My son graduated college two weeks ago. He fully expected to walk out of graduation into a job. But his Higher Power had a different plan in mind. My son interned at an ad agency during his last semester and found a calling as a copywriter. The agency agreed … as did the clients. His ideas and scripts were produced. He was led to believe that he would be hired. But as the weeks of his internship went on, a sure thing led to uncertainty. And by graduation, he was told that there was no job available, but they would try to see if they could possibly add him as a freelancer. And so he waits. And mopes.
I am a “Baby Boomer,” not a “Millennial” like my son. Yet, as an addict, I suffer from Entitlement-itis – the feeling that I deserve what I want and don’t have to follow the rules to get it. I “should” be given what I want without effort and I shouldn’t have to go through the effort put forth by “regular people” to accomplish goals. Even my smallest effort “should” be rewarded by accolades and riches.
Here are just a few examples of how entitlement showed up in my life as a compulsive debtor:
* I used to “buy” pirated software online at a fraction of the cost, justifying it by saying that I needed it for my work and I deserve to earn a living. And also that the software companies charge too much for their products anyway.
* Streaming movies and TV shows for free when it would cost money otherwise (such as HBO shows when I don’t pay for HBO).
* Borrowing from the library and then xeroxing book pages or copying CDs/DVDs.
* Reading books for free that were pirated and PDF’d, on sites like Scribd.
I guess you can say that entitlement, in my debting life, is also known as stealing.
Karma has a Sharp Bite
Here is a cosmic irony. A few years back, I discovered that someone had taken one of my books and uploaded it to Scribd, where it had been downloaded over 4,000 times. 4,000 times! At $14.95/book that is over $59,000! Meanwhile, over the 10 years it had been available, I may have made about $10,000 total.
Imagine my self-righteous indignation at the gall of the anonymous person who had taken my work and just gave it away! I was outraged and demanded that they remove it at once, telling them they should be ashamed of themselves.
Ahhhhh, payback’s a bitch, right?
Progress, Not Perfection
In recovery, I learned, albeit slowly, that it’s not right to take what isn’t mine, even if I can convince myself that it doesn’t hurt anyone. I’m not perfect yet. I don’t steal software anymore. I no longer look for free versions of a paid item, unless I also buy it. But I have still copied pages from a library book that were especially meaningful.
I was so proud of myself that when I couldn’t find a legitimately free version of Season One of Game of Thrones, I was willing to get the disc from Netflix, instead of just watching it immediately on a pirate site I know about.
I have been told, “Well, corporations don’t mind cheating you and overcharge for so much, so why not just take what you can.” But I cannot live by that philosophy and stay sober.
My morality doesn’t depend on what others do, just as my sobriety doesn’t. I need to stay physically AND emotionally sober; to do what is right within my own heart that brings me peace. A peaceful heart is a grateful heart and they say that a grateful heart doesn’t binge.
For today, if you think of taking something that isn’t rightfully yours without paying for it, think about whether it will erode your abstinence. If you can’t afford it, think about the spiritual lesson in delayed gratification and ask yourself if the free price is worth the cost?