There are many tools available to assist alcohol and drug addicts with their recovery once they make the decision to be sober. Physicians, rehabilitation facilities, licensed therapists, support groups, and 12-step recovery systems such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are available to individuals hoping to kick a troublesome habit. Recently, a company called the Next Step Network partnered with MasterCard to create a new tool for recovering addicts – a prepaid credit card designed to help them limit compulsive spending while also helping them stay sober. Research has a strong relationship between money and addictive behavior, and the Next Step, as the card is known, aims to help users create stronger personal and financial habits as they overcome their addiction.
Addiction and Money
According to the cofounder of the Next Step Network (Eric Dresdale, himself a recovering addict), having cash on hand is a significant trigger for individuals suffering from addiction. When addicts are in possession of cash, the temptation is very high to spend that cash on alcohol, drugs, or whatever will feed their addiction. Furthermore, studies have shown that recovering addicts who allow someone else to control their access to money are more likely to remain sober or abstinent. Without access to cash, it becomes much more difficult for recovering addicts to gain access to the substance or behaviors from which they are trying to distance themselves. This is particularly true in the case of drug addicts, for whom cash is often the only way of purchasing the problem substance. Next Step created the card first and foremost as a means of limiting the compulsive spending that often accompanies attempts to get sober. Individuals in recovery often attempt to replace the comfort or the high that they received from their addiction with other impulsive behaviors. Spending sprees, gambling, or piercings and tattoos are common ways in which recovering addicts indulge. With a limited budget and crippled access to these kinds of behaviors, addicts are better able to get their tendency toward impulsive and self-destructive actions under control.
How the Card Works
The Next Step allows users to significantly limit access to their own money by limiting the ways in which the card may be used. Addicts themselves, or a cosigning sponsor, can establish a monthly spending limit for the card, and eliminate the possibility of receiving cash from an ATM or from an in-store transaction. The Next Step card cannot not be used at liquor stores, gambling establishments, bars, tattoo and piercing parlors, or escort services.
Alternatives to In-patient Rehab
In-patient rehabilitation facilities are a comprehensive recovery solution for those addicts who can afford them. The treatment centers typically provide physician oversight, on-site individual and group counseling, and total isolation from the addictive substance or behavior. Alternatively, some comparatively wealthy individuals have the resources to provide themselves with a sober escort who is able to keep them from falling off the wagon or engaging in other impulsive behavior to compensate for their inability to feed their addiction. Unfortunately, these rehabilitation options are not financially feasible for everyone. While not a full-proof solution, a prepaid and transaction-limited credit card is one way to create an artificial “isolation” from an addiction at a fraction of the cost of rehab centers or sober escorts. For a prepaid credit card, the Next Step card is relatively expensive at $9.95 to purchase and $14.95 to maintain on a monthly basis. Some individuals may dislike the idea of paying such a high rate in order to spend their own money. However, when viewed as an alternative to their usual spending habits, the cost may appear more manageable.
A Short-Term Solution
As the creators of the Next Step card readily admit, the prepaid card is neither a comprehensive nor a long-term solution to the challenge of addiction recovery. It takes a fair amount of planning and commitment on the part of individuals in recovery to ensure that such a card is their only means of accessing their funds on a daily basis. With easy access to an ATM card, alternate credit card, or other means of circumventing the Next Step card, the process becomes largely worthless. Nor is it reasonable, or even desirable, in the long term to keep your money under the control of a prepaid card. However, in the short term, tools like the Next Step card could help recovering addicts establish moderate habits while making it more difficult for them to relapse.