10 Things Your Finances Can Tell You about Your Recovery

With tax season comes a sort of financial reckoning; how much you made and how much you owe Uncle Sam come into clear view. But what it doesn’t illuminate is how much you spent along the way – on addiction, court costs, treatment, and life in general – or how much you had left over, if anything, to enhance your life in any way.

Your finances can tell you a lot about your life and how you are doing in recovery, especially when you take the time to write up and maintain a budget that outlines every dollar you spend and how much you have left when you are done paying your expenses.

In short, your finances will tell you everything you need to know about your:

1. Level of organization: Are you good at keeping a budget, or do you often forget to note the little expenses and try instead to guesstimate how much you spend on coffee, food, or clothes in a month? Organization in finance, like organization in your recovery, can help you to build a structure for yourself that sustains you for the long-term and helps you to make steady progress along the way.

2. Your nutrition status: How much are you spending on eating out? Are you spending a little more on organic groceries but balancing it by buying beans and other healthy, low-cost foods to cook at home? Your food bill demonstrates your attention to your physical health and nutrition, which can directly impact your overall mood, wellbeing, and ability to stay sober.

3. Your overall health and wellness: Do you spend money on a gym membership? Do you pay dues to be on an adult sports team? Do you have a category for workout gear? Your budget should show how well you are taking care of yourself physically, which – like your food budget –directly correlates with your ability to avoid relapse.

4. Social experiences: Do you have a big budget for going out with friends? A coffee budget that is essentially for hanging out with people from meetings? Do you tend to go out to restaurants, movies, or other outings with friends? It’s great to spend time with your people in recovery, but moderation is key, as is finding less expensive ways of connecting with people if it’s getting in the way of your ability to manage your budget.

5. Impulse control: Do you find you cannot track where your money goes at the end of the month? Do you tend to head to the store for a loaf of bread and walk out with five bags of things that were “a great deal” or that you “absolutely need”? Impulse control plays a role in management of finances and also in your ability to manage the urge to relapse.

6. Debt management: Do you owe a lot of money to a lot of people and companies? If so, you are likely dealing with a significant level of stress, which can make it that much more stressful to start over again in sobriety.

7. Attention to detail: If you are trying to maintain a zero-based budget, you won’t get very far if you don’t pay attention to the details. $2 for the bus? $3 for coffee? $1 for a bag of chips? Write it all down. In the same way, when you pay attention to the details in recovery, you can notice when you are engaging in a behavior or having a feeling that could contribute to relapse.

8. Level of commitment: How long have you been doing your budget? Just like recovery, the longer you are consistent and engaged with the process, the more solid and comfortable you will feel.

9. Investment in your recovery: What percentage of your budget is dedicated to your recovery? Though you don’t have to go over the top with your spending – you can borrow books on recovery from the library, go to free and sliding scale acupuncture sessions, take tai chi for free in the park – some things, like therapy, will cost some money, and it’s important to prioritize these expenses in your budget.

What do your finances say about your recovery?

Since joining the Townsend content team, Shlomo has become a thought leader in the addiction field. He is a Seinfeld junkie, a recovering Twitter fanatic, and a sports expert. He enjoys milk shakes and beautiful views from rooftops.