In his book Quest for Character, Chuck Swindoll tells an incredible story from the life of Tom Rathman, the NFL running back who made a name for himself playing for the San Francisco 49ers. Rathman was hunting deer in the Tehema Wildlife Area near Red Bluff in northern California when he climbed up to a certain ledge in order to peer out over it. What he didn’t know was that there was a rattlesnake lying at the edge of the ledge. Startled by the sudden appearance of Rathman’s face, the snake wildly struck at him and just missed his right ear.
That was the good news. The bad news was that the snake’s fangs got snagged in the neck of the thick turtleneck sweater that Rathman was wearing. Not being able to pull its fangs free, the snake immediately wrapped its entire body around Rathman’s neck. At that point the best that Rathman could do was grab the snake behind its head and try to work its fangs loose. He would later say that he could feel the snake’s warm venom running down the skin of his neck inside the sweater.
Sometime during Rathman’s struggle to extradite the snake from his neck, he lost his balance and fell backward down the steep slope. The fall left him lying wedged between some rocks but still holding the snake behind its head. Unfortunately, the fall also allowed the snake’s fangs to break free from the sweater. This meant that the snake could now crudely strike at him again even though Rathman still had it by the neck.
Eight times the snake struck, and four of those times the fangs found Rathman’s nose. The only thing that saved Rathman’s life was the fact that by now the snake’s venom had all been released. Still, though, each time those fangs sank into his nose it was like being pierced with a needle. Finally, after a lengthy struggle, Rathman was able to choke the snake to death. Afterward, he said that he literally had to pry his fingers from the snake’s neck.
Like that rattlesnake that wrapped itself around Tom Rathman’s neck, addiction wraps itself around the addict’s neck and refuses to let go. According to the website transitionsrecovery.com, the ten most common addictions worldwide are: tobacco (nicotine), alcohol, drugs (prescription and non-prescription), gambling, food (including all types of eating disorders), sex (including addiction to watching pornography), video games, internet (including social media), risky behavior, shopping, and work.
While these are certainly ten of the major addictions, the truth is that almost anything can become an addiction. Under the heading “Ten Strange Addictions,” the internet site health.howstuffworks.com lists the following addictions from #1 to #10: internet and the Blackberry, gaming, eating dirt, tattoos, hair pulling, ice chewing, cosmetic surgery, tanning, exercise, and shopping. Yes, you read that right: eating dirt was #3.
So, how can the addict pull the rattlesnake of addiction off his or her neck and kill the snake? Believe me when I say that the most reliable way is through the power of Jesus Christ. As 2nd Corinthians 5:17 tells us:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new. (N.K.J.V.)
Likewise, Philippians 4:13 says:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (N.K.J.V.)
Of course, simply quoting Bible verses to an addiction will never be enough to kill it. The source of the empowering for the slaying is not the words of the verses themselves but the Savior of whom the verses speak. If the addict doesn’t have an eternal relationship with Jesus and a daily fellowship with Him, the words become useless. The individual might as well be spouting words from Shakespeare.
If, however, the addict is willing to submit to a wholehearted reliance upon Jesus for not only eternal salvation but also empowerment for daily living, then the snake can be choked to death and uncoiled from the addict’s neck. Really, what it comes down to is the addict must fall more in love with Jesus than the addiction. No, it’s not easy to break an addiction, even if you are a born-again Christian. It can be done, though, if you want it badly enough, and Jesus promises to help you all the way.