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  • Writer's pictureJack Shain

Impending Doom With A Side of Finances

Welcome back everyone! Today I woke up and made the mistake of immediately looking at my phone. “Worst Scare since the Great Depression Era” was the first notification. I should have ignored it and fallen back to sleep, but instead I began to peel back that layer of instant information. I read many similar articles, watched viral compilation videos of people stating they had either been fired or lost all of their business, skimmed headlines about the stimulus package, and noticed emails from prestigious financial companies (even my own bank!) saying not to panic or pull all of my money out of the market. Yes, I know. This is not the best way to start a day but I am a recovered alcoholic. Sometimes I cannot help but bundle impending doom and mainline it straight into my arm. Unfortunately this thinking only dumps more gasoline onto the kindling of my mind; leaving room for the arsonist to nonchalantly strike a match and slip away.

As I mentioned, I am a certified drug and alcohol counselor in the state of CA. Part of my income involves running therapy groups at rehabs around Los Angeles. One area that is overlooked by rehabs, therapists, and case managers is personal finances. Not many group facilitators and rehabs are making this a priority in their program curriculum. Recognizing a need, I started creating personal finance groups. I must state: I am not a financial expert, and I am transparent about this with my clients. Clients come from all sorts of backgrounds, each with their unique experiences. I have had many clients make gazillions (a number I can’t comprehend) only to burn it all to the ground in their addiction. And I have had clients be broke and high at the same time (a talent so incredibly difficult to pull off) for years on end. And then there’s me: a 28-year-old white male who has some student loans with a degree in counseling and creative writing. Not exactly money-making majors. Oh, and I live west of the 405. The last thing I want is to do here is present myself as a master of something that I am still studying. In my research, I quickly learned I had to do more than read a few blog posts or click-bait articles about money. I had to do what no one likes to do: go to the library and research.

Now that the Stay at Home Order has been placed, fear of financial insecurity has skyrocketed around the country. Yes, it is true the economy is tanking. Yes, it is true IRA’s, Roth Accounts, 401K’s, mutual funds, and stocks are losing money. Yes, it is true our government lied to us about the economy while a few were selling off their stocks with insider trading. Most importantly, people are losing money and are scared.

Money is never an easy conversation and some are better at this conversation than others. My wife (of one week) and I keep our finances fairly separate, only spending money we earn ourselves except for groceries, rent and utilities. In my research I have found Erin’s Lowry’s Broke Millennial and Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover offer solid budgeting plans to help navigate your financial life. Both books also tackle emotions and our relationship to money. In sobriety, I have found that learning about a difficult subject, such as money, subsides with knowledge, education, and action. The worst fear of any situation is always inside my head. So to help bring the ladder to the window, my wife and I had to alter our financial plan.

And of course we started with the worst case scenario: what would our lives look like if we both became unemployed effective immediately? As with every time I call my sponsor about a resentment, we directed ourselves to put pen to paper. One of my favorite teachings in a specific 12 step program around finances is “God is found in the numbers.” To me, this means being in action and out of my head. This is the relief I seek from all the arson in my mind. It took us about an hour to calculate everything to the last dollar. And while it is not all rainbows and unicorns, our finances have a plan to navigate turbulent waters.

This is not a money blog. I am not a financial expert having read a few books about money. I am still educating myself on finances and my relationship to money. Bonding with financial insecurities feels like rooming with a self-righteous martyr in a temporary jail cell. I have, however, created a few documents to help anyone in need of basic budgeting, personal expense tracking, and other worksheets. All are on my website. Please use me as a free resource. Please remember to stay healthy and practice social distancing. Please wash your hands and take our Government’s advice. But still...fuck the government.

This article was written by Jack Shain CADC - II, Founder & CEO of Keep Left Recovery

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