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Why Recovering Alcoholics Need to Be Careful with Debt

recovering alcoholics and debt

Financial debt is pervasive issue in modern American society, affecting millions of people. However, for those recovering from alcoholism or alcohol use disorder, debt can be particularly detrimental, not just to your wallet but to your mental and physical health. With April being Alcohol Awareness Month, now is the time to explore the tumultuous relationship between recovering alcoholics and debt.

The Problem of Debt

According to a February 2024 study by Experian, the multinational data analytics and consumer credit reporting company, consumers in the U.S. owed more than $17 trillion in debt as of the third financial quarter of 2023, marking an increase of more than 4 percent from 2022, which itself saw a 7 percent increase in debt from the previous year. 

While there is no official data specific to recovering alcoholics and debt, the poor judgment and tendency toward risky behaviors that are hallmarks of alcoholism can sometime result in impulse purchasing and unpaid bills.

Plus, addiction is expensive. First, there’s the often-high cost of drinking in excess, as well as the fact that keeping up a steady stream of income during active addiction can be challenging, to say the least. Also, the high costs of legal fees and other costs associated with the choices made while under the influence only make things worse.

Of course, problems associated with debt affect those who have graduated from an alcohol addiction treatment program as those still under the influence. Below are some reasons why debt can present difficulties to those in recovery from alcohol use disorder.

Debt Can Trigger Relapse

For people in the early stages of recovery, maintaining stability and routine are absolute musts. Financial turmoil disrupts this stability, which increases one’s vulnerability to relapse triggers. Managing debt responsibly is therefore crucial to preserving stability and reducing the risk of relapse.

One reason why recovering alcoholics need to tread carefully around debt is the stress that piling debts can create. Money woes are famous triggers of anxiety, depression, and feelings of helplessness, all of which are triggers for relapse. 

The burden of debt puts pressure on a person, compounding some of the challenges one already faces in recovery. This is why it is essential for recovering alcoholics to avoid unnecessary debt burdens.

Debt Distracts from Recovery

Recovery from alcohol use disorder demands a fair amount of time, energy, and focus. However, mounting debt can divert attention away from essential aspects of recovery: therapy, support group meetings, and self-care practices. 

People grappling with financial woes may find it challenging to prioritize their recovery, leading to setbacks. By managing debt responsibly, recovering alcoholics can keep the focus on their recovery goals.

Debt Can Affect Judgment

In recovery, people strive to regain control over their lives and make healthier choices. Debt can cloud judgment on this front leading to financial decisions made of fear or desperation. High-interest loans, transferring balances from one credit card to another, and other ways of borrowing might seem like quick solutions. However, they can have nasty long-term consequences. People in recovery are better off prioritizing clearheaded decision-making to safeguard their progress and avoid relapse.

Debt Strains Relationships

Debt-related stress can strain relationships with family, friends, and other support networks. The conflicts that often arise from financial difficulties can lead to feelings of isolation, exacerbating the risk of relapse. Strong social connections and a supportive network are two crucial pillars of recovery, because they provide encouragement and accountability. However, debt can damage these relationships.

Debt Exacerbates Underlying Mental Health Issues

Falling into debt can present a symptom of a deeper underlying issue, such as high impulsivity, low self-esteem, and problems with self-restraint. These issues, which may have contributed to a person’s alcohol addiction, can also hinder progress in a person’s recovery if left unaddressed.

By taking proactive steps to manage debt responsibly, individuals can confront these underlying issues and go on to develop healthier coping mechanisms. Finding professional support for these issues can aid in addressing both the psychological and financial aspects of recovery.

How to Approach Debt in Recovery

For many people in recovery, taking on the paydown of a large debt while at the same time managing a household budget can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Taken step by step, it is possible to incorporate solid financial choices into your new life without feeling stressed.

First, one should recognize that a number of moving parts is involved in effective financial management, especially when someone is doing their best to track income, pay off debt, and keep up with current incoming bills. With this in mind, one is wise to start small. Remember, it took time to create debt, it’s going to take time to pay it down. However, with an organized plan, you can get begin to get rid of your debts faster, without too much anxiety:

  • First, sit down and analyze your financial situation. Look over your income and compare it to your outstanding debt as a whole. 
  • Next, list your pending payment responsibilities: credit card bills, student loans, unpaid medical bills, active personal loans, rent, and so forth.
  • Finally, review your overall debt from these. Also get a handle on the interest rates of these different debts.

You might feel an impulse to “beat yourself up” over these debts. Know that this is a normal reaction but not a positive one. It’s crucial that, while in recovery, one frees themselves from the negative self-talk that can lead to anxiety, depression, and possible relapse. Instead, try and be happy in the knowledge that you were brave enough to face what may be an uncomfortable truth.

Learn Coping Skills in Recovery with Northpoint Colorado in Loveland

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use disorder and the burden of debt, seeking professional help is crucial. Located in Loveland, Colo., Northpoint Colorado offers comprehensive addiction treatment programs tailored to people’s individual needs.

From detoxification and therapy to counseling and support, Northpoint Colorado provides holistic care to support recovery and promote long-term well-being. Contact us today at 888.231.1281 for further information, or connect with us through our online form.