Several weeks ago, a rehabilitation center in New Jersey invited me to speak at their weekly family group meeting. They believed that my combination of a successful Wall Street career combined with 15+ years (and counting) of life with a child in recovery could be both educational and inspirational. If I said I wasn’t nervous it would be a bold face lie; to do a presentation like this successfully would require my being open and vulnerable about the rollercoaster of pain and pleasure that comes with the journey. Reflecting back on the time, I came to the realization that as educated and experienced as I was in the world of finance when confronted with the reality of a loved one fighting addiction, I made some poor choices. Emotion got the better of me, and I wanted to help others avoid the mistakes I made.
My brother, a successful patent attorney and a recovering bystander to my son’s struggle, sent me a text message to watch last Sunday’s episode of 60 minutes entitled “Saving a Generation”. The title sounded appealing, and I wondered if it had anything to do with my upcoming trip to Florida where I would be presenting on this same subject to two of the nation’s leading drug and alcohol treatment facilities.
Well wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what their research had concluded as well! I was no longer alone.
The financial implications stemming from addiction and recovery are significant, life-changing and a critical component to the ongoing recovery of the individual and their family. Speaking with other families involved in recovery, most have given everything they have to help their loved one regardless of the emotional and financial implications. They love their children, and when push comes to shove it’s hard to look them in the eye and say “no” to doing anything in their power for relieving the pain from their eyes.
On average, non-government subsidized residential treatment centers will cost $8,000 to upwards of $50,000 per month of treatment. Given the relapse rate for addiction is 40% – 60%, most families will pay this cost twice. There are additional costs of therapy for the addict and therapy for the family. Most families are advised not to allow the addict to live with them, so an additional cost of a halfway house must be included, at a cost of $1,000 per month. Then there is the cost of subsidizing the loved one as he transitions out of a halfway house into independent living. Many do not yet have a job, and the family may find themselves having to pay for rent, groceries, a car, insurance, medical, etc. Over time, the total cost of recovery can escalate into the $250,000 + range!
Families are unaware of the impact on their financial health and have never considered factoring this impact into their financial planning. Uneducated on their options, they have no strategy for accommodating its significance and can be denied sound financial guidance by many advisors if they don’t meet the account minimums demanded by many Financial Planners.
We can do better! They deserve better! This is a systematic problem that needs our attention NOW!
For addicts and their families to recover together, we need a new approach that recognizes that
- Addicts are not losers, but rather that they’re lost and in need of direction;
- Addiction is a not a choice, but rather a disease consisting of a physical allergy and a mental obsession that can be overcome by working a program for better living;
- Successful recovery is not defined by quitting the use of substances, but rather by developing a new and fulfilling way of life they never thought possible.
The recovery process encompasses a variety of different aspects, for which a number of facilities provide excellent care in treating. However, there is one component that continues to loom as the missing piece of the puzzle, a void that must be filled. Working with those in recovery and their families to develop a financial plan for navigating the journey is imperative for long-term success. Families need better resources to understand the true financial burden of treating this illness and need to understand what their options are for allowing them to do so without sacrificing their livelihood. Equally, if not more important, the individual in recovery needs better access to education on how to manage their finances to truly gain independence from an innate fear of ongoing financial hardship. It gets better, it really does.
The old saying goes “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Helping recovering individuals and their families identify a successful strategy for navigating their financial future requires sound guidance, and it’s easier to provide than it’s believed to be. By eliminating the stigma of addiction and assisting families plan for the upcoming financial impact, stress can be significantly reduced which in turn allows everyone to focus on healing! My child’s recovery is living proof.