About this article: Br. Saleem, a member of Purify Your Gaze, writes about a huge and enlightening realization that came through his coaching calls with Zeyad Ramadan where he redefined what success meant for him.
I’ve been dissatisfied with my job for a long time. I feel under-appreciated and overworked but I stick with it because I feel like the experience is valuable. How many recent graduates aren’t in a similar situation, right?
This is part of the process of earning our stripes and building a work ethic, or so I hear. But an interesting thing happens when a big deadline comes up or when it seems like I should be the most focused. I tend to go on glassdoor.com and look at salaries for my position at other companies or go on LinkedIn or ask my friends about their jobs and benefits packages. This always leads to me needing more time to finish an assignment and long, stressful nights at the office.
After repeating this process for a long time, I started to realize this is something I’ve been practicing all my life even though I’ve only been at this job for about a year. I love to distract myself. When things aren’t ideal, I always wonder about what could be and convince myself that the grass really is greener on the other side.
When my life is tough or too boring, I rely on the lives of other people or imaginary characters to distract me from my own problems. When I feel lonely I fantasize about people who could take away that loneliness, even though the only thing I may know about them is what they look like. I spend so much time distracting that I think my life has more to do with other people than it has to do with me. Is that any way to live?
During my longest stint of sobriety to date, I realize now that I did nothing different from what I always do. My motivation was who I would become after an extended period of sobriety, six months to a year in my mind.
I would read accounts of people who were abstinent for similar durations and how everything seemed to fall into place with their “sobriety”. They became more social, people gravitated towards them, girls noticed them more, they became more athletic, more interesting to other people because of their newfound hobbies and extra time.
“Failure on the other hand is distraction. It gives you temporary amusement, but you end up having to finally face the very problems you were avoiding …”
– Brother Saleem
They became these supermen that I dreamed to be amongst. My entire length of sobriety was me trying to get to that place and after 40 days or so, I had noticed positive changes, but where I thought I was didn’t match where I thought I should’ve been.
Everything came tumbling down after that. Why couldn’t I get to that place? Hadn’t I done what I was supposed to do? X number of days puts me in the ranks with the supermen, right?
Ustadh Zeyad always used to ask me on calls, “What if where you want to be is right in front of you? What if you don’t need to become anything, what if you already are?”
Kobe Bryant said in a recent interview that he has been able to stay dominant for so long because NBA Championships aren’t how he defines success. To him, the opportunity to work every day and become a better player is success. He is able to perfect his craft and that process defines no limitations to what he can reach. It is only dependent on what he decides to put in. To me that is presence, that’s living in the moment, and that’s the answer to Ustadh Zeyad’s question.
Success is putting all of your effort into right now to make it the best possible. You know doing just that is best use of your time and what you are supposed to be doing and that honesty creates a peace and sense of satisfaction within you.
Failure, on the other hand, is distraction. It gives you temporary amusement, but you end up having to finally face the very problems you were avoiding and now you’re less equipped because of all the time you wasted. We spend so much time in a fantasy, we never develop ourselves or reach our potential and we never attain what we occupied our minds with for so long because it fundamentally isn’t real.
The more my recovery journey progresses, the more I realize, it never gets easier. Whether you’ve been sober for 5 days or for 5 years, there will always be times when shaitan comes to whisper in your ear and remind you of your old habits.
There will never be a time in your life where you can kick your feet up and coast; not worry about sobriety at all and go back to being “normal”. No, this is the new normal for you. The norm is now consistent work every single day and exertion in reality to be the person you were meant to be.
There is a difference now, though. You no longer cower in fear at the thought of a relapse or have bouts of anxiety and stress because of the thought of slipping up.
Your work now is proactive and it’s not something you run away from. You work to enrich your life because the life you have is worth living.
You are a valuable investment and the only way to increase your worth is to work at it. You believe so much in doing everything you can to make this moment count that the outcome doesn’t matter anymore. You trust Allah to take care of that because you’re doing what He asks of you to the fullest.
I think when that fire is lit within you, work becomes enjoyable. Every instance of time becomes honest and right now is all you are concerned with. By this new definition, you are successful in this moment. And success in moments leads to success in life.
Brother Saleem’s article was featured in the October 2014 Edition
of the Inside The Recovery Community Newsletter.