Andy Macia

@andy-macia | contributor
Andy was born in Bogota, Colombia, but was raised in Los Angeles, California. He is a recovering addict/alcoholic with eight years of sobriety under his belt. He is also an entrepreneur, the proud owner of RedDoorStudios.com.com.
Andy Macia

5 Ways to Effectively Deal With Addiction Cravings and Avoid Relapses

During your recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, you have one overriding goal — just one. It’s a simple goal, too, but to achieve it, you will need to rely on all of your inner strength, your personal self-determination, and a good dose of plain, old stubbornness. This single, overriding goal? Remaining 100% abstinent by successfully avoiding a potential relapse, an event that could return you back to previous level of drug or alcohol use — a place you know only too well, but one that may well cost you your life this time around. Does that sound harsh? Well, consider this: In 2021, the highest total number of people recorded so far, nearly 108,000, died from a fatal drug overdose in the U.S. Most of those involved the synthetic opioid fentanyl, the highly potent and dangerously lethal opioid drug that is now finding its way into virtually every other illicit addictive drug available in the U.S., either purchased on the street or online. Alcohol kills, too. In 2021, nearly 140,000 Americans died of alcohol-related causes, and the number of deaths from alcohol use disorder (known as AUD) alone exceeded all medical expert predictions, predominantly because of increased alcohol use during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to your personal qualities of inner strength and determination, refined by your addiction experiences, you will also need your education — everything you have learned so far, especially from your time in rehab. This knowledge has also helped you to reach this point in your recovery. I remember exactly the point where you are at now. My time in addiction treatment, nearly four months of professional heroin rehab, was, for me, the one singular point in my life where things finally seemed to make sense. The education I received not only has stood me in good stead in my own recovery, it proved to me that I was worth fighting for — that I deserved a chance to live again, substance-free. Lastly, there is your support network. This group of hand-chosen people — family, friends, recovery peers, counselors, and others — are there for you when your own strength and determination are being tested to the very limit. These people are your backup and your fail-safe, so to ensure you reach your goal of being relapse-free, call them when you need to, and call them anyway even if you think you might need their support. Here are five ways to effectively deal with cravings and avoid relapses: 1. Nature Any type of physical activity can help ease the symptoms of cravings, and simply walking is one of the best. However, believe me, walking around the same few blocks in your own neighborhood will more likely send you to sleep. If you are going to go for a long walk, why not choose a little beautiful scenery to go along with it? Engaging in nature — hill-walking, hiking, even picnicking in a national park will lift your soul, get some decent air into your lungs, and certainly take the very notion of a drug craving right out of your mind. Medical science agrees, too. In a recent interview with Dr. Qing Li, MD, Ph.D., professor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School in Japan, and author of “Forest Bathing,” stated that while stress can induce negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, and anger, your connection with the natural world — such as “shinrin-yoku” (forest bathing) — can significantly reduce your stress and lower your levels of stress hormones, eg. adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. I’m not suggesting you get naked and jump in a pool of water in some park somewhere (you might need permission first…) but you get the point. Immerse yourself in nature, and let your stress (and any cravings) slide away. 2. Communication Much of modern drug and alcohol rehab is focused on “talk therapy,” along with specialist therapies, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Talk therapy is used extensively because it works. My own mother used to tell me that if you’re dealing with a problem, talk it through with someone — “A problem shared is a problem halved,” that kind of thing. That’s exactly what talk therapy is — only you talk a problem, eg. a craving, through with a qualified specialist, like a counselor or addiction therapist. 3. Nutrition You can often control cravings for alcohol in early recovery by eating sweets or foods containing carbohydrates. However, it’s not really the “healthy option.” It is far better to ensure you maintain a healthy and varied diet full of nutrition from now on (and use the candy idea for emergencies). By eating healthy and nutritious food, you are ensuring your mental health is healthy, too. 4. Mindful Meditation If you learn mindfulness meditation, you will be able to meditate pretty much anytime and anywhere. If classes are too costly, you can always learn online (in-person group classes are, by far, the better option, to be honest). Not only can you learn online, but you can also learn through an app. 5. Expression Talking with someone is one way to express yourself, and cravings can be worked through by expressing your feelings. However, you do not have to “talk” to be expressive. Expression comes in many forms — especially through creative expression, eg. through any art medium, such as painting or sculpture. You can also try composing poetry, or writing your painful or difficult feelings down in a journal. Substance cravings can feel overwhelming at first, especially in early recovery, but hopefully, in no time at all, they will ease, feel less severe, last a shorter amount of time, and eventually pass altogether. However, while you are still struggling with cravings, be on your guard, and please follow these tips to help avoid a potential relapse.

Andy Macia

10 Ways I Stay Sober During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is often one of the best times of the year for most people. You have the opportunity to spend time with the people in your life that matter the most. Everyone seems to be in good spirits and vacation time is always on the horizon. Office Christmas parties, Thanksgiving with your family, exchanging gifts with loved ones and New Year’s Eve all provide ample opportunities for you to let loose and enjoy life. That being said, the holidays always present a tremendous challenge to my willpower since I decided to get sober nine years ago. I struggled with addiction throughout my youth and became enamored with alcohol at a young age. I was born in Colombia and we would always drink Aguardiente, or “fire water,” at any family event. If you have ever had the opportunity to try Aguardiente, you know that it is an extremely potent liquor. The first time I got drunk was at the age of 9. By age 14, I was smoking marijuana. At the age of 19, I had moved on to harder drugs such as meth and cocaine. I eventually decided to start selling drugs in order to support my addiction and, ultimately, ran into trouble with the law at the age of 22. Prison was a real wake-up call. It wasn’t all bad though, as I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous during my time in jail. These programs helped lay the foundations for sobriety that continue helping me remain sober to this day. When you are trying to recover from addiction or detox from alcohol, I think it’s vital to have supportive people in your life at all times and a powerful program to help keep you on the right track. I remember my first Christmas after I decided to get sober like it was yesterday. Instead of the “12 Days of Christmas,” it was more like the “12 Days of Relapse Temptations.” My friends were calling and asking me to go out drinking and partying every day. The presence of alcohol was nearly impossible to escape. I wanted to hang out with my friends and celebrate the season, but I was honestly terrified by the fact that they would likely be drinking. Luckily, one of my best friends, who was actually my sponsor from an AA group I joined after prison, was there to help me make it through those trying times. Whenever I was tempted to go to an environment that would involve alcohol, he was always there to provide a healthy alternative, like helping out at a local homeless shelter or going to work out together. Instead of eggnog, we would go for a jog. I have learned a ton during these nine years of being sober for the holidays. For me, the holidays have always been about giving. This year is no different, and I have prepared a gift for you in the form of advice! I’d like to share with you the top 10 ways I stay sober during the holiday season: 1. Plan Out Your Holiday in Advance It always helps me immensely to make sure I am active and productive throughout the holiday season. I typically find that I have more time on my hands during the holidays. Some of my toughest moments of trying to stay sober were during my downtime, when I literally had nothing to do. That’s when the risk of relapse is higher. Avoid downtime by planning out things in advance. 2. Attend Meetings I was regularly attending AA and NA meetings prior to when the holidays rolled around. I knew this was a healthy and crucial part of my recovery, so I committed myself to keep attending meetings during the holiday season. I found it immensely helpful to interact with other people struggling with addiction during this trying time of the year. 3. Be Cognizant of Triggers During my first Christmas at home, after I decided to get sober, it seemed like every day I would run into something or someone that would remind me of the times I was using. People, places, movies, and songs were among the culprits that lead my thoughts down a dark path. Luckily, I had my family and sober friends to help me keep my head straight during that time. That being said, I think it is extremely important to be aware of triggers that bring up memories of the times you were using and were in the midst of addiction. Being aware of triggers is an important step in relapse prevention. 4. Help Others I think the holiday season is the perfect time to help out those who are less fortunate. Whenever I find myself heading down a path that could potentially lead to relapse, I seek out ways to care for others and make a positive impact in someone else’s life. There are always plenty of opportunities during the holidays to help out at a local homeless shelter, volunteer at a local charity, or support someone else who is trying to recover from addiction. 5. Ask for Help from Friends and Family This time of year is typically spent with your family and friends. When I was trying to make it through my first sober Christmas, I made sure to communicate and ask for support from all of the people closest to me. Sometimes when you are struggling with sobriety you can feel like you are alone in this world. I always benefited from having a tight-knit group of people to rely on in the hardest of moments. 6. Be Prepared to Say No I vividly remember the difficulties of turning down invitations to events where I knew there would be alcohol and opportunities to relapse. I didn’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings or be perceived as antisocial, but sometimes saying no is the best way to go. If they are truly your friends, they will fully support your journey and commitment toward sobriety and not be offended if you decline their holiday invitations. 7. Exercise When I was first recovering from addiction and getting sober, I knew that I had to replace those old habits with something new and reinvigorating. I had to find a healthy hobby that I could rely on whenever thoughts of relapse came to my mind. For me, exercise was the solution. I highly suggest exercising during the holidays (and year-round) because it’s a great way to flush toxins out of your system, reduce stress and build up your self-esteem. 8. Create Your Own Holiday Events Instead of going to someone else’s holiday party that you know will provide lots of opportunities to relapse or drink, why not create your own holiday event? You can invite your closest friends, create a new tradition and have a great time without the risk of relapse. By surrounding yourself with people who love you and support your recovery efforts, you are putting yourself in a position to succeed. I actually decided to start hosting a “Friendsgiving” every year, which has become a holiday mainstay for me and my friends. 9. Practice Gratitude Nine years ago, I decided to start my days by practicing gratitude. I wake up every single day and write down three things I am truly grateful for. This habit of reflection and appreciation has deeply affected me in a positive way and helps me start my days with an optimistic frame of mind. 10. Enjoy Yourself (Responsibly) Just because you are in recovery and want to be sober during the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself! Find things that you truly enjoy doing and take advantage of the holiday season to the fullest. You can help Mom decorate the tree, bake some cookies, or perhaps even go shopping for yourself! I personally love going to the movies at this time of year because there are typically some great films that come out around Christmas. When I first started attending AA and NA meetings in prison, I never would have imagined that I would stay sober for nine years straight. Even the idea of staying sober for that first holiday season seemed like climbing Mount Everest to me at the time. Luckily, I used the ten concepts listed above to help me power through and stay sober for all of these years. I know the holidays can be extremely challenging for anyone trying to recover from addiction. I truly hope that my words have impacted you in a positive way and that you can use my knowledge to stay sober this holiday season. Do you have any questions about my list or my personal experience recovering from addiction? Has this article provided you with some guidance on how to stay sober during the holidays? Perhaps you have another tip to add to the ones above? Please leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts! If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA ‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via LightFieldStudios

Andy Macia

5 Tips to Boost Addiction Recovery

Making the decision to get clean is a very brave step. You may be scared about recovery, whatever treatment method you’ve chosen, and the truth is it can be difficult, but don’t worry, I’ve been there and got through it and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I started drinking alcohol when I was just a child, and by the time I turned 14, I began to smoke marijuana. By 19, I was already on meth. Recovery wasn’t easy — in fact, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But, despite all the ups and downs, I made it through, and now I can say I’m the best version of me I’ve ever been. Although it was a long and very bumpy road, there were many things I did to take care of my emotional, mental and physical health that helped make it easier and even more effective thus, I recovered successfully from my drug and alcohol addiction. Here are five things that helped me boost my recovery process. 1. Writing When I was 23, I faced two years in prison for drug-related charges. During that time, there wasn’t much I could do in my 10×8 cell and that boredom used to overwhelm me. Writing helped me get through all those endless hours by doing something productive with my time. I got all my feelings out on the paper, and it helped me heal. Not long after getting out of prison, I relapsed and fortunately, I was able to go to a rehabilitation facility. There, I started writing letters to my family and myself and I kept a recovery journal where I kept track of my process. A notebook can be a safe place to vent when you feel like you have no one to talk to. Also, writing your story can help you see how far along you’ve come and how many obstacles you’ve had to face, and give some perspective on the challenges you’re facing right now. I believe confronting and expressing your feelings in the most sincere way is essential to the recovery process, and putting pen to paper can be a good way to outsource them and start healing. 2. Exercising Exercising was one of the things that helped make my recovery process more bearable and even fun. While in rehab, I took up jogging, and many years from that day I still make time a few days a week to run in the mornings. Personally, it helped me clear my mind — I only thought of how much further I could get. Besides, I always felt great after doing it, both physically and emotionally. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which gives you a similar feeling of happiness and well-being to the one you got from drugs or alcohol. In addition, it improves your overall health and it can boost your self-esteem, which can be a major benefit for people in recovery. 3. Eating healthy Nutrition has a great impact on recovery. Abusing drugs and alcohol can cause damage to many organs in your body and affect your weight and muscle mass, and you may be malnourished and low on energy. Eating healthy can help you clean and heal your organism. Since drugs alter the “ reward system ” in your brain, it’s likely the foods you want to eat are those high in sugar, fat, and carbs. I remember there was nothing I wanted more during rehab than an In N’ Out cheeseburger and fries. But what your body really needs is “real food” — less sugar, less refined carbohydrates, fewer processed fats, more fiber, and more healthy fats. This means you should include plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet, lean meats, fish, and lots of water. You’ll be surprised when you find that staying away from junk food for a while can make you feel so much better during recovery. 4. Listening to inspiring music I’ve always loved music, it has the power to motivate me and it has helped me through my darkest moments. Music can have a great impact on your emotions and your mood. Think about it, when you listen to a sad song, even if you’re happy at the time, it can bum you out even if it’s just for a moment. Same goes the other way when you’re feeling down, listening to positive, inspiring music can lift your spirits. Listening to music definitely helped me boost my addiction recovery since it kept me busy and focused on the lyrics of the  songs , which gave me motivation and empowerment to overcome the obstacles I was faced with in that time of my life. Now that I am fully recovered, music is still very important to me. I still use it as a source of happiness and inspiration. 5. Positive thinking Your mind is a powerful thing, and your thoughts can have the ability to configure your behavior and impact the way you experience the world. Though positive thinking may not be the solution to every problem in life, it can be a great help. I know it’s hard to keep your mind from negative thoughts and feelings when you’re in recovery. I used to feel guilty about my past for making my parents struggle, and I felt angry and resented myself for my addiction. But then I realized there was no point in worrying about the past since there was nothing I could do to change it. It took some effort, but I started thinking more positively, focusing on what I could do in the present to make way for a better future. Whenever you catch yourself thinking negatively, don’t indulge in those thoughts and immediately change them for positive ones. It may be hard at first, but soon you’ll make it a habit of seeing the positive side in situations rather than the negative.  Positive thinking  can help you reduce your stress levels, and feel happier and more at ease during your recovery process. Flash forward to right now. I’ve been sober for nine years, I co-own an online business and I’m happy with who I am and what I do. Though recovery can be hard and it requires hard continuous work, the results are completely worth it. These five tips made my process somewhat easier and definitely more bearable. If you follow them, make sure to come back and leave a comment sharing your experience. If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA ‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via nicomenijes.

Andy Macia

7 Ways Exercise Helped Me Work Through My Addiction Recovery

Growing up in Fort Collins, Colorado, was as easy as one can possibly imagine. Rather a small city, I didn’t have many friends to spend time with and mostly everyone knew each other’s parents. I used to go on walks near the woods and kept myself busy staring into the lake or the mountains in the background, which are covered by snow for the better part of the year. My first contact with alcohol was when I was 13. A couple of friends and I were listening to some records after school and we had some beers that the oldest brother of one in our group bought for us. When I realized what drinking was doing to me I felt like I could leave behind all my anxiety, worries, and everything being shy brought along with it. It was fine and it felt good. We didn’t think anything bad of it at that time. Maybe if I had been more careful I could’ve still have had some drinks every now and then. But I’m way beyond the point of telling myself, “I wish I did this or that.” Years went by and I eventually developed an addiction to alcohol. I felt embarrassed because none of my other friends got addicted to it. I started to drink almost all the time. I couldn’t keep any job for longer than a month or two, not to mention all my relationships went into inevitable doom. Everything went totally out of control and I didn’t realize until my family made an intervention. My brother helped get me involved in addiction and rehabilitation programs in our own city so I could still be close to them. Of course, it took me a while to realize I was having a problem, but when I look back into my past I still wonder sometimes, why me? My family was a great support during my recovery process. I was really happy they understood it was a disease because in lots of cases I’ve heard of, there have been different situations when I wish people knew more about the topic before blaming or leaving. They were always coming up with ideas to distract me or keep me busy so I wouldn’t have bad thoughts or feel the need to drink again. My brother had always been the kind of guy who was into all types of sports and while I was attending the rehab program he suggested I should join him occasionally for some training or mild workouts. I’ve never really been a gym person, but since it was my brother I saw it as an opportunity to spend time with him and somehow make up for the pain I had caused him by being an alcoholic. In the end, that was simply one of the greatest ideas he’s ever had, and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and here’s why. 1. It literally changed my life. When we started going to the gym, my brother told me I might feel exhausted at the end of the session but in the long term, like everything that requires dedication, it would be worth it. As I went with him a couple days a week at the start, I began to spot some changes in my daily life. I was in a better mood. I felt less depressed and tired. I felt motivated to accomplish new things and my self-esteem improved a lot. It was like a new me. When I was working out I realized it was the first thing I put myself into with dedication and motivation. More than anything else I had ever done so far. 2. I slept a lot better. Not only because I was exhausted after a good training session, but also because it relaxed my body and mind to the point that when I finally got the chance to rest, I fell on the bed like a rock. Addiction disrupted my sleeping pattern, so along with the treatment and the exercise, my body was trying to go back to normal and that meant having a balanced and healthy sleeping pattern. 3. I wasn’t stressed or anxious anymore. One of the best things about exercise is that it gave me the peace I so desperately needed. I was releasing endorphins while working out which gave me a natural “high.” So on top of the fact that things were actually going well at that time, I also felt like they were. I could appreciate the progress a lot more because I was seeing how my body was changing due to our training sessions. 4. I felt healthy. Abusing alcohol made changes in my body I really wanted to change back. When we started going to the gym I remember my brother telling me how I’d see changes not only in my muscles obviously, but also in my skin. After a couple of months, I looked some years younger. It felt great. I could breathe better and sleep better and I wasn’t even feeling the need to relapse that much because of how motivated and busy I was keeping myself with my brother. 5. My self-esteem went up. I’ve never really considered myself an attractive person, it kind of runs in the family. But getting fit made me feel a lot better about myself. I wanted to grow my muscles and increase my strength. After months I was looked in the mirror and I could barely recognize myself. My brother wasn’t the only strong guy in the house anymore. We even ended up doing some repairs in the house. My father had been asking my brother to do them for a long time but now that we had both of us, we took up the challenge. When we finished I reflected on how many great things are connected to each other and how I could see the physical results of my efforts, which also strengthened the relationships with my family. I’ve heard that when people exercise they feel more confident, optimistic, and happy about themselves and their life. I was definitely feeling that way. 6. It made me meditate. I had no idea about that at first, but an instructor at the gym told us that exercise has very similar effects on the body and the mind as meditation does. Concentrating on the effort, and focusing on the goals for the session can distract from any other issue that might be present in life. I remember just telling myself repeatedly one more minute, one more push-up, one more lift, etc. Nothing else mattered but what I wanted to achieve with my body at that moment. 7. It gave me a new outlook. The chemical reactions going on inside my body have a lot to do with this, but overall seeing results made me feel more confident about my recovery process. We were setting small goals or benchmarks every time we went to the gym. And by achieving them I started to believe more in myself. The idea of overcoming my addiction didn’t look so unrealistic anymore because I was seeing that I could do anything I wanted if I put my motivation and dedication on it. Going through recovery was hard regardless of how much support I got or whom I got it from. But it’s not impossible. I’ve learned many valuable lessons from this experience, and the best part of it is that most of them apply to every single human being. Dedication and motivation got me further than I ever thought I’d go. I’ve successfully completed my recovery program now. I have a wife and a baby coming soon and a wonderful nephew. It all is the result of a mixture of many things, but I know I owe a lot to exercise. I never felt this happy before, and I know that if I had never taken the chance my brother gave me, I probably wouldn’t have opened my mind and my life to all the wonderful things that came along. If you’d like to ask a question or would like to suggest other benefits I might’ve forgotten to write, feel free to leave a comment below. If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA ‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via shironosov

Andy Macia

5 Tips for Managing Money While You're Recovering From Addiction

I spent the majority of my life wrestling with alcohol and drug addiction. It took a long time for me to realize I even had a problem. Rehab, support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings showed me ways to deal with spiritual, emotional and even physical aspects of recovery. Yet, what I wasn’t prepared for was the financial side of things. During the peak of my addiction, money was nothing but a means to an end, the end being bigger and better highs. When I got into recovery the first time, money was a pretty big instrument to my relapse. I had a new job, suddenly had more money in my possession than I ever had before and the stresses of my “9 to 5” coupled with my well-satisfied wallet sent me straight down the dark path once more. This time, I focused more on how to avoid relapse and manage triggers of all kinds, including financial ones. I learned about why relapse happens, and I learned that money as a trigger for relapse is actually much more common than I thought. No matter how well, or not so well, you managed money during your addiction, recovery will bring on all kinds of added difficulty to the situation. Not having enough money can cause you all kinds of stress and anxiety, while having too much poses an all too welcomed temptation. In my last near decade of recovery, I have gathered the top tips to managing money as a person recovering from addiction and wanted to share them with all of you: 1. Learn to budget. To be painfully honest with you, I had never organized money in any way while struggling with addiction. Bills came in and piled up, and I didn’t bat an eye. I didn’t really have a steady job. So my income varied greatly from week to week. I paid what I could, when I could, borrowed a lot and spent the majority of what I had to fuel my addiction. After my relapse, I knew things had to be done differently so that I could stay on the right path. I had a family member teach me how to organize myself financially. When you’re in recovery, most programs require you to find a job of some sort. When I was in the process of finding one, I made sure to map out a monthly budget according to: How much money I had — the amount of money that was already in my bank or in my possession. How much money I would make — the amount coming in via my paychecks. How much money I owe — any debts that needed settling. How much money I would need to spend — hydro, electric, internet, phone or any other kind of bills, along with money for groceries and other basic necessities. Believe it or not, having a sense of control over my finances helped me feel accomplished and like I was on the right path. I planned my expenses in a way that I never had too much month at the end of the money. 2. Differentiate between “optional” and “mandatory.” One thing I struggled with in recovery was differentiating what I absolutely needed from what I craved to help substitute my drug and alcohol dependence. Before my relapse, I spent loads of money on unnecessary things. When I sat down to create my monthly budget, a good friend of mine had me apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to ensure I didn’t give myself too much financial wiggle room. At first, I stuck with factoring in only my basic needs: Physiological needs — costs related to food, drink, shelter, sleep and warmth Safety needs — costs related to security and safety (such as insurance) When I began to feel more confident and in control of myself in recovery, which took me nearly two years, I allowed a strict amount for psychological needs: Belonging and love — costs related to relationships, intimacy, receiving and giving affection, and so on (this would include gifts, dates, lunches and dinners with friends) Esteem — costs related to mastery of a subject, art or sport, as well as achievement in those areas. (I started taking computer and internet related classes at a local college and got a gym membership.) This next section, self-actualization, is a more long-term thing. It’s about seeking personal fulfillment and peak experiences. This came five years into recovery. I felt stable, and I could comfortably manage the temptation of being around alcohol or any other substance. I planned a trip with two close friends to Italy and traveled the countryside. It was one of the experiences of my life, and I’m glad I waited to get as far as I did into recovery because I was able to enjoy the trip that much more. 3. Set goals. When in recovery and you have extra money that is not going toward your necessities, it is difficult to deny the temptation to go out and spend to your heart’s content. The key is to set short-term and long-term saving goals. Whether the savings go toward paying off debts or buying something important to you, the important thing is to set goals. Write them down, visualize them and always remember them. This will help on those days that you feel as if temptation may just get the best of you. 4. Do not carry credit or debit cards. This one is key, especially when you are first starting out. Carrying credit or debit cards on you is simply too much temptation. You should only carry as much money as your budget entails and leave the rest out of sight, out of mind. If you carry a card that can easily give you access to more money, then things can too easily get out of hand. It might be best to keep the cards with someone you trust or just cancel them. Having to go to a bank teller to withdraw money is just an extra step that serves as protection against random impulses. When you feel confident that you no longer feel the itch to buy unnecessary things or use money unnecessarily, experiment by carrying a debit card for a day. The second you feel the itch, get rid of the card. 5. Find financial resources and people to help. When in doubt, there are tons of resources available to help with budgeting, banking, saving and general money management. Luckily, I have people in my life who have always been responsible with their money and who were able to show me the ropes. If you can find someone close to help you with it, then great. If not, then there are great apps, tools, and websites that can also help. Money management may be mentioned much less than various other tools on the road to recovery, but the feeling of financial freedom was a definite weight off my shoulders. Money is one of the things you can learn to control rather than have it control you. Knowing that you have power over your financial situation will give your recovery the boost that you’re looking for. If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA ‘s hotline at 1-800-662-4357. Image via Thinkstock. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Andy Macia

Columbian Man Shares His Addiction Recovery Story

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” — Khalil Gibran I was happy as a child. I was a little awkward, a little shy, but I was happy. My parents protected my brother and I from sadness and pain when we were little. They left their country in search of a better life for us in America. We were born in Colombia in the ‘80s and while it was always a beautiful country, civil unrest and drug cartel activities made it one of the most dangerous countries in the world at the time. There were shootouts in public spaces, abductions, and murders almost every day. So we moved to Southern California. My parents worked hard to build a home where we were always safe and loved. One thing you have to know about Colombians is that we love to have a good time. We throw little parties any chance we get, round up family and friends, listen to music, eat good food and throw back a generous serving of Aguardiente . If you’re not familiar with Aguardiente, or Fire Water, it’s a strong anise-flavored alcohol that’s popular in Colombia. It was at one of these lighthearted family parties that my life took an unfortunate turn. I was about 9 years old and the world was my oyster. My parents had always encouraged me to go for what I wanted — they told me I could be anyone and do anything. Well, 9-year-old me really wanted to be a grown-up. I was especially interested in Aguardiente. The adults would always have it at our parties and I noticed how much more fun they seemed to have after taking a few swigs of the clear, sweet-smelling stuff. I had asked to try it before, after which I got a very stern lecture, but I wasn’t going to give up. That night I snuck a little bit when the adults weren’t watching. I didn’t like it very much, but it made me feel pretty grown-up so I wanted more. I took my chance when the adults were all dancing to drink more and more until I was eventually drunk. Oh yes, little 9-year-old me was drunk. A cousin of mine noticed me and took me back to where the kids were playing. He made me eat food and drink water, told me to never do this again, and that he was only covering for me this one time so my parents wouldn’t get upset. Sadly, that wasn’t the last time it happened. Truth is, I liked the feeling of being drunk. I liked how it seemed to make me feel more free, less awkward, less shy. But a couple of years down the road, alcohol just didn’t do it for me anymore. At 13 I started smoking marijuana and at 19 I got hooked on meth. It wasn’t long before all my bad choices caught up to me. Next thing I knew I was sentenced to two years in prison for drug-related charges. I look back now and I wonder how on earth I didn’t do something about it sooner. But to be honest, back then I didn’t even think I had a problem to begin with. It was all a good time to me. I was just letting loose, just having fun and everyone else just needed to relax. I joined Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous while in prison for the sole purpose of spending some time outside of my depressing cell. I didn’t contribute, answer any questions or even speak for the first couple of months. One day, in one of the AA meetings, all of that changed. An elderly man stood up. He looked rugged and a little bit intimidating, you could tell from the way he carried himself that he’d experienced his fair share of curveballs in life. It was the first time I’d ever heard him share and his story shook me. There was a woman he loved, who loved him back, they were married and had a life of their own. But his marriage was getting a little crowded with him, his wife, and his addiction. For years she made excuses for him, put up with him, comforted him, and tried to help him. She blamed herself for the fact that he wasn’t getting better. Until one day she left him. She couldn’t take it anymore and she just left. He lost the one person in the world who ever really had his back. That resonated with me. My parents are my whole world. They risked everything to give my brother and I a better life. To this day they both work hard to make sure they have enough to be comfortable. My relationship with them plummeted at the same time my life did. But they were still there, and the thought of losing them was enough to realize I had to make a change in my life before it was too late. When I got out of prison I managed to find a job. At first, it wasn’t much, I just sold cheap perfumes and colognes. But when I discovered that I was pretty good at it, I dove right in. I did so well that I got promoted. Soon enough I was in charge of training new people from the comfort of my very own office with my very own desk. I ate, slept, and breathed work. I was a workaholic. I had sublimated my addiction to alcohol and drugs for work. Even though the latter is more socially acceptable, it was my new high. And before I knew it, I relapsed. The relapse hit me hard. This time I knew it was wrong, I hated myself for drinking. I hated myself when I lied. I hated myself when I started using up all the money I had saved. I hated myself for lashing out at my parents. I just couldn’t even bear to face my own reflection anymore. I would get drunk and high, sleep all day and I barely ate. My addiction was battling my conscience as the words of the old man in prison kept echoing in my ears. I didn’t want to lose my parents. I didn’t want to hurt them anymore. I didn’t want to disappoint them anymore. I needed to end it. I needed to end it now. This next part is still etched into my memory. I’ve never been able to forget it. The lease on my apartment ended a couple of months before and, since I couldn’t afford a place of my own anymore, I had moved back in with my parents. My parents usually locked up all their prescription medication in their room, but a couple of days before I had seen my dad put the key in one of his old coats in the closet. I waited for them to leave the house as I pretended to be asleep. I was already grabbing the key when the car was pulling out of the driveway. I began chanting to myself, “It will all be over soon, this will all be over soon.” I didn’t even hear the front door open. I almost didn’t register when she ran into my room, screaming at the top of her lungs, and slapped the pills out of my hand. The next thing I knew, my mother was holding me tight and rocking me. My father was at the door and she said to him, “I told you something was wrong. I knew it, I could feel it.” For the first time, I looked at both of them and said, “Mama, Papa, I need help. Please, help me.” They admitted me into a rehabilitation facility in Idaho. That place literally saved my life. One of the best things they did for me was give me a way to work through my guilt, self-hatred, anger — everything. They had me write letters to everyone I care about, including myself. I apologized to everyone, including myself. They helped me see that there were so many people and so many things to live clean for. And I felt the motivation to actually go somewhere in life. Once out of rehab, I quickly joined AA and NA groups in my area. I wanted to stay as focused as possible. It was at these meetings I met my closest friend, who is also my sponsor. Next to my parents and rehab, he is one of the biggest reasons I have stayed clean. He gave me an ultimatum. It was either I pass a college course of my choice, or I find another sponsor. So I dragged myself to a local college and looked through course lists. You see, aside from my struggle with alcohol and drugs, I’d spent quite a bit of time fiddling with computers. Internet and tech stuff always intrigued me, which led me to choose an http course. That course gave me a future. Suddenly, I had the kind of knowledge and skill to be able to do something worthwhile with my life. My room was filled with books on coding, digital media, http, all of it. The same room I had once chosen to end my life in, was where I began to build a whole new life. A whole new me. It’s been over eight years since I held those pills in my hand. Eight years since I took my last drink, or my last hit. I moved back to Colombia, I even co-own a website development agency. I’m doing what I love in the country I was born. I am happy, I am healthy and I am clean. People ask me all the time if I ever feel the urge to drink, smoke, shoot or anything. This beautiful letter perfectly articulates my feelings. Colombians love to have a good time, so when I go out on a Friday, there are plenty of people enjoying a good drink and sometimes I feel tempted. I feel my addiction trying to pull me back in. But what is stronger than that pull is the pull of my incredibly supportive family, friends and colleagues. There are so many ways to enjoy yourself without alcohol or drugs, and it’s come to a point where I almost don’t think about it anymore. At the beginning, when I first came back to Colombia, it was much more difficult. I had to take it one day at a time. I would go to meetings almost every day, Skype with my sponsor a few times a week, and focus on how far I’d come. I became active. There are a lot of mountains here. I love to hike up and enjoy the view. I soak in how beautiful everything is. I let the beauty around me fill me. I started coaching a boys’ soccer team. I became invested in not only making progress for myself every day, but also in making other people’s lives a little better. The gratitude is the key. I am so grateful for everyone in my life. So grateful to wake up to a whole new day. So grateful for all the new opportunities. I focus on all the blessings in my life, rather than the problems. The truth is, if I didn’t go through everything I did I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now. I am not ashamed of my journey. Now that I have come out of the darkness, I can see my scars and smile because I made it. And now, I enjoy every single day of my life. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .