Someone Has to Pay the Bills
Financial problems are often one of the biggest stressors a recovering addict and her family must face. During the time of active addiction, income may have dropped because of time spent away from the job engaging in the addiction, and debt likely accumulated to pay for the addiction and trying to keep the household afloat. Once the decision to enter recovery is made, treatment costs are incurred.
Although this is necessary and appropriate, it's still an additional and significant expense.
Financial stressors can put great strain on family relationships. Rebuilding financial health and credibility is an essential part of recovery. It will require realigning one's financial priorities. With hard work and discipline, it can be accomplished.
What About Debt?
Recovery must come first! Without recovery, any financial progress will be temporary at best. The first step to dealing with debt is to get an accurate accounting of the financial picture. This will include how much money is owed to whom, and for what, as well as available assets. This may require help from others whose financial interests are tied to the recovering addict.
Realize in advance that this process may be frustrating, anxiety-provoking, and discouraging. This is one of those times when the recovering addict needs a plan in place to prevent slips and/or relapse. The plan might include having a trusted friend or family member present to help, having a list of positive affirmations to read often, playing soothing music in the background, or saying a prayer before one begins.
Take frequent breaks for relaxation and exercise. If the financial picture looks bleak, don't despair.
It is important not to panic when one realizes that finances are in poor shape. Stay calm, get help, and develop a plan for financial recovery. Panic leads to decisions that typically make matters worse in the end. Above all, don't borrow more money or charge more on credit cards thinking this will be a quick fix to make ends meet. Be patient — an effective plan can be developed.
Focusing on financial losses, debt, and financial mistakes already made will not help. It will only make things worse. Instead, focus on realistic steps that can be taken to move forward. What are some of those steps? Consider these:
Take a financial planning seminar. These are offered frequently in community adult education programs, at community colleges, or other community settings. Frequently, one can find these seminars for free or for minimal charge.
Consult with a financial planner to get expert, objective opinions on managing one's finances. There are also many online financial planning resources, such as About.com Financial Planning and Ameriprise Financial. It is also common for banks to offer free financial planning services if one has an account with them.
Get legal advice if necessary. Bankruptcy should be a last resort and not considered as “an easy way out.” In most situations, bankruptcy can be avoided. If this route is taken, consult an attorney to get an accurate perspective on what must be done, and the accurate consequences of these actions. There may be free legal aid services in your community if an attorney is unaffordable.
Consult a debt consolidation company. These companies can help with negotiations with creditors and arrange payback plans. Not all of these companies are reputable. Do some homework before making a decision. Check with your local Better Business Bureau, your state attorney general, and consumer complaint websites to ensure that the company you select is a reputable one.
Create a detailed budget and stick to it. A professional financial planner may be used, or there are many books and computer programs available that provide guidance with budget planning. If helpful, one's sponsor, trusted friend, or family member may be an accountability partner in this endeavor.
Cut up all credit cards. Credit cards may seem like an easy fix when one is short of cash and resources. However, it is too easy to lose track of what is spent. Further debt can accumulate quickly and then one is worse off than ever. Additionally, credit card companies often charge exorbitant interest rates that also increase one's debt load.
Call one's creditors individually. Many times creditors are more than willing to set up payment plans, or even forgo interest in order to recoup at least a portion of lost money.
Get a temporary second job to pay down debt. This option is only viable if it doesn't threaten one's recovery.
Friends or family members may be able and willing to help financially. However, for the sake of recovery, a payback plan should be developed and followed. An essential element of recovery is to take full responsibility for one's actions.
Charitable organizations, such as churches, often have funds available to offer emergency financial help. Again, keeping recovery in mind, payback should be made when one is able, even if it isn't required.
If hiring a financial planner is not in your budget, there are some less expensive alternatives. Suze Orman is a well known financial advisor who has a number of books on the market as well as a website, where you can access information. Dave Ramsey's book, The Total Money Makeover, is filled with excellent financial advice, and he also has a website.
Taking these steps will go a long way to helping one regain financial health and recovery. Repaying debt and developing a financially responsible lifestyle also contribute greatly to one's self-esteem and self-worth.
What About My Job?
Having a job is a necessary part of life for most people. For the recovering addict, this may be another source of intense stress. There are many job-related issues a recovering addict may need to address.
For example, he may have been fired, he may have worked with using coworkers, he may have developed a reputation for sloppy work, or he may have engendered animosity from coworkers who had to take on a greater workload. If a person has taken a leave of absence to get addiction treatment, he may have concerns about what to tell an employer or coworkers.
Again, before tackling job-related problems make sure that your recovery is protected by having a relapse protection plan in place. First, assess what your job situation was prior to your entering recovery. Important questions to consider include:
What was the relationship like with your employer?
What were relationships like with coworkers?
Historically, what was the pattern of work evaluations?
Was the job personally and financially satisfying?
Was there anything related to the job situation that contributed to your addiction?
Was the job well suited to your interests, abilities, and training?
Was the work environment personally and emotionally safe?
Were there opportunities for career advancement and increasing financial compensation?
What was the company attitude toward employee addictions — supportive or punitive?
The answers to these questions will give you guidance and direction about what to do next. In considering how to approach your job situation during recovery, principles of twelve-step programs are helpful to remember. Some of those guiding principles include honesty with oneself and others, taking responsibility for one's actions, making amends where possible, and giving back. If returning to your job is a possibility and it appears this choice would work with recovery, have a meeting with your employer to get off on the right foot. Be honest with the employer about the disease of addiction, steps being taken to recover, and immediate goals related to work.
Listen carefully to one's employer about expectations for returning to work. This may mean drug testing, computer filters, a probation period, or extra supervision. Complying with these expectations in a positive manner is important in demonstrating that recovery is being taken seriously. It is important for the recovering addict to get to work on time, to have an excellent work ethic, and most of all, to display a positive attitude.
A recovering addict will need to consider carefully what to tell coworkers. If there are a few coworkers who are trustworthy, it will likely be helpful to take them into one's confidence and share one's struggle with addictions. They can provide much-needed support for the recovering addict returning to work. Besides, if no one knows the truth, imaginations can run wild. The resulting rumors generated may be far worse than the actual truth.
This is not to say that any coworker needs to know all the details. Judge carefully how much to tell, but what one does tell must be the truth. Lying is associated with active addiction. Even though it might seem that lying will make things easier when returning to work, in reality, it's a setup for relapse. A supportive employer, your sponsor, and your therapist may be very helpful in thinking this through.
It is in an employer's best interest to support your recovery. Employers are quite aware of the costs of addiction and treatment to the company. Therefore, many employers allow and encourage twelve-step meetings on the job site where recovering employees may gain help and support either during breaks or after work hours. Take advantage if this is available.
Some employers and coworkers may not provide the support that you would desire. In fact, they might respond with criticism, putdowns, and unfair expectations. A recovering addict will need to prepare with the “what if” exercise so as not to be taken off guard should these unfortunate events occur. Some coworkers, or even bosses, may have been “using buddies” and resent a change in the relationship. They might even feel threatened by another's recovery, reminded of their own problems with addiction.
Do not allow these negative reactions to sabotage recovery! Call in all support systems to help. Hopefully, with perseverance, sensitivity, and understanding, others will make positive changes as well and the work situation will improve. If not, it may very well be time to look for other employment. This could even be an opportunity to consider a new career.