The very first time I saw pornography was when I was 12 years old. I was very disgusted and the debilitating fear of doing something wrong overtook me, but for some reason I found myself searching for pornography again and again, in secret for the next 14 years of my life.
The ecstasy that I sought after always came with a devastating low each and every time I sexually acted out. I went through cycles of swearing to Allah that I would never go back to it, only to find myself indulging in it days later.
I was searching for a way to end this insanity as I had reached the end of my rope. Since January 2013 I’ve been one and a half year sober. Alhamdullilah. This is my story of how I turned my life by the Grace of Allah through my support from Purify Your Gaze.
Trepidations and Fears
When I first started the program, I felt an immense sense of shame and fear of what was about to come and what I got myself into.
Thoughts of “I can’t be that bad,” and that “if I just focus work on increasing my iman, or fasting, or lowering my gaze better I can quit on my own” often crossed my mind. I didn’t know the dangers that lied ahead so I rationalized that perhaps this path isn’t for me, and I don’t need to tread it all.
Reaching out for help was too risky.
But I was at a point where I had tried all of those things in addition to putting filtering software on my computer, and cancelling my subscriptions to pornographic websites, I even had brief periods of sexual abstinence but that willpower did not last.
I took this as a sign that I had to do something different which is what pushed me to join the Purify Your Gaze program.
Goodbye to Mr. Know it All
Being the eldest of 4 siblings, my parent’s “favorite child”, as well as going to Medical School created a Mr. Know It All persona that was very much a part of me.
“I don’t need to go to anyone for advice; instead, people should come to me for advice”, was how I often felt.
In my first month in the program, I found myself wanting to help these “other people” who are struggling more than me, and I am going to “advise” them on what they need to do to change.
Later I decided to supplement my program with the support of group coaching as this was what others were doing. I remember listening in on a call and hearing someone getting called out and challenged about their recovery.
This made me very uncomfortable.
I thought to myself, “If this is what recovery is about then I’m quitting.” I ran for my life and quit the program for 7-8 months.
SubhanAllah things got worse in that period where my sexually acting out spiralled out of control.
To my own disliking, this is what brought me back to the program.
The Safe Place I Had Been Looking For
On my first call back, I broke down and cried over the phone, saying that, “I have no idea what I’m doing, I don’t know what the road ahead is like. I feel like I’m losing control.”
That was the first time in my life that I was actually and truly vulnerable with someone else and that changed my life.
For me to say, that I have no idea what I’m doing, I have no idea how to get better, and to say that over and over again while I’m at my worst state, and to hear Ustadh Zeyad say, “Hey, you’re okay. You’re okay right here right now, you’re okay, you’re perfectly fine” that was special.
After that, I was like, Alhamdullilah, wow, this is exactly what I need but it was only the beginning.
Emptying My Filled Cup
I remember after coming back to the program, Ustadh Zeyad told me something really powerful, that really stuck with me that, “if the cup is full, you can’t fill it with anything new.” To truly heal from my unwanted sexual behaviors and benefit from the program, I had to empty my full cup.
My cup was over saturated with past experiences, anxieties, and what I perceived life to be, of what I perceived recovery to be, that there was no room for growth or anything else.
My cup was full really because I was afraid.
Humbling myself, and being open meant I had to let go my biases, my fears, my prejudices of how things will work and being truly open.
What Working the Program Means
In addition to the coaching I took part in and the Community experience that is there, Purify Your Gaze also offers a number of self-study courses and programs.
When I first took part in the program I went down the self-study route, I thought that just as I had completed Medical School, I would go in the program and do my assignments, submit them, get a grade and I would have passed recovery.
My turning point came when I was listening in to some other members on the calls, and I thought to myself that SubhanAllah, they are speaking with so much insight and wisdom. What part of the program did they listen to? Was it a Khutbah?
I came to realize that all this was coming from within themselves.
Subhan Allah, despite the addiction and all the filth I have been engaging in for most of my life, Allah SWT has created a part of me that is inclined to goodness, to worshipping Him and crying out to Him.
What would happen if I gave that part of myself that I had suppressed for so long, some space to speak?
I decided I would.
As I was experiencing this new part of myself, it was becoming clear to me that recovery was more than about ceasing the behaviour; it was about self-discovery, and about finding answers within my heart that I did not know existed.
But I had to first overcome my fear of looking within. It wasn’t easy either!
I remember in my four to five months after my return to the program, it took me a while to let go of wanting to control what I need to figure out or trying to control the results or trying to control the path.
There were a lot of moments of silence and I don’t knows, but subhanAllah it’s like getting in the driver’s seat for the first time.
I was fumbling, I was hitting the curb, I was taking wrong turns. I was putting the car in second gear when it was supposed to be in fourth.
I trusted Ustadh Zeyad and the program to guide me to where I need to go, in terms of my recovery and to trust the process.
Taking A Look At What I Was Afraid to See Within
Over the years, I had covered up my insecurities, my doubts and all the other issues in my life in layers and layers of barriers.
To truly move forward in my recovery, I had to address the underlying issues that were driving my turning to my unwanted sexual behaviors in the first place.
Some of these core issues included my crippling social anxiety that would always lead me into isolation where I sought solace through the comfort of pornography.
I basically worshipped people’s perception of me, and I was hyper sensitive to people’s body language or facial expressions. I learned exactly how to respond to others to keep them impressed so they would think “Oh wow this guy, he’s got it figured out.” I feared that people won’t like the real me. People will only like the person that I’m trying to pretend to be.
This is a huge crux of what I had to start facing in my own recovery.
Expanding My Definition Of Success
After fourteen years of struggle with pornography and other unwanted sexual behaviors there was nothing I wanted more than to be free of my unwanted sexual behaviors. I had thought that all the areas in my life were good and if I could just get these behaviors out of my life, my life would be perfect.
Here I was in a program whose promise was to help put me in a place where I could achieve that freedom but I was a year and a half in and I still was not able to make a full commitment to my sobriety or sexual abstinence.
To an outsider, this may look like failure, but ironically enough I feel looking back that these were the best days of my recovery.
That year and a half prior to my firm commitment to sobriety was where I grew the most, and the major changes I made were what built my solid foundation and helped me get to where I am right now.
I had been blind to the “seemingly unrelated” areas of my life that impacted my addiction, that made me want to turn to pornography and without changing those areas I could not experience success.
Through my journey I learned that being authentic to yourself and others is the very crux of my continued recovery and a big part of my practice of vulnerability came about with my participation in the Purify Your Gaze Community.
When I’m vulnerable with someone, they’re not going to shoot me down and take advantage and rub it in my face, which was my impression of how people just in general are.
This safe place taught me to drop my mask of perfectionism and gave me the opportunity to truly learn how to share my feelings, and connect with other human beings at a deeper level.
My turning to pornography was how I dealt with life and its trials for fourteen years. My biggest curse became my biggest blessing. Perhaps my recovery was my training ground given to me by Allah SWT to learn to endure the necessary pain and challenge we have to experience as part of life insha Allah.
Perhaps now I can believe that Allah has been there for me and wants for me to succeed.