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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Finding Financial Recovery

By Renee Sieradski, EA, Owner, Tax Intervention,

When people are in crisis, we tend to go off track with our finances. In the context of recovery from addiction, when we get sober, we often find we have debts resulting from credit cards, hospitals, institutions, doctors, the government, or others.

Dealing with dysfunctional family modeling around finances as well as shame from abuse, can set us up to have an unhealthy relationship with money. 

As a survivor of childhood abuse and dysfunctional financial habits, I can speak from experience that although overwhelming — it's not impossible to learn to have a healthy relationship with our finances.

I was the oldest of four, my mother had me when she was a teenager. She had mood swings, from extreme rage to anger and took out her frustrations by beating my backside and telling me I couldn’t do anything right. Or she would be depressed and spend all day on the couch. Each day was unpredictable, and out of fear I would try to read her moods. 

In school, I developed poorly; had low self-esteem and a skewed sense of reality because I believed it to be true when my mother said I wasn’t good enough or doing anything right.
Being the oldest of four kids, my father told me he expected me to care for my three younger siblings and my mom. So I took on the role. I learned how to clean, cook, do laundry and get the kids ready for their day. Around seventh grade I started developing stomach problems to the point where I kept having to leave school early.

My parents decided to take me out of school so I could be home to deal with my stomach problems while at the same time helping my mother cook clean and raise the three kids. One night Sally Struthers was on a late-night television ad on how to get a high school diploma through a mail order service. Mom had it delivered and she handed it to me — and that was how I got my high school diploma. I didn't go to high school, I just taught myself at home without any adult supervision. This kept me very isolated which did not help my sense of figuring out reality. I had no concept of finances or how to handle them and much of this had to do with the financial chaos I saw modeled by my folks. I believe my mother was a shopping addict and my dad covered for her. 

I remember my father opening up a savings account for me — only soon after asking me if he could borrow the money less than a month later because my mom had gone out and spent all we had. 
When I married at age 18, my mother shamed me into buying brand-new furniture and vehicles even though neither of us were college graduates and we only had part-time jobs. In the first five years of marriage, we went thru debt consolidation (CCCS) twice. We finally started to figure out how to not use credit cards. When I was 26 my suppressed childhood emotional and physical abuse memories surfaced and I sought out professional help.

In therapy, I learned I had an eating disorder, co-dependent issues and incredible amounts of debilitating shame to the point where I could not function. I craved everything to stop the pain and stop the shame. I joined every 12 step group I could and one point was going to at least one meeting every day. 

After EMDR therapy, a compassionate loving therapist and an amazing sponsor and determination I was able to stand on my own two feet and feel somewhat like a normal human being. How grateful I am to my therapist and my sponsor for listening to me talk hour after hour, week after week, year after year. 

I've been an accountant for 17 years now and enjoy helping others in the Phoenix community dig out of their financial situation specifically by writing about how to save money on taxes, and mediating with folks who owe the IRS back taxes.

The main thing to remember is that it's okay to learn things later if you didn't learn it when you were young. I would advise you to ask yourself these questions: 

Why are you having so much financial chaos in your life today? 

Is it because you need to address an emotional factor through therapy, 12 step meetings, medication management, journaling or other healthy recovery methods? Or you just need to learn some of the basics about how to manage your finances as an adult? It could be both; they definitely feed into each other. If you came from a place of trauma and/or abuse and were raised by wolves, it’s not hopeless. You can get your finances on track, heal your inner child and become a fully functional adult. It will take time but I am living proof that it is possible. As many recovering friends say “we go from surviving to thriving” and I can definitely say that my life has reached the state of thriving so I encourage you to go ahead and not be afraid of looking at the numbers that make up your financial picture. Avoiding the numbers and not looking at them is scarier than looking at them. 

The first step is the most important — coming out of denial that your finances are in chaos. Get some basic training from someone you trust about how to manage your money or take a course at the local community college or call my office and we can guide you through learning the basics. We can get to where we want to go in life by means of money despite where we came from or what we've been through.

Renee Sieradski, EA, Owner, Tax Intervention, Renee Sieradski is a tax advisor in Phoenix. Renee has been in practice since 1999.       
Her areas of specialty include: Tax services, acounting for businesses, tax relief and reducing back tax debt, and the real estate industry. Renee regularly posts tax advice blogs on her website at irstaxaz.com. Services include bookkeeping in Quickbooks and individual 1040 tax preparation. Renee can be reached by email at renee@tax-intervention.com or call 602-687-9768.