Recovering alcoholics have an edge when it comes to money, and I can prove it. I received an e-mail a few weeks ago that I thought I’d share with you.
I “work” with Brad. He’s a very nice guy – the kind of person you’d A-list for your next barbecue – but not the kind of guy you’d name as your living trust trustee. He hasn’t been all that successful in his professional life. During the real estate boom, he was a mediocre salesman at best. Now that the market is just about dead he’s really struggling. But I give him credit; he’s hanging tough.
What makes Brad’s story compelling is that he’s a recovering alcoholic and he’s been sober for more than a year.
As inspiring as that is to me, it doesn’t put bread on the table – and that’s something Brad’s wife Tina reminds him of on a daily basis. Of course Brad can’t be blamed for the lousy real estate market. But he spent the last 11 years of his life drunk and that explains why he’s been slow to advance in his career. Brad’s addiction cost his family plenty and even though he’s sober now, his entire family is still paying the price.
I’m Brad’s sponsor in AA. Brad called me and he told me Tina got him a job as a security guard on the weekends. He told me that Tina insisted he do something to bring in some extra money.
“I can’t take that job. I want to make more money.”
He was really angry about Tina’s action. He was embarrassed about having to take on a job “like that” and let Tina know.
Neal….I’m no financial adviser but I told him this job was a golden opportunity for several reasons:
1. Even though the job would not bring in that much money, it would provide an important contribution.
2. Taking the job had symbolic importance. It was an amend of sorts. An effort by Brad to make up for his past bad decisions.
3. It gave Brad the opportunity to humble himself. He thought of himself as a real estate salesperson and “too good” to take on a security job. I told him that he was no more a real estate salesperson than Neil Armstrong was an astronaut. I told him that I pick up my dog’s poop on Sundays. Does that make me a dog poop picker upper? I told Brad that he was a husband and a father and that’s all that mattered.
The e-mail went on to tell me that Brad listened to his sponsor, swallowed his pride and took a job he could work over the weekend. Turns out he enjoyed them very much. He met some nice folks. His wife became more forgiving, and the money didn’t hurt either.
What I take away from this e-mail is that Brad, as a recovering alcoholic, had an edge that most people don’t. He was willing to “go against” himself and just take direction. He was willing to listen to his sponsor even though it was the last thing he wanted to do. Brad found a trustworthy person who had proven his good intentions and just followed him.
This seems like a very frightening thing to do. When you give that much power to another human being, they might manipulate you. Even if they don’t consciously manipulate you, they could give some very well-intentioned terrible advice.
I don’t really know how to build in a safeguard against this potential for abuse. I do think that it’s important to find a mentor or a sponsor – someone you are willing to consult with and take direction from. I know that in my own life, I have a number of people I go to. When I face a challenge I consult with many of the folks on my “team.” In most cases, there is a consensus among my team members. When I see that, I just do what they suggest without overthinking it. When I hear conflicting advice, I talk about the issue further and try to reconcile.
Do you have a team? Do you have one main financial “sponsor”? Do you fly solo? What works best for you? Would you ever appoint a financial “sponsor” and take direction even if you really didn’t want to?
Molly Tarbet says
I am a recovering alcoholic with 7 months of sobriety. I have a sponsor, work the 12 steps, go to meetings and give back to others. In addition, I have gone back to work and found stable housing. I have turned my life around completely after enduring a terrible and traumatic few years of the prison of addiction. My recovery is my foremost priority and always will be. My problem is that in order to get sober, I went to three different residential treatment centers in the last two years. I am thankful for what each of those places and people taught me and helped me in my recovery process however, insurance covered very little of the expense of treatment and now I am literally paralyzed by my credit card debt because that was my only choice, death or rehab and the only way I could pay for rehab was to put the cost on my credit card. Now I have maxed out my credit cards and can’t make the monthly payments and my interest rate is 14%. At this rate, I will never be able to get out from under my debt, my credit will be poor due to maxing out my cards and I won’t be able to enjoy all the wonderful things my new life has to offer like buying a home and starting a family and volunteering in my community to help others fight their way out of addiction.
I am so thankful for my recovery but I am overwhelmed by my medical bills. I am hoping you have some resources that may be able to help me? I would be happy to work or contribute in anyway I can.
I appreciate your consideration and help.
Neal Frankle says
Molly, First congratulations on your sobriety. That is a huge feat. And I think you made the right choice to spend the money to get sober even if it resulted in debt. There is no shame in your decisions / actions. I think it’s important to stay present and not predict what the future has in store for you. Your financial situation is tough – but it’s not permanent.
I am not an expert in debt consolidation I suggest you I would also contact the credit card companies to try to work something out. Are you working now? Can you pay something towards the debt? Have you considered bankruptcy? Here’s another post that you might find helpful