“`Adil”, at the age of seventeen, refused to smoke a cigarette the first time it was offered to him. The second time he was invited to smoke, he hesitated. On the third occasion, he took the cigarette and smoked it to please his friends, though his mind recalled the many sermons hand lectured he had heard warning him against smoking. He never intended to keep smoking. Its taste was horrible and it had nothing to attract him. He thought it would be easy to quit at any time.
He was wrong. Soon, he was buying cigarettes for himself and sneaking around to smoke in order to avoid being seen by his family. For years, he tried to quit smoking for the sake of his health, and family, as well as the cost. By the time he graduated from college, he was still smoking. He was turned down by the woman he hoped to marry because he smoked.
Nicotine is addictive, and each puff on a cigarette send a shot of this chemical to the brain via the lungs. It acts faster than heroin which is taken intravenously. Chemical addictions can be overcome. There are even thousands of casual smokers.
It is a problem that our children’s minds are being targeted to get them smoking: the attractive packaging, the gold lighters, the compelling advertisements, the celebrity endorsements, the desire to rebel against parents, peer pressure, and a need to feel cool.
People who are addicted let themselves surrender to their addiction. Some will rationalise it due to all the stress in their lives. Their cigarette is all they have! Addiction takes over the mind and the will. The only thing that is heeded is the constant demand to smoke.
According to a French study, the average lifespan of smokers is sixty years while the average lifespan of non-smokers is sixty-nine.
A Saudi student won a scholarship to study abroad. He began to frequent nightclubs with the excuse that he was learning the local language and culture that way. He soon became an alcoholic. (Once he called me on the phone when he was drunk.)
Addiction is not limited to cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. There is a long list of addictive behaviours, among them: pornography, masturbation, sex, shopping, computer games, the Internet, fashion and – most importantly these days – social media networks.
Addiction is a psychological and physical state which compels a person to repeat a certain behaviour constantly. This compulsion is driven by a desire to achieve certain mental effects and avoid other negative effects that come as a consequence of deprivation. This drive can lead to increased usage and cause debilitating physical, mental, and emotional consequences for the addict.
It is a uniquely human behaviour. Animals left on their own do not become drug addicts, unless they are placed in controlled coercive circumstances by people. For instance, mice tested in a laboratory in America were given a drink laced with a narcotic. They refused to drink it until the drink was also dosed with a large quantity of sugar.
People seek after happiness and contentment. If they cannot find it in the real world, they look for it elsewhere. This is especially true when people have a dim view on their prospects in life. It is therefore important for people to have opportunities for honourable work, a sufficient income, social justice, and legitimate forms recreation. People who cannot cope with reality seek to escape from the real world.
Addictions are serious chronic, and progressive illnesses that can be fatal. This fact does not exempt the addict from the responsibility of getting into that situation in the first place. Diabetes, for instance, can come about as a consequence to an addiction to sugary foods.
A man starts drinking in order to relax. He considers himself an exception to the rule because he never seems to get drunk, but just experiences a slight effect. Then, he gets into the habit of taking a drink at the start of the day. Then, he starts taking drinks to placate “chill” that comes over him. His drinking increases and increases until he stops worrying about anything else in his life except to lay the blame at others’ feet.
“`Atiyyah” would have been a good man, if it were not for his drug habit. He had an excellent relationship with his family and friends, However, his condition progressed until his wife had to start protecting his reputation and covering for him while he stayed up all night staring at the television and smoking. Whenever the joint fell from his hand due to his delirium, she would rush over to extinguish it and prevent a fire. When he came to his senses again, he would curse her as if she had done something wrong and then light another.
Do you think she was doing the right thing? Would it not have been better if she had let him face his own problems so he would see the error of his ways and seek treatment? His children came to observe his behaviour. One of them said: “Daddy is always getting pills and drinks, but we never get bicycles and toys to play with. We don’t even get new clothes and school supplies like all the other kids.” His twelve-year-old son had to learn to assume the household responsibilities of a thirty-five-year-old, as well as arrange transportation from his intoxicated father and look after his younger siblings. He had to support them emotionally while they faced their mother’s grief and their own deprivation.
In the past, adolescents used to complain about masturbation and how they felt compelled to practice it to avoid falling into something far more serious, or simply to relieve their sexual tensions. The problem was not with the act itself, since it is certainly a better option than fornication. Rarely is a young person, under the pressures of sexual desire, able to forgo the practice entirely. Scholars of Islamic Law differ about it. It is most likely a practice that is disliked in Islam, or at most ambiguous in its sinfulness, especially for a person who fears falling into a more serious sin.
The real problem lies in it becoming a habit practiced even in the absence of sexual desire. The young person is looking for some amusement and starts using this as its means. This leads to viewing pornography to enhance the experience and sometimes to remote interactions with other people via social media, and even to indecent exposure.
In the United States, up to fifteen percent of the population are affected by impulse control disorders. The most serious of these are: sexual compulsion, kleptomania, compulsive shopping, and pathological gambling.
In their book Stop Me Because I Can’t Stop Myself: Taking Control of Impulsive Behaviour
, Dr. Jon Grant and Dr. S.W. Kim present many tragic stories about the victims of these disorders.
Most of these disorders are kept hidden from view. Like many other mental illnesses, they are sometimes caused by structural or behavioural defects in the afflicted people’s minds, for which there is sometimes a genetic propensity. In some cases, they develop as the result of emotional problems, unstable homes, or coping mechanism for personal crises.
Regardless of how it occurs, addiction is a trap that robs its victims of life’s joy. It causes people to undervalue family and the other blessings in their lives. They lose the ability to enjoy normal pleasures like eating, drinking, and good conversation. It extinguishes hopes, dreams and ambitions. It drags people from dignified lives into a purgatory of base impulses and indifference.
Our willpower is greatest at the start of the day. As time passes, it becomes exponentially more difficult to resist temptation.
How Can You Tell if You Are a Twitter Addict?
Twitter has shown itself to be more addictive than smoking, according to a study conducted by the Chicago School of Business on 200 subjects ranging in age from 18 to 85 in Germany over the course of seven days. Most of the volunteers found it more difficult to keep themselves away from their Twitter accounts than they did trying to refrain from smoking.
Twitter addiction has a number of signs. You find yourself using it while you are at work, at school, or at the mosque. Another sign is that you engage in it while eating, which is a proven cause of obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol. Other signs include nervousness, insomnia, and reduced or negative social interactions. For instance, a teenage boy who only sees his family at mealtime and is irritated about it could well be suffering from an addiction. Another sign is sleeping with your device at hand and waking from sleep periodically during the night to check your account.
I personally tried to kick the Twitter habit. I developed a new habit: a perpetually renewed resolve to avoid opening Twitter when there was no good reason to do so.
For some people, Twitter has gone from being a means to connect people to a way of driving them apart. People have gotten divorced due to inappropriate interactions between one of the spouses with members of the opposite sex.
Students have failed in school because of the distractions posed by Twitter.
With enough willpower, and Allah’s help, you can wean yourself off of Twitter. It is important to engage in alternative activities, like family visits and outings with friends.
Your use of social media should be redirected to keeping in touch with family members, like keeping a family-only group account on WhatsApp.
There are indications that people who were not previously in the habit of reading now read the equivalent of 150 pages a day. This is a lot of raw information, but what use is it if it has no focus?
Use of social media applications needs to be kept under control, with set time constraints. Parents should monitor their children’s use.
Addiction and Imagination
If you are addicted to something, then your imagination is captivated by it. It replays the act over and over again when you are not committing it. However, you can use that same imagination to help you overcome your addiction.
Imagine what comes afterwards, when you have done the deed you are addicted to. This can give you pause.
Perform good deeds that can provide you with good memories. Pray Jumu`ah at the mosque, and then spend some time afterwards getting to know your fellow worshippers. Offer a voluntary fast. Wake up at night to offer prayers or offer the Duhā prayer in the latter part of the morning. Read the Qur’an from beginning to end. Get to know some religious people. Take a walk through town looking for people in need of charity and assist them. Become a volunteer for a community project. Reconnect with an old friend by phone.
When you do something wrong, make it your habit to compensate for it by doing something good in equal measure. If you squandered an hour in doing something frivolous, then spend another hour engaged in worship. If you travelled somewhere to do something wrong, take another trip to do a wholesome deed. If you spent a thousand dollars on something sinful, spend another thousand in charity.
To counter a bad habit you are having trouble kicking, develop a good habit and stick to it with equal tenacity until it displaces the bad one.
Your imagination recalls to your mind the pleasant sensations connected with your addiction, even if what you are addicted to is something sinful. Indeed, Satan likes to beautify sin and make it seem appealing. Therefore, you need to mobilise your imagination in a positive way. Imagine yourself as a pious person whose prayers are answered and who is indeed a blessing for the people around you. See yourself as a person of knowledge and wisdom who is a role model for your children.
Remove the Cancer or Boost Immunity?
The cure to addiction is not found in theoretical solutions or the strength of ideas. What matters is whether such a solution is a practical option for the addict.
It is easy to say: “Get involved in something else?” But what? And who is supposed to provide the alternative? Parents? Society? The Government?
Everyone is busy with their own concerns and spare time is at a premium wherever you look. Therefore, addiction remains a major problem.
Retirement is bad news for an addict. The chance to be alone becomes more frequent and indeed can be realised at any time.
What affect does health have on addiction? The addict forgets the fatigue and stress. Addiction makes the addict unconcerned about life and death, as long as the craving is fulfilled.
Addicts can deny they have a curable illness. They see themselves as victims of circumstances beyond their control. It is easier to wallow in despair. Some addicts retreat behind a fantasy, imagining they are under a curse, or that they are possessed. Others blame their circumstances. They point their fingers at their families, their economic situation, their social status, or their mental health and since these things are not going away, neither can their addiction. Despair simply reinforces the addictive habit.
At the same time, some addicts fail to remedy their addiction because they focus exclusively on the habit itself while ignoring the circumstances surrounding it and reinforcing it.
In the Qur’an, the chapter entitled “The Defrauders” (al-Mutaffifīn
) can be seen as a discussion on fighting addiction. This is because fraud is not an isolated act, but a habit of those who are rich or advantaged selfishly taking from the poor or disadvantaged their due.
Allah says: “Surely the record of the wicked is preserved in Sijjin
. And what can explain to you what Sijjīn is? It is a book that is fully inscribed.” [Sūrah al-Mutaffifīn
The title of this record, Sijjīn
, refers to a state of being imprisoned, since those who are addicted to wrongdoing and defrauding others are indeed imprisoned by their addiction.
Allah then says: “Nay! Most surely on that Day they shall be debarred from their Lord.” [Sūrah al-Mutaffifīn
: 14] This describes the mental and emotional state of the addict who continually commits sin and repeatedly succumbs to wrongdoing. This deprives them of the sweetness of faith and of a strong connection with their Lord in this world, and being debarred from His grace in the Hereafter.
Faith inspires the heart, makes the believer more aware, and creates a strong emotional impulse that awakens and sustains the believer’s willpower. Allah says: “Do they not think that they will be resurrected to face a tremendous day, the day when (all) humanity will stand before the Lord of the Worlds?” [Sūrah al-Mutaffifīn
The Qur’an teaches us that we should not despair, even if we face repeated failures. Allah says: “Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth?... Know that Allah gives life to the earth after it is lifeless. We have made clear to you the signs; perhaps you will understand.” [Sūrah al-Hadīd
Likewise, Allah gives life to our hearts when we remain steadfast in supplication and do not weary of returning to Him.
Addicts need the company of good people who can help them along. They can also benefit from the experience of former addicts who triumphed over their addiction. There are a number of books written by such people that can be of real help. However, you should be wary of self-help books that promise to help you overcome your addiction in a quick an easy way. They are no more honest than the books that claim they can teach you foreign language in two weeks.
Many people believe their mistakes expose their weaknesses. They do not wish to admit that they are weak, so they refuse to acknowledge their error. However, if a mistake is weakness, then admitting to it is strength.
When we resolve to change and make it clear to ourselves that we have a real problem to overcome, we have started on the road to a real life change. Our dissatisfaction with our present circumstances and our looking forward to something better is what helps us shore up the inner strength we need to prevail.
Who do people think it is so hard to quit smoking? It is because they fixate on what they are giving up and not on what they are actually doing. When you think that you are “giving up” smoking, it encourages you to keep up the bad habit. When you go abroad on a vacation, you do not mention to the travel agent that you are “giving up” your home country, but mention your desired destination.
I know someone who used to smoke sixty cigarettes a day and then gave it up abruptly. The way ahead is to think positively and not focus on the difficulty. Focus on triumphing over your addiction in one of two ways:
1. Gradual reduction. This can be achieved through the famous Japanese practice of Kaizen, a practice of continuous improvement which was introduced to the world by Masaaki Imai in his book entitled Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success.
2. Abruptly giving up the addiction by a sheer force of will. This is the approach advocated by Dr. Alan Carr in The Easy Way to Stop Smoking?em>. He disagrees with the gradual approach to overcoming addiction, since he sees that each reduction causes a renewed and increased sensation of reward whenever you have a smoke, and this is counterproductive to success.
What matters is to resolve to change and to be serious about it. Imagine that you have been stricken with an illness whereby you have choice between kicking your habit or dying.
The desire to smoke remains strong for about three weeks. It is like having a sense of hunger for a cigarette. Then there is a moment of inspiration where you look up at the sky and see that it looks more beautiful than ever. This is the moment when your mind is finally freed from the conditioning under which it had been slaving.
It is essential to seek Allah’s help through supplication. Allah will bring about for us what is even better and greater than what we hope for.