During early recovery, we are urged to steadily repair the damage caused by our active substance use. The focus is usually placed on mending relationships, developing self-awareness, and creating a healthy lifestyle.  There is less emphasis placed on restoring financial wellness in recovery, even though rebuilding financial stability typically ranks high on the to-do list in early recovery. For many people, tackling their finances in early recovery can feel overwhelming. Learning adequate money management skills can reduce stress and decrease the risk of relapse.

While in active substance use, it is likely that your finances took a beating. You may find yourself unemployed as a result of your use or your savings may have been diminished in an effort to support your habit.  Regardless of your financial starting point, it’s important to remember that recovery must remain the top priority.  Without a strong foundation in recovery, any efforts made to establish financial security could be thwarted by compulsive behaviors or relapse. Having a solid understanding of how financial stability supports recovery is essential in developing a lasting plan.

Stress caused by finances is a common trigger for relapse. Some people may even find that having unrestricted access to money acts as a trigger for them. Take time to honestly assess your individual needs when devising a plan to establish financial wellness.  This may mean reaching out to family members or trusted friends to help you manage your money or beginning the process of finding new employment.

While in treatment you likely developed a solid relapse prevention plan, but it may not have included practical matters such as money management.  To strengthen your recovery and your financial wellness, consider the following tips:

Create a Budget
One key component of financial wellness is sticking to a realistic monthly budget. Creating a budget will help you understand how to spend your money wisely and will make it easier to pay off debt and develop a savings. By learning to budget, you can reduce financial stress and develop the financial literacy that will help you achieve other goals in recovery, such as purchasing a care or home. Budgets do not need to be complicated, and it is suggested that you keep it simple initially.  There are many budgeting apps and templates are available online to streamline the process. A simple budgeting worksheet is available at www.consumer.gov to get you started.
Consider needs versus wants
Differentiating financial needs versus wants will help you better manage your finances and prioritize your spending. It can also help curb impulsive spending habits common in early recovery. While determining needs and wants might seem clear-cut, it can actually become somewhat complicated in practice. Needs versus wants are often a matter of perspective and personal taste.

For example, reliable transportation is an absolute need for most people.  However, certain elements of transportation would be defined as wants. One of the best ways to determine if something is a want or a need is to figure out if you can remain financially comfortable with it.  You may find that you can afford purchase your dream car, but you might realize that the monthly payment will prevent you from repaying other debts. In this scenario, you will need to determine if getting what you want will support your long-term financial goals. 

It may help to regularly examine your spending habits to determine if your purchases are essential to living a healthy life. Refer back to your budget to ensure you are making choices that support your financial stability.
Seek Help
Managing finances can feel overwhelming, even if you aren’t in early recovery.  A key component of recovery is relying on support from trusted people in our lives.  This could be family members, recovery supports, or other professionals.  Knowing when to ask for help is just as important when tackling financial issues as it is in other areas of recovery. Asking family members or your sponsor for assistance can help hold you accountable.  There are also many free or low-cost resources are available to help you achieve financial literacy.  You might be interested in visiting the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at www.nfcc.org to learn about agencies in your state. 
Remain Patient  
Gaining financial stability is a process that takes time and commitment. Try not to become frustrated if you feel that your progress isn’t happening as quickly as you’d like. Take it one day at a time and remain focused on your goals. Stick to your plan and with time your personal finances will reflect your hard work.
The experience of gaining financial freedom can be a massively liberating part of your recovery journey. Being accountable for your finances and taking responsibility for your financial decisions is a major step towards the goal of autonomy present in recovery. Regardless of where you are in your recovery journey, help is available.  If you or a loved one are worried about the financial impacts of substance use, Greenbriar Treatment Center offers comprehensive treatment programs to address your concerns and help you achieve recovery.  Speak with a representative today to learn about your options for financial wellness in recovery.