Embark on the Journey of Recovery – How to adopt the right mindset that will produce the best decisions which will lead to lasting change, insha Allah.
A Purify Your Gaze member who joined several years ago completed the 5 week training course expecting that by the end of the 5 weeks his problem would be solved. He watched the videos and took very studious notes and completed all the exercises, yet 5 weeks later his problem was not yet solved and he was still relapsing. He felt strong emotions of betrayal – his understanding was that putting in 5 weeks of recovery work would bring him to his desired destination of being free, yet here he was being told that there is still much, much hard work ahead. Deep, deep down, a conflict was taking place.
He never planned on embarking on a journey of recovery, a journey of hard soul work of asking difficult questions and uncovering uncomfortable truths. It was a frightening idea. But, he bit the bullet. He decided to embark on the journey – he signed up for coaching and went through deep changes that he had never anticipated. The result of choosing this correct belief is that now, years later, he is not only sexually abstinent for longer than ever before, but with the deeper healing that took place, he has worked to improve his relationship with his family, and has wrestled through rough patches in his career to embark on a whole new career path that is far more fulfilling, and he’s also embarked on a journey to memorize the Quran, which had long been a dormant dream for him.
The result of choosing this correct belief is that now, years later, he is not only sexually abstinent for longer than ever before, but with the deeper healing that took place, he has worked to improve his relationship with his family, and has wrestled through rough patches in his career to embark on a whole new career path that is far more fulfilling, and he’s also embarked on a journey to memorize the Quran, which had long been a dormant dream for him.
This member has embarked on the Journey of Recovery – he’s decided that he’s on a mission to heal himself.
Why having the “journey mindset” matters
What does it matter if you adopt this type of mindset about your struggle? It’s simple – you have to look at your situation as a journey of recovery so that you can have the humility and the focus that will enable you to take action that leads to steady growth and lasting change.
Let’s be clear about one thing: most people do not think of their struggle with a sexual behavior in this way. On the contrary, most people hold on to some other belief about their struggle. It may be (1) that it is a phase that will pass with time, or (2) that the behavior itself is the only problem, and that stopping the behavior will solve their problems, or (3) that their problem isn’t that bad – certainly not bad enough to require embarking on some magical journey of healing. For many people who are struggling, the words “healing” and “recovery” are not really part of their vocabulary. But, should they be?
If you have any of the above beliefs about your struggle, then my sincere advice is to pause and ask the question “is my belief accurate?”
Because the result of an inaccurate map is that it will be very difficult to make steady progress toward your destination. If you do not embark on the journey of healing, then you risk not only staying stuck in your struggle, but also regressing deeper into addiction.
I’d like to share an example that shows it’s possible for someone to think for years that things are going in the right direction, but in reality they are only getting worse. I was deeply touched by a subscriber who emailed us at Purify Your Gaze. After embracing Islam years ago, he was able to see tremendous progress in dropping every single one of his bad habits, except for watching pornnography. Still, he was able to keep away from watching for weeks and months. However, as the years passed, things got worse. It went from relapsing during Ramadan, to failing subjects in school, to missing his prayers for days on end, to most recently watching pornography during the daylight hours of Ramadan.
He shares, “I don’t see any hope and I don’t know how to do this I have been trying for years. I used to be able to stop for weeks or months but now its not working any more.”
The stark reality is that the results you get are the results you pursue – if you do not seek real, deep change, you will not get real, deep change. And 1 year of struggling can very quickly become 2 years, and 5 years, and 15 years – and one form of acting out can lead to more severe forms and doing things you never imagined like falling into zinah.
What is the journey of recovery all about?
Alright so we’ve talked so far about why it’s important to have the correct mindset about your recovery. Now, let’s talk about what this actually means, and what it looks like to have the right mindset about recovery.
Whenever we face a problem, we have a mental map of the problem and the solution. So, you have an idea about your problem – that’s where you are currently, or point A – and you have an idea about what the solution looks like – there’s where you’d like to be, or point B – and you have an idea about HOW to solve your problem – that’s how you get from point A to point B.
Embarking on the journey of recovery requires that you have an accurate map of these three components. If you don’t, then the choices you make and the things you focus on and prioritize will cause you to think you’re going in the right direction, but you may actually be regressing deeper and deeper into addiction.
Let’s start with point A. The problem people have about their point A is failing to recognize how serious their situation really is. While on the phone with a subscriber one day, I asked him “how long have you been struggling with these behaviors”. He responded with something like 10 years, and then it dawned upon him and he realized for the first time just how long he’s been struggling with the same thing and not improving.
Aside from asking how long you’ve been struggling, it’s important to realize this struggle does not live in your bedroom or on your computer. It reaches out and touches every single area of your life. So to get an accurate understanding of where you are currently – your point A – you have to ask what is the impact this problem is having on the rest of your life.
To given an example, many of those struggling have a difficulty being honest and open with other people, and feel like they’re wearing a mask all the time. Have you considered the cost of wearing a mask in front of people closest to you, people who deserve to receive your full, authentic heart?
I’m not saying this so that you fall deeper into shame or self-loathing, that actually doesn’t help the situation. What helps – what is in fact absolutely necessary – is to embrace the absolute truth about where you are right now, because as long as your heart has not embraced the truth, then there is no way that real progress can be seen.
You also have to have an accurate point B as well. What is your destination? If you’re going to embark on the journey of recovery, you have to know where you’re going!
One of the traps people fall into is they have a definition of success that leads them to stay stuck, rather than continually moving forward on the journey.
A question I’ve seen quite commonly is: how can I know that I’ve finally broken free? When I’m clean for some time, how can I know that this time is different than last time? Or perhaps, what’s the number of days needed so that I can know that I’m finished?
If you were paying attention, all of these questions are focused on being finished. When someone is thinking like this, what do you think their definition of success is?
You got it – it is the desire to have the satisfaction of saying “I’m done – now I can move on to something else in life.” Some members join us seeking this kind of success, but sooner or later they come to learn that success is far beyond just being able to say “I’m done.”
This definition is problematic because such a person does not have a clear picture of where they are going, they only have a clear picture of what they are running away from. They are running away from the shame of their behavior, but my question to anyone who just wants their struggle to be over, where are you running toward? Because you have to know where you are going if you hope to make steady progress.
So what is the larger picture? It’s the life you know very well you can be leading… It’s all the endless possibilities of what could be. Think about your relationships, and how they could thrive. Think about your career, and how you could excel like never before. Think about your spirituality, and how you could accomplish what was always only a dream. That one thing that you’ve always dreamt about, but seems to have always been out of reach… That’s your destination on this journey.
Alright we’ve talked about how to have an accurate map of point A and point B. Our map of the journey is almost done – just one thing is left… How to get from point A to point B?
One of the reasons people struggling with an unwanted sexual behavior stay stuck is that they believe “if I’m just able to stop, then my life will be in order again”. There is an image of that beautiful destination, where relationships are genuine, there is peace there is balance there is integrity, where you’re able to pursue that very noble goal that has seemed out of reach for so long. And the belief is that the one thing between you and that beautiful destination is this annoying, frustrating problem that keeps coming up, which is I keep falling back into my old habits.
So the belief is that “I will achieve my aspirations in life when I can stop acting out”.
But what if it was actually the other way around. What if it was “when I work on building a thriving, balanced, healthy life, then I will no longer feel the need to act out sexually anymore”.
Abstaining from the destructive behaviors does help you reach your aspirations of a thriving life, however the truth of the matter is that it is only one piece of the puzzle, and if you focus only on that piece it will be very difficult if not impossible to make lasting change.
In order to make lasting change, it must be understood that acting out sexually is most often a symptom of a deeper problem.
This deeper problem is different for each individual, but ultimately it comes down to this question: what are the patterns in my life that prevent me from being happy and fulfilled on a consistent basis?
All of this is to say there is more to this path than simply deciding to stop the habit, much much more. And I hope this doesn’t discourage you, but I hope it rather sparks hope within you, because it shows that breaking free is within reach for anyone, by the grace of Allah – but you must embark on the journey of recovery and accept that there’s work to be done.
Here’s what one member reflected about this way of looking at his struggle:
When I was going on a head-on collision with myself, using my willpower, trying to stop myself from [acting out], that is when I was relapsing. And eventually, when I wasn’t relapsing, it wasn’t that I took a conscious decision not to relapse, because I had taken that decision a thousand times and I would still relapse. But when I wasn’t relapsing, there was something in my life, some changes that made me not relapse, that made my life different, that made my life more complete. And I had other venues where I was getting the fulfillment from and I was enjoying life, and I didn’t feel the need for it. So when these things, all the parameters were in place, that is when I wasn’t relapsing. It wasn’t about making a decision or turning that switch on or off in my mind that now you don’t have to relapse or now you have to remain sober. It doesn’t happen like that.
Embarking on the journey of recovery – it all starts with having a more accurate map of the journey. It starts with being more honest about where you are currently, and embracing the truth about the cost this behavior is having in your life. It’s about being more imaginative about your destination – really drawing a vivid picture of what a life that’s worth living really looks like. And it’s about expanding your options about how to get from point A to point B, and considering what areas of your life you can work on to have greater fulfillment and happiness.
How do you change how your look at your struggle?
How do you change your paradigm about recovery? How do you adopt an internal map of what your healing journey looks like that is more aligned with reality, and that will enable you to make steady progress and avoid staying stuck?
You can get started right now by answering a few question, and really trying to be honest and thoughtful about your answers. I’m going to share a series of short questions. They don’t require long answers, but they do require a little bit of thought and reflection. This is not going to give you everything, but it will get you started on the right track insha Allah.
Alright, here are the 5 questions that if you answer them will help you gain new perspective on your struggle, and help get you emotionally ready to really embrace this journey of recovery as your own very special journey.
- What is one area of your life being impacted the most today by your behavior?
- Describe how this area of your life is being impacted? Try to be as descriptive as possible, really paint a picture.
- As you reflect on this, how does it make you feel?
- Now, imagine that you got your problem solved over night just like that – how would this same area of your life look now? Describe it in detail – how would this area of your life look, sound, feel if you were no longer struggling with your behavior and everything was perfect?
- As you imagine this possibility, how does this make you feel?
Remember, all of what we covered today will have the most benefit for you when you take action. So I really urge you not to close this window or leave this page until you’ve take a few minutes to respond to these 5 questions.
As we close this episode off, I want to leave you with words from one of our members who was asked to share “what would you have wanted someone to tell you when you first started off your recovery?”
I guess for me the first thing that I would have wanted somebody to tell me, to sit in front of me, grab me by the shoulders and say you’re about to face the toughest journey in your life.
When you hear this, do you feel that it is true in your case? At this point, do you believe that overcoming your unwanted behaviors is the the toughest journey in your life?
If you’re feeling uncomfortable or afraid of this idea, then I want to let you know that is completely OK. It is scary, very very scary. I understand. However, what will define your success is how you react to that fear. If you act in the face of fear, then success will be yours, insha Allah, because no obstacle is too great for Allah to help you overcome, even if you are facing the toughest journey in your life.