Interview with Hamza

Hamza moves into the new phase of his life as a man, and we explored some of the focal points in his recovery as he worked with Zeyad Ramadan through coaching. The original interview was posted on the Fourth Edition of the Inside The Recovery Community Newsletter.

1. Life throws us some challenges to rise up to. With that said, could you share a breakthrough that has helped you rise to the challenges you have been facing in your recovery from unwanted sexual behaviors?

I think a realization that I’ve made that I’m very grateful for recognizing, is that there will always be some sort of challenge. A lot of times, I admittedly fantasize about this perfect life with no pain, no struggle, and just this peaceful serenity knowing that the battle is won and the proverbial demons have been slayed, when in reality, that’s Jannah. I can’t go around chasing trying to solve the puzzle that is my life.

That’s not my job. My job is to show up with full concerted effort and commitment everyday of my life – commitment to Allah, myself, my wife, and my family. Additionally, it’s also the recognition that I’ve subjected and reduced my ‘izzah (honor) to a lot of things that I shouldn’t have throughout the course of my life; explicit actions, sexuality, and what people think. I never truly internalized the idea that my ‘izzah is a two-tier construct. At a human level, my ‘izzah sits with nothing outside of the realm of myself, my actions, and my effort to please Allah. At a divine level, it sits with Allah and my having contentment for what He has provided me.

2. You’ve shared with us the progress you’ve made in your career, congratulations! What are your hopes as you transition into a new phase in your life?

My hopes are to continue to grow into an impactful role. One of the core needs of my addictive behavior I discovered through a lot of internal work was that I seek to feel a sense of ownership, and I feel that this role will definitely provide that inshAllah, alhamdulillah. My main goals though are to continue to grow, continue to commit to my relationship with Allah, myself, and my wife, and try to be more action oriented, especially in regards to improving those three relationships.

Also, to stop approaching things with fear. Allah’s qadr is Allah’s qadr, and my agency only extends to the actions I decide to take. As long as I’m taking actions to widen the gap between me and this addiction, and in turn close the gap between me and my ideal servitude to Allah; inshaAllah I can be in a healthy place. That however is predicated on my honesty with myself.

Reading through my answer I can only feel that it’s just so telling to how much of an ecosystem the process of breaking free from unwanted sexual behaviors is. All those pieces (honesty, actionability, servitude, and surrender) need to be there.

3. You met up with a fellow Purify Your Gaze member. How was that? Did it impact your healing in any way?

It was a great pleasure meeting him, what an awesome guy. One of the first things he did was order lamb tripe (intestine) off the menu we went to and added something along the lines of, “I love to be adventurous with my food.” That spoke deeply to me in the context of my overall healing and recovery from my unwanted sexual behaviors.

The opportunities to face your fears are literally everywhere, even the food you pick at a menu. It definitely encouraged me to face my fears more alhamdulillah, and I feel that I’m trying to seek out more activities that are associated with fears/insecurities from my past – going to the beach, going ice skating, etc.

4. Basketball and cooking. You were challenged to widen your scope of activities that allowed you to focus, be in your body and enjoy it. What was the wisdom of that challenge and what else did you find?

The wisdom was being present. I remember hearing a Jumuah khutbah once that elaborated on the hadith regarding teaching children archery, horse riding, and swimming. Archery to teach children that failures are inevitable…you have to miss the target numerous times before you finally hit the target. Horse riding because it teaches you leadership – you have to take control of a beast that’s 3x your size and learn to tame it. Swimming because it forces you to relax – if you panic in the water, what happens? Your chances for drowning increase.

Basketball for me is something that’s always been something of a passion. I’ve always seen it as an escape – playing it, watching it, reading up on pro basketball player preparations and philosophies, etc. At an activity level, it partially represents for me the opportunity to address that aspect of failure before success that archery does. You’re not gonna hit all your shots, but you need to throw your shots up. The only way to get out of a shooting slump is to keep shooting until you make it.

I also found that I needed to reorient myself in how I approach basketball, or really partake in any other activity. I’ve always benchmarked my play against the other people that were on the floor, versus where it is I want to be. That needed to change. It goes back to that idea of being proactive in discovering opportunity while prioritizing myself in terms of my ‘izzah. My ‘izzah on the court isn’t playing better than anyone else there, it’s playing to the best of my ability.

As far as cooking, it’s something I enjoyed as a kid and it was stifled. I used to always tell my mom I want to be a cook when I grow up, but she’d tell our relatives and I’d get made fun of, and I just kind of stopped once I got to middle school. I’m picking that up now to reconnect with that kid from my past, while also using it as an opportunity to extend myself for myself and my wife from time to time.

5. Can you share with us a moment when you reached out to your accountability buddy/buddies, that allowed you to change course when you felt like you were struggling?

One of the biggest moments was during the course of a pretty emotional and intense argument with my wife. I was on my way home from work after my wife, being upset, had told me she was leaving me for the night. I didn’t know how to navigate through this. I reached out to my accountability buddy and let him know, and he encouraged me to entrust my affairs to Allah versus try to solve this myself, and to give my wife the space she needs. He had my back through a panic attack I had on the road. It was one of the most emotional and intense breakdowns of my life, and I felt like I really learned to put my trust in Allah in that moment.