Addiction impacts the family in many ways. One of the common issues is financial insecurity, even in couples/families with large, seemingly stable incomes.
Recovering addicts and their partners, who themselves may come from dysfunctional family systems, often have no idea of boundaries around spending. A tendency towards impulsive behavior fueled by a consumer culture and fantasies of the American Dream – affordable or not — makes it hard to stay in reality with money.
All addictions are about powerful secrets, and money is second only to sex and food in its power to bring up old family of origin messages about shame, dependence and self-esteem. Not only does the resulting financial strain hurt the person suffering from the addiction, but it may impact the lives of partners and children for years to come.
A strong correlation is often found between addiction and unstable finances, arising from one or more of the following:
- Vagueness and secrecy about finances traditionally masks the addict’s spending.
- Lack of a sense of adult responsibility makes it difficult to pays bills in a timely fashion, resulting in a cascade of penalties and high interest rates.
- Reliance on credit without realistic understanding of consequences leads to long-term debt.
- Chaos leads to more chaos including the inability to plan ahead or have a realistic understanding of day-to-day needs
- The partner’s or other family member’s ongoing sense of deprivation makes it difficult to say “no” to life’s compensating pleasures.
- The addict’s need to look good or appear powerful leads to purchases based on appearance, not reality.
- Coming into reality with finances challenges everyone’s denial.
The financial recovery process parallels the addiction recovery process. It starts with lifting the veil around secrecy and vagueness with money. Financial status needs to be out in the open, information about who is spending what must be shared, and a realistic system of accountability put in place and amended as needed.
Oftentimes, couples will discover that they have different beliefs about money, formed in childhood, that need to be identified and explored.
Financial instability may stay with couples long after active addiction has ended. Many couples find they need to become sober around spending in the same way they need to become sober around other addictive behaviors.