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Financial Wellness in Recovery: Why Managing Your Money Matters

Substance use disorders can affect nearly every area of your life, including your financial health. Drug and alcohol addiction can drain savings accounts, draw your attention away from career success, and even result in losing your job or assets.

Starting the path to recovery can help stop this financial harm, and learning financial wellness in recovery can help prevent the stress and hardship people often face in their first years of recovery.

Common Financial Challenges in Early Recovery

There are a number of financial challenges people face in their first days, months, and years of recovery. Of course, each person’s level of financial hardship or challenges is unique, but there are some common challenges that many people experience.


Living with a substance use disorder can quickly lead to prioritizing drug or alcohol use above other important obligations. This prioritization often results in people missing bills or payments, accumulating credit card debt, or taking out loans to subsidize their substance use.

Additionally, many people who are experiencing harmful physical effects from their substance use find themselves with large medical or hospital bills. These debts can quickly begin accumulating overwhelming amounts of interest, damage their credit score, and prevent them from finding housing.


The harms of substance use often stretch into the workplace. People with a substance use disorder may lose their jobs due to the consequences of substance use, such as being too physically sick to attend work or showing up to work intoxicated.

Other consequences that may affect your ability to get employed in early recovery include:

  • Criminal charges
  • A need for continuing addiction treatment
  • Extended gaps in employment history

These can serve as roadblocks for people hoping to bounce back from a substance use disorder that has caused substantial harm to their personal and financial well-being.

Lack of Financial Skills

People with substance use disorders often dedicate much of their time to using, recovering from, or seeking out their substance of choice.

This prioritization of substances over other important aspects of life can often lead to people missing out on developing a strong set of financial skills, leaving them ill-prepared to achieve financial wellness in recovery.

Building necessary financial skills can be accomplished during recovery, but it often takes longer to create a strong foundation of financial health when people are getting sober for the first time.

Treatment Cost

On top of the several other financial challenges people face during a substance use disorder, paying for effective drug and alcohol treatment can often be a challenge.

Evidence-based addiction treatment typically involves intensive treatments and therapies from a wide range of medical and mental health specialists and frequently requires people to take time away from work while treatments are being administered.

There are several options for reducing the overall cost of treatment, such as insurance, scholarships, or part-time treatment, but many people still struggle with keeping their finances balanced with this unexpected cost.

How Financial Wellness Supports Your Recovery

Knowing the several different financial challenges people face during recovery, it’s important to recognize how any combination of challenges can impact your ability to get sober, stay sober, and live a more fulfilling life in recovery.

Financial wellness in recovery isn’t just a matter of keeping your bills paid but can be an important component in resisting future relapse.

Reducing Stress

Living with financial hardship can quickly compound the degree of psychological distress you feel from day to day. This effect has been repeatedly verified by academic research and is plainly apparent to anyone who has experienced food insecurity, housing insecurity, or other types of financial anxiety.

Reducing stress is incredibly important in the context of substance use recovery. The early days of recovery are often stressful enough on their own, especially when people are going through the stages of physical and psychological withdrawal.

Higher levels of stress have been repeatedly connected to a greater risk of relapse, leaving treatment, and mental health consequences.

When you are chronically stressed due to financial hardship, it can be difficult to focus on the treatments and therapies that help you achieve and maintain your sobriety. Financial anxiety can also lead to more frequent cravings and negative emotional states, all of which hold you back from fully engaging with the treatment process.

Building Security

The counterpoint to reducing stress is building a sense of security. A feeling of security is vital to effective addiction treatment. It can remove potential triggers, help people overcome negative mental health symptoms, and reduce the intensity of substance use withdrawal or cravings.

Developing financial wellness in recovery helps people soothe their anxieties about the future and focus their attention on the here and now. This provides a much more flexible and productive space for people to focus on learning new coping mechanisms, resisting substance use cravings, and overcoming the challenges of achieving recovery.

Getting Effective Services

The cost of receiving effective treatment services is one of the most widespread barriers to care. Science has repeatedly shown that people have much greater chances of sustaining recovery if they receive evidence-based addiction treatment and that people are more likely to remain abstinent when they continue with these services long-term.

While most people start their journey to addiction recovery in a residential or outpatient addiction treatment program, continuing to participate in individual or group therapy can provide ongoing support and accountability.

Financial wellness in recovery helps people build these potential costs into a budget and continue getting the help they need to stay sober.

How to Achieve Financial Wellness in Recovery

Understanding how impactful your finances can be on your mental health, it quickly becomes apparent how important financial wellness in recovery can be. The path to achieving financial health in recovery isn’t always easy, though, and it can take some time to develop the tools and skills for financial health.

However, there are a few simple strategies that can start you along the path.

Creating a Budget

A detailed budget is the fastest way to get a handle on your financial situation. Creating and sticking to a budget can not only help you create a plan for where your money is spent but will get you more familiar with your spending habits in general.

Paying careful attention to where your money comes from and where it goes is the first step in financial wellness. A budget helps you grow more familiar with your bills, mandatory expenses, and discretionary spending and can further help you allocate your money in a way that supports your goals for financial wellness in recovery.

Finding Employment

If you have entered addiction treatment without a secure job position, finding employment that fits your skills is an important next step. The best addiction treatment centers will typically support their clients in developing effective strategies for this process, including:

  • Crafting a resume that will impress potential employers
  • Teaching interview skills
  • Helping determine what job opportunities are available
  • Highlighting pathways to job training or education programs

Finding a stable source of employment is a critical step in building a new life in recovery. While there can be several challenges in this stage, overcoming them can help you find financial security and work that you feel passionate about doing.

Building Financial Wellness Skills

Many of the skills for long-term financial wellness aren’t taught in schools. Instead, people will often need to seek out an education in financial literacy on their own, either through specific education programs or books dedicated to helping people understand the main components of financial well-being.

Building these skills could include educating yourself about topics such as:

  • Retirement planning
  • Investment strategies
  • Understanding credit and credit scores
  • Debt management
  • Managing taxes
  • Savings strategies

Learning more about these basic financial wellness skills not only helps you to prevent financial insecurity now, but it also helps you build a healthy long-term plan to achieve your goals in recovery.

Creating an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is a simple way to prevent catastrophic consequences from unexpected life events. By prioritizing making an emergency fund early into your recovery, you can save yourself from experiencing sudden unexpected hardship due to events such as:

  • Medical bills or expenses
  • Taking care of a loved one who has fallen ill
  • Car crashes or repairs
  • Home repair
  • Job loss
  • Legal issues

An emergency fund is essentially a financial safety net. It can prevent you from going into debt due to unexpected expenses and make you feel more comfortable that you are prepared for anything that might happen.

Start Treatment

If you haven’t done so already, starting effective drug and alcohol treatment can be the fastest way to start your path to financial health.

A comprehensive addiction treatment program focuses on much more than mere abstinence. It also provides specific services to help people with mental health challenges, social difficulties, financial health, and much more.

Treatment can help you restore your financial well-being in a number of ways. First, stopping drug and alcohol use can quickly eliminate a massive monthly expense.

People with substance use disorders regularly spend well outside of their means in order to obtain their substance of choice, and finding a way to stop substance use eliminates this expense entirely.

Second, addiction treatment can help restore your ability to find and maintain employment. Substance use disorders can produce a wide range of mental health effects that interfere with your ability to work, including:

  • Spending an excessive amount of time recovering from substance use
  • Frequent substance cravings
  • Loss of interest in activities outside of substance use
  • Giving up important commitments or responsibilities in favor of substance use
  • Struggling to maintain relationships due to substance use

Any one of these symptoms can prevent you from achieving your career goals. By breaking free from a substance use disorder with targeted treatment methods, you can regain the ability to perform at your best in the workplace and advance your career.

Finally, overcoming a substance use disorder frees you to spend your time and energy as you see fit rather than being caught in a cycle of substance use.

When people achieve substance use recovery, they often find that they have a great deal of free time, which can then be spent building their job skills, seeking work opportunities, or improving their productivity.

Abstinence alone may not be enough to save you from a bad financial situation, but it can help stop your addiction from making your financial difficulties even worse.

Break Free from Addiction at APN

At APN’s comprehensive addiction treatment programs, our team is dedicated to providing the best evidence-based treatments to help you or your loved one overcome a substance use disorder. Get started with treatment today by filling out our confidential contact form or by calling us at 855-232-8217.


  • Ryu, Soomin, and Lu Fan. “The Relationship Between Financial Worries and Psychological Distress Among U.S. Adults.” Journal of family and economic issues vol. 44,1 (2023): 16-33. doi:10.1007/s10834-022-09820-9