When you get something for nothing, you just haven’t been billed for it yet. ~ Franklin P. Jones
by Pete Ferguson
Hi, I’m Pete, and I’m a recovering addict.
I’m not addicted to drugs or booze (or smoking crack cocaine while I was in a drunken stupor in Toronto). I’m addicted to something much worse and more spiritually toxic.
I’m addicted to wanting something for nothing.
I’m inpatient at heart. I want everything. Now.
I understand hard work pays off, and that’s great. I just want it to pay off immediately.
But when it does, I’m not happy with the results. In fact I’m empty inside and I want more.
I heard a great quote this week about addiction:
Addicts love things and use people.
And ain’t that the truth? Because I can never get enough stuff to be happy. And lots of stuff without meaningful relationships is really an unhappy place for me to be. And so I go after more stuff, only to find that I only feel less happy – so of course I self-prescribe the need for more stuff.
But I did say I’m a recovering addict. And Step 1 is to admit to my problem – and to admit I am powerless over it. And so I’m declaring to the world that I’m recovering from stuff-itis (the desire of too much stuff).
In 2007 we had $178,000 in consumer debt plus another $140,000 on our house. Student loans, a travel trailer, a nice big truck to pull the trailer (which we never could afford to fill with gas), and our former mortgaged condo that was supposed to be a profitable rental along with the “miscellaneous” second mortgage, credit cards, and other nonsense.
Pride was of course the root of my problem. Trying to keep up with friends who were doctors and hedge fund administrators. In the end, none of us won the race. I just about lost my marriage because of over spending though. Divorce isn’t the trophy I wanted, however.
Then one night in August I was sitting on the back bumper of my financed $30,000 truck parked next to our $15,000 trailer feeling pretty smug as I talked to our neighbor Tony.
Tony was the guy with the two beater cars that he was always fixing and whom we’d all make funny remarks to as we’d walk by. “Broken again, eh Tony?” or “nice ride.”
That was until on that August night I found out Tony was getting his Masters’ degree in pharmacology and that his house would be paid off in several years and he would be completely debt free.
Suddenly I didn’t feel so smug. But I did suddenly fell like a real phony.
Tony had overcome his addiction to stuff. And he enjoyed two beater cars because he liked the fact that there was no monthly car payment more than what others thought of him driving two beat up cars.
Tony was focused on the here and now with a hope for the future. And that is how I started my recovery. I started to focus on enjoying today and being thankful for what I already had.
The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be. ~ Marcel Pagnol
As I began to focus on the here and now, I started to see how my addictions were robbing my future.
More debt now means less financial opportunity later.
A compliment on stuff only lasts a second, leaving me to want to have more stuff to get more compliments later.
More food today means twice as much exercise or a few additional pounds in the coming weeks (still working on this one …)
Three hours of TV today means I and my kids will want four more tomorrow.
Gossiping about others leaves me feeling worse about myself. And so I want to gossip more about others.
The cycle is a bad one. Because to get a “high” I have to overdo what was done yesterday. And the “high” doesn’t get me moving towards good long-term goals. It paralyzes me and robs my future.
You may have thought this post was going to be about current political events. And it could be. But the reality is that until we are a united nation where everyone is working out their own addiction to wanting something for nothing, Washington won’t hold any hope regardless of campaign posters.
America’s greatness comes from people working hard to fulfill their dreams. But today that greatness is being undermined by people using the government to steal other people’s dreams (and money). Rather than participate and innovate in the marketplace, generating goods and services that benefit society, people are increasingly vying for political advantage to live at the expense of others. – Excerpt from Something for Nothing by Brian Tracy
Speaking from experience, shutting off radio talk hosts and turning inward is extremely difficult. And it is painful because what I find each time I go digging into my own junk isn’t pleasant. There are many skeletons of pride and regret of using people and becoming a slave to way too much stuff that needs to be cleaned out, resolved, confessed and repented of before I can move forward.
But turning inward allows me to focus on the now. And living in the now is extremely rewarding. I become empowered to make today the best day it can possibly be. And at night as I look back over a good day, I’m content and at peace. And I’m excited about tomorrow. Ten years from now will take care of itself.
Consumer debt was only the most publicly glaring addiction. It took a lot of work, but we finally sold the truck, trailer, condo, and anything else we could and dug in deep. Several years later we were able to declare we were debt free except for the house. In a year from today our goal is to be rid of that monkey on our backs as well.
Television was (and still can be – thanks to Netflix) a serious addiction and robs time at the expense of opportunity. So we pulled the plug and haven’t had cable or satellite for many years. Reinvesting the $80 a month into music lessons is paving the way for future scholarships.
Dumping TV has had weird side affects though. Our kids have a hard time coming up with many items for their Christmas list when they aren’t at the mercy of advertisers. I never had that problem as a kid …
But I’m not here to pat myself on the back – although I’m very content and at peace with the progress I have made – I’m still addicted to wanting something for nothing.
It just moves around into different forms. Which gives me plenty to work on and strengthens my faith and reliance on my Heavenly Father.
What’s your addiction?