Fixing Your Finances in Addiction Recovery
Substance abuse leaves no stone unturned; it affects every part of a person’s life, and finances are no exception. A drug addiction costs money, and people in the person’s life who is struggling with substance abuse– family, friends, and even employers and coworkers – can be dragged down by the desperate need to keep the addiction supplied. Getting your finances back on track after a battle with substance abuse can be a slow, frustrating process, but it is a necessary one to ensure that your life in recovery is as healthy and fulfilling as possible.
Wrecking the Economy
A report from the United States Surgeon General estimates that the “misuse of prescription drugs, illicit drugs or alcohol” costs the country $442 billion, in terms of lost productivity, stolen money, and other forms of embezzlement. Because the economic cost of addiction is “beyond staggering” (in the words of U.S. News & World Report), it can be hard to fully appreciate how financially devastating an addiction can be.
Even removed from an “economy-wrecking number” like $442 billion, substance abuse causes everyday money problems that can derail a relationship, a job, or even a life. When a drug addiction leads to the threat of a home foreclosure or vehicle repossession, an addict is often pushed to desperate measures to come up with money. It is not unheard of for employees to “borrow” money from their place of work, usually with the sincere intention of paying that money back when things get “better.”
But addictions being addictions, there is rarely an opportune moment when things improve enough for the person to make good on the pledge to give the money back. Addiction feeds on itself, continually raising the stakes and making its victims increasingly bolder and more desperate to keep going. What usually stops the pattern is when something goes wrong, and the person is caught; and when they are caught, the consequences are usually severe. In 2013, for example, a woman in Oklahoma was sentenced to 33 months in prison for taking money from ATMs that she serviced as a security guard and then gambling away as much as $70,000 in a single slot machine. Upon her release, she will have to pay $847,952 “in restitution to the corporate victims of her theft.”
How Addiction Ruins Finances
Addiction takes many forms – drug and alcohol abuse, compulsive gambling, or eating – but the symptoms of any kind of behavioral disorder overlap. Financial disaster is common to all forms of addiction; more and more money is needed to fund the habit, leaving bills, rent, and mortgages unpaid. Money is “borrowed” and never returned or outright stolen, or an employee steals increasingly large amounts of cash from work. Credit cards are maxed out, savings accounts are depleted, and getting more drugs or alcohol becomes the primary target of the next paycheck. This state of affairs is not sustainable; for many people, the end comes when they are evicted for non-payment of rent or fired because they were caught stealing money from work. Some lose their vehicles because car loans go unpaid for months; others reach the point where they have to resort to committing crimes (“Stolen Property Can Fuel Drug Addictions,” wrote local news in Wisconsin), even becoming sex workers just to stay afloat (“to an alcoholic and an addict,” says a writer in Jezebel, “[prostitution] just seemed like a good lifestyle fit.”)
Addiction takes on many forms, but they all end badly. CreditCards.com relates the story of a past meth addict who accumulated $40,000 in debt, and lost his car and his home, because of how his drug habit took over his life. In his words, “the financial hardships hang with an addict.”
Learning Financial Skills in Treatment
When a person enters an addiction rehab facility for substance abuse treatment, part of the rehabilitation process involves extensive work with therapists, coaches, and other professionals experienced with life skill development. The work will cover things like job competencies, physical health and nutrition, relationship planning, and financial organization – seemingly simple for a person without an addiction problem, but for a person in recovery, necessary steps to reconstruct the various aspects of life that have been upended by addiction.
Financial commitments don’t stop during addiction treatment, and getting treatment is a financial obligation by itself. To start chipping away at the iceberg, a client will be guided through the process of making a list of every outstanding debt. This requires full trust and cooperation between the client and the counselor; going into the gritty details of how the addiction ruined the client’s life in many ways can be embarrassing, but there will be no judgment or condemnation from the counselor. This should encourage the client to honestly disclose all major recurring expenses, such as monthly mortgage or rent, home equity loan, line of credit, car loan or lease payments, insurance costs, credit cards that may have been maxed out because of the addiction, utilities, cellphone bills, and student loans, as applicable. Incidental expenses, such as food, clothes, and expenses for children, will also have to be factored in.
This list will provide an extensive, all-encompassing view of the client’s finances, which makes it easier to identify which expenses can be reduced or completely eliminated. Some difficult choices will have to be made, but with the guidance of the counselor, the net benefit for the austerity will be easier to accept and follow. Sacrifice is part of any recovery, whether that means no longer hanging out with old friends or cutting down on luxuries and comforts.
The idea is to get to the financial bottom line of what you cannot live without: utilities, food, and shelter. When this bottom line has a dollar amount, that is the target to hit.
Tips for Fixing Your Finances in Recovery
There are several areas of your life that you begin to reassess once you find some stability in your recovery. Your finances will likely be one of them.
It is no secret that struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol can severely impact one’s finances. From attempting to continually afford the actual substance of misuse to staying afloat when it comes to food, clothing, and shelter all at the same time, a person’s finances can be left in ruins. Thankfully, there are a number of actions that an individual can take in order to restore their financial wellbeing post active addiction.
Assess the Damage
Sitting down and taking a look at your current finances is the best place to start when you are attempting to restore your financial health. Doing so can be extremely important, because it can help you gauge the severity of your circumstances.
Meet With a Financial Advisor
It can be a good idea to meet with a financial advisor, even if your finances are not in bad shape. Financial advisors can help you develop plans for savings, investments, weekly and monthly budgets, and much more. It is a big misconception that you must have a large amount of money to benefit from a financial advisor. Regardless of what your current financial state is, a financial advisor can help set you up for success.
Find a Job
If you are not employed, finding a job is imperative. Being employed allows you to make money and begin building (or rebuilding) the life you want for yourself. Plus, working can be an excellent way to build self-esteem, confidence, and extend your support network.
Live Below Your Means
When you live modestly, meaning you live below your means, you allow yourself the opportunity to save money and create healthy spending habits that can benefit you for the long-term. While it can be tempting to spend more, doing so can be detrimental to your goals if you are working on rebuilding your finances.
Pay Bills on Time and In Full
Ensure that you pay any bills that you may have both on time and in full. Doing so helps you maintain good standing with those whom you owe, but also helps you to improve upon your credit. The higher your credit score goes, the more financial freedom you will have.
Stay Focused on Your Recovery
No matter what, continue to stay focused on your recovery. When you do so, you continue to lay the groundwork for success in all other areas of your life, including your financial interests. Staying sober and in control allows you to make sound decisions that can benefit you on a daily basis and in the future.
Addiction Treatment in Lafayette, New Jersey
If you are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, reach out to our drug rehab in Lafayette by calling right now. You will be connected with one of our rehab admissions navigators who can help answer all of your questions, including those about rehab payment options and insurance.
You can get started on your recovery right now by having your insurance verified via our secure .