"In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve they must not eat the fruit from a certain tree. With the internet, there is no supreme being telling us what we can and cannot access."
So wrote a journalist in a proposal for a book he wanted to write about the Internet. Instead it became a self-fulfilling prophecy as he became an obsessive Internet porn user, and even accessed pornographic images of children. Telling his story in the British press (The Times Magazine, July 17), Andy Bull has, at least, reached a better place. With a strong faith background and a wife willing to forgive and expect better of him - and following a short jail sentence - he has been free from his former addiction for over a year. He is going public about it so he can share constructive ideas of how major businesses involved with Internet access can do a better job of helping prevent such behavior.
What struck me as I read of his descent into illegal Internet usage was how similar the course of such a compulsion was to my own descent into gambling. I remember the same tame opening volley of just dabbling, the self-justified moves into more intense engagement, and the conscience-overriding slide into unrestrained activity. If my gambling compulsion is anything to go by, the big question for the wayward Internet surfer is how to reject that persuasive whisper: "One more won't harm you."
My own experience is that it takes more than willpower to reject that voice. I tried. And I tried. Occasionally I succeeded ... for a time. In those helpless moments of reverting to gambling, though, I felt the full force of the theory that says addiction is forever, even if you manage to resist for a while. "Forever" is quite a sentence.
I'm convinced that I've found complete freedom. At the time I was caught up in gambling, I had already begun to know the kind of prayer that can help turn bad situations around. I was practicing it on problems such as relationship difficulties, mild sicknesses (such as headaches and colds), and employment challenges. These were healed through understanding myself better spiritually, as a creation of the perfect Creator. I saw that this must be true even for an addict, even though it didn't feel that way. Somewhere beneath the overwhelming sense of being controlled by uncontrollable urges, I was a perfect spiritual being, governed by an all-good force, God. I just needed to learn how to make that ideal practical.
One idea that struck me is a spiritual insight in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," states: "A sensual thought, like an atom of dust thrown into the face of spiritual immensity, is dense blindness instead of a scientific eternal consciousness of creation" (page 263).
Dense blindness was an apt description of my compulsion. But having already tasted the joy of spiritual goodness, the idea that the spiritual dimension was immense held appeal. It was also appealing to glimpse that the dead weight of compulsion was only atom-sized. That which felt immense wasn't. That which felt far removed - the infinite goodness of God - remained ever present.
My freedom didn't come quickly, but it has been secure, as I have acknowledged that spiritual good outweighs the "dust" of self-indulgence.
It also took acting in accord with that prayer of acknowledgment by seeing good to do and doing it. That "atom of dust," which clearly didn't have much room in truth, had to be left as little room as possible. I saw how the stimulation of conceding to compulsion dulls us to the moment-by-moment love we are meant to express and to feel from others. Getting active spiritually, loving others in thought and deed, diminishes the temptation to overindulge material appetites.
That makes sense because as children of God, we aren't that false stimulation, we are that love. Whether we're tempted by the fool's gold of unearned riches or by unhealthy (and even illegal) Internet portals, even there we can pray to know that the Supreme Being, God, is telling us what we can and cannot access. We can access His-Her love. We cannot truly access anything less. That isn't who we are. We are God's "ruly," not unruly, children.
That - not our addiction - is for-ever. We are created better than compulsion.