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If Pay Day used to be a cue to go binge drink or call your drug dealer, then you’re not alone. Many people with substance use disorders (SUDs) have struggled with the same temptation. A common dilemma in early recovery, then, is the question of how to successfully manage this potential relapse trigger. Below I offer some tips.
Accept that you’ll need more accountability during your first year of sobriety—but remind yourself that this need is also temporary. After the first year of sobriety, your risks of relapse start to dip ever so slightly, which may allow you to let up on some of the self-constraints and accountability measures that you put into place in order to overcome the temptation to blow your paycheck on drugs or alcohol. For the time being, you will indeed need to be diligent about managing Pay Day triggers. But as you take it one Pay Day at a time, you’ll find that your ease at successfully managing this trigger will increase—so that one day any cravings formerly associated with Pay Day will be a thing of the past.
Consider setting up a joint checking account with a trusted loved one and arrange for direct deposit of your paycheck. This way there is another set of eyes on the money that is going in and coming out of your account. In addition to this built-in accountability from someone who loves you and whom you love—studies show that a desire to avoid disappointing a loved one is itself a strong positive incentive to stay sober—the direct deposit feature is an added protection. Getting a physical paycheck can be a stronger temptation to splurge, because a) it is an inescapable reminder that you have more money to spend; and b) the tangible feel of the check in your hands may elicit old memories, sensations and cravings that once precipitated drug or alcohol abuse.
In contrast, an automatic direct deposit set-up increases the likelihood that Pay Day will come and go without you even noticing. Chances are that you’ll not even have to deal with the incoming temptation because your mind will be elsewhere, and you won’t be submitted to a visible, tangible reminder that it’s Pay Day.
With any dispensable income from your paycheck, reward yourself for staying sober all pay period. Pay Day can still be an opportunity for a little sober celebration, after all, in the form of some self-pampering, a yummy treat, or a recreational activity that you enjoy. Rewarding yourself this way is a helpful positive incentive to stay sober and a healthy way to remind yourself that sobriety is meant to be fun and enjoyable.
Consider immediately paying all your bills on Pay Day. Another strategy, which you can combine with the above tip, is to recondition yourself to think of Pay Day as the day you pay your bills. Reframing Pay Day as the day you take care of your monthly expenses and financial responsibilities can help break the default rationale that Pay Day is a day to go spend all your money on drugs and alcohol. Once you see what’s left in your account after paying all of your bills, you’ll be quicker to recognize that you can’t afford a relapse.
What strategies have worked for you in managing Pay Day triggers? Share your thoughts below!