Overcoming addiction prayerfully

A Christian Science perspective.

This week’s Monitor cover story on the spread of heroin addiction in idyllic suburbs was eye-opening – and hit close to home. My home. I’ve lived in Newburyport, Mass., for almost 10 years, and it is indeed the lovely, lively seacoast community that the article describes. Although the drug problem here is not openly visible to the average observer or resident, our local news has reported its increased incidence. And now the Monitor has made us aware that it’s just one instance of a more widespread epidemic.

The article was informative in describing the challenges communities are facing, as well as the training and treatment already going on. But what grabbed my attention was a quote by a university professor who said he felt a spiritual component was needed in educating young people. That resonated with me as a Christian Scientist, since that’s how I pray about addiction and other problems confronting society. The teachings of Christian Science – and the healing found through practicing them – begin by recognizing the inherent spiritual nature of all men, women, and children.

That standpoint helped my wife and me several years ago when we saw firsthand the negative effects of prescription medication. Our daughter experienced anxiety and sleeplessness when she first arrived at college, and so she accepted the easy solution among her peers – getting pills from the school infirmary. But the effects were debilitating and anything but beneficial. Visiting our daughter one weekend, we found her sedated, semiconscious, and unable to function normally. Our prayerful approach was key in turning the situation around. Today she is free from any effects of those addictive pills, and is free from taking any behavior-altering medication. She is grateful for that wake-up moment in her life.

I have a friend who was enrolled in a 12-step program to overcome alcoholism and at the same time began studying Christian Science. Without question, the program he was in was an invaluable help in his recovery, but he told me that what he learned in Christian Science was a game changer. It showed him that he could be free not only from alcoholism – from the desire to drink – but also from the label that he was an alcoholic in the first place.

That’s what prayer in Christian Science is. It starts by identifying us – labeling us – as a perfect spiritual idea created by an all-loving Father-Mother God. And when we realize that fact, we’re enabled to overcome adversity of any kind. So conquering addiction is not so much recovery, as it is discovery – discovering our true unassailable, unaddictable identity.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, wrote in the Christian Science textbook: “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” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 225). It’s that recognition of God’s absolute government of each of us that, to me, is the spiritual component that can help anyone shackled by addiction see how to break away and find freedom.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.