I expect to get very few responses for this one because it's such a personal and difficult topic, but I think the experiences of the people here could be very informative.
While there seem to be many well established SDers on this board, I have a sneaking suspicion that there are just as many who are kicking on doors just trying to get a foot in. Even the established guys/gals were once out trawling for XP, so although we're at different paragraphs, at least we're all on the same page.
Gear, gear, gear, gear, gear. Love it and hate it and covet it, we all do. I like it, I want it, I need it. So many wonderful toys, and people use words like 'essential', 'must have', 'makes those noisy recordings sound like an angel's tear falling from heaven to land on the silk ribbon tied through a unicorn's hair' ; Izotope RX2, Sound Toys, MKH-416s, SD788s, Scheopps this, and Waves Platinum that.
While part of my brain is able to read conversations and reviews of these sexy sound objects from an abstracted, wouldn't that be glorious? kind of standpoint, there is a still larger part that feels that I'm somehow less able to do good work than the dudettes who have all that stuff.
The real problem is that you need something to get started with. You wanna make a sandwich, you're gonna need some bread. But a $1 item when your bank account is $0 might as well be worth a million times more.
Enter the Credit Card or the Line of Credit, and voila, the toy chest opens and the world is your free-money oyster.
So, as a young person who is just beginning to plant his feet, my question is: Have you ever gone into debt - heavily or otherwise - for the sake of buying gear or renting space? and was it worth it? Did you make it out ok? or did it all go terribly wrong?
Horror stories and hero stories are welcome in kind.
EDIT: You guys are awesome! I really didn't expect any answers at all. This is all extremely helpful. Keep em coming.