Finding gratitude in doling out money one of recovery’s blessings
It’s been almost 11 years since I had my last drink and took my last drug, and the feeling of accomplishment I get every time I pay a bill has yet to wear off.
It’s amusing, I realize. Few people get satisfaction from watching the numbers in their checking accounts dwindle, and I’m by no means whistling a happy tune every time the mortgage or the utilities are due. But man, being able to provide for myself and my family is one of the most beautiful things recovery has given me.
For years, my checking account was a financial disaster. Even before active addiction, I had trouble managing money, most of the time because, until I got into recovery, I used money as a way to feel better about myself. Feeling down? Go out and buy something. Nothing to do? Go out and buy something. Spending money made me feel a part of, like I was somebody, and it gave me something to do other than sitting around the house in my own skin, which was probably the most uncomfortable thing in the world at the time.
Once my drug use dominated my life, bills lost any sense of priority in my life. Credit card companies constantly tried to track me down, bills either got tossed into the trash or stacked up unopened, and my roommates either avoided me like the plague, because they knew I was using and my living space was filthy, or they hounded me constantly for my share of what we owed.
I took advantage of landlords — not refusing to pay rent; just not paying it at all. One lived in New Jersey and didn’t realize the rent money wasn’t going into his account until months later; another pestered me with eviction notices on a weekly basis.
My power got turned off. That’s probably one of the worst memories I have — scraping empty bags of dope by candlelight just to get enough dust in a spoon to ease the withdrawal symptoms tearing up my body.
My drugs took precedent over everything: family, friends, jobs, responsibilities and most certainly bills. Every dime I had went to get drugs. It wasn’t a matter of choice at that point; I was so caught up in my addiction, I never sat down on payday and made a conscious decision to buy drugs over paying bills.
By that point, it was a must. I had to get high. My body demanded it, my brain demanded it and the only way I could live with myself was to stay as numb as possible. By the end, I was cashing my checks outright from whatever bank my employers used because I had so many overdrafts and bounced checks at my bank, any deposit I made wasn’t enough to wipe them out.
And in the end, I had no job. I was pawning everything I owned and stealing what I didn’t to get money for the dope. It was always about finding ways and means to get more, about living to use and using to live. I was caught up in a cycle that I couldn’t break — until I found the rooms of recovery.
Today, thanks to the program, not only am I abstinent from drugs, but my finances are manageable. I haven’t bounced a check in years. I can pay my bills and keep the lights on. I can buy groceries and take care of my animals. I don’t rely on my wife to carry our household, nor does she ever worry about whether I can come up with money for our living expenses.
I’m not a wealthy man by any stretch of the imagination. I have meager savings, little to no retirement put aside (yet) and a devastating financial blow would rock my world with all of the impact of a meteor. Nor do I have everything I want, even though my home is an embarrassment of riches compared to others who struggle financially.
And that means I have everything I need. I don’t worry about the future, nor do I regret the past. Because without my past, I wouldn’t be able to find the gratitude in something as fulfilling as paying my way in this life. And I know that if I can reach this point, so can anyone else. All it takes is some willingness to get started down recovery’s road.
Steve Wildsmith is a recovering addict and the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (email@example.com) or at 981-1144.