Learning to Manage Money in Early Recovery

By Kelly McClanahan
money puzzle

For some in early recovery, money is their biggest problem. Because they may have behaved irresponsibly with money in the past, their finances are a huge source of anxiety. Motivation is high to make it right and work to recoup their former financial well-being.

Learning Good Money Habits

Those afflicted with this "money misery" will need to be taught balance and restraint to overcome years of bad behavior. The clock they hear ticking will go on ticking whether they race against it or not. Patience is not a strong feature in this population, but they will need to train themselves to be patient.

It is important that they understand what behaviors brought them to the brink of disaster and be willing to spend time and energy to resolve these issues. This is difficult to get across when they believe that money will mend many of their broken relationships, dreams, and family situations. It must be pointed out to them that there is not enough money in the world to fix these things right now. It is a healing process that will take time and consistent, steady effort to achieve.

Financial Success Takes Time

Most community agencies, such as legal entities, debtors, and those to whom money is owed will be more than willing to accept small regular payments toward their outstanding debts. Even illegal entities such as drug dealers and gambling debtors have been known to be quite reasonable when being repaid for past misdeeds. Their thinking usually follows the logic that they can collect from someone who is not spending their money on the addiction any longer and is willing to repay them.

These and other stories of recompense are heard frequently in recovery meetings. Stories of reinstated families, jobs, and other issues of financial disaster happen every day. They take time, creative and cooperative work, and willingness to do what seems impossible in the beginning. Seldom is it possible, practical or ethical to advise someone new to their recovery to work themselves to death to recoup their financial success.

Nor does sudden financial freedom help the recovering person feel the sense of accomplishment that determined step-by-step, month-by-month payments achieve. The process of hitting regular goals keeps the ego at bay and allows the member to feel a sense of accomplishment. The world of recovery is a process, not a sudden arrival. Success in any realm will demand that process itself be honored, not just the outcome of the process.