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What tax day teaches us about financial amends

what is a financial amend
Tax day and financial amends

Making Financial Amends

Tax Day in Sobriety

Whether we like it or not, April 17th is Tax Day and a big part of sobriety and long-term recovery is the ability to be self-supporting. Whether you have a refund coming, or you owe Uncle Sam some cash, Tax Day is a good opportunity to examine what fiscal responsibility means to you.

If your active addiction left you with some financial wreckage you may need to make some financial amends. If you’re expecting a tax refund, you may want to think about using it to kick start, help with, or even finish off some financial amends.

What is a financial amend?

In 12-step recovery the idea of making amends includes acknowledging harms done, being willing to take action to repair damages done, and committing to be a better person going forward. This often involves conversations, face-to-face, or letters set — to those harmed during active addiction. But for many, there may be some theft, unpaid bills, or generally wasteful or selfish behavior around money. A financial amend is either direct repayment of a debt owed or restitution over time to “give back.” But of course, before you can pay your old landlord back for the fire you caused in that rental or donate to a charity that helps landlords repaint apartments started by drunk people, you have to have the funds!

The other part of the financial amend is developing behaviors around money, such as having regular income, putting aside savings, and being on-time with bill payments. Becoming “financially self-supporting” is as much a part of the financial amends process as the actual payment of money.

This might sound overwhelming. Here are 6 steps to getting to a place where you are able to begin becoming financially-self supporting and willing to make these types of amends:

  1. Forgive yourself: Owning up to financial mistakes is embarrassing. It can kick up a lot of stress and regret. Try practicing some acceptance on this. The past is in the past. Do the best you can right here and now. But before you can really look at these issues, you need to let go of any self-hate or anger you’re carrying around.
  2. Own It: Don’t shift blame. If you start finding excuses for the past behavior or rationalizing it you won’t find the willingness to take the action needed. And in the end, this isn’t about paying off old debt because you’re a saint. It is about staying sober.
  3. Be willing to change: Once you have accepted the past and acknowledged your part, it’s time to get into action. You’re going to need to make a plan. You can do this with pen and paper, an Excel spreadsheet. You may even look in to getting the help of a financial planner.
  4. Be realistic: This is not an overnight process. It may take years. You don’t have to forgo buying groceries or paying your rent/mortgage. Take a page fro the Tortoise and the Hare: slow and steady wins the race.
  5. Remember that it is not just about money: While making financial amends is an intrinsically good thing to do, you’re not doing it to be a saint. This is about staying sober. You’re actually doing this for YOU. Talk to anyone in recovery who has made a financial amend and they will likely share that it was a wonderful feeling.
  6. Trust the Process: You don’t have to do this all at once – you just need to be willing to take a look at any financial harms done. Just the process of examination is a solid start. Make a list, Talk it over with someone you trust. Pray or meditate if that is a part of your recovery program. The answers and action steps will come to you.

Lastly, maybe you aren’t getting a tax refund at all. Maybe you actually owe some money.

If that’s the case, it never hurts to get a second opinion about your taxes from an expert. It’s possible you missed a deduction, like medical expenses or charitable contribution. If need be, you can file an extension.

So on this tax day, here’s to being accountable, brave and practicing restraint of credit card and cash.

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