The disease of addiction has left virtually no family completely unscathed. It may be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, sibling, spouse, child or dear friend – but all of know at least one person struggling.
Thankfully, the stigma associated with this disease is starting to dissolve away. The battle against those who would vilify the afflicted isn’t totally won, but I think we can all agree that where we are now in regards to general understanding and acceptance is leaps and bounds ahead of even where we were 5 years ago.
Addiction recovery support is something I’m personally passionate about, having known many important people in my life who I love, adore and respect who have benefited tremendously from treatment at a center specializing in the disease of addiction. So, as a financial advisor, I felt personal responsibility to help in the best way I know how – which for me has translated into a volunteer education role at a local Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center. Once a month, I lead a one-hour session with all of the in-patients in the facility (usually about 25-30 adults) focusing on financial education.
This is how I start the session: “Welcome, everyone. My name is Margo. I’m a financial advisor in the area. You all are here at this facility because you are dedicated to your recovery from the disease of addiction, and you are serious about putting in the work toward that recovery. Oftentimes, a part of the recovery from the disease of addiction includes financial recovery. While battling our addictions, sometimes we make bad financial decisions, but believe me when I say that things are never too far gone to fix. So, I’m here today as a volunteer educator because each of you inspires me. Your dedication to your recovery means I’m dedicated to giving you the information, tools and resources to begin on the road to financial recovery, and once there, start practicing healthy financial behaviors to support your continued recovery.”
Here are some of the topics I cover:
- How to get out of debt, and why high interest rate credit cards are the things to avoid
- How to avoid bankruptcy and the steps to take to climb out of an impossible debt situation
- How our decisions affect those around us (i.e. What does it mean when we ask Mom/Dad to take a distribution from a retirement account before age 59.5?)
- How to differentiate between “need to have,” “want to have,” and “nice to have” and tactics to avoid overspending
- Why our credit scores are so important, why you deserve to be able to borrow at an affordable rate, and how to improve a bad credit score.
- How to avoid financial pitfalls like applying for a personal loan from a TV ad promising to minimize monthly credit card/debt payments.
- How to save for retirement, especially if your work offers a qualified plan with a match
- How to prioritize bill pay once out of the recovery center, how to sign up for online bill pay instead of auto-bill pay (and why), and how much to save moving forward.
I’m not going to share with you anything specific about conversations I’ve had in these sessions because all of that is private, but the thing I most want to share with you is this: The people in that room are YOU and ME. The face of the disease of addiction is the face of your peers. It spans ALL ages and ALL demographics. It is very smart and accomplished people who made the brave move to ask for help.
So, why this post? Well, I wanted to suggest you all do a few things:
1. Do some soul searching to figure out how to use your talents/knowledge to help other people and then SIGN UP TO DO IT. There are so many volunteer opportunities out there and 1 hour a month is totally doable for everyone. It is exceptionally good for the soul and will make you feel like a million bucks, I promise. If you want a book to read, check out The Happiness Project – One young woman was inspired to look into what truly makes us happy and (spoiler alert) it has to do with being grateful, helping others, and purposefully reminding yourself of the blessings in your life. One way to accomplish this is through volunteerism.
2. Take some time to learn about the disease of addiction and how it is affecting your local community. These are important issues that you should be informed about as you advocate for making your community a better place, and providing support to those who need it. In my county alone, there have been more than 70 overdoses this year, 8 of which were fatal. These are my neighbors and friends. These are people who are deserving of our compassion and support.
3. Be kinder. Many people are fighting battles that you are unaware of, and you’d be surprised how much a kind word or just general supportive gesture can change their world. I know I’ve needed it at times, and I’m grateful for those willing to give it to me.
I can assure you that I get MUCH more out of these sessions than the participants. I am reminded to be grateful for the support system in my life. I am reminded to be vigilant regarding my behaviors and how I impact those around me. I am usually taught at least one or two new things about financial pitfalls and how specific marketing can prey on those without the knowledge base to avoid financial predators. (BTW: Why AREN’T we taught basic financial education in middle school or high school?!) Most of all, I leave feeling inspired – inspired by people who have been through a GREAT deal of trials and who yet still are SO dedicated to self-improvement.
I’ve got a lot of improving to do. So, these brave people help me remember to get to it.