by Joy Anderson
*Note from Dan: I completely relate with Joy's experiences in this piece. And, like thought of eating the stack of pancakes you see above, it seems an insurmountable task to think about managing money. If you take it one day a time, and heed the suggestions Joy offers below, it's not as difficult as you make it out to be. When I was at Hazelden getting sober, my counselor and I tallied up the total cost my addiction had amounted to over a ten year period—it was nearly $100K! Life in sobriety is much easier—and it's much easier on your wallet! -- DTSM
As active addicts we blew through an insane amount of money on a daily basis just to meet our addict needs let alone, food, shelter, transportation and so on. How did we do it?! When we first sit down in early recovery and make that list to see what the financial toll was from our using the numbers can be astonishing.
★ Drugs needed per day to maintain habit around $3000/mo
★ Loss of work due to Addiction - $8000/month
★ Achieving sobriety - PRICELESS
What I realized when I tried to manage my money was that I could barely make ends meet. Where am I going wrong? I asked. I decided it was time to really sit down as a sober, responsible adult and tear my earning vs my spending apart, dollar by dollar, to make sense of it and change where I was going wrong. Not only was I not able to save anything I was getting on payment extensions, borrowing $20 here, $50 there, and then when I rented my own place (waaaaay too early in recovery), I got myself in a serious hole.
I loathe borrowing money, but being back out in the street was not an option for me; I set to just figuring out what needed to change and make a plan on how I could catch up. When I was in the IOP and OP phases of the S. Florida drug treatment program that helped me get sober I was paying only $125 per week.
This was a great deal and at the time I had planned on staying on there for an extended period.
My income versus my expenses were in line however, I grew tired of the little things that go along with being in a facility and decided I was ready to be on my own. It was a lofty, courageous and premature idea. Too much too soon!
I had always heard the rule of thumb of being able to pay rent withone paycheck. Well, that’s just simply impossible unless I am living in a really bad area or in a house with nine other people. I obviously got in over my head with an apartment costing me half of my monthly income. Not good. I guess I was thinking, “Well, I could always get a roommate, or I’ll get a raise…” or you know that old tattered super woman cape that I keep wearing that comes with the addicts declaration, ”I’ll figure it out somehow.”
One step forward two steps back.
THIS, my friends is exactly WHYyou want to keep things really super simple early on. Let me tell you - the stress is NOT worth it and stress is the #1 thing that’s going to get its tentacles around my neck and drag me out into some really dangerous, icky feelings, where I just might make some really bad decisions.
Romance and Finance they say. The two biggies.
Keep those two areas of your life as clear as possible and you just might make it. This isn’t to say that you are bound for relapse if you don’t follow this suggestion but just from historical data and experience your odds are much better when you keep these pieces of life simple, simple, simple! Personally, Ican’t even think about the second category—this is a bit alarming to my partner but that’s his business.
Managing money is plenty for me today and if I could go back into a halfway house or Intensive Outpatient Residential Program without having to go through surrendering my animals again - I would. It’s MUCH simpler. There’s a reason treatment programs are designed the way they are: They work!
It’s a process and as we recover and grow, we become better equipped to handle certain responsibilities and challenges. Everybody is different, but as we start to recover from alcohol and drug addiction, as structured and simple as we can keep things, the better the chances of long term recovery.
Since I had already made my decision of moving into independent living I’ve had to employ a really easy way to keep track of expenses in a spreadsheet.
This practice was a life saver.
In active addiction, we sure had it down to the dime on how much we needed to get our fix, but somehow this fervent money management doesn’t always translate in recovery.
You don’t need to know computers or special software to be able to do this. Just grab a notebook and pen and create a chart. At first, do it each day so you can track your daily expenses.
Your chart willhave 30 days across the top and on the left will be the categories of expense like rent, phone, bus fare, taxi, coffee, apparel, music, whatever it is you spend money on - LOG IT! Your income is pretty easy, since at an early stage in recovery your income stems from a job and or family contributions or disability payments.
Make your columns accordingly and total them all up after 30 days. Subtract your expenses from your income. Is there a huge difference?
Are you in the red - meaning are you spending more than you make? Now you can see where to make your adjustments. Are you spending $300 a week on taxi, Uber or Lyft, when you could take the train or bus at least a few days a week?
It may cost you a little more time but it will save you money.
Most of us have more time than money so we have to spend one to save the other sometime. Sooner than later it will balance out and you’ll find that you have the extra funds available to take a quicker means of transportation but at this point it might be a luxury rather than a necessity. Next, are you spending $25 or more per week on coffee or energy drinks? Stop IT!
Is there a coffee pot at your work, or can you make your own at home?
Could you at least buy a case of your favorite energy drink at a store instead of paying full retail price everyday at a corner store? Check it out - be smart - you can save dollars and cents all over the place and result in less stress if you are simply being MINDFUL of your spending.
It’s easy to want to reward ourselves a lot in early recovery and at times it IS important to get that reward. Just evaluate how much stress your reward might be causing in the BIGGER PICTURE..
If it takes a bite out of the quality of your recovery, it’s NOT a good spending choice. Guard your money like your thoughts in the earliest days of recovery. You’ll be glad you did.
About the Author
Joy Anderson is a South Florida native and has travelled extensively around the US. She uses her life experience as a personal warehouse of material to draw from when she writes. She currently manages content for the outreach for addiction recovery marketing firm Stodzy Internet Marketing. She is also engaged in several freelance projects. She shares a home with her dogs who continue to teach her how to live. She aspires to be the person who her dogs think she is.