Sobriety in the middle of a Quarantine and Pandemic
Recently, I had to be self-isolated for 10 days because I arrived at a country from another high-risk country.
With isolation, it literally means isolation: no going outside at all. If you are found doing that, you are actually violating the quarantine rules and can get fined.
It was also just a few days after I entered and then this country also went into a lockdown.
I was also alone there, thousands of kilometers away from my family and home country, also no friends nearby. Not even allowed to go to the masjid, nor to buy food, nor go outside for a walk.
I left my family in a bad situation and a very emotional departure from my side. It was one of the rare cases that I cried while leaving home.
I also cried a few days after I stayed there isolated. I felt lonely, sad and a sense of weakness that I am not helping my family.
I had already asked my coach for some advice a couple of weeks ago, as I knew that I would be in real danger from the addiction. I would probably have many bad thoughts going through my head, sadness and homesickness could make me feel that I need to try some sort of relief, some relaxation. I was afraid that I would probably relapse as a result.
It has been really challenging isolation, but alhamdulillah, Allah made it possible for me to stay sober.
What I am about to write here are the things that have helped me, and also things that I wish I used for myself.
I pray that you find benefit in those as well.
With dua, I mean, plenty of dua. Constantly ask Allah:
Ya Allah help me and all the Muslims stay sober.
Ya Allah, I am weak, I am not able to do anything to improve myself on my own. I need your help. I am in desperate need of your blessings.
Ya Allah, I am letting this to you.
Ya Allah, whatever I am trying to find at those haram things, Ya Allah, help me get it from You. Fill that hole that is inside in me.
Try to be as sincere as possible and also…
Have complete trust that your dua is going to get answered
When you turn on the water tap, you don’t expect to get coffee, or tea from it. You always expect to get water. When was the last time that you would get something that is not water? So you didn’t have any type of doubt at all? Never, ever? Seriously?
Have you ever bought a Red Bull and found Coca Cola inside that can? Have you ever even thought that could be the case?
Well, how about when you go to a doctor and ask for medicine to help you with your pain? Do you feel better just by going to the doctor as you are hoping that you are going to get better?
What if you had even more certainty that Allah is going to help you? He is always near and can always find a way out for you to help.
This problem is a great reminder and reason that you need to go and beg Allah for help. As a means for you to let go of your ego and only rely on Allah for everything.
As Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“Don’t depend too much on anyone in this world because even your own shadow leaves you when you are in darkness.”
That also includes you abandoning yourself and going after what your lust is telling you. That simple click when you are in your room alone, or that tap of the button while being in the bathroom.
Make dua to Allah every day for Allah to help you stay sober.
You have probably heard by now that it is very important to go out there and talk to others. Addiction thrives in secrecy.
That could include, talking to your family, or to your friends.
We are social creatures and we must socialize as much as possible. I forgot where I saw someone writing that when prisoners are put in dark cells, it is actually a great torture in itself, as you are there completely alone with no humans to talk to.
By calling people, especially when you are alone and isolated, really does help you get out of your own head and have a sense of connection. You get to lift off some of the emotional burdens that you are carrying through those lonely moments.
It doesn’t have to be a 2-hour call, although it doesn’t really hurt. Just a 10-minute call checking about things are going can help you calm down from the strong urges and survive Insha Allah.
It really does help if you are talking to people who are going through similar struggles, or someone who really wants you to get better, especially when you are feeling a lot of urges.
If it’s hard to do that, then don’t overthink it.
Just go out there and call someone. Call your family, your close friends, or other people.
The good thing about asking other brothers who can answer you in the WhatsApp group is that they are living in different places in the world, so your 3 AM call can be a 5 PM conversation for them. This makes it feel a lot easier for you to get some help, because you may hesitate to call your family or people that have the same time zone as you at 3 AM.
Write your thoughts down
Even if you are not used to writing, please, do yourself a favor and try it. It can be a bit weird and hard at first, but trust me, it can help you get out of your head.
You can write anything you want there, whether that’s a joke you wanted to tell your friend, or how frustrated you are feeling after a coworker yielded at you.
However, also try to write as much as possible about the thoughts that are going through your head, like the painful experiences that you are having recently, or your anger towards the ruling for the tough lockdown.
Try to come up with reasons why is that better for you. Write those down.
Let’s take an example. Imagine you have just gone through a tough situation at your work and your boss yielded at you. You are frustrated and angry. You don’t know what to do and how to proceed further.
Try to write all that down: My boss did this, and this, he is not very kind and polite to me. He could tell me that I was wrong in a more gentle way.
You write all that down in your journal, whether that’s a piece of paper or a digital notes app.
Then you ask yourself: How is this better for me?
It can be challenging to come up with reasons for that, but it’s really possible. Moreover, it can help you change your state and mood.
Let’s list some of them.
This is a reminder that:
- I need to be more careful next time
- I need to get better and learn more
- No matter how much work experience I get, there is always room for improvement
- I am a human being and that I can always make mistakes
- I get to develop a better relationship with my boss who wants me to become better
- I get to work a little bit harder next time, enjoying the journey of doing my best
- I get to demonstrate my ability to get feedback and improve my work
- I get to develop a desire not giving up
Let’s say that you are sad and feel that everything is wrong in your life. You could open up your journal and start writing:
What am I grateful for:
- I am alive at this moment
- My family members are alive
- I can see
- I can read these lines
- I can read a book in English
- I have a chair to sit
- I have a roof over my head
- I can speak
- I can hear voices
- I can drink clean water
- I can eat a delicious breakfast
- I can smell a flower
- I can put great perfumes
The list can go on and on.
This is not supposed to be something that you are going to publish online or anything. It’s just for your own emotional stability overall.
You don’t have to stick to certain rules, a minimum number of words, grammar punctuations, or anything. No formatting, no spelling checks needed.
You are free to use it the way you want.
Why journaling is important? Because it:
- Heals relationships
- Heals the past
- Dignifies all events
- Is honest, trusting, non-judgmental
- Strengthens your sense of yourself
- Balances and harmonizes
- Recalls and reconstructs past events
- Acts as your own counselor
- Integrates peaks and valleys in life
- Soothes troubled memories
- Sees yourself as a larger, important, whole, and connected being
- Reveals and tracks patterns and cycles
- Directs intention and discernment
- Improves sensitivity
- Offers new perspectives
- Brings things together
- Shows relationships and wholeness instead of separation
One day at a time
It was really hard and made me feel overwhelmed and anxious thinking that I will be like that for the next 10 days. I was sometimes afraid of how am I going to deal with that sadness, those strong emotions about my family.
How am I going to be able to stay isolated alone in my room far away from people and still stay sober?
As you already are advised so far: Simply take this one day at a time. Thinking that you are going to stay sober for a long period of time can be quite overwhelming and can cause you to lose hope.
We are used to hearing some similar thought patterns as addicts during our recovery journey:
“How am I going to stay sober for that long, when actually, I cannot even stay away for a few hours from this addiction? My triggers come and haunt me constantly. I can never do that.”
Well, you don’t build an entire wall in a minute. You do it one brick at a time.
If you manage to stay sober for a day, then another day, then another day, then guess what? You have many days that have already piled up.
As the saying goes:
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Do not count the days
When I start to count the days that Allah has allowed me to stay sober, I tend to feel a sense of pride and a boost in my ego. A sense of entitlement.
That pride is then compounded and makes me feel as if I am now free from the addiction, I have solved the problem, so I can really just continue ahead with this without any sort of fear that I can go back.
Having fallen many times in that same trap, I have stopped counting the days and sometimes want to make myself fear as if I relapsed yesterday so that I can still be careful and not go after the temptations.
My coach told me that there are people who are even coaches and have stayed sober for 2 years or more, advising people to stay sober, but they also relapse even after that long period. This should not make you feel afraid that there is ultimately no hope for you and me. I just want to warn you that this can happen — may Allah protect us.
The point that I am trying to make here is that no matter whether it is 5 days or 50 years that you have been sober, you are still vulnerable and can relapse.
Just imagine, the Prophet ﷺ made the following dua most frequently:
‘O Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion.’
Think about that for a second. He was a Prophet ﷺ, a person who had the highest Jannah guaranteed but still was doing that. I believe one of the lessons that we can take from that is to remind ourselves that we should constantly strive to be careful from kufr, losing our iman, or deviate.
That also includes a fear that although we may stay sober for many days or weeks, we are still in need of Allah’s protection from relapsing.
A lot of us can probably count a person or two who used to go to the masjid and pray, but that has abandoned praying, drinks alcohol, or even publicly admits that is a nonmuslim now — may Allah protect us.
No, no, no! No tolerance at all
Not just zero tolerance. I would even say, -100, just to reinforce the importance of this.
If a bad thought comes in, ask Allah to help you with it.
If a haram thing comes to your mind, ask Allah to help you with it. Surrender to Allah and do not give in to lust.
Immediately. At that very second.
Sometimes, our subconscious is so used to do some patterns that we don’t even need the thoughts to remind us. Maybe you have some phone numbers or a password that you may not be able to recall out loud when someone asks you to do so, but you can type it on your keyboard easily.
You have already memorized the pattern.
The same can be with the addiction problem. Maybe sometimes you just take the phone in the bathroom and your fingers immediately open up Instagram. Before you know it, you are already scrolling through some haram stuff that reminds you of previous things you used to watch.
Simply break this pattern. Do not take your phone with you. No excuses.
If you want to always stay on the island, burn the bridges.
Burn the boats so you have no alternatives left to go outside.
Burn one’s boats. This is a variation of “burning one’s bridges”, and alludes to certain famous incidents where a commander, having landed in a hostile country, ordered his men to destroy their ships, so that they would have to conquer the country or be killed.
One such incident was in 711 AD, when Muslim forces invaded the Iberian Peninsula. The commander, Tariq bin Ziyad, ordered his ships to be burned.
I was talking with a brother about the way he was trying to stay sober.
He said that he is not using any filters at all, because he thought that when there are no filters left anymore, he is going to be very sensitive to any trivial temptation and fall for it.
I believe this is not the correct approach.
Allah commands us in the Quran:
Do not go near adultery. It is truly a shameful deed and an evil way.
This means, don’t even come closer to it. Not only, don’t do it, but don’t even come close to it. We can all agree that porn and haram pictures can lead someone to do adultery.
You must stay away from it no matter what. That includes burning the bridges, burning the boats so that there is no alternative left for you to go back to those haram things.
When there comes a time when you do not have filters, you are probably going to have fewer temptations and stronger willpower Insha Allah.
Pray that you have already broken the pattern and are no longer so vulnerable to start the cycle and relapse.
Have halal relaxation
No matter how much we feel that we have to use every minute, my coach reminded me that humans these days aren’t any more that much capable of working constantly.
We need some downtime, something that gives us a higher sense of autonomy and relief from the daily stress that accumulates from the news, traffic jams, work, school, etc.
There are many things that you could be doing during this time. Here is a list:
- Call a friend or a family member on the phone
- Read a book
- Play a game
- Read comic books
- Listen to an audiobook while playing a game
- Write a story
- Watch a documentary
- Learn a language using Duolingo
- Listen to podcasts
- Do some light exercises such as push-ups or sit-ups
- Learn computer programming
- Watch a sports game
Do not consider this a waste of time. Consider it as an investment in your sobriety. You need to take care of your self and …
Have mercy on yourself
There is a famous hadith that is mentioned often in many Islamic lectures:
“Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.”
I have heard it many times, but I have seen one interesting interpretation of it:
Do you know who is also on the earth? You are my friend. You are still in this world and you should have mercy on yourself.
You should feel compassion and show some love to yourself as well. Do not beat up yourself if you cannot always be as much productive as possible.
Treat yourself as if you were to treat your best friend: give advice, encourage yourself with inspiring examples, and constantly stay optimistic.
Even if you fail for the 6th billionth time, you must still forgive yourself and have hope that Allah can help you out.
Now that you are done reading this, I would advise you to pick at least one or two things from this article and start implementing them in your life.
If you do not do it now, I am afraid you are not going to benefit that much from this.
Please keep me in your duas. May Allah help us all stay sober.