Money Management as a Tool to Help Maintain Abstinence

Work and Money Can Be Problems for Alcoholics and Addicts

Woman managing finances
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Returning to work after going through a professional alcohol and drug rehab program is usually a necessity for most, but employment and money management can be problematic for alcoholics and addicts.

If you reached the point in your drinking or drug use that you required professional treatment, there is a good chance your substance abuse progressed to the level that it affected your employment record. Recovering alcoholics and addicts frequently have problems meeting work-related responsibilities, maintaining employment and managing money.

Problems With Employment

Although returning to employment can improve self-esteem and help you become more responsible, supporting yourself and your family, going back to work can provide a new set of relapse triggers for people in recovery:

  • Just the act of returning to the "real world" of work from a residential rehab program can be a major psychosocial stressor.
  • The fear of failure, actual failure, and similar fears can result in a further loss of self-esteem.
  • If you previously drank with co-workers after work, or bought drugs or did drugs with co-workers, returning to the job can be a situational trigger for relapse.
  • The job itself can be highly stressful. Many alcoholics and addicts used in the first place to escape or unwind after a stressful day at work.

Using the Tools You've Learned

If you are in follow-up care from your professional rehab program, your counselor will help you prepare to return to your employment or to the job market. You will be reminded of all of the tools that you learned in early abstinence that you can now put into practice in everyday life to maintain a sober lifestyle.

You can review the steps that lead to a relapse and make sure you are not falling into any of the usual "stinking thinking" traps. Even while working, you can stay in touch with your support system and, if needed, increase your attendance at your support group meetings. Returning to work can be tough, but at this point in your recovery, you have the skills and tools to handle it.

Problems With Money

Returning to work also means that you will start having to manage your money responsibly. This can be a problem for many alcoholics and addicts. Typically, people active in their substance abuse are often irresponsible with money. And for addicts, in particular, having money can be a trigger for returning to drug use.

Many addicts get to the point that any time they have money, they use it to purchase drugs.

Some addicts get to the point where they will buy drugs instead of buying food or paying rent. Also, many alcoholics and addicts can easily fall into other compulsive behaviors that can negatively affect their finances, such as gambling or compulsive spending.

Managing Your Money

If you have had problems with money management in the past, your continuing care counselor will probably make suggestions based on your previous experiences. By this time, your counselor probably knows you pretty well and knows whether or not money is going to be a problem for you as you return to work.

Depending on your personal history with managing money, your counselor may recommend:

  • Turning your money over to someone you trust (and who is not doing drugs), such as a spouse or parent.
  • Avoid having or using an ATM card.
  • Placing your money into an account so that you have to physically go to the bank to make a withdrawal.

Avoid the Money Trigger

If having money has been a trigger for you in the past, putting your money where it's not easily available to you might be wise. If you have to go to the bank to make a withdrawal transaction, that takes time and planning and could deter you from impulsively making a drug buy.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Melemis SM. Relapse prevention and the five rules of recoveryYale J Biol Med. 2015;88(3):325-332.

  2. Yau YHC, Potenza MN. Gambling disorder and other behavioral addictions: Recognition and treatmentHarv Rev Psychiatry. 2015;23(2):134-146. doi:0.1097/HRP.0000000000000051

  3. Rosen MI. Overview of special sub-section on money management articles: Cross-disciplinary perspectives on money management by addictsAm J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2012;38(1):2-7. doi:10.3109/00952990.2011.644366

By Buddy T
Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.