In this JSH-Online.com audio podcast, adapted for print and originally titled “Addiction—over and out,” Christian Science practitioner Tony Lobl spoke with Audio Producer Rita Polatin.
Today we’re talking about healing addiction, and we’re not just talking about the addictions we often hear about, such as those related to drugs, sex, and alcohol. We’re talking about anything a person may struggle with that destroys their ability to lead a normal life and leaves them feeling powerless and hopeless. So, Tony, as a Christian Science practitioner, someone who has a working knowledge of God and His law of harmony, how can you help someone struggling find a solution?
Rita, as someone who does have a working knowledge of God and His law of harmony, but also as someone who has struggled with addiction in his past, I think the important thing I’ve learned is that we can find a solution. In a lot of systems that approach the problem of addiction, that’s not always the assumption.
The assumption is often that the addiction is something that you never quite get rid of, even if you find ways to manage it better. And I think it’s so wonderful in Christian Science healing that there really can be what I call an “over and out”—you’re no longer having to deal with the issue, you actually realize it’s now destroyed, that it’s in your past, speaking here in terms of our human experience.
Part of the beauty of it is you find healing by recognizing the addiction has never really been a part of you. We never really are an addict. The starting point in Christian Science is that God is the only creator, and each of us is a child of God, made in the image and likeness of God, as the Bible says right at the beginning of Genesis. And really that’s a starting point for going forward to take on this claim of addiction.
One of the worst addictions that society is actually dealing with today involves those people who have, in good faith, taken prescription drugs that have been prescribed to them by their doctors, particularly painkillers. And those drugs can be as strong, if not stronger, than heroin, and these people get addicted and find they can’t get free. So it’s not always about people making obviously terrible choices; sometimes people think they’re making a very sound choice, and yet they find themselves in this predicament. And then of course there are those other things we all get challenged by and addicted to, whether it’s gossip, or fascination with celebrities, or any number of other things that can distract us from our deeper spiritual purpose.
What is required of us to gain a spiritual view of ourselves? And how do we learn about God?
What I needed when I was struggling was the wisdom of someone who knew God a lot better than I did, because I had an intuitive sense there was a God, but I didn’t have a way to articulate that. And someone introduced me to Christian Science, specifically the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. These books together are treasure-troves of wisdom about the nature of God and what that means for us.
Whatever we’re doing that is compulsive, we can naturally be reformed by the activity
of the Christ.
What I found incredibly useful was to know that God really is good, and God is Love. And the great thing about Mrs. Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures particularly is that the book is six hundred pages of learning about God, and one hundred pages of healings people have had through reading the book. Every page just gives you more and more clarity about the nature of God, and the impact that can have on your experience, whether you’re dealing with sickness or sin, whether you’re dealing with problem relationships or problems with your finances—or with addictions.
I found in the case of dealing with addiction, being introduced by Science and Health to the Bible, and reading the Bible, was really like a dawning in thought. It was like a constant dawning, like clouds breaking and the sun coming through, and more and more light and more and more joy emerging.
There is a particular passage Mary Baker Eddy has in Science and Health I find especially helpful that refers to how physical healing takes place in Christian Science: “The physical healing of Christian Science results now, as in Jesus’ time, from the operation of divine Principle, before which sin and disease lose their reality in human consciousness and disappear as naturally and as necessarily as darkness gives place to light and sin to reformation” (p. xi). Healing is very natural, like darkness giving place to light, as we know from every dawn. But Mrs. Eddy also mentions the naturalness of sin giving place to reformation, and I think there’s a wonderful promise inherent in that: that whatever we’re doing that is compulsive, we can naturally be reformed by the activity of the Christ. As this spiritual sense of the reality of God and our relationship to God comes to our thought, it’s very natural that addictive behaviors should fall away, and fall away permanently. So I think having access particularly to the Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, but also to other Christian Science literature based on them that shares other people’s experiences of healing, really turns on the light in our thinking.
In your case, tell us what happened. How did you overcome the addiction? Were there certain “steps,” or what was the breakthrough?
Well, it’s interesting you use the word “steps,” because of course there’s the famous 12-step program for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc., but my journey in Christian Science was not really like that.
The Christ-idea, which gives us
this clarity about the nature of God, the nature of man, brings us the spiritual light that heals us and enables us to heal others.
I would describe it as being embraced more and more by this sense of God’s love, and not only being embraced by it, but also through understanding God’s love and through understanding my relation to God, realizing that my true purpose was to express that love—to love others, to love my neighbor as myself, as Jesus put it. What happened was it became more and more compelling to me to want to love my neighbor as myself, to be helpful, to be useful, to be of service. As that grew in my thinking and in my experience, that sense of being intoxicated by a particular material desire just faded into second place and then faded out completely. Not to say that I now spend every single second of my day in service to others, but it’s just that the predominance of my life became that sense of, How do I love my neighbor as myself, how do I love God with all my heart, and soul, and mind, and strength? And the addiction just lost its hold.
I like what you’re saying there, Tony, about having that complete transformation in how you viewed yourself.
Well, I think the idea I’m trying to convey is that this warfare between two senses of who we are (material or spiritual) is the issue. And when you have a material urge that’s overwhelming, you have a very material sense of yourself. The understanding of God that Christ Jesus showed people, and which Christian Science reveals today to show us who we are—this understanding shows us a very different sense of ourselves, a very spiritual and beautiful individuality that is forever ours. And so this other sense of being materially driven, materially created, materially made, is shown to be mistaken or fraudulent, so we don’t need to comply with it and go along with it.
Tell us a little bit more about the Christ.
Well, what I love is that the Christ is an ever-present companion and friend and help. The Christ is the spirit of Truth, which Jesus expressed and showed us that we can all demonstrate in our lives. We gradually grow in our understanding of the true nature of God as All-in-all and the implications of that for our own experience. If goodness is all, if Love is all, if the pure presence of Spirit is everywhere, what does that mean to us—how we think, how we behave, and how we look on others, and see others, and the experiences we have with other people? The Christ-idea, which gives us this clarity about the nature of God, the nature of man, brings us the spiritual light that heals us and enables us to heal others.
What you’re proving through your healing journey is that addiction has no power over you. You’re proving that there is one power, one true influence, one God. And this belief that your addiction has a power over you is proved to be totally false because there is no duality; God has all the power, and we actually are governed by that power, and that’s what we’re proving in our healing practice.
That’s very freeing, Tony. Do you have any thoughts you’d like to leave us with?
Yes, I really would love to finish with the First Commandment. I love the First Commandment, that we must “have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), before the one God, which is Spirit, not matter. And what I have found is that when we come to know this, and when we really become convinced of this, we actually begin to demonstrate it, and feel it. And when we do, there is no addiction, and we are not recovering addicts, managing an addiction, rather we are celebrating our recognition and proof of our innate and permanent freedom as the sons and daughters of God. As I said earlier, you get to this point that we all have a right to get to, that no matter what kind of addiction, minor or major, we’re struggling with, we can finally say, “ ‘Over and out!’ This is no part of my past, my present, or my future.”
And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.