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Healing addiction

From the January 8, 1996 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

What is the root cause of addiction, and how can it be overcome? Those are questions I had to deal with earlier in my life. For fourteen years I had smoked cigarettes.

My addiction began in high school. Movie and newspaper images made smoking seem manly and glamorous. At that time public discussion of whether smoking was dangerous was not widespread. Neither did it dawn on me that smoking, or for that matter any addiction, is a violation of the commandment to have only one God and not to bow down to a second power. I was smoking two to three packs of cigarettes each day. Each time I tried to stop, I wound up smoking more.

When I took up the study of Christian Science, I soon realized that nothing is incurable. I saw that Christ Jesus' words (Mark 10:27) "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible" had practical meaning in my life. Earlier efforts to get rid of the tobacco habit had failed because they were based on willpower. I knew now that by putting my trust in God and understanding my indestructible relation to Him, I could be healed and protected from future addictive temptations.

I began to feel God's love and to understand that He is omnipotent Spirit. Since man is made in God's likeness, man is in reality spiritual—His perfect expression, including purity and wholeness—and not a physical being subject to addictions. Nothing so unlike God could exist in His all-powerful presence.

Seductive images flashed before our thought by the media, feelings of dissatisfaction with ourselves and our prospects, and all the other pressures and human weaknesses said to lead to addiction have their source in the so-called human mind, the belief that we have life and intelligence separate from God. But they have no real power to influence or afflict, because God is the one and only Mind. He does not share His power with anything else.

I soon realized that nothing is incurable. I began to feel God's love and to understand that He is omnipotent Spirit.

In a consecrated effort to understand truths like these and to be healed, I studied the Bible and Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy several hours each day. My close relationship to God became much more vivid to me. I learned to watch my thought and to let this new understanding wash out of my consciousness any belief that addictions are incurable.

Two ideas from Science and Health particularly stood out to me. One is, "Be firm in your understanding that the divine Mind governs, and that in Science man reflects God's government" (p. 393). The other, "Wait patiently for divine Love to move upon the waters of mortal mind, and form the perfect concept. Patience must 'have her perfect work'" (p. 454).

These ideas explained to me the Bible's words "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:2–8).

These stirring words gradually became part of my everyday thinking. They were a sharp warning that God's government was supreme and that I needed to reflect His government in all that I did. The belief of pleasure and satisfaction in matter was not of God; therefore, I could not allow it to control me. Patiently trying to learn more of my unbreakable relation to God, as His beloved child, must and would bring healing. The thought that any addiction could be more powerful than God in my experience—or in that of anyone else—left me. And after several months of study and prayer along these lines, the healing came.

One bright sunny afternoon, at the season of the fall corn harvest, I stopped my car alongside a country road. While I waited for the time of an appointment at a nearby farm home, I read a copy of the Christian Science Sentinel, and I realized now was the time for healing. I stepped out of the car, took the cigarette pack from my pocket, and flung it into a cornfield. Then I burned all my remaining matches.

When I got to my appointment, the young farmer I was calling on lighted a cigarette and I weakened. When he said his was the last cigarette in the house, I knew there was no going back. While I carried a pipe and tobacco in the car for a few weeks, just in case I had the urge for tobacco again, it never came. I was completely healed. I have been free of that habit now for many years.

Could this freedom from addiction have come more quickly? Probably so. But what matters to me are two lessons I learned that have helped me ever since. First: We are in reality the child of God, Spirit, not of matter. We are not dependent on matter for satisfaction. Addictions have no claim to reality outside the so-called human mind. But God is the only Mind—infinite, supreme, and incorporeal. Therefore, there is in reality no opposing intelligence or power, and genuine satisfaction comes only from God.

Second: Patient persistence is essential. The spiritual understanding of man's indestructible relation to God always brings healing. But, as we do with a seed, which germinates and grows out of sight before its shoots become visible, we need to cultivate diligently our growth in the understanding of God and expect to see visible results in our experience.

These truths are universal. In the spirit of Christ Jesus' command that we love one another, even those who have never been addicted to some material substance can rely on these truths in praying for their fellowman. Whether an addiction is considered comparatively harmless, such as an addiction to certain foods, or considered dangerous, such as an addiction to hard drugs, whether addiction is said to be a disease or the result of hereditary tendencies, it yields to God's law of love. Jesus' healing ministry shows this to be true. Through the understanding of God as the sole cause and of man as God's child, Jesus healed human ills and adversities of all sorts.

It is normal for us to be totally and permanently free from all addiction—and to depend completely on God for good. No material dependence, substance, or activity can invade God's omnipotence, which is where we dwell.

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