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Money in Early Recovery

For some of those in early recovery, money is the biggest problem they perceive. Because they may have behaved irresponsibly with money, whether it was in large sums or small, they have created fear in the area of finance. Motivation is high to make it right and to go out from the treatment experience and work around the clock to recoup their former financial well-being.

This is a warning sign to all who work with this population. They will need to be taught the practice of balance and restraint when attempting 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 for patience in every area of their lives.

Money is one commodity they believe they know how to control beneficially. This is no truer than in any other aspect within their control. Addictive personality traits run to excess in every area…this is yet another example of where it can and will manifest if not carefully monitored by those who advise the newly recovering addict.

It is important that they understand the time and process that brought them to the brink of disaster and be willing to spend the same amount of time and energy recovering from it that they exhibited in creating it. This is difficult to get across when they believe that money will mend many of the broken relationships, dreams, and family situations that were created. It must be pointed out to them again and again that there is not enough money created anywhere to do this job right now. It is a healing process that will take time and consistent, steady effort to achieve.

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 the amounts outstanding. 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. If not, wise counsel will always prevail. 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 greatness.

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

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.

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