No More Monkey

January 21, 2004

Today marked the end of a long ordeal for Michele and I. After going into business for myself four years ago I significantly under-estimated my annual federal income tax. With each attempt to catch up and pay what I owed it seemed we only got in deeper.

This summer, with my job future here in question, I finally came clean and admitted that I had a problem dealing with this and that I needed help. Talking to Michele allowed me to see that my addictive side was hooked on the sick thrill of having this incredible debt looming over me. Knowing that an authority figure could come crashing down on my life somehow satisfied me. In transactional analysis terms I had found the ultimate “I’m not okay, you’re okay” situation. Uncle Sam plays for keeps and I was walking a very thin line towards disaster.

Michele rightly expressed dismay and hurt that I had allowed this situation to get out of hand. She expressed a loss of trust that I hadn’t come to her sooner and told her the truth of our situation. There were a couple of days there that were the hardest I’ve ever lived through. Afterwards we talked about what I needed to do to gain control of this part of my personality.

We restructured our finances and obtained a large second mortgage on our home with the money earmarked for paying off our back taxes. We filed an offer in compromise with the IRS to see if we could bargain to pay back a reduced amount against the promise of no late payments in the future. I learned to honestly look at money and what it meant to me.

Our offer was rejected, and our appeal was also denied. So today I wrote the check and sent a full payment to the Treasury. The monkey that has lived on my back for nearly three years is no longer there. The monkey isn’t dead, he’s just not actively weighing me down. I understand better now what people mean when they say they are a recovering addict. I will always be addicted to tempting authority; a part of me still craves the sick, hurt feeling I get when an authority figure is mad at me and punishing me.

The monkey is gone for today, I don’t know what form he will take next. I only hope that I have learned enough to be open and honest about any part of my life where I am tempting fate. I do not ever want to feel like this again. Because I like the feeling, and giving into it will ultimately destroy me.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.