poor and sober - sober and still poor - wallet with one dollar in it

Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck in Sobriety

January 28, 2020 4:45 pm - Published by

Sober and Still Broke?

One of the things many of us experience drinking and using and in early recovery is poverty. We’re either constantly broke, or homeless or hungry. Most of us haven’t had a full tank of gas for years. It can be frustrating; it can be debilitating and depressing. I didn’t get sober to be poor, to be constantly broke. I didn’t get sober to be homeless. It seems like we made this big effort to get sober and we aren’t successful yet, in fact we’re struggling to meet our basic needs. And we’re out of smokes!

Is It Just Me? Why Am I Still Broke

Why does this happen? And why does it happen to me when everyone else looks like they’re doing well? The truth is it happens to 95% of us. There’s always that guy who comes into treatment and recovery with stacks and a new car. The rest of us come in shot out, on fire, broke, broken and busted. Most of us were at a subsistence level of money when we came in. We’re not the types who plan ahead for retirement. We worked and spent just enough to have a roof over our heads, maybe a car, enough for McDonalds and the rest we drank and drugged away.

Now, we got sober and it seems all the bills are due. Our families and spouses figure we’re healthy now and we don’t need anything or they’re absolutely sick of giving us or loaning us money. Or, they figure if they help us with money, we’ll use it to relapse.

“Recovery” Jobs

You need a recovery job. What’s a recovery job? A pseudo-disposable job that pays the bills. That you don’t take home with you. Where the job stress is low. A job that doesn’t interfere with your IOP or personal recovery. A job that allows you to still hit the meetings you need to go to and have time to visit with your sponsor. Many people go into the food and beverage industry for example. Maybe you decide this is the perfect time to be a coffee shop barista. This is not the time to take on a chief executive role. Just get the bills paid for now.

At this point you really can not count on family or friends to support you financially. If you’re really lucky, your spouse or parents may give you somewhere to sleep. Beyond that, you’re on your own.

Spend Wisely

You should not be spending money on bullshit. You don’t need a recovery tattoo. You don’t need another pair of Jordans. You don’t need a $6 coffee at Starbucks. You don’t need a $200 vape. For once in your life, be frugal. Get off the Monsters and Red bulls.

I can remember being sober a few years, between jobs, broke and alone. It sucked. There were a few days here and there where I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. Or the only thing in the pantry was beans and rice. I had dreams of rotisserie chicken, or a steak. But then, I remember talking with my parents and grandparents who went through the great depression. My grandfather Ted worked on the railroad and the family, like many others, lived in abandoned train cars. My other grandfather Henry was a miner, my dad and his pals would walk down the train tracks gathering coal that fell off the trains to heat the house. I was a little hungry in a $300k house. It’s a matter of perspective. After thinking about it awhile, all I felt was that I’m a jerk.

Today I just budget where I can, and I don’t get thoughtless with money. If you’re living in a halfway house and all the guys are talking, you’ll hear the same things. They’ll tell you the thousands of women they slept with. They’ll tell you the mountains of drugs they did. They’ll tell you how they ran their town. The cars they owned, the places they robbed. And it’s all BS. These are the same guys who spend their money on new clothes, Red bulls, and shoes while they have to bum a cigarette from you. They’ll obsess about all this needless exterior stuff because they’re dying on the inside and won’t work on it. And these are the guys who are always at the grocery store waiting on a western union they talked their grandmother on social security to send. These are the still sick and suffering. You can only help them so much.

Just try and remember when your needs were small, when you wanted what you needed. Remember how tough it used to be, and how much you just wanted the simple things, the basic things. Remember to be grateful for what you do have, and always hopeful you’ll have what you need.

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