We can be freed from sin
Several years ago, an article in a Christian Science periodical mentioned a healing of an addiction to Internet pornography. Before I had read more than the title of the article, two thoughts came to mind. The first was, “I can relate,” since I had suffered from a similar addiction for years.
The second was almost to dismiss the healing, or at least to think of it as an exception to the rule, because I had suffered from the addiction for so long and had failed to see complete release from it despite my diligent efforts and prayers to be healed. How was it, I thought, that this person could experience healing through prayer, while I had not? When I first picked up and read the article, I had grown tired of the battle.
However, the hope of healing that the article gave ultimately inspired me to keep praying. And here’s the good news: I am now completely healed of the addiction, and the healing didn’t take forever. There has been a complete, lasting cessation in my experience of both the addiction and the online activity it engendered. I am convinced of the healing because I have changed and grown spiritually so much that there isn’t even a hint of anything more to be healed in my thought about this belief of addiction. The whole thing is simply dead and buried.
God was always with me, and as I kept praying I won my freedom.
As I look back, it’s clear now that I was actually much closer to release from the addiction than had been evident to me during the struggle. I’ve realized that the most important part about demonstrating complete healing was not to stop praying, never to give up, no matter how long the claim of addiction clung to me, and no matter how distant from God my thoughts seemed to be at times. But even during those times, God was always with me, and as I kept praying I won my freedom through His healing presence and power.
Beyond not giving up, there were three other important aspects to this healing.
The first was to pray daily to understand who I am spiritually—the pure, innocent child of God’s creating, rather than an imperfect mortal of human creation. I set about not to miss a day without performing this task that is so vitally important to spiritual growth. This involved deeply studying the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.
This helped me understand my true spiritual self and recognize that it is entirely separate from the false, sinning, personal sense of identity that I had believed was true about me for so long. I saw that the addiction was actually unnatural because it was part of this false sense of self as material, not part of my true spiritual being. From this vantage point I could see how acquiescing to the addiction had deadened my spiritual perception, limited my ability to express affection and other Godlike qualities, and curtailed much of what was good in my experience.
This daily work was especially important for me to do because in my case the addiction had seemed not only pleasurable but natural. For the longest time I was blind even to the possibility that I had an addiction. The true nature of the addiction became clear to me only as I established more clearly in consciousness the facts of God’s existence, and gained a keener sense of the man of His creation, of who I really am as the expression of Spirit.
I had to keep on loving myself as God loves me.
The second important part of the healing was simply to stop doing the things that, because of my growing consciousness of spiritual good, were being revealed to me as clearly wrong—as the total opposite of spiritual good. Not that this seemed simple. The pull of online pornography was magnetic and overwhelming at times. But as I progressed spiritually, I became more aware of the authority I had from God to stop acting in such an immoral and demeaning way and instead to live my life with dignity and love.
The third thing I needed to do was to forgive myself. Not once, not seven times, but every single time that I felt the need to be forgiven (see Matthew 18:21, 22). This was imperative. Forgiving myself was never an excuse for my behavior, but I knew that if I couldn’t forgive myself, I would find it much harder to climb out of the addiction. I recognized that if I ever stopped forgiving myself for making mistakes, then I would be inviting an endless cycle of guilt, resentment, and self-hatred to play out in my thinking and my life. I had to keep on loving myself as God loves me, to understand that I could never be separated from God’s love, in order to rise above all of the anger and self-loathing, and to demonstrate my spiritual identity.
So, there it is. I know now that if I could find release from addiction through prayer, spiritual understanding, and growth in grace, anybody can. Through the persistent, daily effort to grow in one’s understanding of God and man, through the willingness to be lifted out of sin and live one’s life in accord with what one learns from spiritual growth, through self-forgiveness—and through any of the other graces of Spirit that come to transform us—healing can come. Don’t give up. Keep striving to understand God, and then put into practice what you have learned. God, who never stops loving you as His child, will unfold the way to make your life new.