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Addicts learn that to survive active addiction, they must live day by day. Addicts never know what will happen tomorrow so thinking of the future can be a scary proposition. In early recovery, it can be important to take on this same philosophy of living one day at a time. However, at some point, people in recovery must start thinking and planning for the future.

Balancing One Day at a Time and Future Planning

This may seem like a contradiction but it does not have to be. You can continue to think of your recovery in terms of living one day at a time. It may be important to your recovery to not think about the fact that you can never drink again or never use another substance. However, other parts of your life may be better managed by planning for the future.

Being financially responsible is one of the areas of your life that may require thinking ahead and planning for the future. For example, you may want to go back to school so you can get a better job. This takes planning and thinking about your future. Or you may just want to save money for a vacation or other luxury purchase.

Because most addicts do not plan for their future in active addiction, addicts in recovery may not be accustomed to this kind of thinking. To manage paying bills like rent, a mortgage, utilities, etc., it is important to learn how to budget and plan ahead. This means that you may need to consider long term needs over the immediate gratification of wants.

Learning Financial Responsibility

When deciding how to spend your money, consider whether what you are thinking of purchasing is a want or a need. Ask yourself:

  • “Is this something I really need or just something that I want?”

While I do not suggest that you never purchase things that you merely want, it’s important to first plan and budget for your needs. Rent and utilities need to be paid before you purchase that new TV you’ve been wanting. This may seem obvious but many addicts are not accustomed to thinking this way.

Create a Budget

Start planning for the future by creating a budget.

  1. Figure out how much you spend each month on your regular bills such as mortgage/rent, utilities, school loans, car payments, food, household items, credit card bills, etc.
  2. Next, figure out how much you spend on extra items like entertainment, clothing and luxury items.
  3. If your bills add up to an amount close to what you make each month, then you may want to look for ways you can save money on some of these items.

For example:

  • You may be able to consolidate some loans into one monthly payment.
  • You may want to cut back on spending by using coupons for food or household items.
  • You could also decide to spend less on entertainment, clothing or other luxury items.

Planning a budget means making tough decisions about how much you want to spend each month in different areas and sticking to it.

Set Goals

Consider setting goals for how much you want to put into a savings account each month. You can even have a certain amount transferred automatically into a savings account each month. Your savings account could be used to plan for purchasing more expensive items such as a house, a new car, vacations and other luxury items. If you plan ahead and save money for these items instead of purchasing them with credit cards or loans, you can save a lot of money in interest. Realistically, it is not always possible to save enough for all big purchases before you buy them but the more of these items that you save for in advance, the more money you will save.

Lastly, consider having a portion of your monthly income set aside for retirement. If your job has a 401K, this money could come directly out of your paycheck and may even be matched by your employer. If not, you may want to save this money in an IRA (Individual Retirement Arrangements) which has tax advantages over a savings account. For more help, check out this government website which offers information on planning for retirement. The younger that you start saving for retirement, the more money you will have when the time comes. 

I know it is not a lot of fun thinking about budgeting and saving for purchases instead of going for the instant gratification of buying now. However, if you plan and budget your income, you will relieve yourself of a lot of financial stress. Think of it this way, a budget is simply making financial decisions in advance so you don't have to stress over them every day.

About the author Anna Deeds:
I am a recovering addict and a Licensed Professional Counselor. I have over 7 years clean from all substances and more than 10 years from illicit drugs. I work as an addiction counselor and have more than 5 years experience counseling addicts.
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Page last updated Sep 01, 2015

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