Have you ever felt that the only time you feel close and sincere to Allah is after you relapse back to your unwanted sexual behaviors?
Brother Ismail would often try to make himself feel bad about relapsing, as a way of drawing near to Allah.
“Sometimes I feel that I’m the closest to Allah right when I do the repentance after relapsing.” — Br. Ismail.
While there is a natural amount of guilt we all feel as a result of committing sins, the difference is when you are deliberately making yourself feel bad, just so you are able to repent and attain that closeness to Allah.
The problem with that is that for many people, this has become their spiritual strategy. They hold onto the repetitive sin in their lives with a distorted way of thinking: I’m going to act out, and I know that I am going to feel bad about it. I am going to make myself feel really guilty after acting out, and then I am going to make up with Allah. It’s all going to be good.
This roller coaster brings about a high where attaining that closeness to Allah is all about the emotions; there are no principles or discipline involved. It’s about being addicted to a high, but just a different kind of high.
I asked brother Ismail in one of our coaching calls what would happen if he did not feel bad?
“I’m afraid it’ll get worse. If I didn’t feel bad, pornography probably wouldn’t be the issue I was dealing with. It would probably have been further than pornography.” — Br. Ismail.
While that is a logical reason that has kept him in check and makes him feel bad, something different was happening internally. Brother Ismail’s emotional reality could be translated as this: Instead of going to commit zina, I’m going to get a high from making myself feel bad and getting closer to God. And then I’m going to settle for pornography.
“Relapsing back to his unwanted sexual behaviors after months of sobriety was a way to meet his need for spiritual growth.”
I asked brother Ismail further: “If you did not try to make yourself feel bad, then what would happen?”
“If I didn’t feel bad, I would feel like I have nothing to work towards, nothing to improve on. In the 4 months I didn’t relapse, nothing else happened aside from that. So many times the thought came to mind that I wasn’t growing, fine I didn’t relapse, but aside for that I was staying stagnant.” — Br. Ismail
What brother Ismail said was revealing; relapsing back to his unwanted sexual behaviors after months of sobriety was a way to meet his need for spiritual growth.
Brother Ismail was missing a healthy strategy of relating and connecting with Allah. He didn’t know how to bring about that state of humility before Allah in any other way, and therefore, he was stuck in a cycle of falling back to his unwanted sexual behaviors and then feeling good about the ride back up. If he didn’t feel really bad about these behaviors that existed in his life, he wouldn’t be growing.
What was lacking was a vision in moving forward in his recovery, a vision to grow spiritually. And what that spurred for us next was focusing on finding healthy ways he can relate and connect with Allah.