by Jamal M. (Punanai 2013)
As a Muslim man, my understanding is that I would be condemned to a very harsh punishment in the afterlife since I have taken part in certain activities which are forbidden in the religion of Islam. My drinking and use of other mind-altering substances alongside “getting with” the opposite sex outside of wedlock are not activities of the ideal Muslim man. I was well aware of this even before my very first drink or first sexual encounter.
Once I took that first drink, it was game on. I did anything to forget and hide the guilt, shame and fear that was engraved in my psyche. In my early reflections thus far (I will be one year sober on Oct 5, 2014) I think I was negotiating with God – as long as I did certain things that He liked, maybe I could still earn my ticket into Heaven.
Alcohol of course worked wonders for me in the early days of my drinking and I was able to justify my behaviour with minimal baggage. Since my intentions were generally good and I was only hurting myself by my drinking, my plan was to make up lost time with the guy upstairs in my later years.
My family migrated to Canada from Pakistan when I was 10 years old. I wanted to fit in so desperately that I developed what I have now come to believe was false pride. I think this idea of being superior was instilled in me by my family and the Muslim community at large. I didn’t like this feeling at a younger age and I don’t like it now at my current age of 35.
Please keep an open mind as this is only my personal opinion.
I thought that the conversations that took place during community events were fake and hypocritical. People spoke of wonderful ideals but there was no action. Inner peace and contentment were promised but were never evident.
I then decided to go it my own way. I studied and worked hard and gained an indepth knowledge of the Canadian financial landscape. I achieved financial success at relatively young age – the world was now open for business at Jamal’s convenience.
I continued to gravitate further towards Western culture and very seldom sought help from my elders or God. I should also mention that most of the religious teachings and prayers in Islam are offered in the Arabic language – I do not speak or understand Arabic. I must also say that the fear-based approach in organized religion was not an attractive selling feature for me. The point I am trying to make is whether it was the language barrier, the lack of relatability, the constant fear-based teachings or the strict rules, I put in a good amount of effort to move away from religion.
Once alcohol stopped working, the fears and guilt crept up and I found myself at a very difficult crossroad. I could not pray for help because I did not have an understanding of or a relationship with God. I couldn’t summon the courage to contact my religious community due to fears of being mocked and ridiculed.
But somewhere inside me I knew there is a God. This faint belief is something I am very grateful for. Once I was introduced to the 12 steps and gained a more thorough understanding of my forgiving God with infinite love and compassion, I took a hold of Him as the drowning seize life preservers.
I am grateful to my parents and to the religion of Islam for the knowledge that God exists. I am planning on learning more about the religion of Islam with a new pair of sober lenses and of course in English.
Religion told me that my actions were sinful and that I would be punished in the afterlife. 12 step recovery taught me that I have a sickness and I can live a meaningful life in this lifetime. I am truly grateful to Alcoholics Anonymous for the strength to explore and befriend the God of my own understanding and for spiritual freedom.