Being in recovery is awesome… and it can be extremely stressful. Once we leave treatment we focus on the people, places and things to avoid in order to maintain our sobriety and guard against the evils of relapse. If you are new in recovery, there are areas in our recovery that may not get much play but are crucial to keeping us safe, sane and sober. One such area that addicts tend to avoid early in recovery is learning how to manage our money.
Money: Is It A Trigger for Relapse?
If you really think about it, what is one of the first things that addicts do early in recovery? For many addicts, an important goal early in the game is finding a job and earning a steady paycheck. Making bank helps in building self-esteem and confidence and helps those new in recovery and they can use their income to pay back the debts that were built up during their addiction. But as it is often said…mo’ money, mo’ problems.
Let’s face it… we as addicts are terrible when it comes to money management. Many recovering addicts may have little or no concept of how to save their money. Once we got some scratch in hand or pocket it went to the corner liquor store or to the guy on the corner to get our next fix. What we didn’t earn we bartered or stole and ended up broke, out of work, out of house and up to our necks in debt.
Whether we weren’t taught the concepts of budgeting and saving, or if we lost those skills in the haze of addiction–learning to manage our money is an important life skill that can’t be ignored. In many ways, money can be seen as a trigger for relapse. If we aren’t taught this basic life skills, the thought patterns that rules our lives as addict manifest themselves in new ways and we can develop new addictions such as gambling and shopping and the cycle of self-abuse starts all over again.
Ways to Manage Your Money: Back to Basics
As with any skill, we need to be able to embrace the basics first–and that holds true for the newbie recovering person that learning money management. Your mantra needs to be that of Bob Wiley in What About Bob?….baby steps. The following are solid ways you can manage your money effectively in recovery.
Inventory… It Isn’t Just for Your Emotions and Feelings
Before you can look to save and budget,you need to take an honest look at your assets, debts and expenses. This process can be eye-opening and can be a weighty blow to your ego, but you need to take an honest inventory of where you are at before you can chart your course for your future. There can be a ton of negative feelings associated with this process, so having the help of a trusted family member or friend can help you focus on the present and what you can do to improve your situation instead of dwelling on the past.
Learn the Concepts of Budgeting and Saving
For many people (and addicts included) budgeting and saving can be seen in the same light as dieting. It elicits groans and complaining, and if you are barely breaking even as it is you may wonder why you need to do these things. No matter where you are on the economic food chain, budgeting and saving are important skills in the fact that you have the ability to take care of your obligations and it gives you ideas of how you can move forward in a realistic fashion.
If you don’t have a grasp of these concepts, or maybe feel embarrassed about your lack of financial moxie, there is help available. If you have a good relationship with a personal banker, they can take the time to help you learn the basics and provide you guidance every step of the way. If you have a non-profit credit counseling agency in your area…hit them up. They are also an excellent resource in teaching you how to budget and save.
If You Can, Avoid Getting an ATM Card
ATM cards are convenient and a way to get the cash you need quickly; it can also lead to impulsive spending habits that you want to avoid. If possible, avoid having an ATM card and set up an account that requires you to physically go to the bank to withdraw any funds. That extra step may prevent you from thinking about using those funds to buy drugs or to make unwise purchases and other poor money decisions.
Understanding Needs vs. Wants
The difference between a want and a need can be subtle. On one hand, your sobriety is not served by ignoring genuine needs for self-care; but on the other hand it is not served by fulfilling your every desire in an effort to numb emotions. No matter how much debt you may have, your sobriety and YOU come first.
If You Need Help, Get Help
There are those instances where people just aren’t good at managing money. If you fall within that group,you may want to turn your money over to a trusted person in your life such as your spouse, parent, family member or another trusted person. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU TURN YOUR MONEY OVER TO SOMEONE WHO IS USING DRUGS.
Money management is a life skill that all those new in recovery must learn and master. There are times we want to crawl under a rock knowing the financial messes we got overselves in, but like our recovery in general, the only way we get better is to face our problems and fears and learn how to overcome. People in recovery need to be taught not only how to cope with money problems, but how to avoid them in the first place and fix them when necessary.