Category Archives: Carers Corner

Sex, Drugs & Broken Souls – Recovery in the bedroom

wedding_handsThis page is intended to discuss how addiction has impacted our relationships with our spouses, focussing mainly on the bedroom. Sex is not often spoken about by Imams and Islamic teachers. Muslims often shy away from this subject. Sex is a part of our lives as married Muslims and as we enter into recovery from addiction this is a very important matter to discuss.  Before we go any further, let us take a look at the science behind sex, what happens in the brain and how the body responds, in order that we might reflect on why this is such an important aspect of our lives – especially when in recovery from addiction.

It’s all about chemistry 

From the first point of thought – not always conscious – a chemical reaction is taking place. Men and women produce these chemicals differently, each partner having a different yet unifying experience as those chemicals play unique roles in preparing the person, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for this unity. Not only do the chemicals ready the body for the act of sex but those chemicals that are produced thereafter have a cementing effect on these two souls coming together and staying together. The mainbrains players are dopamine, the reward hormone; prolactin, the hormone of satiation; oxytocin, the ‘cuddle hormone’, and levels of androgen receptors, which all powerfully affect our mood, our desire for intimacy, the way we feel about our spouse, stress and anxiety levels as well as our susceptibility to addictive activities and substances. These hormones play very different roles, yet are also interlinked to one main role – the desire to keep having sex! Let us look at how they all work:

Love-HormoneDOPAMINE:  Dopamine is the hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. Its the feel good hormone that the brain releases during times of pleasure. It is the neurotransmitter produced when we take drugs. That is what can potentially make sex so addictive. Just as we might continue to crave drugs or engage in gambling, we can also crave the feeling that dopamine gives us through acts of sexual pleasure. It is the neurotransmitter that tells us that a reward is imminent. The body will respond to the expectation that the reward will arrive soon, in this case an orgasm. This expectation of reward is what causes the person to crave sex, to seek it out or to turn to impermissible means in order to relieve oneself of that urge. In marriage, this reward expectation can sometimes be triggered through the use of certain words, expressions on ones face, or generally through the flirtations of each spouse towards the other as well as visual triggers. Once the hope of this reward has been triggered, dopamine continues to secrete  and the sexual urges become stronger. During sexual activity dopamine levels steadily increase until the ultimate release of the highest ‘explosion’ of dopamine during orgasm – the reward.

After orgasm dopamine levels fall sharply and can cause  withdrawal symptoms similar to that of one craving their drug of choice. This reaction tends to be immediate in males and delayed in females. As dopamine levels fall the brain begins to counteract the withdrawal symptoms, including a drop in feelings of pleasure and contentment, by producing a different chemical that helps bond the couple together, oxytocin. We shall come back to this shortly.

TESTOSTERONE:

The male hormone responsibly for sexual urges and desires as well as strength, bravery and the ability to fight and be aggressive. Build up of testosterone can cause the male to feel greater urge to have sex. Once he has achieved that goal and reached orgasm, the levels of testosterone dramatically drop. Low testosterone is associated with irritability and anger. 

With a drop in both dopamine and testosterone levels following sex is it any wonder that some men in recovery have claimed that they often crave their drug of choice following sexual activity. This is an important factor to think about when in recovery from addiction.

Substances and other addictions can lead to the damage of the part of the brain2014-06-03-6-unwanted-symptoms-of-low-testosterone-1 responsible for producing dopamine. Levels can remain low for many months as the brain takes time to repair the damage caused by addiction. This often means recovering addicts can take a while to begin to enjoy the activities they used to do prior to their drug use. With lower domapine levels it may mean that the sex drive is lower or less enjoyment is experienced in the bedroom with their partner. This can lead to feelings of frustration and also cause problems with emotionally connecting as the partner may sense that they are not really interested or enjoying this moment together. This can leave recovering addicts vulnerable to going back to their addiction. The best advise is to have patience and realise that this is one of the consequences of ones addiction. Considering the damage that has been caused is something that ought to incite relapse prevention.

How often have you heard things like “men think with their penis”? Well it is true that in many cases once a man becomes aroused he can find it difficult to control his actions. Testosterone has men doing things they don’t even know they’re doing, like getting erections. According to Louann Brizendine in The Male Brain, “These reflexive erections are different from true sexual arousal because they come from unconscious signals from his spinal cord and brain, not from a conscious desire to have sex. The testosterone receptors that live on the nerve cells in a man’s spinal cord, testicles, penis, and brain are what activate his entire sexual network. Women are surprised that the penis can operate on autopilot and even more surprised that men don’t always know when they’re getting an erection.”

testosterone-boosters-effects-1With this in mind is it any wonder the Prophet of Allah, saws, said “O young men, whoever among you can afford to get married, let him do so, and whoever cannot afford it, let him fast, for that will be a shield for him.” (Agreed upon, from the hadeeth of Ibn Mas’ood, may Allaah be pleased with him. Al-Bukhaari, 4778; Muslim, 1400). No 4695 Narrated Sahl bin Sad. Fasting helps one control our desires and therefore helps the young man to overcome his urges for stimulation through sexual activity. Perhaps, the one who is unmarried and in recovery from addiction, especially sexually addictive behaviours, may benefit greatly from incorporating fasting into his recovery programme as well as those who are in the early stages of repairing the relationship with ones spouse and sex is not quite on the cards yet. 

OXYTOCIN

Also known as ‘the cuddle hormone’ Oxytocin helps to counteract what would feel like a downward decline of emotions what with the sudden decline of both testosterone and dopamine. What goes up must come down and preventing a painful crash,  oxytocin is what brings you down to that warm, fuzzy, post-coital place and makes the couple feel loving towards each other. Oxytocin also counteracts fear, which is associated with high cortisol levels and stress, which is why sex can be a great sex-buster too. oxytocin-chemical-molecule-hormone-_love_trust_bond

Oxytocin leads to strong pair-bonding and is the same hormone that is released during breastfeeding to help bring a connection between mother and baby. Similarly that post-sex feeling of closeness is brought about my oxytocin and helps couples feel more emotionally close and trusting of each other, something that we often need to build in when in recovery. Oxytocin is also a pain-relieving chemical, hence also why we feel that warm feeling that some of our drug of choices can offer (without the nasty withdrawal).

SEROTONIN

Serotonin is often nick-named the happy hormone and is released during sex. This hormone is responsible for lifting our mood and making us feel good.

So all these chemicals combined have the capacity to help us feel happier, closer to our partners, relieve pain, life mood and avoid depression, feel pleasure and bond to our spouse. This all has a very relaxing effect on the person too. The part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex winds down after ejaculation. This, along with the release of oxytocin and serotonin, causes an overall feeling of relaxation, and in men especially, a feeling of sleepiness and reduction in worry about the here and  now day to day life struggles.

So as you can see, Allah has created us in such a way that sex can produce a chemical experience. It is Allah’s way of providing us a space to almost lose ourselves, momentarily, with our spouse. During sex, we forget all our problems, we receive pleasure as well as take pleasure from giving pleasure. This is something Allah has given us to reach a state of consciousness that is out of the ordinary – something we as addicts we are constantly seeking. So in the right way, sex can provide us with this escapism we are seeking. With all these chemical changes happening, no wonder sex can be addictive for some. As Muslims, we live in balance, without taking anything to the extreme and when it comes to making love, it must stay within the limits and boundaries of Islam.

Sex is a spiritual thing

B_siroWWcAAFrXqAs Muslims we believe all acts that are permissible are acts of worship. When we make love to our spouses we do so with the intention that this is pleasing to God. One day the Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, informed his companions that they would be rewarded when making love to their wives. One of the companions asked him “Oh Messenger of Allah! A person would be rewarded while satisfying his sexual need? Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) replied: Yes. Isn’t it that he would be punished had he practiced sex illegally? The same applies if a Muslim practiced a lawful intercourse with his spouse. As such, he would be rewarded” (Ahmad)

Studies have shown that sex has similar effects on the brain as do acts of worship such as prayer and meditation. In particular aJefferson University neuroscientist Andrew Newberg scanned the brains of praying Catholic nuns and meditating Buddhist monks and found some overlap between their neural activity and that of sexually aroused subjects (as seen in scans from other researchers). “The correlation makes sense, according to Newberg. Just as sex involves a rhythmic activity so do religious practices such as chanting, dancing and repetition of a mantra. Religious experiences produce sensations of bliss, transcendence beyond one’s self and unity with the loved one that is very like the ecstasy of orgasm. That may be why some mystics, such as St. Teresa, describe their rapture with romantic or even sexual language.”

Therefore, as we do our best to steer clear of substances or behaviours that we were addicted to, forming a healthy sexual relationship with our spouses can help to achieve this spiritual state, physical pleasure, togetherness and bonding, belonging and sensuality. All those things we would crave through drink, drugs or gambling. The difference being that there are no negative consequences to the escapism sought through two consenting spouses in love-making.

Damaging effects of Drugs on the Sex drive: 5245146_orig

Cocaine: Although cocaine has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, end up having the reverse effect. It increases sexual desire while impairing or delaying orgasm. However, a symptom of heavy cocaine abuse is a massive decline in sex drive and activity. Chronic cocaine use can impair sexual function in men and women. In men, cocaine can cause delayed or impaired ejaculation.

Marijuana: Overall, scientific research seems to discredit the drug’s ability to heighten sexual stimulation and arousal. Marijuana may distort users’ sense of time, thus, creating the illusion of prolonged arousal and orgasm. Marijuana usually transcends each partner into his or her own personal space, therefore, emotionally distancing partners instead of bringing them closer.

Heroin/opioids: Generally opiate users lose interest in sex and find it difficult to engage in sexual activity. It can also have a detrimental affect on the reproductive organs for both male and females meaning it can be difficult to conceive. Opiates stop the hormone testosterone from being released, hence causing secondary psychological problems such as lack of motivation and can lead to low mood and depression.

Drugs do over time damage the parts of the brain responsibly for producing all the hormones we have discussed above, which can not only take the enjoyment away from sex but can reduce libido so that a person can lose interest in sex all together. This can then cause more difficulties in the marriage as well as lead to other psychological problems such as depression and anxiety and perpetuate a cycle of issues that further break down the relationship with one self and each other. The good news is, with abstinence, the brain does often repair itself and the neurotransmitters can begin to be produced again naturally as they did before drug use began.

How to improve sexual relationships in recovery

broken heartFirst, we need to remember that our drug use and behaviour has been the cause of a break down in our marriage and our partner may not be ready to resume things with us in the bedroom. A healthy marriage is built upon trust and love. Where trust has been questionable one partner may lose the desire to fully let themselves become available sexually. In our recovery, it is important to understand that we have hurt our spouse and that we need to make amends with them on an emotional level and begin to rebuild trust and accept that this might take more time than we anticipated.

Husbands need to understand that there is one particular saying of the Prophet Muhammad that is often misused in order to try and coerce their wife into making love with them. Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘If a man calls his wife to his bed and she refuses, and he spends the night angry with her, the angels will curse her until morning.’” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 4794). The understanding of this hadith is that this relates to a woman who refuses her husband for no good reason other than to upset him. This does not relate to a woman who has good reason, even if it is that she is not emotionally available to him to be able to engage in this. Husbands will do well to also remember the saying of the Prophet, pbuh, who also said;

“When you approach your wife, do not come to her like the animals do, but send a messenger before you. The companions asked, “And who should be this messenger?” The Prophet (SAW) answered, “A kiss, a caress, some kind words.” 

Recovery, is about changing the dynamics of our relationships, especially with those closest to us. Our spouse is most deserved of our kind words and sensitivity and we must put effort into rebuilding our relationship with them. Allah describes the spouses as supporters to each other and in such a beautiful way as calling the spouse our garment.

“Your wives are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (2:187)

This means we protect each other, comfort one another and be as close as we can be to each other just like our clothes touch our skin. When Adam was in Paradise, he had all that his heart could desire but without Eve, he felt something was missing. He felt a sadness within him that was only cured when Allah gave him Eve.

“It is He who created you from a single soul, And made its mate of like nature in order that you might dwell with her in love….” (7:189)

 Recovery, is all about balance in all things. As addicts, we can often have the urge to dodeen even the halal things in excessiveness. It is important that we begin to take enjoyment from the natural ways to induce happiness in a way that is not out of balance. We must seek refuge in Allah from turning to the forbidden ways of relieving our urges. Allah has given us the opportunity to have this halal chemical change that is naturally good for us. As addicts, we must not abuse this nor our spouse and also be aware of how drugs effect our brains in more ways than we like to realise. Thinking of how they damage our sexuality and reflecting on this can motivate us to prevent relapse. Drugs will never give us that sense of contentment and pure happiness that lying in the arms of your spouse, loving you and you loving them, can give you on an emotional, physical and spiritual high.

By Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)

Sources:

Islamic ruling on sexual etiquette 
http://www.alternet.org/10-interesting-facts-about-your-brain-sex
http://www.mydeenislam.com/how-to-make-love-to-your-wife-in-islam.html islamic ruling on oral sex   http://alcoholrehab.com/addiction-recovery/addiction-and-intimacy-sexual-relationships/  http://www.health-science-spirit.com/neurosex.html http://www.howtokickheroin.com/does-heroin-affect-sex-drive/

I am Muslim my husband is a drug addict

This is the story of Sister Rasheeda, please raise your hands and make dua for her:

When you are a wife and your husband is a drug addict life passes you by in cycles and circles.We think back to every time when just before Ramadan we are ready to kick them our or leave ourselves. But then we hope this Ramadan will be the year that they give up once and for all. We sit there on the day of Eid, looking at every ones Facebook uploads of happy family times and our mind goes back to 11 months and 355 days before when we remember the last Eid when we shed tears and we wish we had left him afterall. You remember every Eid day that was spoiled and every dark cloud that was caste over that day because he relapsed. We think back to every parents evening when last year we toyed with the idea of not telling our husbands about it because we were afraid they would turn up looking a mess, saying something strange or the teachers expression would falter for that brief moment. We think about the anniversary of when we found out they were using drugs, when our world fell apart and we say “another year”. Every birthday, every school holiday, even every non Muslim festival like Halloween and Christmas. We remember this time last year things were the same.

We find letters that we wrote to our addict 8 years ago telling him how his drug use makes us feel. We tell them we love them but they need to stop, that we cannot take it much longer. Then we look at the date and we say to ourselves “I could have written that today”.

We kick them out in a moments burst of energy and confidence in ourselves and Allah’s permission and we remember ‘hang on a minute this time last year I did the same’. And then I let him back in, only for him to start using again. We gave them the benefit of the date. “Relapses can be helpful if the addict learns from what went wrong” say the experts. Shame the addict does not read the book.

We think about all the times they went and got help, rehab, raqi’s, day programmes, counselling, fellowship meetings and they were clean for a while and our hopes went high and our relationships with our husbands improved. Our defenses went down and we even risked a smile or two. And then they relapsed. And the cycle begun again and these cycles of help seeking, abstience and then falling became cycles in themselves, usually prompted by an ultimatum by the wife of the addict – you and me – when we just could not take it any more.

So what does it feel like when you can’t take his addiction anymore? This is what it is like for me. This is my rock bottom.

Driving my car, in a daze, I saw a tree. ‘What if I was just to drive into that tree. Not too fast maybe 30 miles per hour. That’s all. No I don’t want to die. I just want to be knocked out for a while. Just maybe in a little light coma for a few days. Just enough to take me out of this world for a while and maybe even scare my addict enough to know what it could be like to lose me.’ What is this mad thinking? This is the mad thinking of the wife of an addict. This is my rock bottom.

Stupid stupid me. ‘You let him back. You don’t deserve any better.’ I lie in bed at night fighting the shaitan who shows me pictures in my mind of just snipping my skin with scissors. I see myself squeezing out some of my own blood, just to relieve the pressure. I say “authoo billahi min ashaytaanir rajeem” (I seek refuge in Allah from the Devil, the outcast). I try to knock the thoughts away by shaking my head, spitting over my left shoulder and trying to breathe deeply. I do my ayat al kursi (verse from the Quran known to help ward of the evil from the unseen world). The urge to rip my skin comes again. I scratch it a little with my finger nails. It isn’t enough to fight the urge. I stop and pray again. I feel so low and desperate. Is this how my addict feels when he fights the urge to use drugs? I make it through the night without hurting myself but the feelings of lowliness and depression sink in.

Another reason I know I have sank to my lowest point is when I shouted upwards to Allah “Why? Why Allah have you done this to me. I don’t want this test. Haven’t I suffered enough?” Never in my 36 years of my life have I ever questioned Allah, shouted at Him, worse of all been angry at Him. I have bore every single test with trust in Him, patiently awaiting the ease, praying and crying to Him for help and support. The day I looked up and had anger in my heart towards my Creator was the day I knew I had reached my rock bottom.

I don’t want to die but I don’t want to live. This is the dark thinking living with an addict has caused. I just need to add two words to that sentence to make things a little more bearable. I don’t want to live like this. My kids need me. I need me. Allah has a purpose for me.

So I can’t change my addict – never will control something he cannot control himself. But I can change my ‘like this’. Who says ‘this’ has to be ‘like this’. I know what this needs to look like and I know what I want and that has what has kept me stuck in this situation for all these years. 12 years to be exact. 12 years of cycles and circles. And when you go round in circles it only creates dizziness, disorientation, nausea and feet that can no longer stand firm. So here is my vision that has kept me stuck.

Me, my kids, my husband all sitting smiling around the dinner table. He doesnt have ‘an errand to run’ or a reason to go out. He stays, we laugh, we enjoy eachother. And there is no drugs. No using. No smelling of smoke. No bits of foil. No money going missing. No crack pipes. No slurred speech, no half open eyes. No stupid comments that make no sense. No erratic behaviours. No bailiffs. No dealers texts. No police cautions. No paraphernalia. No arguments besides the usual ones like who’s turn it is to empty the dishwasher. I tell myself. that if the drugs were not in our life then life would be close to perfection. And those weeks here or there when he hasn’t used, its pretty close.

But only my husband can make that vision come true. Only he can choose to stop using drugs once and for all. Meanwhile, why should I be the passenger on his ride of self destruction. Why should he take me down with him. I choose to get off the ride and stop being a passenger on this never ending loop the loop, going round in circles, just waiting to fall and hit the ground hard.

I choose another life. I do not know what that is today but Allah Knows. And with a good pure intention only His Mercy and Help can rain upon me. So today I make istikara (seeking Allah’s counsel and direction)

(Please also consider reading Breaking Free and Fighting The Ten Headed Monster, both about detaching from the addict, from our carers articles from Editor)

 O Allaah, I seek Your guidance [in making a choice] by virtue of Your knowledge, and I seek ability by virtue of Your power, and I ask You of Your great bounty. You have power, I have none. And You know, I know not. You are the Knower of hidden things. O Allaah, if in Your knowledge, this matter (then it should be mentioned by name) is good for me both in this world and in the Hereafter (or: in my religion, my livelihood and my affairs), then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge it is bad for me and for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs (or: for me both in this world and the next), then turn me away from it, [and turn it away from me], and ordain for me the good wherever it may be and make me pleased with it.”

(Reported by al-Bukhaari, 6841; similar reports are also recorded by al-Tirmidhi, al-Nisaa’i, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah and Ahmad).

dua istikhara

Is Addiction Recovery Possible?

cropped-straight-path1.jpg

recovery-relapse-roadsign212Because it just does not feel possible does it? Real talk now. Either yourself or your loved one has been trying desperately for years to give up the addiction or addictions and failed over and over again. We have seen friends try and fail or even die in awful ways. We’ve tried rehabs, day programmes, meetings, books, spiritual interventions, marriage/divorce, geographical moves, career changes, fasting, praying, new friends. No matter what we have tried to do, we take 1 step forward and 2 or more back. Is it any wonder we give up on hope. Is it any surprise to anyone that sometimes just carrying on with the addiction just seems easier. It hurts less to not be let down again – or so we think. National statistics show success rates in addiction treatment clinics are painfully low. Very few make it.


The top search terms that lead visitors to this web site are “dua” and “Allah makes the impossible possible”  and variations of those spellings. As Muslims, our knowledge and our spirit tells us that these two things are our survival to keep hope alive. It is these two beliefs that keep us giving recovery another go because we hang onto that glimmer of light, cast down to us from Allah. We cling to it, never giving up on the fact that dua (prayer and supplication) with the certainty that Allah can make it happen is what can turn our situation around. The only problem is like all our other dependencies, we rely on it coming true without being consistent about the part we ourselves play in it. We think one prayer called out in regret will solve everything and don’t understand why we keep slipping when we yearn for Allah so sincerely. So we stop asking. And hence why we give up on hope and begin to ask “is recovery possible?” And this takes us to a very dark place.

This leads us to negative and ruminating thoughts like “I will never get better” or “I amisolated-youth destined for Hell. Allah could change all this if He wanted to but He must want me this”. We begin to despair of Allah and sometimes we even blame Him. The belief that Allah can do all things makes us angry because we think Allah is choosing for us to stay in our sinfulness. We no longer think Shaitan made me do it, or my nafs made me do it – we are led to dangerous thinking – Allah made me do it. And this is a very rocky tract to stand on. Carers are on a similar thinking train, full steam ahead with thoughts like “My addict will always be an addict – they will never change”. And all the carers stop caring, abandoning the addict, giving up on the advise, meeting them with silent disappointed stares. Marriages and relationships break down. Mothers bear the guilt of breaking away from their sons. Daughters rejected by their addicted fathers left asking “why does he choose drugs over me?”

What a terrible thing is addiction and what a sorrowful state for the addict and all those around him or her. How lost we become. Lost until the point we see no way of returning.

waySo the verse on the left from The Qur’an where Allah tells us that He will get us out of any difficult situation can both aid us in our recovery and aid us in our addiction. “What a strange thing to say” you may be thinking. There is nothing so strange as the addicted brain. We are in a constant fight between our rational thinking and our addictive thinking as well as our soul that yearns for Allah and our desires that yearn for sin. The head and heart double battle. We know this verse is meant to give us hope, and it has many a time. But we want it quickly and easily. Instant gratification. We feel let down by Allah when think He has turned away from us. We know He can get us out of this hardship and yet here we are years and years later still stuck in this life. But we have to fight this negativity. We have to stop those blaming thoughts. We have to realise that Allah is always providing a way out, and always has done – we have just failed to walk through the opening.

Think back! Think back to every situation you were in before you sinned. No matter evennotleft for a split second – you had a choice. There were two paths laid out before us. One was one straight and one was crooked. We chose the crooked path. Every time it was like an opening was there but we decided to cloud it out, ignore it or pretend it was not there. Why else do we carry so much guilt? Because deep down inside we know we took the wrong path. We allowed that guilt to eat us up until it gave us another reason to just use, to blanket it out, to not see the door that Allah had just swung right open for us. So then we realise this – and then we blame ourselves. And then the self-loathing has set in. We look in the mirror and cannot catch our own eyes. “You disgust me” we think. Pain upon pain. And we allow this self hatred to keep us right where we are at. Throwing dirt at ourselves only buries us deeper. But do you really think Allah hates the one who sincerely regrets?

helpWhat a battle we have. What a busy mind full of thoughts and arguments with ourselves. Is it any wonder we lost sight of ourselves until it feels like we are drowning in confusion. Do you think Allah will turn away from such a soul who is fighting so hard to keep their head above the dark waters of despair? Do you think Allah would let go of a heart that continually questions, fights and yearns? Allah loves the soul that battles to stay close to Allah and cries when it thinks Allah has abandoned it. Always remember Allah never abandons any soul in this world.

So what can we do to make the impossible seem more possible? We believe in Allahs attribute that He is Capable of All Things but what we need to start doing is believing that WE are capable of all things with Allahs Help? Addicts have very low self esteem – even before our addictions took hold of us. beleive-in-yourselfIt was low self-worth that led us to make choices that took us to dark places. Most of us had a tough childhood with little praise or When you grow up without feeling truly loved you tend to give up on yourself pretty soon into adolescence. Once we set the path of addiction we are frowned upon by society and family, colleagues and neighbours. We begin to feel like the lowest of the low. An outcast. It is hard to set your sights so high when you are peeling yourself off the rock bottom dirty ground. It is hard to ever believe we can achieve recovery when we have told ourselves so often that life will always be this way and when others have told us we shall never change.

But without believing truly, deeply and ever lastingly that change is possible – it cannot be possible. We have to never give up the belief that we will make it to recovery. That we can do it with the Help of Allah.

changeNothing changes unless we make the changes. BE THE CHANGE. We must not think that crying to Allah from time to time, no matter how sincere, is enough to get us out of this dark hole. We have to know that if we are at the bottom of the well, Allah always leaves a ladder on the side. It is us who has to take the first step on the bottom rung. Once we place our feet upon it, we have to trust that it will not break and Know that Allah will help us take the next step, then the next and the next. We must never look back, unless it is to remind ourselves of how far we fell. We must keep moving up the ladder and never stop. Because every time we have paused in the past, we have fallen back down. And if we lose our footing from time to time, keep hold of the ladder with your hands and get back up. Never let recovery out of your grasp and never let the way out of your sights. The way out has always been there. We just haven’t had the belief in ourselves to make our way towards it. If you have kept reading this far – then now is the time.

Is recovery possible? Yes! So start making it possible. Because miracles do happen for those who believe in Allah and those who believe in themselves!

keep

Relapse Through The Eyes of a Carer

It takes a long time for me to lay down my weapons and feel a little more relaxed that the war could actually be over. I begin to trust again and focus more towards the future rather than just making it through the day. My relationship with my addict improves and we become friendly and affectionate again and life feels good. Letting down my guard, removing a few bricks from around my heart, allowing myself to smile again begins to feel good. I could even say, I might be feeling happy. We start to kiss again, cuddle, laugh and do all the things so many people take for granted. I love these moments so much that I begin to block out the possibility of things ever going back to how they were. I get so caught up in enjoying the ‘normality’ of life that I forget this is not my version of normality. Then suddenly, and without warning, without ‘reason’ or excuse my addict relapses.

It’s like when you see the embers of a fire burning, merely giving off a soft glow and suddenly a flame begins to flicker amongst the ashes and when more fuel is added to it, there is a roaring fire once again. That fire is inside me. I pick up my weapons again and I just want to lash out. It feels like I have this invisible extra arm inside me holding a dagger. Sometimes it emerges out through my mouth, with cutting words and distorted face I can slice up my addict with the most hateful of sounds. I see this hand, holding this dagger, chopping at my own skin. I imagine the jagged blade dragging the skin at my arms and shoulders as I self loathe that I allowed my defences to come down, left myself vulnerable and open to pain. I imagine cutting my arms and legs and ravaging my body, punishing myself for letting myself down, for still being in this relationship, for still being in this situation. In my imagination I drop this knife thinking of Allah and Knowing Allah would be displeased with me if I self harmed. Not wanting to mark the body He gave me or distress the other people in my life that would see the scars. And so I just cut myself up inside, where no one can see the wounds that lie within me. I pick up a different weapon. A shield.

So is a shield a weapon? It is for me as I picture smacking my addict around the head with it. Battering them left and right until they fall to the ground. My anger boils and bubbles at their lack of care and love for me wondering how  they could let me down again, just as things were going so well. Or so I thought. But I am not, by nature, a violent person and it is only in my minds eye that I, for a moment or two, envision this bloody scene. And then the guilt sets in. Some say guilt is a feeling, some say it is a thought. I suppose I would say it is a whisper. A whisper from shaitan and if we allow him to, it turns into a thought. And if we allow it to further still, it turns into a feeling and then worse a passion and then an action. And so I shake my head and throw away the thoughts and look at my shield for another purpose and it is no longer a weapon to me.

It is not a pretty shield, like the ones with the golden shine of a Disney prince. It is a heavy, dirty specimen, made from a concoction of various materials. There are bricks, solid and thick where no light nor sight can penetrate. This keeps my addict out, stopping them from emanating my heart but the downside to this means I can no longer reach out. There is cracks, if one was to look hard enough to see. Sometimes good friends who love me peep through and see the pain and know how to widen the cracks to let me out or I may just let them in. But my addict never looks. Oh they see the crack alright but it is too painful for them to come close enough to try. My addict turns selfishly away from the cracks, consumed by their own self loathing and pity, only leading to my greater sense of abandonment.  So as time goes on I fill the cracks so the opportunity they once had is now gone.

There is dirt on the outside of the shield. This is where it was thrown my way by way of words meant to make it feel as though it is my own fault. I used to listen to that, and those words made their way in. You can still see the stains on the inside of the shield but I wiped it all away the day I refused to believe I was to blame.

This is actually my normality. This is how I get through the day. Hiding behind the shield, keeping my binded heart from coming undone again. But it is so heavy carrying it around all the time. It makes me tired and living on the edge, awaiting the enemy ambush is too much for one soldier, that is why it is taken in shifts. But there is no respite for the carer of an addict. We wait in silent fear, waiting for the danger that feels so incredibly imminent at all times.

As my addict begins to get a little better, they perk up and come back to life. I peep over the shield to assess the safety of coming out. Eventually I drop it a little lower, until I can go about my day merely holding it down by my side, not letting go of it completely. But it still weighs the same.

Until the day comes when I think, let me just put it down for a while, like a child who places their favourite cuddly toy under a tree to watch them while they play, secure in the knowledge that they will collect it after.

But tell me this, Oh Allah, why is it that the moment I do this, is when my addict relapses again? And for a moment I feel like that distressed child who realises they went home, forgetting their beloved bear.

“Oh Allah Why Don’t You Answer My Prayers?”

isolated-youth“He doesn’t listen to me any more”, he said as he hung his head in defeat. “I’ve asked Him, and asked Him, but He doesn’t help me.” I looked at him with sorrow and wondered at what point did this man start to despair of Allah.  Was it before or after he met the dealer? Was it before or after the drugs wore off? Was it before or after he got caught out? I looked at my husband and said for the one thousandth time “Allah listens to all prayers, He answers all those who call on Him.” Jamal looked up in anger; “So why doesn’t He help ME?!”. We had been at this point many times over the years.

We had this conversation every time I had the strength to argue about Jamal’s drug use.allah.hate.sin Sometimes I pretended I hadn’t seen the rolled up bits of used foil or the dealers numbers on his call list. Sometimes I didn’t have the energy to question why he didn’t come home on time or why he couldn’t get up in the morning. But when I gathered my strength enough to challenge him, most conversations pretty much went in this direction. And would end with me saying “You are not helping yourself! You are not doing enough to stop. Why would Allah help you if He doesn’t see you try.”

Truth is, I don’t really know how hard Jamal tried. Only He and Allah know where the effort was put in and where he gave up too easily. The thing is, if anyone should be despairing at the situation not changing it should be me! It is me that has felt let down over and over again. It is me that begs and cries to Allah for Jamal to stop using drugs. I’ve been through this cycle as long as he has, only I have done it sober! I haven’t chosen  to numb out the dua-weapon-believerpain with substances. I have lived it, breathed it, put up with it, witnessed it, tried to change it and never given up. I have experienced rock bottoms – depressive states, high anxiety, loneliness and stress, financial loss, loss of friendships, mental sickness and migraines. But all along my journey I have remained constant in one thing – that Allah is listening to me and that one day all my prayers that have gone unanswered in this life will bear their fruits. One day, maybe in this world but hopefully in the next I will see the benefits of all my prayers and I will be glad that Allah saved them for me.

Tests and hardships in this life are what earns our place in Paradise. I know I have not been the most patient of Allah’s servants. Far from it. I am certainly not amongst the pious. I’ve got angry, I’ve lashed out and shouted, screamed and swore.  But I’ve gritted my teeth and I have always known that Allah is with me, no matter how bad things got.

So when I see Jamal in this state, despairing of Allah and thinking He has abandoned Him I find no way to show him what I know – that Allah never abandons us, He is always there waiting for us, it is US that turns away from HIM! How can I put into words what I know in my heart. How can I make him see. What is it that stops him from seeing this as clearly as I do? The thing is, when Jamal is clean and not using, he sees this. He begins to build his relationship back up with Allah and feel good about himself again. But it is when he relapses and regrets that he thinks that somehow Allah should have prevented that from happening, or that Allah will stop the cravings and the urges and most importantly, that Allah would prevent him from succumbing to them. But isn’t that the whole point of this life? We all crave and sin in different ways. We all have our vices. Allah just wants to see, who will give in to them and who won’t. Allah says in Surah Mulk;

67:2
 “[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving” (Qur’an, 67:2)  
What I try to tell Jamal is – the harder the fight, the bigger the reward. Some people might argue that Jamal put himself in this situation. He chose to take drugs the first time. Yes, that is true, and Allah will judge him for that. But you do not have to be a social psychologist to know that the majority of people who take substances, or become addicts often have a bad start in life, or have unmet emotional needs. Studies show one in three addicts were sexually abused in their childhoods and more than fifty percent have been assaulted or exposed to violence. This does not excuse them from their choices and actions, but Allah is The All-Pardoning and He chooses to Pardon and excuse whom He Wills. This is all part of the test. It is what we then do with this experience.
People who have been abused or have difficult starts in life, dysfunctional families, economic disadvantage and so on are not handicapped by that experience. They have a wealth of knowledge that others, who have had a more advantaged start in life, will never have. Often recovered addicts go on to help other people who are going through tough times and help with crime prevention, drugs education and addiction recovery treatment. It’s just that when you are still stuck in that life, it is hard to see a way out. Positive thinking, and dreaming beyond the rut of here and now, gives addicts some hope. We all need hopes and dreams – addicts just often don’t allow themselves to do that because fear of failure keeps them living in their waking nightmares.
Which is where dua comes in. When we turn back to Allah, asking Him and begging Him for Help it helps make our hearts become more hopeful. One of the conditions of asking Allah is to have certainty (yaqeen) in the knowledge that Allah is listening and He will answer it.
We have to believe with all our hearts that Allah is listening. We have to know that even if we do not get what we want right away, Allah is preparing us for something even better.gr8ful

Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

“Du’aa’s and ta’awwudhaat [prayers seeking refuge with Allaah] are like a weapon, and a weapon is only as good as the person who is using it; it is not merely the matter of how sharp it is. If the weapon is perfect and free of faults, and the arm of the person using it is strong, and there is nothing stopping him, then he can lay waste the enemy. But if any of these three features is lacking, then the effect will be lacking accordingly.”(al-Daa’ wa’l-Dawaa’, p. 35).

When we speak to Allah we need to have a strong heart that believes with firmness and confidence that Allah will grant us what we ask for.

Sometimes  it takes time for us to see the fruits of our duahs. And in that we must be patient. Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“The du’aa’ of any one of you will be answered so long as he is not impatient and says, ‘I made du’aa’ but it was not answered.’” (al-Bukhaari and Muslim.)

The addict can sometimes become so consumed by what they are not getting, what has gone wrong, what is unreachable that they fail to see the blessings before their very eyes. Jamal would often tell me how bad things were for him when he could not see how actually Allah was making things easy for him. It was Jamal that was making life tough for himself! His belief that Allah was not listening to him only led him down a spiral of depression and self-pity. “Allah hates me. I am doomed for the Hell Fire.” He would say and thus would give up trying to be good. Shaitan had him in his trap.

Perhaps, it was on account of his duahs that Jamal had not lost everything to his addiction. That things could have been far worse had he have given up on his duahs all together. Sometimes when Allah does not answer our prayer, He diverts a calamity from our lives instead. But Jamal does not see this when the addiction takes over.

The belief that  “Allah does not want me” can serve an addict pretty well sometimes because it gives them the excuse to just give up and give in to their urges. The false belief is “Allah rejects me” but the truth is “I have rejected Allah”.

Recovery is about turning that belief around, knowing with certainty that Allah wants you back and then not wanting to do anything that could cause Allah to turn away. Dua is the answer.

Dua helps us to build up that relationship with Allah again. To spend talking to him in our own language straight from the heart. We all slip and slide and come off from the Straight Path from time to time. Allah did not create mankind like perfect angels. He knew we would sin, because He loves us to repent and turn back to Him. He loves it so much! Dua is a step to coming back to Allah. Dua is the way we come closer to Him again. Never give up.

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Making a Spectacle of Recovery

No matter what stage of recovery you are in, or perhaps you are a carer of an addict, I invite you to think about what kind of glasses you are wearing…

almost-rose-tintedRose tinted glasses: Seeing the positive in things is important but being unrealistic is not helpful. We need to be honest about where our flaws are and think deeply about what needs to change in our lives to make things a better place. Very often, it is the early stages of recovery, when we might be over-confident about staying clean, or we begin to dismiss the signs of an impending relapse that the rose tinted glasses come on. Or it can creep in at any stage when we are reluctant to work hard to overcome our challenges and become lazy – or worse, still fall, into denial. Carers too can often wear these glasses because the thought of their loved-one relapsing or using is just to painful to face up to. If we see things with too much optimism and fail to see the difficulties then things will go on without being changed. Over time our rose tinted glasses may fall from our faces and then it can be overwhelming, the moment we realise things aren’t so peachy after all.

Dark Shades: Opposite to rose tinted glasses, dark shades give us a world view that is dark and cloudy. Day time may look like night time as the shades shut out the light. In our addiction we felt as though great darkness had descended upon us, far removed from the light ofdarkshades Allah and the happiness that being clean and practicing Islam can bring. In recovery, if we fail to lean towards this light we can fall into the trap of negative thinking, often prediciting the worst case scenarios and becoming afraid to make changes that can be positive. These glasses are often worn by celebrities when they are either worse for wear or coming out of the gym without their make up. In other words they have something to hide. We can often hide behind the dark shades as a defense mechanism and keep others out. In our addiction, we may have become isolated or secretive, shutting out friends and family. Recovery is about letting people in so that we can come out of our isolation. As the Prophet peace be upon him said, “The wolf devours the lone sheep”. Being alone leaves us vulnerable to the whispers of Shaitan, where negative thoughts are born. Or maybe we are a carer, and we have become so used to living in darkness that it can be hard to feel hopeful. Having felt let down over and over again we stop allowing ourselves to feel hopeful that our loved-one will come out of their addiction, afraid of getting hurt. But this can be an obstruction, that just leaves us stumbling around the dark. Let there be light.

mirrored.Mirrored lenses: When people look at us, all they see is their own image. We haven’t found our own identity, or maybe we are not comfortable enough around certain people to just be our own self. When our self esteem is low, we begin to take on the personalities of those around us because we feel we are more likely to be accepted. We push the true self down, lock it away, or deny it all together. Prolonged periods of wearing these lenses may mean we forget who we really are, to the point we don’t even know who we want to be. This is a sad state to be in. Recovery, is about finding out who we are and beginning to show our true selves to the world, and to be consistent with that personality, not changing our selves depending on our company. As carers of addicts we can often change our own lives around to fit into the recovery of our loved one, sometimes meaning that we no longer get to do the things we like to do. We become so locked in, obsessed even, by the behaviours of the addict in our lives that we lose sight of our ownselves. As Muslims, we need to connect with our own self in order to strive towards pleasing Allah and following the sunnah of our beloved Prophet.

The wrong prescription: Have you ever tried on a friends glasses just for fun and thought “Woah, that feels weird”? Maybe your head was spinning, and you felt a bit confused and disorientated. Sometimes we can look towards other people in recovery or on the dean and think – “yeah, I want a piece of what they’ve got”. We try to emulate their recovery programme, Eye_Test-1matching them meeting for meeting, going gym, reading the same books or generally copying their routine. But we find when we do it their way, it just doesn’t feel right. It can be really confusing and sometimes upsetting when we try out an example of someone elses recovery and find it does not work for us. Recovery is not a ‘one size fits all’ thing. We need to get our own prescription. People practise Islam in different ways. Yes we all aim to follow the Quran and Sunnah (way of the Prophet, peace be upon him) but we are not all robots doing the same thing every day. There are many ways to catch a fish. So we need to get our own prescription and find our own way to stay clean on The Dean.

T1649Comedy Glasses: No one said life has to be serious all the time. Being stuck in the addictive cycle can be depressing and soul destroying. But at the same time, recovery is no joke. We need to make time for fun, play and laughter but at the same time, we must remember that it is easy for us to get caught up in that. Sometimes the feeling of happiness we get in early recovery can make us lose sight of the bigger picture. Maybe our social life begins to widen as family and friends welcome us back into their lives. Family begin to give us more responsibility as they feel they can trust us now. We begin to say yes to invitations and suddenly the world can feel like our oyster. This is wonderful and amazing but we need to take our recovery seriously and always make sure that within the fun and socialising we make time to reflect and contemplate on ourselves and where we are heading. May Allah keep our feet firm upon The Straight Path.

So these were just a handful of examples of the kinds of glasses we wear in recovery, or while caring for an addict. We will find that over time we become comfortable with our pair, that things seem clear and things work. But as we grow and develop and our vision in life changes we may need to think again about what glasses we have on. We need to strive to keep our sights clear in recovery, always looking ahead and only looking back to remind ourselves how grateful we need to be to Allah for having taken us out of that place. So head up, look straight and we thank Allah for giving us the ability to see and we know that;

” It is not the eyes that are blind, but it is the hearts” (Qur’an 22:46)

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By Lynne Ali-Northcott (Addiction Counsellor)

Understanding Anxiety and How to Manage it by Amar Ali

 Amar Ali is a former substance misuse practitioner with years of experience working with drug users in London, UK. His article below offers an explanation of what anxiety is and what we can do to cope better during periods of suffering and how we can prevent relapse. There is also valuable advise for carers and loved-ones of those with anxiety-related symptoms.

Understanding Anxiety and How to Manage it

In this article, we will explore behavioural definitions for anxiety, the impact it can cause on individuals, how you can manage your symptoms, and a number of coping skills which may help you to reduce symptoms. All advice must be treated as such, if you have concerns about your welfare or that of others, it is important to seek professional medical advice. Just because you can relate to certain symptoms, does not necessitate you are suffering from a disorder, medical advice must always be sought.

Behavioural definitions for anxiety include

1       Excessive and unrealistic worry that are difficult to control the caring more days than not about a number of events or activities which may include

2        Excess tension e.g. restlessness, tiredness shakiness, and muscle tension. 

3   Excessive hyperactivity e.g. palpitations, shortness of breath, dry mouth, trouble swallowing, nausea, diarrhea 

4          Hyper-vigilance e.g. feeling constantly on edge, experiencing concentration difficulties, having trouble falling or staying asleep, exhibiting a general state of irritability.

The overall aims of reducing anxiety symptoms should be so that daily functioning is not impaired and importantly resolving the core conflicts which are at the source of the anxiety. Learning to effectively cope with the worries and anxieties and lastly learn to implement coping skills which may result in reduction of worry.

 In order to achieve a reduction of symptoms it is important to identify situations, thoughts, feelings and actions, which are associated with anxiety and worries. Furthermore by identifying thoughts feelings and actions, you will be able to assess the impact on functioning in order to resolve them. It is important to understand behavioural and emotional attitudes and how they impact on your anxiety therefore accessing professional medical advice to initiate treatment or self-help is of utmost important. The importance of motivation in changing behaviour is highlighted in many scientific studies and in clinical assessments because demonstrating ambivalence regarding the problem and reluctance to address the issue, may lead to unnecessary pro longing of symptoms.

If anxiety symptoms are caused by distress and trauma which are outside of your control i.e. cultural issues, marital issues and family problems, it is important to seek professional advice. If this is not possible, you can confide in people you trust. If anxiety symptoms are related to someone close to you, i.e. a partner, child or parent, it is important to understand that symptoms result in behavioural manifestations are underlined by mild, moderate severe, very severe impairments, therefore for your own well-being and the well-being of the concerned, it is important to speak to someone to access support.

Learning calming skills to reduce anxiety is another option which may help in managing your symptoms. Learning or calming skills may involve progressive muscle relaxation, mindful breathing and learning how to apply the skills to your daily life can provide relief. Understanding the role of cognitive biases which amplify excessive and irrational worry are important to understand. Cognitions, in simple terms, describe how we think about things therefore if excessive and unrealistic worry is making the problem worse, then we need to identify our unhealthy cognitions in order to minimise the impact on our behaviour.

Excessive worry can also lead to avoidance of a problem and can have an impact on physical health and lead to chronic tension. By identifying and highlighting fearful self-talk and negative thinking, you can replace it with positive, realistic and empowering self-talk, which is important as it increases confidence in coping with irrational fears.

Scientific studies have shown that gradual and repeated imaging exposure can help to reduce symptoms therefore by praying Salah and taking time to reflect can also be used as a coping mechanism. It is important to note that by praying and reflecting we do not associate a negative thinking patterns by unhealthy self-talk such as ‘I’m praying so why doesn’t God help me’, ‘if God loved me he wouldn’t put me through this’. These types of negative statements only perpetuate negative schemas and therefore avoidance of these is highly recommended and focusing on a positive mind-set no matter how hard it may be, would be more beneficial.

Finally learning to implement problem solving strategies for realistically addressing worries is a key element in reducing anxiety and stress. Problem solve by strategizing to specifically define the problem, generating options for addressing it, evaluate the pros and cons of each of those options, selecting and implementing an optional action, and re-evaluating and refining the action can provide empowerment as it helps to become proactive as opposed to reactive. These techniques and interventions which have been highlighted here are some options available to anyone suffering or supporting people who may be suffering. However it is important to stress that by seeking support by those you can trust and professionals will help to begin your journey into a healthy life for yourself and your families and those around you.

“Expand my chest”

anxiety2If ever any one of you has experienced severe or prolonged anxiety you will know how difficult it can make your every day living. That feeling when your chest feels tight or heavy, the heart feels like a solid rock, breathing can feel painful and the stomach churns constantly. We may have to take more trips to the toilet than normal and may even experience shaking or trembling or tearfulness. Things that we could normally do easily, like driving, trips to the shops, talking to strangers etc can feel overwhelming and frightening. If we doanxiety not treat this feeling of anxiety it becomes heightened and panic attacks can ensue. This has a ripple effect where we become more and more fearful and the anxiety increases. Throw an addiction problem into this mix and all this becomes much bigger and more scary and is often something that leads to relapse as the person seeks a way to just make that feeling go away, a feeling that we often associate or misinterpret as a craving. Carers of addicts also experience high levels of anxiety as they live in fear of the next relapse or become exposed to oppressive and unacceptable behaviour from the active addict in their lives. Anxiety begins to effect the whole family.

Allah tells us in the Qur’an about the anxiety that Musa (Moses) experienced when he was tasked with going back to Egypt to call the tyrant leader, Firaun, to worship Allah and set free the Children of Israel, who he was oppressing through slavery. Musa (as) became afraid and anxious. For a fleeting moment he doubted his abilities, his chest tightened and he lost hope in carrying out this task. He was overwhelmed. Allah tells us about his duah;

tumblr_inline_mxj3e0dLMa1qjcw8k“Lord! Expand my chest for me, and ease my task for me and And loosen the knot from my tongue that they understand my speech.” 

Musa asked for Allah to expand his chest, meaning that he felt as though his chest was tight and constricted, thus displaying the feeling of anxiety. He felt overwhelmed with his task, worried that he would find it hard so he asked Allah to make things easy for him. And lastly, his inadequacies seemed bigger to him, making him worried. He was afraid that the people he was going to would not understand him, due to a slight speech impediment, and therefore he asked Allah to remove this flaw.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this duah of Musa (as). This verse from the Qur’an teaches us that it is Allah who has the ability to remove our anxiety and make things easy for us when it all seems so difficult and frightening. It is Allah that can make things easy. The Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, taught us another beautiful prayer;

اللّهُـمَّ لا سَـهْلَ إِلاّ ما جَعَلـتَهُ سَهـلاً، وَأَنْتَ تَجْـعَلُ الْحَـزَنَ إِذا شِـئْتَ سَهـْلاً  “O Allah, there is no ease except in that which You have made easy, and You make the difficulty, if You wish, easy.”

Knowing that a great prophet like Musa experienced anxiety should help us to be easy on ourselves. Some people may say to us “Muslims should not feel anxious when they havedont-panic Allah” are grossly mistaken. We are but human beings, and most of us will experience anxiousness at one time in our life. When we get anxious, this is the time to remember that Allah is the One who can pull us together and help us begin to rely and depend on Him.

Another example of panic and anxiety in the Qur’an, is that of Musa’s mother when she placed her little baby in the river;

“And the heart of the mother of Musa became empty. She was very near to disclose her secret, had We not tied up her heart , so that she might remain as one of the believers”(28:10)

This Verse is so beautiful. This is a Verse of Allah that needs to give us hope when our heart is feeling broken and we experience trauma or emotional pain. Allah describes her heart as being completely emptied out. Anyone who has experienced anxiety will know that the heart empties out of all other matters except that one thing we are worried about.  Allah tells us here that He intervened to strengthen her heart. He ‘tied up’ the broken pieces of her heart and held them together for her in order to get her through this test and keep her faith in tact. Therefore we must know that it is Allah who ties back the heart together when we are feeling as though we are in tatters and falling apart, broken into pieces.

So it is a very natural thing to panic and feel worried and anxious from time to time but the solution to prevent it and stop it lies in turning to Allah and trusting Him to help us.

5 Steps To Overcome Anxiety

1) Make duah, call upon Allah for help

Use the duahs mentioned above as they are from the Qur’an and sunnah and also make duah from your own heart in your own language, knowing that Allah will help you. Musa called on Allah to expand his chest when it felt tight and He knew Allah could do that.

2) Breathe!

breatheOne of the main reasons we may have a panic attack, or experience chest pains is because we are not breathing properly. When we are nervous or anxious we tend to take shorter breaths or even hold our breaths without even realising we are doing this. If you watch a sleeping baby, you will see that it is there bellies that rise and fall as they breathe. Babies know how to breathe and we forget. If we take a deep breath it is often our chests that rise. However, our oxygen receptors are actually in the diaphram, close to the stomach. When you take deep breaths try to ensure that it is your belly that is rising and not your chest. If we do not breathe from here, the receptors send a message to the brain saying “we are not getting enough oxygen here!” thus sending the person into a state of panic and they may begin to hyperventilate. For more breathing tips please click here 

 3) Try to remove the cause of your anxiety and lighten your load

If you are experiencing prolonged anxiety, you need to consider removing that cause from your life if it is possible. Seek help from others to try to make things easier for you. Call on family or friends to help you ease your task. Musa (as) knew that he would struggle to complete the task that Allah wanted him to do so Musa asked Allah to make his brother Haroon his companion and help him, and so Allah made Haroon a prophet too and granted Musa’s request. No more soldiering on alone! Time to get some help!

4) Exercise Peaceful park in spring

The scientific cause of anxiety is the release of too much adrenaline. The brain has gone into an emergency state and realises this chemical so that the person can either fight or flee, known as “fight or flight” syndrome. The body is not designed to constantly live in this state. Excess adrenaline can be burnt through exercise. If you are not ready to hit the gym yet, then a pleasant walk in a local park can do wonders. It is also very spiritual to come back to nature and sit under a tree for a while and breathe in fresh air. Cardiovascular exercise is recommended for 20 minutes at least three times a week, and this may include a brisk walk and will help lift the mood.

5) Positive self-talk

It is easy to fall prey to the whispers of Shaitan, who want us to feel weak and lose self belief. Musa (as) became fearful of his speech problem, but he called on Allah to fix it. Sometimes, Shaitan can make our flaws and weakness seem much bigger than they actually are. Allah tells us in the Quran it is Shaitan that causes us to be fearful (3:175), therefore seek refuge in Allah from his whispering several times per day. We must stop focusing on the things we struggle with, and start strengthening the things we do well.

May Allah help us to overcome our anxieties and move forward to complete our tasks and get through our days and nights without fear. May Allah help us to stay focused on trusting Allah to keep helping us and guiding us. May we remember that Allah will smooth out our roads so long as we keep turning to Him and may Allah keep us away from all those things that He is displeased with and guide us to those actions that earn His Pleasure. Ameen!

The frequent supplication of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
The frequent supplication of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

 

By Lynne Ali-Northcott

Lessons for The Day of Ashura

images1BXW1LOVAs the 10th of Muharram, otherwise known as The Day of Ashoora, approaches it got me thinking and reflecting about the way Allah can open up possibilities we thought could never happen. Subhana’Allah, Glory be to Allah, He is so Amazing and truly does make miracles occur every day and sends down signs for us to see.

Fasting on this day is recommended as part of the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as related in the following hadith;

Fasting on Muharram 10, known as the Day of ‘Ashura’, expiates for the sins of the past year. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) arrived in Madinah in 622 CE, he found that the Jews there fasted on Muharram 10 and asked them the reason for their fasting on this day. They said,” This is a blessed day. On this day Allah saved the Children of Israel from their enemy (in Egypt) and so Prophet Musa [Moses] fasted on this day giving thanks to Allah.” 

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, imagesYNJ31TNU

“We are closer to Musa than you are.” 

He fasted on that day and commanded Muslims to fast on this day. (Al-Bukhari) The following year, Allah commanded the Muslims to fast the month of Ramadan, and the fasting of ‘Ashura’ became optional. It is also reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) intended to fast on the ninth and tenth. Ibn ‘Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah fasted on the day of ‘Ashura’ and ordered the people to fast on it. The people said, “O Messenger of Allah, it is a day that the Jews and Christians honor.” The Prophet said, “When the following year comes, Allah willing, we shall fast on the ninth.” The death of the Prophet came before the following year. (Muslim and Abu Dawud)

saveLet us just briefly take a moment to imagine the moment the children of Israel were leaving Egypt with Firaun and his frightening army following shortly behind. The children of Israel, weak and oppressed for many years, on foot, from elderly and sick to babies in arms, while soldiers advance on horseback and with weapons. Imagine, that moment when they reach the sea and there is no where to run to, no where to hide. Imagine how fast and hard the hearts were beating in their chests. It would seem that there is no way out of this terrible situation. It would seem as if this is the end, perhaps many thought they were about to die.

And then, something amazing happens! Something HUGE. Something unimaginable!

So We revealed to Musa, “Strike the sea with your staff.” And it split in two, each part like a towering cliff. And We brought the others right up to it. We rescued Musa and all those who were with him. Then We drowned the rest. There is certainly a Sign in that yet most of them are not believers. Truly your Lord is the Almighty, the Most Merciful.

(Qur’an, 26:63-68)

And with that wonderful, amazing moment, Allah saved the oppressed from their oppressors and they were free to worship Allah without fear. Allah has preserved this amazing story in His Books, the Bible and The Qur’an as a lesson for mankind for all those who remain on this earth until the Day of Judgement. This story is for us, as Allah says in the above verse, is a sign for us to reflect upon.

As we make a commitment to change our lives around, to seek to continuously improve our character and our relationship with Allah, we must reflect on this historical moment. Allah wants us to know that He can make anything possible and get us out of any difficulty if we totally rely and depend upon Him. Allah wants us to know this, so that we may trust in Him and increase our faith in His powers and abilities. Indeed Allah is able to do everything. Sometimes, we can get down and feel as though there is no solution to our problems. It may feel as though every one and every thing is going against us. But so long as we keep turning back to Allah, we must know that our Lord will free us from our difficulties and that no one or no thing can harm us. All is All- Mighty, All Powerful.

”And whosoever has Taqwa (consciousness of Allah), He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him (sources) he never could imagine…”  ( Qur’an. 65:2-3)

So now that we know this, what next? Well as the verse above says, those who are muh.conscious of Allah receive the help of Allah to get out of difficulty. As we try to better ourselves as Muslims increasing taqwa is the key to staying away from sins and doing more good deeds. When we know with conviction that Allah is All Aware and Ever Watchful over us, this should be enough for us to change. One way to increase our taqwa of Allah is to fast, as this helps us become more conscious of Allah, as Allah says in the Qur’an;

“O believers! Fasting has been made obligatory for you just as it was made obligatory for those before you so that you may attain taqwa”  (Qur’an: 2:183-187)

Fasting brings us closer to Allah and helps us to be more mindful of our actions, something we need if we really want to become better Muslims. Fasting on The Day of Ashura, is a means for us to cleanse ourselves of our sins and be grateful to Allah for all His blessings upon us. So with all this in mind, take time to reflect on this sign of Allah to increase your faith in Allah and become better people insha’Allah and always remember, that no matter how impossible things might seem sometimes, Allah can get us out of any situation if we depend entirely upon Him. Allah is truly Amazing and Capable of Everything. He will make a way out, he will save us from our enemies and He will provide us with all the things we need to move on and move forwards. So turn to Allah and trust Him in all that you do.

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By Lynne Ali-Northcott

Fighting The Ten Headed Monster

HydraI stood beneath my husband as he felt larger than life, towering over me like a mythical monster with several heads. Here is what those heads were saying to me;

The loudest head of all shouted out with so much conviction “I won’t do it again” and I thought “You say that all the time but you do”

The ugliest head of all shouted “I hate you, you b@t*# you never helped me, you want to see me fall” and my inner voice cried “I helped you more than I helped myself”.

The most crooked head of all spoke collectively and calmly in a sing song tone that went up and down, “It was only once, I haven’t used for ages” and my knowing self told me “but I found all the evidence to say otherwise”.

The most lost head of all, facing the wrong way with its head back to front, is looking up at the sky, even though its eyes are diseased and it cannot see, and shouting in anger “You Allah! You did this to me. You wrote me off in that Book of Yours! This is my destiny! And then you will throw me in Your Hell Fire. It’s your fault Allah! I hate your religion!” and my frightened voice says “But Allah gave us free will and He gave you so many signs and chances to change”.

The most manipulative head of all, the one with the narrow eyes said through its gritted teeth, “I will take away everything from you, no one else will love you, I will make your life so hard if you leave me, in fact I might even kill myself if you try to go” and my self that trusts Allah says “My Lord will take care of me”. 

The weakest head of all, the one that occasionally gets stomped on by those huge monster feet; the feet that have several brains from its several heads telling them to go, back and forth, left and right, directionless and lost, that weakest head, the one with no ears said “I can’t do it, I can’t change, I see no way out!” and my frustrated self said “The solution is in The Quran and Sunnah – have you not heard me all of these years?”

The hungry, thirsty head, the one drooling with its putrid saliva, the one that causes the heart to beat faster, the one that makes the feet dash from the Straight Path, said “I do not care about you or any one else but me! Give me those drugs and I do not care about anything but those drugs! Give me MORE!” and my sad self said “You never put me first, you love drugs more than you love me.”

The exhausted head said “I’m so tired, I cannot do this any more, I cannot think, I cannot sleep, I cannot rest, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired” and my confused self looked on and wondered how he had the strength to carry on and my confused self told my worried self that it might one day have to find a way to explain the death of him in a way that would protect his honour. “No one wants to die a junky, no one wants to enter the grave on drugs and no one wants to be raised in the state of intoxication on the Last Day”.

The blaming head, the one that stands high above the rest, the one with the biggest nose so it cannot see what is below said in a snarling voice “You did this! If you were more supportive, if you were around more, if you did not start that fight, if you didn’t say those words to me, if you were a better wife, if you did not go out that day, if my parents were better parents, if I had not met that guy, if I did not bump into that dealer, if I didn’t have a headache that day, if I didn’t have everyone on my back, if I didn’t have stress, if my family didn’t let me down……. then I would never have used” and my broken self said “If only you would take responsibility for yourself, repent and turn back to Allah so He can forgive you, grant you a good life and enter you into Jannah”

But hang on whats that there hanging down at the bottom. It is hard to see but there it is, peeping through the legs of this multi-headed monster like a shy, anxious, child peering round the legs of its mother…

The truthful head, the one with the sad eyes and the tiny mouth that speaks in a mere whisper. What are you saying little head? What are you trying to say beneath all those frightening voices? We can barely hear you over all that noise, what do you want to say? “It is my fault. I made those choices. I hurt you badly and I hurt myself. I am sorry. I want to change and I need help. Oh Allah help me, only You, My Lord, Allah, can save me now” and I said “Hey little head, here is a sword, take this sword of truth and chop off all those other heads, but only you can do it. No one else can reach those other voices but you, because they are growing out of you.”

And so as the monster continues to rage and try to reach out and grab me, trap me, break me and I realise I can no longer fight this frightening being. I realise that the time has come to run. Now that my hand is emptied of my sword I say “The sword is in your hands now. It is time for you to fight yourself. My battle is over. I know now, I cannot fight your addiction, only YOU can” and now my hands no longer carry the heavy weight, my hands are free to hold something far more special. I embrace freedom, I grab it with my two hands. Freedom from the fight. 

 Anon