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In my daddy's footsteps?

From the February 24, 2003 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

I did not want to end up like him. I saw what alcohol did to my dad—the DT's, the lack of self-respect. When he drank too much, he couldn't work, and someone had to drive his truck, delivering the laundry and making the collections, or there wouldn't be enough money at home. Even Mother, who was not a good driver, had to make deliveries for him. Sometimes when she drove, I was the one who went to the door with the laundry to collect the money.

My mother spent years praying for Daddy. Later in life, I would learn how to heal those hard, suffering, unhappy memories through prayer. But those were tough times for Mother and us kids.

I was a child of few words and on the shy side. I had feelings, but no one ever knew, because I didn't know how to show them. I pretty much kept everything to myself. Often when I annoyed my big brother and big sister, they would say to me, "Oh, you're just like Daddy!" I didn't know what that meant—how was I "just like Daddy"? The one thing that stood out in my mind about my dad was that he drank a lot. It was a big problem. We had seen some unhappy times in the family when he was on a binge, and those were the memories about him that had stuck in my mind. So, all that I could figure out was that if I was going to be just like Daddy, I was fated to be a "drinker." And I believed there was nothing I could do to prevent this from happening to me when I grew up. Every time my brother and sister told me I was like our dad, I felt doomed. I had begun to believe them, and I sure wasn't looking forward to growing up.

This dread went on for a while, but one Sunday in my Sunday School class, the teacher told us that we weren't like anyone else—we were original. I sat straight up in my chair. "What did you say? Say that again." She repeated that each one of us was different; no two alike. We were like no one else.

Each original. My Sunday School teacher's words had given me a little hope, but I wasn't sure I could trust her. So when I got back home after Sunday School and was able to be alone with my mother, I asked her, "Am I like anyone else?" She asked what I meant. I said, "You know. Am I just like anyone else, or will I be only like myself, different from anyone else?"

She assured me that I was only myself, and would always be original, not a copy of anyone else. Wow! I felt completely free from that awful thought of growing up to be "just like Daddy," and I ran outside to play. I don't recall my brother or sister making that comment to me ever again. And I was no longer confused about who I was.

When I entered high school, though, I began to drink a little and to smoke with my girlfriends. It was the thing to do, and I couldn't see any harm in having fun with my friends. I didn't drink much—I always ended up getting sick and feeling ashamed. But I was smoking more and more. I hid these things from my parents. I would never have told my mother because I loved her so much, and she would have been disappointed in me.

When I graduated from high school and went off to the university, I began to attend meetings of the campus organization for Christian Scientists. I really wanted to join this organization, and also to become a member of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, but I felt that in order to join these groups, I should be free from the use of alcohol and tobacco.

Although I didn't have an uncontrollable craving for alcohol, I was addicted to cigarettes by this time. I saw smoking and drinking as part of the fun I was having with my friends—and I didn't want to miss any of that. One Saturday night when I went out with these friends, we polished off several bottles of wine and then wandered over to the university fountain that had statues of mustangs in the middle, and we started pushing each other into the shallow water. Pretty soon we were soaking wet and started trying to climb up on the statues.

That night had been
a bit sobering
for me, and I think
my friends felt
the same way.
We never got
that out of control

At that point, the campus police spotted us and started running toward us. We spotted them, too, and we started running away in all directions. I hid in a bush until the police were gone. Then I went on home, cleaned up, and got in bed. That night had been a bit sobering for me, and I think my friends felt the same way. We never got that out of control again.

My interest in spirituality was growing, and after that campus police stunt, I really began to examine my actions. I found this statement in Science and Health that quotes a well-known Bible passage about the relation of one generation to the next: "It should no longer be said in Israel that 'the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' Sympathy with error should disappear. The transfer of the thoughts of one erring mind to another, Science renders impossible" (p. 211). I knew I didn't want to eat or drink those "sour grapes" again, but I wasn't sure what my next step should be.

One Friday I caught a ride home from school for the weekend. The next morning, I was not feeling well and was lying on the sofa in the living room. There I was feeling sick with an upset stomach, and I also felt guilty about doing things that I knew my mother would not be proud of me for doing. But what was I to do? I felt so alone with my problems—how could I ask anyone for help when I was ashamed of what I was doing? Without even thinking about it, I reached out and picked up a copy of Science and Health that was on a table by the sofa and just let the pages fall open. My eyes settled on this: "Higher enjoyments alone can satisfy the cravings of immortal man. We cannot circumscribe happiness within the limits of personal sense. The senses confer no real enjoyment" (pp. 60—61).

That really got through to me! I felt that what I really wanted were the "higher enjoyments." My happiness didn't depend on using alcohol and tobacco to feel good, but depended on feeling the love and peace that come from God. My true Mother was God, who had made me, and She was satisfied with Her work. So I wanted nothing to do with addictive cravings. Suddenly I felt fine—completely well, physically—and satisfied. I got up off the sofa, and had a happy weekend at home. And I went back to school a new person. I've never again had any desire to smoke or drink since that day.

I did join that Christian Science organization on campus and the Church, and I had many happy times at meetings and activities. As for my friends, my giving up smoking and drinking caused no separation between us. They didn't exclude me because I had stopped smoking and drinking, and I continued to love them dearly. We had lots of fun together.

My life has continued to be good—satisfying, enjoyable, and my own!

Gloria Harrison is a Christian Science nurse, who has helped people of all ages in her work.

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