Dan Robison's financial troubles started with a divorce. More money was going out that coming in.

"[I was] leaning on credit cards to pay for things: Rent, groceries. [My debt] ballooned from an initial $10,000 to $30,000 in two years," Robison said.

He was paying $750 a month in interest. Even paying back $1,000 a month, it would take him 15 years to pay off the debt.

Dan went to the Credit Counselling Society for help. They negotiated with Dan's creditors to stop charging him interest.

"Suddenly my interest per month went from $750 to zero," he said.

At that point, all his payments went to principle instead of interest.

"Once saw it going down, I could have hope. I could have dreams," he said.

He paid all the money back in about three years.

Scott Hannah of the Credit Counselling Society says Dan's story is typical.

"Once you begin spending more than you're taking in, that's when you have financial difficulty; not when you've exhausted the balances on your credit cards," he said.

But waiving interest doesn't mean repayment is easy.

"We see lots of ads on TV for ‘one easy payment' but the reality is there are no ‘easy payments.' There are manageable payments that come with a lot of hard work and the fact you have to relearn how to manage money," Hannah said.

For some people, even paying back the debt interest-free is just too hard and bankruptcy may be a better option.

"They are living too tight to their budgets themselves -- they don't have that flexibility," Hannah said.

When Dan looks back at how far he's come, he also credits the support of friends and his new wife and family who helped him get through the rough spots.

"I get over whelmed by it. It felt really discouraging sometimes it felt like the hole was never going to be filled. Look at life now – wife, kids -- a house," he said.

Acting early is the best strategy. If 20 per cent of your take home pay is going towards consumer debt like credit cards or lines-of-credit, then you are headed towards financial trouble and should get some help now -- not when you run out of options.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen