MONEY AND THE RECOVERING ADDICT. FREEDOM FROM COMPULSIVE SPENDING.
How do addicts handle their finances after years of spending money on the wrong things and suffering the regret? In the past personally I crossed many moral boundaries to make my money and then spent it on drugs instead of paying the bills, buying important things for my family and myself. Since I now have years of sober time under my belt I do question my occasional compulsive spending, I analyse it and am now sharing it with you.
I remember at the start of my recovery I continued in my willingness to cross moral boundaries to get money a time or two when I needed that money to get to a meeting or put toward my rehab stay. I had the gift of desperation that is a key in opening the lock of sobriety. I don’t save money well I never have. Neither have my parents, they didn’t teach me good financial planning or skills. However since I have been sober I do much better with my money, I get my bills paid even though sometimes they are late. I enjoy shopping but if I know a bill is due I usually pay it first. I say “usually”.
When it comes to walking in a Wal-mart with a pocket full of money even though all I need is a gallon of milk I will tell myself “I know there’s something I need” just so I can shop. Shopping is a high for me and if I go to the grocery store hungry I may forget all about my bills temporarily until I get home and wish I hadn’t spent so much money. I wonder…is it the shopping or the beating myself up that I get more satisfaction from. Maybe subconsciously the thought of just being good bores me to tears and since I no longer drink and drug because it became too painful I must replace that debauchery with another of a different flavor. One thing sure if we are busy doing Step 12 we won’t have time for self abuse.
The cycle of guilt is a merry-go-round that does not enjoy being put to rest. Whether it be illicit sex, stealing, yelling at our loved ones, gossip, over-eating, or greed recovering addicts seem to have a need to keep the merry-go-round of guilt and self-punishment alive. After all what will we do with out emotions and thoughts if we don’t have some negative aspect of ourselves or others to focus on?
The 12 steps help us to STOP the cycle of guilt and remorse. Perhaps not completely however, believe it there are degrees of guilt. Remorse can be so deep that it becomes intolerable after all where does depression step from if not from a deep nagging dissatisfaction of one’s self? The program gives us all kinds of new things to focus on and yes new things to criticize and balk at. Aren’t the very nature of steps 1,4,6,7,8,9, & 10 about asking ourselves “what have I done wrong today and in the past”? YES THEY ARE however the steps offer us solutions to that guilt so we don’t have to walk around ashamed of who we are. Without steps two, three, five, eleven and 12 our wonderful recovery program is nothing more than [ more of the same], more insanity and a continued process of self-abasement without the solutions. At the same time without the self-examination of our shortcomings we cannot clear the wreckage of our past and put our emotions from “disorder” to order, It is completely understandable why so many people take a peak at AA and then decide it’s not for them. They see all the negative self-examination and say “It does me no good to dwell on the past there is nothing I can do about it now its gone.” To an extent they are spot on and that is the best attitude if a person does not have steps 2,3, 5, 11,12.
Ignoring and repressing guilt will only get us so-far. Unprocessed emotions will come out of us in the form of criticisms, gossip, verbal attacks on other people, and it will turn bitter inside of our bellies and prompt us to jealousy, envy, and make us sick. Repressed guilt turns to shame which turns to fear and hate. We as recovering addicts need the 12 steps like a fish needs water. We must not give way to homicidal and suicidal thoughts but instead have the courage to do self-examination and admit our wrongs and then tell someone about it. We must let the cat out of the bag by doing our Fifth Step which is so important for our emotional recovery. Our relationship with God is so important but we must have at least one confidant that we can tell anything to. Where there is no sense of accountability personalities digress.
So how does all this fit in with our finances? We recognize when and if we are using money to continue somehow our cycle of shame and guilt. If we learn to work the 12 steps properly and as women focus on our feelings when doing so and honor them by validating and sharing them in our fifth step we can then let the pain go rather than hold onto it like Gollum held on to the ring….his Precious. We shall put our emotions into a state of “order” rather than sick and depressive “disorder”. By admitting that we do experience guilt and shame instead of labeling such feelings weak and shameful we can and will simply grow out of them.