Addicts have Trouble with Money
In recovery we talk a lot about emotions, spirituality, and self-awareness. We talk about abstract concepts like being grateful or overcoming resentments. All of it is necessary for recovering addicts who want to stay sober and enjoy their lives. There are more tangible things, however, that also need to be addressed. One skill that’s not talked about nearly enough in recovery is money management.
Addicts are terrible with money. There are addicts who go through their entire life savings to keep up their habits. Once cash is in an addict’s hand, it doesn't stay there long. Some addicts have used their ways into homelessness, poverty, and debt. Even those who didn't experience financial ruin because of their addiction still need to learn about money. At the very least, they need to figure out what to do with the money they used to spend on drugs or alcohol now.
Money Problems and Relapse
Money problems and relapse go hand-in-hand. Money can be a serious trigger for relapse, but it’s rarely identified as such. As a result, many addicts don’t think about - and don’t know how to - manage their money responsibly. Poor money management leads to debt, which becomes a significant source of stress. If someone feels hopeless and unable to change their situation, they may turn to drugs or alcohol again to cope.
Another money problem that often leads to relapse for those in recovery is having too much money; it sounds silly, but it’s true. Sometimes people in recovery suddenly receive a big windfall, such as from an inheritance or a successful business venture, and it can give them a false sense of security and happiness. If their money causes them to lose focus on their recovery, they might relapse, especially with it being easier for them to afford drugs or alcohol.
Lifelong Money Management
Money management is a skill that’s essential for everyone to learn, even though we rarely learn about it in school. It would be beneficial for rehab and treatment centers to offer more comprehensive information and assistance regarding money management - especially just for basic skills like budgeting, tracking spending, having a bank account, and saving money. This education makes a huge difference for people in early recovery.
There are some great tools to help you with budgeting and being aware of overspending.
Sometimes it’s necessary for recovering addicts to have more help with their money in the beginning. It can be helpful to limit the amount of money they have access to (many banks offer services for this, and the Next Step Card is a system made specifically for people in recovery). Because safeguards can’t last forever, the person who is controlling access to money must make sure they are also teaching money management skills and gradually giving more financial responsibility to the person they’re helping.
Everyone in recovery should be aware of the stress money can cause, and they should be prepared to deal with it. Elevated stress, loss of control, changes in behavior, and the lack of options for assistance are all related to money problems, but many fail to realize that they are also steps toward relapse. 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.