The number of afflicted is staggering. An estimated 20 million Americans are addicted to alcohol and drugs. Millions more are addicted to overeating, sex, and gambling. The price – when you total in lost wages, the costs to public healthcare and the criminal justice system – is an even more staggering $524 billion for a single year.
Last month MIT hosted a small, invitation-only conference for professionals addressing addiction-related issues. The focus was on drugs now in development that, some experts hope, will be the solution for people addicted to other drugs. Not all experts feel that's the best direction to take. Both perspectives found room in Sunday's The New York Times Magazine.
To its credit, the magazine gives more than a token nod toward treatments that must seem downright quaint to the neuroscientists and clinicians at the conference who are in pursuit of an anti-addiction pill.
The fact is, it's not time to write off treatments that incorporate reliance on a higher power, or that are drug-free. For instance, the president of the Betty Ford Center, John Schwarzlose, says, "Nothing even comes close [to 12-step treatment]. And until something does, we like to try to keep most of our patients as drug-free as possible."
Beyond the scope of the conference are the spiritual resources so powerfully illustrated in the healing ministry of Christ Jesus. There, the themes of freedom, escape from bondage, and deliverance from a host of shackles through the power of the Almighty, are on display as neither quaint nor mythical but practical and repeatable.
The bondage of addiction is no match to the liberating power of Christ.
From Bible days right down to the present day, Christ – which can be thought of as the spirit of freedom that comes from God and was so interwoven with Jesus' healing ministry – liberates. Christ comes to those starving for help, reaching into the human heart with a message of the individual's dignity and worth. And Christ stirs that heart to respond, to awaken, to protest against bondage, and to more actively embrace one's true status as the loved child of a loving and liberating God. Jesus counseled his followers, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31, 32).
It's a powerful and promising equation. Truth known equals freedom gained. To me this passage refers to the same truth Jesus taught and proved. He had perfect insight into the Father's true nature as all-loving and light and entirely spiritual. He proved again and again man's true status as God's flawless offspring. He healed in a manner that underscoredthe truth: None of are here to be enslaved. All of us, in truth, are God-like and free.
The key is to continue in his word. To know deeply the truth he taught. Then, escape from bondage, especially the bondage of addiction, becomes more possible. Ongoing enslavement is less inevitable. Freedom happens.
Mary Baker Eddy not only founded this newspaper; she uncovered the Science, the reliable basis, of Jesus' method of healing. In the 19th and early 20th centuries she practiced this method and cured many alcoholics through spiritual means alone.
She recorded her discovery in a book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." It says: "Truth brings the elements of liberty. On its banner is the Soul-inspired motto, 'Slavery is abolished.' The power of God brings deliverance to the captive. No power can withstand divine Love.... What is it that binds man with iron shackles to sin, sickness and death? Whatever enslaves man is opposed to the divine government. Truth makes man free" (pp. 224-225).
For those who struggle with drug or alcohol or some other addiction, and for those who care about them, here is an answer well worth seeking.