Financial Stress and Recovery


Financial Stress and Recovery

If you’ve looked into drug or alcohol treatment for yourself or a loved one, it comes as no surprise that treatment can be expensive. If you are lucky, your job is still there for you after treatment and if you aren’t, then you are unemployed and not making much money. Either way, you need to manage your finances carefully to minimize stress.  Keep in mind that although the price tag may seem overwhelming, you likely spent a lot more on your addiction than the cost of treatment. Don’t allow financial difficulties to get in the way of getting your life back on track….or, to put it another way, don’t allow financial challenges to set you up for relapse.

How Will I Pay for Treatment?

Fortunately, perceptions about drug and alcohol addiction are changing. Today, addiction is considered a chronic disease that affects people from all walks of life; not a problem of laziness, poor character or lack of willpower. As a result, there are more treatment options than ever before. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) requires mental health care be given parity with medical health care, by requiring insurance to cover treatment without increased deductibles, for example. So, more people than ever before are being covered for addiction treatment through regular medical insurance. If you are ready for treatment or are looking into it for someone you care about, here are a few items to consider:

  • Don’t settle for substandard treatment, but remember that while luxury treatment centers offer upscale accommodations, the high price tag is no guarantee that an expensive treatment facility is better than less expensive treatment centers.
  • Speak to the treatment center’s financial department about payment options. Many offer affordable financing packages, either on-site or through a third party lender. And, make sure you look into your own insurance, if you have it. If you don’t, but you qualify for Medicaid, look into getting signed up so that you can use the coverage that might be provided through your state’s program.
  • You may meet qualifications for state-funded or non-profit drug or alcohol treatment, which is usually available at no charge or a greatly reduced cost. Some treatment centers may offer scholarships for those who are unable to pay, or for people with insufficient insurance.
  • Affordable Care legislation requires insurance companies to fund addiction treatment. However, many fund a minimal level of treatment or restrict the types of treatment they will cover. If you have insurance, you may still need to fund the balance of treatment expenses on your own.
  • Although it may not be the best option, it may be worthwhile to put all or part of treatment on a credit card. If you determine this is a viable option, look for cards with a low interest rate. Also, look into health care credit cards, as many offer zero interest payment plans if you’re able to pay the amount due within a certain timeframe. Similarly, you may qualify for a personal loan from your bank. Again, seek the most reasonable terms.

How to Manage After Treatment: Financial Stress as a Relapse Trigger

Relapse can happen, especially in the early days of recovery. Don’t be disheartened, as relapse doesn’t necessarily mean that treatment has failed. However, awareness of triggers, including financial stress, can help prevent the chances of relapse.

If you had financial problems before you entered rehab, those difficulties will still be waiting when you walk out the door. This is especially true if it was necessary to put treatment on a credit card, or if you depleted your savings to pay for rehab. In addition, you may have additional costs such as fines, legal fees, maxed out credit cards or foreclosures, all of which can ramp up the stress level in a very big way.

It may be tempting to turn back to drugs and alcohol as a way of avoiding the stress, but this is a temporary fix that only makes matters worse. Facing a mountain of debt is stressful, but recovery should always be your first priority.

Tips for Coping with Debt after Treatment

If you’re fresh out of rehab and facing overwhelming financial stresses, consider these tips that may help ease the burden:

  • If you are homeless (or concerned about losing your home), ask at your treatment center about social service programs that may be able to provide assistance.
  • Learn healthier ways of coping with financial and other stressors. For example, consider learning mindfulness meditation, which costs nothing and can help you view your situation in a more objective manner. Many recovering addicts find that regular exercise is a great stress reliever.
  • Seek the advice of a financial advisor that can help you learn to budget and prioritize expenses. Your bank may be able to provide assistance at very little cost. Some treatment centers offer classes on money management skills such as financial planning, managing a checking account or creating a budget.
  • Discuss your situation with your credit card companies, as many offer loan modifications or reduced payment programs that can reduce your financial stress while you get back on your feet. Most creditors are willing to negotiate.
  • Learn to tell the difference between your needs and your wants, then devise a budget that takes care of your needs (and a few inexpensive wants). This can take time, as your addicted brain has likely grown accustomed to instant gratification.
  • Simplify your life and eliminate non-essential expenses until you’re back on your feet. It’s not easy, but you may need to forgo eating out, cable TV or expensive coffee drinks.
  • Take care of your most important bills first, such as mortgage or rent, food, utilities, car expenses and insurance. If you’re able, set up automatic payments for those essential expenses, as auto-payment eliminates the risk of late fees. However, be sure to deduct the amounts from checking account and monitor your account closely. Overdraft fees add up quickly.

Learning to manage financial stress doesn’t happen overnight. Although getting the upper hand takes time and requires practice, gaining control over your finances can improve your outlook, boost self-confidence, and make life a whole lot easier going forward.

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