How quitting drinking saved me $28,000 a year

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I quit drinking for my health, but it also rescued me financially.

When my drinking was at its worst in 2017, I drank every day until I passed out or blacked out. My mind was always thinking about when I could begin drinking - 5pm? 4pm? 12pm? 11am? - and as a result I was never fully present with friends, family or colleagues.

I needed to quit drinking for my mental and physical health. Alcohol was becoming a roadblock in my dealing with my mental illnesses and allowing medications and treatments to do their work.

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It's hard to be motivated to exercise when you're hungover all the time, it's difficult to be present in therapy when all you can focus on is getting to the bottle shop afterwards, and it's almost impossible to sit still and get the rest you need when you're either drunk and dancing euphorically or trying not to drink and shaking involuntarily.

I knew my problematic drinking was costing me a lot of money, too.

Checking my bank account at the time I'd see streams of purchases at pubs and bottle shops, on Ubers home, on take away food or the coffees I needed the next morning to get me to work, or caffeine-fuelled greasy brunches on the weekend in order to break through yet another hangover.

Looking back at my bank account from that time is - pardon the pun - sobering.

A typical weeknight would cost me $70, a weekend day $100 or more. At my worst when I was daily drinking, this means alcohol would cost me $550 a week, $2383 a month, and had I not quit drinking when I did, $28,600 a year.

In treating addiction many people speak of "yets". Things we didn't do, but would likely happen should we continue or go back to drinking.

I had a reasonably well-paying job at the time so I didn't accrue thousands of dollars of credit card debt, but if I were to go back to drinking now I know that would be necessary to fund my addiction. I didn't get in trouble with the police so I didn't need to pay fines or legal expenses, but I can't say what would happen if I were to drink again.

When we talk about finances, we often speak of control. We set budgets, we set savings goals, we look to the long term.

But alcoholics and heavy drinkers are only ever thinking about the next drink. It's often only when we're confronted by loved ones or reach rock bottom that we realise the extent of the damage we've created, both for ourselves and for others.

I regret what drinking did to my finances. I wish I had saved at least some of that money, or used it to travel, or put extra money in my super.

Life circumstances have changed for me since and had I curtailed my addiction earlier I could potentially be better placed now financially.

It's now been nearly 700 days since I last had a drink.

Getting to almost two years without alcohol has been enormously difficult and it is an ongoing challenge that requires work every day, but my life - and my finances - have improved enormously.

Need to talk?

Alcoholics Anonymous: 1300 222 222
Hello Sunday Morning: hellosundaymorning.org
Lifeline: 13 11 14

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Kylie Maslen is a writer and critic living on country stolen from the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plains. Her first book - Show Me Where It Hurts: Living With Invisible Illness - was shortlisted for the 2021 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards in non-fiction, named in Guardian Australia's '20 best Australian books of 2020', named a Saturday Paper's 'Best new talent of 2020' and included in bookseller Readings' 'Most talked about books of 2020'. It has received praise in reviews by Australian Book Review, Books+Publishing, Sydney Review of Books, The Sydney Morning Herald and Meanjin, among others. Her website is kyliemaslen.com.
Comments
Mark Rodgers
August 28, 2021 5.13pm

Great article on alcoholism and finances. I too can relate. Since becoming sober (4 1/2 yrs now) my decisions are sharper and I am much less anxious about my investments and portfolio.