on it. And so, I ended up having a pretty good refund of over $1,000. And Randy asked me, he's like, "Why haven't we seen that check yet?” I'm like, “God, I don't know. It's so weird.” So, I called the company and the company said, "Yeah. We already sent you that check,” and I'm like, "No, never received it.” And they're like, “No, we sent you the check. It's already been cashed.” And I was like, “What? How's that possible? I didn't cash it,” and they're like, “Well, we'll get a copy of the check.” They sent me a copy of the check that had been presented at the bank and I'm not kidding you, Debbie, my dad had signed his own name to the back of my check. He had stolen money from his 25, 26-year-old child and even being confronted about it, couldn't really deny it.
And yet, those kinds of things were riddled throughout my youth. When I finally went in and started getting help, when I started really talking openly and honestly about the multiple alcoholic relationships in my life and how those were affecting me and realizing that even though I look like the girl has it all together, I don't have the ability, none of us do, to force somebody out of their own addictive behaviors. They have to hit that rock bottom for themselves to be able to come to that. So, it's interesting how, looking back at your dad, wondering what was it that really caused him to finally make that complete cut? Because you said you really don't know, right?
Debbie Page: No, I don't. I have no idea. Again, it was something that we never talked about. I remember one time asking him, "What made you quit?” And all he said was, “I was just done.” And so, you know…
Arwen Becker: Which could have been a lie.
Debbie Page: It could have been a lie. Exactly. He was still an alcoholic even though he hadn't drank in years. I mean, once you're an alcoholic, you're always an alcoholic. It's just you get one more day where you didn't drink. And so, who knows? Maybe he was protecting himself. Maybe he was protecting my mom. I'd asked my mom one time why did dad stop drinking? And her answer was the same. He was just done. And so, I can infer a lot in there.
Arwen Becker: Sure. Yeah. So, it sounds like you had some good foundational principles about having money discussions, things of that nature, but when you realized that you were cheated on financially and stripped of that money, did that just add fuel? Or was that a launching point for that to be such a heavy focus in your business and your work today?
Debbie Page: Yeah. It added fuel to the fire. It was my Scarlett O'Hara moment. it was as God is my witness, I will make sure that every woman I encounter has an awareness about their own financial situation either in their business, in their personal life, whatever it is like this has got to stop this idea of women like, “Oh, I don't have a head for numbers,” like get over yourself, sis, because you do. You absolutely do have a head for numbers and I'm not going to let women lose more of themselves, their self-respect, their financial security, their independence by going through that. And so, it did give me more fuel and ultimately, took me on a journey to become a certified money coach because what I was noticing was that in my own life, I needed to heal my own wounds and I had money habits, behaviors, and patterns that have been placed on me generationally by my family of origin. And I needed to do my own money work and when I did, I did it to get certification because first I wanted to heal myself, and then I wanted to be able to share that work with other people because what I recognized was the pattern that got me to this.
I didn't know about the money being gone. Oh, I did. I did. I just didn't want to acknowledge it. And so, doing that work has been so powerful for me coming into it now. I was telling you about how I had that physical, violent, nauseating experience when I opened a bank account when I looked online. And I will tell you that, for years, the anxiety I would have when I would log in online to look at my bank account even once we had separated our finances and I had my own separate accounts at very new banks that he didn't know where they were, I knew there was no way he could get access to them but I was terrified that money was going to be gone. I had so much anxiety and I would like check them repeatedly like compulsively multiple times a day because I was afraid that my money was going to be gone. And through this work, I was able to shift that and have this really beautiful mindful money practice and just change the focus and the energy and the intention around it and don't have that dread and have been able to heal that part of myself. And it's possible for all of us. And I can share whether you are a woman listening to this and you are just buried in debt, and you just cannot see your way through this like, you're just convinced like, “I am never going to get out of this,” I promise you there is a way through it. I promise you, whether it is debt, whether it is infidelity, whether it is addiction, whatever it is that is a challenge for you right now, I promise you, you will get through it.
And I remember when I moved out, I'm probably going to cry again because I'm a good crier. So, it's 2014 and I remember a dear friend of mine saying, "It feels like you have lost everything and you don't know how you're going to get through this but I promise you, Debbie, your life will be so different in five years. So, different. And I know five years seems like a long time but be patient. Five years from now, look back on it.” And so, it was five-and-a-half years later, I was able to buy my own house. I was able to repair the financial mess that I had to clean up. I'll still be paying for some of this stuff for a while as part of that divorce and I've just accepted that and know that that's just the way that it is. But I remember that conversation and I say this to everyone listening, whatever it is that feels so big right now, you don't know how you're going to get through it, over, or around it, I promise you, you will and you're going to do it, just not even one day at a time because sometimes that's too much. It literally is moment by moment. You know, moment by moment and surround yourself with people that you can talk to.
Arwen Becker: Yep, absolutely. But of course, current problems seem like they're going to be there forever but they're temporary. They always are. I mean they're always temporary but they can feel like they're going to be life-ending. So, when you think back Debbie, what would you say were those handful of things that you personally really took away during that time period?
Debbie Page: Top of the list would be I am fully responsible for myself. That's it. At the end of the day, at the end of my time on my planet, this is it. I'm fully responsible for myself. The second thing is that you need to build your network when you don't need it. I had a mini midlife crisis at 39, realizing that when I turned 40, I would have no one to invite to my birthday party and it started me on a path of recognizing that I needed to be a friend in order to find friends. And that was also partly around the addiction, the isolation, and so really working to make female friends at a time when I “didn't need them.” And I don’t mean that to sound like I wasn't in crisis. I just wanted to have a circle of female friends. So, build your network when you don't need it because there will come a day and you will be so glad that you have it. And then finally, the third thing would be that I have immense capacity. And just when I think I can't go further, I always do and so will you.
Arwen Becker: Love that. That's just beautiful. Well, so the last few things, we've got our rapid-fire questions. You've already given us some incredible financial wisdom. So, starting with your best piece of financial wisdom.
Debbie Page: It all adds up. it all adds up. There's no amount that’s too small to start with. It all adds up. See, here's the thing, Arwen. If we were walking down the street together, we saw $20 laying on the sidewalk, both you and I would probably throw shoulders at each other to pick it up first, right? Twenty bucks on the sidewalk is nothing to sneeze at and yet when it comes to planning for our financial futures, especially as women, retirement, contributing to a 401(k), IRA, whatever it is, we think, "You know, what good is $20 going to do?” I promise you, sis, it’s going to do a lot especially when it makes another friend and another friend and another friend.
Arwen Becker: Yep, consistently over time. Yep. It doesn't have to be a massive amount. Just little bits over time. Again, that's that compound effect. What about a recommended book and why would you recommend it?
Debbie Page: So, I'm going to give you two because we went down this way. The first is Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. That was the book that I read when I was figuring out recovery. As someone who was in an addicted relationship, I had to do my own recovery work too as you can appreciate. It's one of those books that I picked it up and a friend of mine says, "You will likely open it, start reading it, and throw it across the room and say, ‘Oh my god, I have this.’” And that's exactly what happened. I'm like, "Oh my God, like why have I never heard of that term?” Life-changing book. The second is my favorite personal development and business book ever written by Jack Canfield and it's The Success Principles. I read that book every year and I use it throughout the year almost like a daily devotional. To read a section, whether it has a business message or a life message or goal-setting message or a conversation like whatever it is, I know it's a message that I need. So, those are my two favorite books.
Arwen Becker: Love it. And what's a favorite quote?
Debbie Page: Go for it.
Arwen Becker: Just go for it.
Debbie Page: Just go for it. And here's the thing about this. So, these are words from my dad. Every time I would come to him, whether it was deciding on where I was going to go to college, he'd never gone to college, whether it was deciding to take my first job out of college or buy my first business, he would always say to me when I would come to him, "Pop, I'm curious like what do you think?” He'd always say, "Go for it,” and I'm like, “No, no, no, really like I need some advice. I need some dad wisdom here like help me out, man.” And he would always follow it up with this, "You're going to regret the things that you never did and always wonder what if. You will never regret the things that you did, even if they don't work out the way you ‘probably would.’ So, go for it.”
Arwen Becker: I love that. That's so beautiful. So, how can our listeners get ahold of you? My wonderful Debbie Page.
Debbie Page: I love it. Thank you. My online home is my name, DebbiePage.com. If you're a Facebook person and a woman in business or you want to surround yourself with other women in business, you can become part of my community. I have a private Facebook group called the Women's Business Profit Lab and we have daily conversations around money and business and entrepreneurship and I do weekly free coaching in there for 30 minutes. There's about 800 or 900 women now in there and it's a really great community. And then you can find me online, Instagram, Twitter, @debbiekpage.
Arwen Becker: Yeah. And you are such a blessing because you really do provide me and so many other women this ability to stand powerfully as they are and believe for something better and I know that your community is just so appreciative and very fortunate to have you as a leader.
So, ladies, I definitely recommend especially if you're a business owner or somebody looking to do that, plug into Debbie because she is a wealth of knowledge and she has the fruit to prove that it can be done. Well, my dear, I appreciate you so much. Thank you for coming on today and being a part of this and just love you.
Debbie Page: Thank you for having me and thank you for what you're doing to give this opportunity for women to come together and share their stories with no shame or guilt or blame and to allow other people to listen in and find their voice and that's how we're all going to get through life is together.
Arwen Becker: Amen, sister. Thank you
Debbie Page: Thank you.
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