Getting comfortable with your finances and rebuilding financially after any type of addiction may seem like a daunting task. I should know. It’s been 35 years since I got sober and I’ve made it my life mission to help people get comfortable with their financial decisions — past and present. 

I define addiction as anything that obsessively takes over our lives. At some point, we’ve all been addicted to something (and may have substituted one addiction for another). 

Addiction isn’t necessarily a big scary life-threatening thing like shooting heroin. 

My mother was addicted to soap opera drama. My son is addicted to creativity. I’m addicted to efficiency and multi-tasking. I’ve known folks addicted to online shopping, day trading and exercise.

Most addictions boil down to one thing: an obsessive need to prove ourselves. We’re working through the core belief of unworthinessAnd when we add in the shame (guilt) of past effects our addictive behavior has had on our and others’ financial security, it’s a double whammy. 

Our unworthiness looms like a big scary shadow coming out of an alley corner, and guilt leads us to believe we deserve lifelong financial penance (queue the mental scourge).

Not so! 

You actually can get comfortable with creating wealth. 

It starts with addressing questions that haunt you like:

– Am I capable of financial security?

– Is it possible to have true wealth?

– Will anyone want to work with me?

– Will I be able to get on a firm financial footing without having to “kill” myself?

The answer to these questions is yesAbsolutely... With one qualifier.

Most addictive behavior is fraught with a trail of self-sabotage. The way out involves disentangling and dismantling our overgrown financial self-sabotage, and blazing a new trail of self-empowerment. 

Here are the best first steps for granting yourself financial empowerment:

1. Do a fearless moral inventory around all past ways you’ve mucked up financially. Anywhere you screwed up your own finances or encroached on the financial security of others. Everything from lying on your tax returns (or not filing them), to being late for a deadline, meeting or job; from picking up money you knew didn’t belong to you, to manipulating someone in ways that would benefit you. All those times you just didn’t feel like being present financially. Your ego is already obsessively pulling these stories from the dark recesses, injecting unworthiness and guilt into your present consciousness. Bring those stories up and transform them into basic information. Put a star next to any that push your guilt and unworthiness hot buttons with maniacal glee. 

2. Ignore the self-sabotage events with “starring” roles for now. Instead, pay attention to the tiny moments of self-sabotage. Ask yourself, what one thing could I do different in this situation that would empower me? I’m not suggesting Monday morning quarterbacking. Focus on brainstorming one thing you would do different in a future situation should your ego try making you less than. The Yingling sailing team I coached did this exercise daily. They focused on one thing from the previous race they could “tweak” to improve their performance the next race – which led to them competing in the 2004 Olympics in Greece. Your tweak could be as simple as setting three alarm clocks in different rooms or choosing to eliminate all electronics from your bedroom so you’re not tempted to stay up late. It could be as different as speaking your microscopic truth around where you’re at financially and where you’re tempted to engage in old patterns. (And, yes, things we like to call difficult are actually just different.) 

3. Resist the urge to get instant gratification; recognize your triggers. Slow and steady is the name of the game when it comes to increasing our comfort level around building true wealth. It’s all about creating balance. If you’re paying off old debt, make sure you’re building up your savings at the same pace. Even if that pace is $5 a month. Intention creates momentum. If your debt seems overwhelming, give yourself permission to release debt through bankruptcy if that’s an option. Even if Debtor’s Anonymous tries to guilt you into believing bankruptcy will jeopardize your financial recovery. That’s like telling drug addicts and alcoholics that going into rehab is enabling behavior; that true recovery can only be had if they quit cold turkey and detox on their own. Bankruptcy gives you a fresh start and puts you on a more even financial footing, instead of trying to move forward with a 50-pound bag of concrete on your back.

Above all else, don’t make proving your worth your new addiction. Find a way to talk through the stuck places with someone, anyone, who truly wants to see you succeed. Use every past story, every past event and situation as an empowering tool. Small changes will lead you to permanent wealth and financial peace.