Are You Watching Addiction Break the Bank?

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While I worked at a nonprofit geared toward rehabilitating ex-prisoners, the organization paid one of our graduates to do some renovation work on a transition house. He hadn’t been incarcerated for a drug offense and, to our knowledge, didn’t have a drug or alcohol problem. He apparently hid it well; once the check was in his hands, he disappeared without doing the work.

The last we heard of him, he’d blown all the money on drugs and was homeless.

Money Problems and Red Flags

Signs of substance abuse vary from person to person. These can range from physical changes to psychological deterioration or a lack of funds.

Some of the most common financial warning signs of a substance abuse issue are:

  • Selling Other People’s Property: When he’s deep in active addiction and avoiding withdrawals is of the utmost importance, he’ll do whatever it takes to get his hands on drugs. This usually involves stealing and pawning valuables for money; these items often include family heirlooms, jewelry and electronics.
  • Pleas for Financial Help: He avoids paying basic bills to feed his substance abuse. This leads to maxing out credit cards, emptying bank accounts and hitting up friends or family for loans.
  • Paychecks No Longer Cut It: Income that once seemed sufficient to cover the bills is no longer enough. On the flip side, his income could have decreased or eliminated due to missing work or not being able to perform on the job.

Helping vs Enabling

If your loved one’s struggling with money problems as a result of chemical dependency, it’s crucial not to financially support him – it only only enables further substance use. Even paying the electric bill, which seems benign, actually condones his behavior and plays a part in perpetuating it.

The only way to “help” is to make your loved one deal with his own finances. By doing this, you’re sending the message that his drug use isn’t okay and he needs to accept responsibility.

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