The DA Dilemma of Disability

I am on disability for a chronic illness. Unlike many in DA, my struggle is not about finding my right work or under-earning. It is about acceptance that I have enough and finding meaning in my life without money attached to it. For today, I have Social Security Disability (SSDI) and private disability. For today, I have enough money. While I wish I had more, the money I receive monthly covers my needs and some of my wants. And trying to earn money pushes me into a severe episode every time. It’s like I get thrown back against the wall whenever I attempt to do so.

The private disability company is doing a medical review. This has gone on for six months now. They may choose to drop me, which would eliminate half my income. While I have some fear and even panic when I think about it, my PRG team and sponsor talk me down and keep me in today. Because I live in the next month in my spending plan, I already know I have enough money for December.

If I do lose the private insurance, then my income will be reduced to an amount that may not be possible for me to live on alone. And here is where the difficulty lies.

Earning money while on private or government disability presents a thorny issue. Last year, I took on some freelance work while I was only on private disability, before getting SSDI. It seemed like a dream come true for the type of work I had yearned to do as a writer.

But it turned out to be a nightmare and was the final straw in showing me that my old career was done in any form because it made me sick to do it. Further, I hated it and wasn’t very good at it. That dream I had was an old one and no longer relevant to who I had become.

Someone suggested that I not tell disability about having done the work. I know there are people who work under the table and don’t report it. However, I couldn’t do that for a number of reasons. Most importantly, the way I work my program is to be honest and accept the consequences. Ironically, in recovery, this has never been to my detriment. In fact, it turned out that I could earn quite a bit more than that without it affecting my disability payment! I would never have found that out had this not happened.

I don’t lie very well, and end up getting caught (or, more often, confessing). Plus, in my recovery, the guilt over lying is untenable to me and makes me sicker. And I have this idea about Karma. Whether it’s true or not, I have seen in my life the consequences of my negative actions. Not a pretty sight. I’m in recovery to change that behavior, not perpetuate and justify it.

So, now that I’m on SSDI as well, I have a $1,000 limit of earning a month. The thing is, as I stated up front, at this time, I’m unable to earn at all due to my disability standing in the way. My lessons have been about letting go of needing more money and being satisfied with what I have.

Well, that’s all well and good while I get the private disability as well. But what happens if I lose that?

I’m truly grateful for SSDI, but it’s not a lot of money to live on. Those of us on it have paid into that system, so it’s not free money. And without it, I would be completely lost. But what to do?

I think each of us has our own moral compass. None of us can judge another. Look where we have come from in our disease! Who the heck am I to judge anyone else when I think about what I did in addiction?

So I can only speak for myself when I say that I would always be honest about what I earn with SSDI. No amount of money is worth the space that pain will rent in my head. That’s not my dilemma.

If I could earn $1,000 a month, that actually would be OK for me. Not exceptional, but acceptable. The problem is that my disability precludes active work, which stinks. It’s not worth $1,000 to end up flat out in bed for a week or two after working for a few hours.

So this is the part that’s truly a dilemma for me. My PRG team has continued to rightly keep me in today and have assured me that when it is time to figure it out, we will. I can believe this because I have seen time and time again in this program with myself and others that we do.

For today, I have no clue how I will live on SSDI alone. But for today, I don’t have to do so. I can romance the pain and suffering of a future that hasn’t happened yet. Or I can live my life for today, knowing that my financial needs are in place through December.

Today is Friday, November 30, 2012. My son, the love of my life, is 22 years old today. The weather is gorgeous here. My son, my husband, and my dog are healthy. I have no deadlines to meet and nowhere I have to go. I can create art, read, and watch some TV shows that I love. I can meditate today and read spiritual literature. I can rest if I need to do so. I can stay abstinent. I can be present in this beautiful day and focus on all that I have and trust that my needs will continue to be met.


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