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The Price of Recovery by Erinne L.

The Price of Recovery by Erinne L.

When I saw this sign outside of a liquor store, I laughed hysterically. Maybe for a lot of people, booze IS cheaper than therapy. Then I wondered what my tally sheet would really look like…. perhaps therapy and recovery were more expensive? Being curious and a bit bothered by the thought, I sat down and “ran the numbers.”  The results were unmistakably eye opening.

I drank for approximately 18 years before recovery found me on the shores of despair.  But I thought my drinking could not have been that expensive. After all, I always went for the cheap stuff, unless someone else was buying, of course!! And I was a binge drinker, not the all-day every-day slug, so I rationalized. Alas, I broke out the pen and calculator, just to prove I wasn’t THAT bad. The following is a mixture of actual known costs and some estimated costs that could never be known. All estimates were median costs and based on the 80’s and 90’s figures…. just to make it fair. HA! Was I ever surprised.

Some approximations:

$50/week alcohol purchases x 18 years = $43,200

$200/quarterly blow-out parties x 18 years = $14,400

12 days of hospitalizations directly or indirectly related to alcoholism = $12,800

DUI #1 (1986-car damage; lost wages) = $1,900

DUI #2 (1990-new car nearly totaled; loss of rank and military pay cut) = $5,700

Loss of work for alcohol classes, mental health and doctor visits; ER visit for passenger = $2,000

DUI #3 (2003-car damage and impoundment; alcohol classes; court costs, fines, probation; taxpayer cost for 36-hour jail time; license reinstatement; insurance increase) = $7,285

Divorce and moving expenses  = $7,100

2 weeks inpatient treatment center, self-pay = $14,700

Long distance (U.S. and overseas) drunk dialing = $5,000

Lost wages due to hangovers, etc. x 18 years = $3,000

Overdraft bank fees = $1,020

Doctor visits and medications related to alcohol = $2,500

“Dry goods” x 7 years = $4,500

Dental work due to falling while drunk, including dental surgeries = $16,600

Lost wedding ring while drunk = $5,200

Clothing/shoes ruined, torn, stained or burned = $1,000

Joint tax refund stolen from ex-spouse = $1,900

Money lost and/or stolen while drunk = $3,000

Grand Total = $152,805

And that’s what I can REMEMBER!

Had I gone to therapy for 18 years, once a week:

let’s just say at $75 a session = $70,200

Average of 5 recovery meetings a week, $2 toward basket x 11 years = $5,720

Grand Total = $75,920

That’s less than half of my estimated boozing costs.  Was I ever shocked! I will never know the true cost of my alcoholism because, yes, there’s more.

Money and material things can be replaced, re-earned, repaid. The real price, though, is the human cost, which is not only devastating, but it cannot be quantified on any calculator. What had I lost, stolen or damaged in my relationships? I had hurt family, friends, and even strangers with my words, actions and behavior. I stole time from people, causing them pain, anxiety, anger and worry over me. I started chaos and caused hurt feelings, embarrassment, and tears. I provoked distrust and dislike, resentment and fear. I manipulated and twisted situations with the very people I loved and cared about the most. One cannot put a price on those things, no matter how it’s calculated.

Today, nearly eleven years into recovery, costs are down. I still have a long way to go, and I’ll never be perfect or free from this disease that wants me to pay, and pay dearly. The good news is that today, one day at a time, I have the tools, a great network—a sponsor and sponsees who keep my butt in line! I have a loving Higher Power, who has been there to carry me when things have been rough, and to help me carry the message through good times and bad. So for this alcoholic, booze is far more expensive than therapy and recovery combined, and now that little sign really makes me chuckle…and I have the figures to prove it. What does your tally sheet look like?


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