Let me paint a picture for you.
I’m in my 20s, I’m an active member of my Muslim community through a variety of organizations and I’m well-liked by my peers.
Uncles and aunties rely on me as a speaker in the community and expect for me to be an inspiration to their children.
My peers see me as a hardworking individual who they can rely on for motivation and good company.
Younger community members come to me for advice, whether it’s problems at school or at work, or issues that they are facing in their deen. They see me as someone in a place in their life where they’d like to be in five years.
But I have a secret; in private, I’m struggling with sexual sin. The same sin, over and over again.
I muster all of the energy within myself to avoid this sin and I’ve even begun to resort to creative methods of deterrence.
I’ve fasted months outside of Ramadan as expiation for breaking fasts during the holy month, and set up outrageous monetary penalties to curb my habit.
Does my story sound familiar to you?
For many of us who are struggling with sex addiction, we are also active in our communities, but our positions of leadership have become prisons that keep us from asking for help when we need it the most.
In my early recovery, I tried everything by myself to change, but the one thing that I did not do for the longest time was reach out for help.
There are three main reasons why:
1. I developed the complex of a strong hero, a savior of sorts for the community to boost my low self-esteem and I was afraid of shattering that image.
When we’re placed at the forefront of our communities and relied on for help, we tend to get used to that position.
We feel validation and a sense of purpose being the one assisting others in their journey to Islam and we won’t accept a scenario where those roles are reversed.
Subconsciously, we search for more opportunities to volunteer in activities and organizations because of the praise that we get from those around us. All the while, our activist persona is becoming more and more embellished, widening the gap between our public and private lives.
Eventually, we are placed on such a high pedestal, that to step down from it and admit that we are actually human and have flaws would be social suicide and a surefire way to cut off the praise that feeds our egos.
When I realized the pedestal I was placed on in my community, what followed immediately was a dizzying recognition of just how far I had to fall.
2. Without my realization, my religiosity and my intentions had become socially motivated rather than spiritually motivated.
It’s terrifying to think of our one consistent source of love and acceptance being cut off.
When we have the choice between staying in a place of ease and attention and stepping out of the limelight to really address our flaws, it’s not often that we choose what is uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, staying upon my pedestal wasn’t just an issue of comfort, it had serious effects on my religiosity as well.
“I feared people’s negative opinion of me above everything else and this made it even harder to reach out.” – Noor33
Because I was doing what it took to remain in the position of a leader within my community, all of my actions began to serve my place among the people as opposed to my standing with Allah.
It felt like the only time I was really close to Allah swt was immediately after a relapse when I was begging for forgiveness.
The religious actions I was engaged in in public did nothing in getting me closer to Allah. I feared people’s negative opinion of me above everything else and this made it even harder to reach out.
3. I had framed my struggles as a moral failure that could be corrected by increasing my worship rather than a psycho-spiritual challenge that needed counsel.
For so long I thought extended periods of fasting, large amounts of charity and prayer would be the cure to fix what I was going through.
Although these actions are necessary, it isn’t possible to pray away our addictions.
They are addictions as opposed to habits because of the emotional and psychological effects we experience when we engage in them.
The only way to break free is to supplement a stronger relationship with Allah swt with supportive psychological help.
This realization is essential because for many of us, reaching out for professional help is the first time we have ever admitted that we even need help.
We worry about the opinions of those around us if we disclose our private lives to them, so breaking isolation with an experienced professional is the first step we can take in the right direction.
“It takes an honest assessment with one’s self to push aside the people’s opinions and step down from a position of perfection so that the real work can begin.” – Noor33
Many of us are on pedestals in our community, but in private we feel we are stuck in a bottomless pit with no way out.
This divide we continue to sustain is the reason why it is so hard to reach out for help. This divide is what is keeping us from achieving the greatness we were meant to achieve.
It takes an honest assessment with one’s self to push aside the people’s opinions and step down from a position of perfection so that the real work can begin.
As Frederick Douglass said, “You are not judged by the height to which you have risen, but by the depths from which you have climbed.”
Our great legacies are awaiting us, and all it takes to reach them is to start with one honest step.