Dear Hip Sobriety,
I recently discovered your blog and it is my new addiction. I think I have actually replaced drinking with Hip Sobriety and the online sobriety community. I love you to pieces and feel like we have so much in common. Yet, one thing I am struggling to connect with is an issue of social economics.
How does one get through sobriety as smoothly when they are dirt shit poor, like really? I come from poverty, and as insidious as you know, addiction and poverty truly are synonymous with each other. I am well on my way to recovery, but some things I simply cannot (yet) afford such as Yogaglo, or the million books I want to devour. That shit is expensive, but critical.
How do I supplement my insatiable desire to fill myself up with these goodies until I CAN afford them? What would YOU do if you had started your road to sobriety with no money, no job, no education, a felon?
ANY suggestions and harsh honesty would be greatly appreciated.
Broke N Broken
Dear Broke & Broken,
Thank you for this big, beautiful question. I am drawn to it for so many reasons, but mostly because you are right about one big thing: poverty and addiction are close cousins. I do what I can to provide as many free resources as possible, but I started this Hip Sobriety thing based on the lack I found on my own path - and that path did not begin without money, a job, an education, or with a criminal record. It started with a $140k salary, a prestigious role at a great company, a Bachelor's degree, and one speeding ticket.
So before we begin I have to be clear that my journey towards sobriety began with a set of enviable circumstances. I had more resources than the average human being. I do not know what it is like to be in your shoes, and I cannot imagine. And this site, because it's mine, doesn't know what it's like, either. I talk from experience to the girl I know - which is me.
Now, all that being said, I do have to say that I also started my path with a poverty mentality - my credit cards were maxed and my net worth was close to a negative $80k. I also started off with the same disadvantage all of us do when it comes to recovering from addiction - a lack of effective, accessible, and desirable treatment options. My first stop when attempting to do something about my many addictions was a doctor's office, and while I had an insurance card with a great amount of benefit attached to it, I found that insurance card didn't work when it came to addiction. My first set of options to recover were AA - which was free, but a non-starter for me; outpatient treatment, which would have been an out of pocket cost of around $8k per month; or inpatient treatment, which runs about $30k per month. I left my doctors office defeated and bought wine on the way home to console myself.
I was forced to find recovery myself, and the way I found it was not through any sort of bank-breaking process. It was found slowly and surely, through various means that ranged from free to affordable to somewhat extravagant. Over the course of the first six months I think I probably spent about $3k.
What I want to say, however, is that my recovery wasn't successful because I spent $3,000 on it. My recovery was successful because I fucking wanted it. End of story. I wanted it more than life itself. I wanted out of my hell. I wanted out of my suffering. I wanted out of what I had settled for which was a shitty, blotted, blunted daily experience that was, in essence, the picture of a woman just trying to make it through, just trying to survive. I wanted more than survival. I wanted more than just making it. I wanted freedom, and peace, and a life that I didn't want to escape from. I wanted more, period. I was hungry for sobriety, and I would have done anything to have it.
THAT is what made my recovery successful. Not a dollar. A will. And the beauty of a will is this: we all have one, and it's free.
Now, to get more serious about your question, and not just say "IT'S YOUR WILL NOT YOUR MONEY THAT MATTERS!", which would be annoying, I enlisted my dear friend Meadow DeVor - money coach, author, and speaker - to answer the question from her perspective. Also, I'm going to give you a list of action items and free tools that I think will be helpful.
Dear Broke N Broken,
I understand how painful it feels to believe that everything that you want is on the other side of a dollar bill. And that it's even more excruciating when you don't believe you can get that dollar bill. So, first, I want you to know that I get it. Your pain is real. And what you're facing is hard.
But you can do hard. Not only can you do it: you must do it.
The problem isn't how to afford all the shit that you want to fill yourself up with. The problem is that you want to fill yourself up with this shit. Don't get me wrong, YogaGlo, books, trainings, retreats -- these are all fabulous things. I love them. I am glad that I have them in my life. I've worked hard to create a life for myself that includes access to these things.
But I don't need these things to fill me up.
Sobriety work is about that big hole inside you. You know, that one that you are desperate to fill. Sobriety work is about getting really curious about that hole. It's about finding a way to endure the discomfort of that hole. It's about finding a way to fill it from the inside out.
I work with millionaires, corporate executives, athletes, stay at home moms, blue-collar workers and people living below the poverty line. I do not offer them a different modality depending on their income.
I teach them how to be ok in their skin. I teach them how to sit for a minute or two in discomfort. I teach them how to forgive themselves. How to find compassion for themselves. How to reach for something greater than themselves to help fill that hole.
So, what would I do if I had started my road to sobriety with no money, no job, no education, a felon? I'd do what I did. I started with journaling my ass off. I started with devouring books from the library. I started with getting a library book on yoga and did my best to match what I saw in the pictures. I started by finding a strong team of supportive women, women that I could tell the truth to. Women that could handle how much pain I was feeling. Women who could sit with me and witness my suffering as I began to heal.
I know that you think this road ahead of you requires money. I used to think so too. I used to think that if I only had money, I'd be healthy, happy and loved. And what I found out is that by doing the hard work to become healthy, happy and loved... I ended up creating a life where I had money.
9 Tips To Navigate Recovery On The Cheap.
1. Re-allocate your resources.
I always find it amazing how resourceful we can be when it comes to finding the money and the time for drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, and how completely un-resourceful we can be when it comes to finding the money and the time for the things that will save us from drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. This is not unique to socio-economic status. This is true of almost everyone I have ever met on this path. We don't have time to meditate, do yoga, go to a meeting, go on a walk, find a therapist, read a book, and on and on and on and on. We don't have money for the massage or the acupuncture or the essential oil diffuser. And yet consistently over the course of our history, we have found the money to feed our destructive habits and the time to consume them and recover from what happens to us when we consume. So, I recommend before even starting on the path to take a minute and do the math.
For the money, add up how much money goes into your habit. What do you spend per day on alcohol and all the things that come along with that alcohol? Include it all. If you only smoke when you drink, add cigarettes into the cost. If you spend money on crap online when you drink, add that in, too. If you take cabs, pay entry fees to clubs, buy crappy food to nurse your hangover, miss work on a regular basis, etc. - add it up. It's shocking how quickly this total can rise. You also mentioned you have been convicted of a felony - was your felony drug or alcohol related? If so, that's part of the total, too. What were the costs of that in legal fees, lost income, and lost opportunity cost? You don't have to be perfect about this math - just come up with an idea of how much it costs you a day. My number was a conservative estimate of $30 a day for the drinking alone. As of today, some 1,187 days later, I have saved $35k.
Also, don't overlook the time factor. Time is a more precious resource than money because we make money by the grace of time. Add up all the time you are spending on alcohol and drugs - this means the time you are consuming, the time you are buying, the time you are recovering, and the time you are THINKING about it. All of that time equals time you will now have to both put into your recovery and also to put towards making money or doing things that will help you make money - like learning a new trade, going to school, interviewing for jobs, etc. Write both of these numbers down somewhere you can see them every day, like on a post-it note or a piece of paper taped to your bathroom mirror. Add it up every week and keep a running total - even if you drink on some days, start counting the savings from the days you don't. Lastly, every time you tell yourself you cannot afford the time or the money for something recovery related, remind yourself that you have always found the time and money for the things that made you feel like shit, and you can be just as resourceful with the things that will make you feel good.
When it comes to recovery developing a meditation practice is KEY. Hear me on this - if you start working with your mind in this way, even for just five to ten minutes a day, you will super-charge your recovery. Meditation helps rebuild the parts of the brain that are destroyed by addiction, increases willpower and will, develops patience, reduces reactiveness, reduces stress and supports us in managing stress, creates a sense of well-being, improves our ability to "urge surf" (ride through strong cravings for alcohol and drugs), reduces anxiety and depression, and does countless other things. One does not need money to start a meditation practice - there are thousands upon thousands of free resources on the web to help you get started. Here are a few of my favorites:
Free Guided Meditations.
Oprah + Deepak Free 21 Day Challenges. (There is one currently running, but they do these free 21-day offerings every few months).
YouTube. YouTube is a TREASURE CHEST OF FREE! Yoga classes, guided meditations, lectures, and so on, and so forth. I linked to my favorite YouTube meditation - Sat Kar Tar (Kundalini) - but seriously just google "guided meditation" or "Kundalini Meditation" and you'll find a massive amount of resources.
Free Live Classes.
Dharma Punx. These are only in some cities. See if there is one in yours.
Google your city name + "meditation classes" + "free". See what happens. Here is what happens in mine.
Scope out Meetup.com for meditation meet-ups.
3. Check out books from the library.
Reading has been one of the most important parts of my recovery - from giving me an escape, to teaching me the things I was dying to learn, to filling up the space, to helping me piece together the path, to giving me the power to believe that I was allowed to create my own way. I had the luxury of ordering all my books from Amazon, but a good number of my friends and readers rely on the public library. Find your local library here, go to it, and check out one of these 13 recommended books for recovery.
4. Find sober community or spiritual community.
Johann Hari, the author of Chasing The Scream, has said that "the opposite of addiction is connection" and by this, he means that addiction cannot thrive where there is true human connection. I've discovered this in my own recovery offerings (Hip Sobriety School or 1:1 coaching) - I can offer people all the resources in the world to help heal themselves, but if they don't have connection to one another - if they don't have a tribe or a support team or just even one person reflecting back to them their truth - it won't work (or it won't work as good as it could). To do this work, we have to have connection to other humans. The good news is there are a number of ways to get real life connection in recovery - and almost all of them are free.
The first thing to try is AA. Now, hear me on this: you don't have to work the program, you don't have to identify as an alcoholic, you don't even have to believe that it works. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. I don't advocate AA as a stand-alone treatment modality - it's not holistic enough. But I do advocate at least trying a meeting or three or five, to see if it resonates, to see if you might find your people, to see if perhaps you can relish in some of the connection that lives in those rooms. There are also other ways to find sober community - there are SMART recovery meetings, Refuge Recovery meetings, and Meetup.com has a lot of sober offerings. If those things don't appeal, you can just look for community of people who might be on the same path as you. I spent a lot of time in the yoga community and meditation community and made some serious connections. (I did try AA and church for a while, both of which I found were not my jam. But I tried.) If you are looking for more ideas on how to find community and friendship, you can check out this article here.
You can also take advantage of many online communities and forums: Women For Sobriety, Soberistas, In The Rooms, Integral Recovery Fellowship Meeting, SMART Recovery, and Refuge Recovery are just a few of them that are out there, and there are many Facebook pages dedicated to recovery such as She Recovers, Sober Senorita, I Fly At Night, and Hip Sobriety, where you can engage in comment sections on posts to meet like-minded individuals.
5. Incorporate joy, play, and creativity into your life.
Three of the most important parts of my recovery were developing a sense of joy, engaging in playful activities, and tapping into my creative side. To develop joy, I did a number of things. I walked around and stared at the sky, the trees, the people, the animals, the life around me - I allowed myself to experience awe in the world that surrounded me. When I woke up in the morning I would put on good music and dance in my underwear. I sang in the shower, the bath, and the car. I listened to music that moved me, I spent time with people that elevated me, I immersed myself in experiences that brought me to life. I made joy a priority because I understood if I didn't have it, I would just find myself looking for it in the wrong places. I also was deeply committed to having as much fun as I could possibly have, to tap into the places of me that seemed only to come out when I was drunk. I played with kids, I played hide-and-seek with my friends, I bought a trampoline for my office, and I did things that felt silly and wonderful like running through fields or making snow angels or even coloring with crayons. These simple things made me feel like I was coming back to life. Lastly, as I began to free up more time in my life because I was not going to bars or coming home and spending my time drinking as much wine as I could, I started to incorporate creative activities. I drew, I took pictures with my phone, I started to write blogs, and countless other things (like baking cookies). Most of these things cost me absolutely nothing, and they paid the highest dividends. You don't have to do anything spectacular - just simply saying "Today I'll do one thing that brings me joy" or "Today I will do one thing that feels silly" or "Today I'll do one thing to express my creativity" is a great place to start.
6. Learn how to breathe right.
Learning to breathe properly and to control my breath has been the most effective and consistently used tool in my healing and my growth - even more than meditation. I know how to manipulate my breath to calm myself down, speed myself up, shift myself out of spin, pull myself out of a bad decision, stop myself from a hasty reaction, and for the most part - keep myself from getting so wound up that I need to blow it off with something outside of myself. Again, this tool is 1,000% free. Start small with this article here that explains the benefits of breath and has a video tutorial on how to do Long Deep Breaths (Yogic Breaths), and start incorporating them into your daily life (I do them consistently throughout the day). From there, start using the internet to research breath techniques (I like Kundalini Yoga breath techniques - I linked my YouTube search results here).
7. Take care of your body.
Taking good sweet care of your body doesn't have to cost a thing. By simply getting 8 hours of sleep a night, drinking a generous amount of water each day, spending time out doors, moving your body so it sweats, and eating as many whole and unprocessed foods as you can, you're doing more than what most people do for their body. You don't need a fancy yoga studio, you don't need to only shop at Whole Foods, you don't need to do a juice cleanse, or hire a trainer, or anything drastic. Stick to the basics - eat as healthy as possible, sleep as much as your body needs, move your body, get some sunshine on your skin and fresh air in your lungs, and drink as much water as you can. That's it. The fancy stuff can come in later as you begin to save all that money you aren't spending at the liquor store or bar.
8. Look for cheap healthcare.
There are lots of ways to get cheap care. When it comes to therapy, you can look to training programs at Universities, where therapists-in-training offer their services at a deeply discounted rate, you can look to community mental health centers, or you can even look online for virtual therapy which tends to be wayyyy cheaper than in person. Check out this blog on resources. For acupuncture, many cities have community acupuncture offerings, where a treatment can be as little as $10. Just google "community acupuncture" + your city. If you are in need of massage, try googling "cheap massage" and your city - I just did and I found a crap ton of ideas on how to get affordable massage. The bottom line - there are many different offerings of cheap care, you just have to do the work to find it.
9. Keep using this blog and the many other free resources available.
One of the reasons I left my job and started this thing was because I believed that the system has recovery totally wrong. I was told at the beginning of my journey - by a doctor - that I was looking at spending anywhere between $15k and $40k if I wanted to get serious about it. While I do believe that structured recovery is important (and my end goal in this whole thing is to create just that), I don't believe that it should be cost-prohibitive. And so to that end, this blog will always be dedicated to giving as many free and affordable resources as possible. If you haven't already, please check out some of theses other blogs: How To Build A Toolbox; How To Have Fun Now That You're Sober; How To Survive Holidays Sober; 3 Practices To Raise Your Vibe; How To Handle Difficult Relationships; and many, many, many more. I also recommend checking out the HOME podcast I do with my fellow recovery warrior Laura McKowen. You can also look online for many other free resources - Addiction Unscripted just put out a great list of 25 recovery blogs (and is a great resource itself).
Meadow DeVor is an internationally recognized yoga teacher, master life coach, and writer. She's the founder of Yoga Church and writes a popular inspirational blog on her website. She's the author of Money Love, A Guide to Changing the Way You Think About Money and has been published in Woman’s Day Magazine, Rebelle Society, elephant journal, teach.yoga, YOGANONYMOUS, Enemy of Debt, and has had the pleasure of being a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She speaks, writes and coaches extensively on the topics of money, sobriety, trauma, yoga and healing. She is a Yoga-beach-and-sunshine-loving mom who lives with her husband, her three kids, and her insanely cute maltipoo in the quiet countryside of the Central Coast of California.