Teens in recovery have it a lot easier than they think. I got sober at 18 years old, and I am now approaching 11 years next month. Way back when, my idea of being responsible was spending more money on weed than cocaine, and an impending move across country made me grateful for the lessons learned in the program.
When every penny that comes into your possession for longer than a tenth of a second goes to getting high, naturally, your priorities are different than most of the population’s. If your diet consists solely of crystal meth topped with more crystal meth, food doesn’t really land very high on the totem pole of needs.
When you’re a kid doing these things, the financial burden of having an addiction isn’t a very big deal because most of your expenses are already taken care of for you by your legal guardian (usually your parent(s)). Rent, insurance, utilities, food…all these cost money that you aren’t paying while getting loaded or as a teen in recovery. However, they are ridiculously expensive.
When mom and/or dad aren’t providing that anymore, though, spending everything you have on getting high is a really hard habit to break. Not only is the perception and value of money distorted, but also the physical addiction that may have developed from the steady stream of now-cost-prohibitive chemicals isn’t taking “no” for an answer, either.
The result is an often years-long juggling act of bill triage—deciding where you can fall into debt in order to maintain your addiction while simultaneously falling into debt in other areas to pay off the last overdue balance. Factor in the penalties and late fees, and—surprise, surprise!—you’re paying more for basic services than everyone else, and ruining your credit in the process all at the same time.
It isn’t very shocking, then, that even though learning how to be financially responsible is a hard thing for anyone to do, it is way easier learning it sober than while having to spend money to fend off physical sickness as well.
Did I teach myself these things? Not even close—nor am I always a strict observer of the lessons taught, but I digress.
I did what I did when I came into AA: I asked for help and took the advice of those who seemed to have what I wanted. I saw people older than me coming in with decades of debt built up behind their addictions, and saved myself—so far—from having to travel that path.
What’s the point of all this, though? What does this have to do with anything?
I’m moving in a very short time—away from friends, family, and everything I’ve grown up and known. It is scary, exciting, and awesome, all at the same time. It is also extraordinarily expensive and stressful. But recovery is not just about not drinking and not using. It is about improving our quality of life, a day at a time, without a drink or a drug to fix that internal spiritual maladjustment—the “–ism” part of “alcoholism.”
We learn how to live life—not just to put the plug back in the jug. As a teen in recovery all those years ago, I never would have imagined the things I would learn here.