Money Money Money
By Rosemary O’Connor
Edited excerpt from A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery (Hazelden 2015)
A woman’s best protection is a little money of her own.
— CLARE BOOTHE LCCE
Two of the most prominent relapse triggers I see with my clients are romance and finance. As addicts and alcoholics, most of us have money issues. Just as we learn to have healthy relationships with people, we also need to learn to have a healthy relationship with money. Most people would rather tell you their deepest, darkest secrets or about their sex life than tell you about their dysfunctional relationship with money.
My relationship with money was definitely dysfunctional! I went mindlessly shopping for clothes, shoes, cars; you name it. I often padded the grocery bill, and I even stole money from the kids’ piggy banks.
When I was about five years sober, I hit my bottom with money. I was $60,000 in debt, and I could hardly breathe. I was a single mom trying to raise three children. I always made good money, but I could never seem to save—I often spent more money than I had. I was so ashamed, embarrassed, and filled with fear. I was afraid to open bills. I lay awake nights worrying about money. Many days I wanted to drink because I was so uncomfortable.
I decided to ask for help from a friend named Terri. Terri had been in my shoes (I had a lot of shoes) and she showed me how she learned to get out of debt and save money. The first step I learned was to track my spending and earning. I needed this not only to gain clarity about where my money was going but to start becoming aware of my relationship with money. The next step was to create a spending plan, which allowed me to make better choices with my money: choices that reflected my values, goals, and dreams.
The most challenging suggestion she made was to cut up my credit card and not debt. That commitment was put to the test when I was out of work for four months, and my vacuum cleaner broke. I had three kids, a not-so-white carpet, and no vacuum. My first instinct was to run out and charge a new one on a credit card; then I remembered the promise I’d made to myself about not debiting. I grabbed my little dust buster and got down on my hands and knees to vacuum up all the crumbs.
As I vacuumed, I felt pity for myself, but since that didn’t make the situation any better, I decided to try the gratitude prayer. I thanked God for the crumbs because it meant we had food to eat. I said thank you for the carpet, and the table the food fell from, and a beautiful home for my kids and me. I thanked God for the three beautiful, healthy children who had probably dropped the crumbs. I suddenly found myself weeping with gratitude for all the blessings in my life. I realized all these gifts were from God, and all I needed to do was trust. Oh, and to continue dust-busting the thousand other crumbs as well!
When we face our fears, ask for help, and take action, things can start to fall into place, and we feel empowered. If we don’t beat ourselves up and take care of business, we can feel good about ourselves. When I pay my bills on time with gratitude, I am in right relationship with my money. I don’t worship, obsess, or undervalue money.
Vagueness about money keeps me in fear. When I balance my checkbook and keep track of my expenses, I feel free. When I go on wild spending sprees, I feel guilty and out of control.
I have learned that my worth is not connected to my wallet, the clothes I wear, or the car I drive. We are all worthy. I learned my fears are never about the money. Regardless of how much money I had or did not have, the hole I was trying to fill was the feeling that “ I am not enough.” A mantra I learned was “I have enough, I do enough, and I am enough.”
The hole I have tried to fill with ever-more stuff is a bottomless pit. When I am spiritually fit and useful to others, that deep, dark pit is filled with a feeling of purpose and usefulness to others. Today I do my best to show up for work, pay my bills on time, save money, donate to charities, and remember to be grateful for my sobriety and all the abundance in my life.
Tools for Financial Recovery
1. Make a spending plan: Ask a trusted friend who is good with money to help you create a budget and get your financial affairs in order. Remember: once you take the monster of fear of financial insecurity out of the closet, it loses its power.
2. Open a savings account: Put a little in every month, even if it’s only five dollars; a small amount still builds your self- esteem. If you receive unexpected money, put it into savings, instead of your checking account.
3. For a month, write down each day what you purchased and the amount you spent. This will give you greater clarity about your relationship with money.
Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear your comments or any tips you can share. Please share in the comment section below.
Thanks ~ Rosemary
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