In graduate school I started drinking socially, for enjoyment. Subsequently, alcohol became a “prescription” for all sorts of problems. A glass – or two, or more – was a remedy for stress at the end of a busy day, for a headache, for an unsettled stomach. Eventually, I became dependent upon larger and larger “doses” and was unable to break away. Every attempt to stop consuming alcohol only heightened cravings I felt I could not resist.
I looked into an alcohol addiction treatment program with a reputation for great success, but my interview with them made me feel sullied and humiliated. Moreover, the program representative warned me that because of the amount of alcohol I consumed on a daily basis, I should expect a prolonged and brutal period of withdrawal.
Then I turned to a Christian Science practitioner, who lovingly – without criticism or condemnation – agreed to treat me through prayer. During our initial conversation, I mentioned that while I was familiar with many passages in the Bible, I had never read the Bible from beginning to end and was eager to do so. The practitioner urged me to take up this study, which I did – the sacred book in one hand and a glass or bottle of some alcoholic concoction in the other.
Presently, I came upon the account of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath (see I Kings 17:10-16). There is a grave famine in the land. Elijah asks the widow for food and water. The widow replies that she has only enough oil and flour to make one last meal for herself and her son. After Elijah assures her that God will not allow her supply to fail, she complies with his request, bringing him the water and “a little cake.” Thereafter, sufficient provision remains to feed her, her son, and Elijah for the duration of the famine.
I found myself mentally asking God to accept my alcohol consumption as my “little cake.” The notion seemed silly, until I thought it through carefully. Initially, the widow appears unwilling to share what little she and her son have, even though it will clearly be of little value in sustaining their lives. Analogously, I had been afraid to surrender the presumed – and false – benefits of drinking. Now I was ready, willing, and actually eager to abandon alcohol consumption as though I were offering a sacrifice to God.
I had no sense of losing anything good or worthwhile, but rather a feeling of gain. I saw that the enjoyment, relaxation, fortitude, and confidence I had been mistakenly seeking from alcohol are actually attributes of Soul, or God, and cannot be conferred by any material aid. Nor can something material cause suffering as a consequence of abandoning it as a false benefactor.
Just as the widow of Zarephath found she could trust God to sustain her household despite the evidence of lack, I began to trust that God was the source of my happiness, self-worth, and health despite the argument that these inhered in alcohol.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, writes in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Soul has infinite resources with which to bless mankind, and happiness would be more readily attained and would be more secure in our keeping, if sought in Soul. Higher enjoyments alone can satisfy the cravings of immortal man. We cannot circumscribe happiness within the limits of personal sense. The senses confer no real enjoyment” (pp. 60-61).
Until then, I had repeatedly tried to abandon alcohol through sheer force of human will – the “cold turkey” approach, to use the vernacular. Invariably, these efforts only increased my desire for alcohol. Mrs. Eddy’s statement enabled me to perceive that freedom from craving any material substance or thing is grounded solely and permanently in Soul. Matter has no power either to induce happiness or to burden us with irresistible appetites.
That same evening my stash of alcohol ran out, and I never bought another alcoholic beverage. That was the end of my alcohol consumption. There was not a single symptom of withdrawal, nor have there been any residual cravings. This healing occurred nearly a decade ago, and it has been permanent.
Adapted from a testimony published in the June 28, 2021, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.