When someone you love is addicted, your finances often take a big hit. Bailing loved ones out of jail and other financial emergencies eat away at any cash on hand. Likewise, people who are rebuilding their life after addiction often face financial hardships. Treatment expenses and bills pile up. Here’s two simple things you can do to protect what you have and gain financial recovery.
1. Be Selfish And Secretive With Savings
Many times, fighting addiction is a matter of life and death. People are scared and desperate, and treatment is expensive. In these situations, spouses and parents don’t keep enough margin between them and disaster. Well known financial guru, Dave Ramsey, says step one is to keep an emergency fund.
Emergencies will happen; this is not an if type of crisis, this is a when situation. Not having enough cash on hand means depending on credit cards or cash advance services. Both charge big interest rates, but more importantly, both put you further behind. Dave recommends dropping everything to save $500 to $1,000 for the impending emergency. This logically makes sense, so why don’t people do this?
First, many people believe the best way to help their addicted loved-one is to sacrifice everything. Yet, this won’t work because if you really want to help, you have to be strong enough to help. You have to put yourself first, and you can only give of your excess. Don’t feel guilty about keeping a rainy day fund.
Others are driven by shame and pressure from creditors. Getting your life back on tract after addiction is an amazing accomplishment. It’s important to protect yourself financially first then work on paying back debts. Having a little bit in savings gives you a peace of mind that can help protect your sobriety.
Still others may feel trapped in an abusive relationship due to financial dependency. For many, having money means having choices. If you are in an unsafe relationship, you may have to open a new account at a new bank to keep your emergency fund safe.
2. Defend Your Fortress
Dave calls this protecting the “four walls.” Many times, people get trapped in the vicious debt management cycle. They run short of cash, so they charge things like gas and groceries. These bills run up quickly in crisis. Instead of meeting physical needs first, people feel obligated to protect their credit rating. What if they need to take out another credit card or borrow money for rehab? Making the credit card payment takes top priority, which only perpetuates the cycle of debt. To get off the debt cyclone, you have to make some tough choices. You may not have enough money to pay all of your bills. Which do you pay first?
Groceries Get Top Billing
If you really want to get control of your finances, cooking at home and taking a brown bag lunch are the first big change to make. You can save big money by keeping your fridge full of food. The path to financial recovery is not paved with empty pizza boxes.
Second, Pay Your Rent Or Mortgage
You have to have a roof over your head. Also, make sure to keep current with your utilities like electricity, water and natural gas.
Third, Pay For Transportation
If you have a job, you need to keep it, so you can keep on the path to financial recovery. To keep a job, you have to have a way to get there. Here you might have to make some tough choices. Driving a corvette when you can only afford a scooter won’t let you help anyone. However, repairs and payments on transportation you can afford must take priority over student loans and credit card debts.
The Last Wall Is Clothing
To keep a job, most places require you show up wearing something. Again, keeping your job is crucial, so reasonable clothing comes before credit card payments. Chanel and Ralph Lauren may not be reasonable at this time; you may have to consider shopping at a thrift shop.
As Dave says:
“If you have a place to live, it’s warm and the lights are on, your stomach is full of food and you have clothing to wear and a way to get to work, you live to fight another day. The worry starts to slip away. When your lights are getting ready to be cut off but MasterCard is current, that trips you up. That sends you into a tailspin. You will not win in that situation. Put the four walls of your home up first when you’re in a crisis situation. Then work your way through the other stuff.”
Usually, struggling financially is a symptom of another underlying cause. Family dynamics, co-occurring mental health disorders, and addictions often play a role in financial difficulties. Recovery Guidance lists family therapists and counselors that can help you address the root causes of your financial problems. Click here to find family counseling in your area.
Want help, but not sure where to start? Click here try our self-assessment guide.
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Pam is the author of Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and she's a contributing editor for Recovery Guidance. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.