Addiction recovery involves some major life overhauls, and it also requires us to change our thinking in ways that can be quite dramatic in comparison to how we thought before. Nevertheless, it’s a journey we can take a day at a time, and knowing that we can’t be expected to change overnight makes recovery seem a little less daunting. 

Usually, we start our sober journey with some thoughtful self-reflection. This usually involves facing our fears, one by one. And, one of the most commont fears that addicts face is the fear of financial or economic insecurity. It’s also a fear that tends to linger and stick around in early recovery because addicts often have a lot of financial wreckage to clean up. This doesn’t go away overnight. 

If you’re in recovery and you identify with having feelings of insecurity around your money situation, remember that you’re not alone. Because addiction is a progressive illness, it has a tendency to take over our lives eventually. Substances become our first priority and, subsequently, budgets get stretched, bills are missed, promises are broken, and marriages can be destroyed. When we get sober, we inevitably all need to address this stuff if it’s become an issue.

Why people in active addiction often mismanage their finances

For someone in active addiction, money is often just a means to an end. Addicts frequently will only make enough money to keep their addiction going, and this is a subconscious choice. Of course, this isn’t always the case. There are certainly some high-earning, high-functioning addicts out there who know how to manage finances, but the vast majority of us have at least a few issues surrounding money matters. 

Uncovering the root cause of money fears and undoing the damage done

So, how do we get to the root cause of our money fears and begin to undo the damage we’ve done? It’s important to remember that if we’ve left messy situations in our wake, they’re not going to disappear the moment we get sober. That said, the ability to manage our finances will improve over time if we allow serenity to replace financial insecurity. 

It’s common in early recovery for us to want to self-soothe, and this might include making purchases in an attempt to feel better. To combat these urges to spend money, we need to start looking within while working through the fears that relate to our feelings. As we begin to do this, the need to fix things through external means will start to lessen. As a result, it will get easier for us to control our spending. As we learn to control our spending, we’ll notice improvements in our financial situations. 

Also worth keeping in mind is that when we continue doing the inner work while staying away from drugs and alcohol, people start to trust us more and employment opportunities arise. Furthermore, when we ditch the substances and the booze, we’ll start saving more money because, let’s face it, drugs and alcohol are expensive!

Finally, the more we work on ourselves from the inside out, the more gratitude we experience for the simple things in life. Our needs begin to change and we start to value connections, friends, family, a roof over our heads, and a home-cooked meal over material possessions. As the need for material possessions start to disappear and we learn how to manage our emotions, we realize that money doesn’t equal happiness. 

Once again, our financial situation isn’t going to change overnight when we get sober, but at the end of the day, it’s not really about our financial situation in the first place. It’s about changing our relationship to money and finances while finding balance and harmony in our lives. And, usually, when these changes take place, our finances invariably have a way of falling into place. 

So, if you’re in early recovery and you’re worried about your finances, here are some easy changes you can make right away to start getting back on track:

  • Learn to separate your wants from your needs. When we’re in active addiction, we tend to chase the things that give us the most pleasure right away. But, in our quest for instant gratification, we often neglect things like proper nutrition, doctor visits when we’re sick, paying our bills on time, and, in extreme cases, adequate housing. So, we need to re-establish what’s truly important when we get sober. This might take practice if we’re used to living for our next fix, but with time, it gets easier.
  • Avoid buying things on credit, and try leaving your debit card at home. Get cash out of the ATM ahead of time and try some good old-fashioned envelope budgeting. Decide what your budget is for the week in advance, and only take out enough money to get you through the week. Of course, if there’s an emergency, you can always grab a card, but make it hard for yourself to grab your card easily and make impulse purchases. 
  • Make shopping lists before you go to the store. If you plan out your purchases before you go shopping, you’re much less likely to make impulsive spending decisions. It only takes an extra five or ten minutes of preparation, but it’s an effective way to save money by only purchasing what you need. 
  • Set savings goals. Whether you want to go on vacation, purchase a new car, or purchase a new home, by writing down your goals, you’ll have a tangible reward to work towards. Visualization is a powerful tool when it comes to saving. Every time you’re tempted to make an impulse purchase, think about your savings goal. If you stop yourself from that impulse buy, you can put the money you would have spent directly into your vacation, car, or house fund. Make it like a game, and watch your savings grow. 
  • Practice daily gratitude for what you have. Most of the time, the reason we think we need to spend loads of cash on things we don’t really need is because we’re not grateful for the things we do have. Start writing down 5-10 things you’re grateful for at the beginning of each day. Revisit the list throughout the day whenever you’re tempted to spend money unnecessarily. More often than not, you’re likely to find that you have everything you need. 

Just like every fear we face in sobriety, overcoming our financial fears takes time. But, if we stay on course with our recovery work, it will leave us and before we know it, we’ll discover what true financial freedom feels like. 

Kembali Recovery Center

If you or someone you care about is struggling to get clean or stay sober, Kembali Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to speak with an experienced staff member and learn about what we do here in Bali. Help is around the corner and you never have to walk this path alone.

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