The person who merely or simply acts in response to an urge or feeling that they have to do something is, in that moment, not free. The person who “simply eats and drinks whenever he feels like eating and drinking, who smokes whenever he feels the urge to light a cigarette, who gratifies his curiosity and sensuality whenever they are stimulated, can consider himself a free person.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, 85)
Such a person is a mere automaton. The porn addict is a robot whose neural wiring controls their physical body. They are under the illusion that they are “free” to do whatever they wants, so they “choose” to spend their time looking at naked people engaging in sex acts. But this is addiction, not freedom. All addiction is bondage. Even the folk-Christian saying that one is “addicted to Jesus” is a bondage that Jesus himself would be scandalized by. Addiction is a controlling beast that always gets its own way. Even religious addiction.
“Freedom,” on Christian theism, is best exhibited when one chooses what God wants against urges, feelings, and desires. When one needs comfort, and the comfort food calls your name, choosing not to obey that voice is a mark of a free person. When God interrupts your evening agenda and calls you to go help the needy person, to get out of your jammies and put on your winter clothes and head out into the night on a rescue mission is to be free. Interruptibility for the cause of Christ is a mark of freedom.
To serve others selflessly, as God calls, is another sign of freedom, since in so doing one denies the self for the sake of God and others. To self-deny is to be free.
Can a person freely choose according to their desires? Yes. This happens when the mind and heart have been morphed into the “mind of Christ.” Such a person is one who, “whether he eats or drinks or whatever else he does, does all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Merton writes: “This does not mean that he merely registers in his mind an abstract intention to glorify God. In means that in all his actions he is free from the superficial automatism of conventional routine. It means that in all that he does he acts freely, simply, spontaneously, from the depths of his heart, moved by love.” (Ib., 15)
The desire to eat food is a God-given desire. The desire to eat food to be put out of one’s inner misery is not a God-thing. Say “yes” to healthy eating, and enjoy. Say “no” to using food as a drug, as a God-replacement.
Jesus said “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) I can hear the chains of bondage breaking. I can see prison doors opening.