My father tried to wake me up. I was groggy from all the medication.
“Fatima, we have some bad news. Aslam has passed away in a car accident near Harrismith,” said my father
“Aslam, what was he doing in Harrismith? He was with me a few hours ago.” I could not make sense about what I just heard. I was heavily sedated. Aslam left me to die. I did not feel anything when I heard the news. I just felt numb.
Later my father came to inform me that the funeral would take place immediately and that he needed to go. I could not leave the hospital. I was in the ICU. I still did not understand what was going on. I was baffled. It did not sink in that Aslam was dead. I just felt emotionless.
When I woke up the next morning I received a call from Layha.
“Fatima, have you heard about Aslam. We buried him. I am in iddat now and can’t leave the house but I am here for you if you need me. I also want you to come and stay with me once you are out of hospital,” asked Layha.
I told her that I would think about it. Iddat, that is the four and half month waiting period when your husband dies and you don’t leave your home. I wondered if I had to also go into iddat.
Soon after the call I could feel I was crashing. I needed a fix and I needed one immediately. The shivering started. The anxious feelings started nagging at me. I did not know what to do. I called the nurse making some or other excuse regarding pain so that she would sedate me. The nurse did not co-operate this time. She did not fall for my antics. She told me that I needed drug rehab therapy, as soon as I was out of the ICU. She was fully aware of my history.
Drug rehab, why did I need to go to drug rehab? I was not a drug addict. I was only doing this for fun. I was not addicted. I thought to myself.
I suddenly found it difficult to breathe. I started sweating uncontrollably. My heart was racing faster and I was feeling nauseous. I did not know what was happening to me. I felt like crap.
“These are all signs of withdrawal symptoms,” said the nurse. “Everything else seems to be fine with you.”
My parents arrived just in time. My mother came to me and held me tightly in her arms.
“Be strong Fatima, It is going to be a struggle but this too shall pass”
My father held my hand,
“We are here with you Fatima and we will be with you every step of the way holding your hand through this journey. We love you and we will not give up on getting you the best help.”
I started crying out of guilt. I have been an awful daughter and my parents were as loving as ever. I did not deserve their help or their love. I have put them through hell the last few months. I was blessed to have them. I was equally blessed to have Layha in my life. I owed her for saving my life. She called again to find out how I was coping. “Fatima, trust Allah knows best. I am here with you every step of the way,” she said. I did not know why she was being so good to me. I had made her life miserable as well.
As soon as I was discharged from the ICU, I was booked into a private ward. The therapist was waiting for me as I was wheeled into the room. My parents were present as well.
“Assalamwalykum Fatima. You are looking better. I am your therapist Ayesha. What I find helps with situations like these is to have family support. Do you mind if you parents stay with us during this session?”
“They can stay, but I am not a drug addict.” I answered.
“Ok, let me ask you a few questions and you can decide afterwards if you have a problem and if you need our help,” said the therapist.
She went through an entire survey. The more she talked, the more I started to realize I was actually highly dependent on all these illegal substances. I was unable to control my drug use even though it was harming my body. The signs were visible. I was a compulsive drug abuser and the withdrawal symptoms were spot on. I was becoming delusional. My body was aching. I was exhausted all the time. I had intense craving for cocaine. I was shivering most of the time. I was constantly in a depressive or anxious mood. I found it extremely difficult to concentrate. Physically I was skeletal thin, I had blotches all over my face and my eyes were blood shot red most of the time and let us not forget the chronic nose bleeds.
“My name is Fatima, I am a drug addict and I need help,” I finally confessed. Both my parents ran towards and hugged me.
“This is the first step to recovery. Without admitting you have a problem anything after this is pointless, “ said Ayesha.
The session officially started. I was asked about my drug use history. I was also asked about why I started drugs. I could not think of a good enough reason. Did I just start drugs to be cool or was it just total boredom. No one forced me to take drugs. I did it out of my own free will. I could not blame anyone for my actions. I really could not find a reason why I turned to drugs. Maybe the rebellious streak in me wanted to shine a bit. I was always a goody two shoes. I never smoked at school like the other girls and I was holy and wore my scarf from a young age. Maybe I just wanted to find out how it is to live on the wild side for a change. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what attracted me to drugs. The therapist asked me about my life goals and what I loved to do before the drugs came into my life. She asked me about my hobbies. I always enjoyed reading and I loved to draw. Before the drugs I had high hopes to study and make something out of my life. My life was different to what I envisaged. My matric results were horrible and I would not even get into university. I was a straight A student before this. The therapist asked me about my family and if we were close.
“I love my parents and they have always been supportive and have always showered their love upon me, I am actually spoilt,” I acknowledged.
The guilt was nagging at me for what my parents must have gone through with my behavior.
“How do you suggest you going to get off drugs?” asked the therapist. I was not sure what to say. I was clueless. I just shrugged my shoulders upwards.
“Okay, how will you spend your time that you spent taking drugs and also what if some of your buddies ask you join them?”
I did not have any answers for these questions.
“Please help me, I don’t want my life to be like this. ” I begged
“You will have to go on a detox program and you will need all the support from your family you can get. This will help to get rid of drug dependency in your system and help with the withdrawal symptoms”
I agreed. I needed all the help I could get.
“Family support is crucial to recovery and what is important is to get closer to your Creator. It is very important to find your way back to your religion. Many patients I have helped only got through this when they found Allah or their God back in their life,” instructed the therapist.
“Especially to your parents, please don’t be hard on yourselves, you have tried your best and please don’t blame yourself for your child being in this situation. All this will not help. Let us all look forward now. Let us find productive solutions to this problem. Making excuses and blaming each other and friends or anyone will not help the situation. The past is gone. Tomorrow is uncertain. All we have is now. Let us live every moment and take it one step at a time. We need everyone to be committed to make sure Fatima get’s out of this with flying colours.”
Layha called me later that evening to find out how things went. I was going to be discharged soon. She begged me to stay with her and also said my parents were welcome to stay as well. She insisted that she want to help me during this difficult time. I spoke to my parents about this and after some consideration they agreed it would be best if we stayed with Layha during this time, as it would be easier to get all the help we needed in Joburg.
After I was discharged from hospital I went to the apartment to get my belongings. Only when I walked into the apartment did it finally hit me that Aslam was dead. The apartment was in a mess. Someone attempted to clean all the blood but you could still see traces of it. I just had a flashback of that day and started trembling. We packed up immediately all my personal belongings and left. I did not want to be there for a minute longer. The memories were painful. I still did not know how to feel about Aslam’s death. I was not grieving. I was not sad. I was still just numb. My focus now was me and trying to heal my self. I did not want to dwell on all the pain and trauma he put me through.
When we arrived at Layha’s home, there were many people still there paying their respects. I was in no mood for all the glaring eyes. I went to meet Layha and asked her if we could go somewhere private to talk.
Layha showed me to my room. She tried to make me comfortable.
“Layha, Thank you and I am very sorry for everything I have put you through. You have saved my life and I am not sure how I will ever repay you.” I walked towards her and gave her a tight hug. We just held onto each other and cried. We cried out all our grief, all our sorrow and all our pain. We both understood what we went through. I was grateful to have Layha by my side to help me on this difficult path.
Layha was badly affected by Aslam’s sudden death. She had high hopes he would change his ways. She was strong but you could see it was becoming emotionally strenuous for her. Aslam and Layha spent a lifetime with each other. To Aslam I was just a passing fling. Layha was his soul mate and first true love. I regret getting in the middle of their life. Layha and I will be spending the 4 and a half-month waiting period together before we can leave the house. Layha felt we could heal together. Layha and I were widows at a young age. Layha was going through the grieving process. At first she was shocked. She later became angry and could not come to terms that Aslam was taken from her so young. At a stage she was in denial and thought Aslam would just walk into the door again. She was in despair and started becoming depressed. Eventually she realized this was the will of Allah. She regularly prayed and asked Allah to forgive Aslam and grant him Jannah. She use to plead for this and always ended up very emotional. She sent some money for charity on Aslam’s behalf often so he would be perpetually rewarded. I did not have the courage that Layha had and all I could remember was dying in my own pool of blood. The small consolation was that Layha was not going through the waiting period alone and we had each other.
The drug detox was intense. I was exhausted and fatigued all the time. I was always irritable and my nose was running incessantly. The shaking and tremors were starting again. I had an intense craving. I begged for just one quick fix. My parents came rushing into the room. My father tried to distract my mind. My mother held me tight in her arms and started reading some duas.
Layha brought in some food. I did not want to eat.
“I want some cocaine. I do not want this fucking food.” I threw the food out of her hand. My mother was apologetic and started picking up the mess. My father took me out of the room.
“Let us get some fresh air Fatima that will do you some good,” said my father. We went for a walk in the garden. It was a moon lit night. Everything looked beautiful. I tried to focus on the beauty of the garden and distract my mind from the craving. My father started telling me the names of all the different flowers.
Days went like this. Some days were good. Other days were traumatic. My parents and Layha were with me every step of the way and did not leave me for a blinking of an eye. The therapist visited often and we had many family counseling sessions. If I was bored we played board games. If I was hungry we cooked up a feast. I found great comfort in baking. Layha and I bonded with each when decorating lovely cakes. We actually started contemplating starting a baking business. My father bought me all the classics to read and we watched many comedies together. I can’t remember when was the last time I laughed so much. It was therapeutic. I also received an art set that I started using to draw my sorrow and pain away. Layha talked to me about all the tafseer she was reading and this brought some peace in my heart.
The one day I could not stand it anymore. I could not stay in this house one minute longer. I felt trapped and I needed some cocaine. It would be the last time I promised myself. I just had to feel that euphoria, that high for one last time. I went into my room and looked for something to sell. The only thing I could find was the expensive watch Aslam bought me. This would buy me some good stuff I thought. I managed to call the dealer in the quiet without anyone noticing. Everyone thought I was napping in the room but I managed to escape. I met the dealer at the nearest park. I gave him the expensive watch for what was hardly anything. It was daylight robbery but I did not care. I just needed this last fix.
I was high again. I had my fill. I had a burst of energy. I felt euphoric. I had that over confidence cocaine always gave me. I was on top of the world again. As soon as the high came I crashed immediately. I started trembling and shaking. I was irritable. The paranoia started and let’s not forget the verbal diarrhea as Aslam use to call it. I felt distraught. I managed to find my way back home. When I rang the bell, my parents came running towards me.
“What have you done Fatima? It is just a relapse. Don’t worry. We all make mistakes. One step back, two steps forward. You are doing so well. We will get through this Insha’Allah,” reassured my father.
“Trust Allah and beg Him to give you will power to get clean” encouraged Layha.
I was suffering from withdrawal. I did not want to go through this torture anymore. That high was so short-lived it was not worth the aftermath. My muscles started to twitch. I was nauseous. I had diarrhea. I started sweating profusely. The convulsions began. I did not want to go through this anymore. Either my head was in a bucket vomiting or I was in the toilet. I just wanted to die. I needed a fix and I was becoming desperate. I was sinking deeper into a depression. I then decided to end it all. I started plotting all these ways to end my life. The easiest would be an overdose. I went into Layha’s bathroom and found some medication. I decided to take the entire bottle. I went to lie on her bed and left a note. “I am sorry” is all I wrote.
I woke up in the hospital again. My stomach was pumped and my life was saved again. Could they not let me just die. I did not deserve to live. All I did was bring pain and suffering to everyone I love. I was booked into a rehab centre for Muslim patients.
My parents came with a gift in their hands. It looked familiar.
“We love you Fatima, we make dua you will choose to live. Turn to Allah ” They handed me the musallah and Quran they had gifted me before my final exams. The hugged me and left.
At first I was weary. I have forgotten Allah. Why will He help me now? I just put the musalla and quran away in the cupboard. Ayesha, the therapist came for her session.
“Have you found Allah?” she enquired.
“I have lost Allah the day I decided to take my scarf off.” I answered. “ I am ashamed of what I have done and now that I am in trouble I don’t want to beg Him for help, I am ashamed of my actions,” I answered.
“Allah loves you Fatima. His mercy surpasses his wrath. Never lose hope in the mercy of Allah. Never underestimate the power of dua, Allah is waiting for you to repent and turn back to Him.” said the Ayesha.
“I don’t know how to go back.” I said.
“See Fatima, we all have our own forms addictions. Some overeat. Others smoke. Some are addicted to their mobile phones or the Internet. Some are porn addicts and others may also be workaholics. Drug and substance addiction unfortunately are a bit more intense because it changes behaviours and chemicals in the body but all addictions are similar. At the end addictions have their root causes. The slave to the addiction develops an attachment to the substance or food or whatever their poison is for comfort. Every time this comfort is removed they are in pain and suffering. They start missing it and sometimes can become emotionally attached to this addiction. The heart, which is the seat of love, becomes afflicted. The only way to restore a pure and clean heart is to love what Allah loves and stay away from what he has prohibited us to do. We need to learn to be moderate. If we love anything more than Allah and put our trust and hope in a person or drug we are treading on a dangerous path and can lead us to lose our Imaan(faith). An addict is constantly fluctuating between a vicious cycle of desire and comfort or need and relief. They become a slave of instant gratification. They start demolishing this world and even the hereafter and their heart becomes diseased forgetting Allah and solely depending on the addiction.
Our aim in life is to strive to cleanse and purify our heart and live to always please Allah. People will always talk but only worry about what Allah thinks. “
I nodded acknowledging what she was saying. For the first time my addiction started to make sense.
“You need to find balance again. Your first step would be repentance. Beg Allah to forgive you. Be grateful for all your blessings. You need to become patient and learn to control your desires. Start becoming punctual performing your salaah and talking to your Lord. It is important to get into the habit of performing tahajud and begging Allah to help you as duas are answered at that time. Start reflecting on the Quran and use it to guide you on this difficult journey. The Quran is a healing. Follow the example of our Prophet Muhammad(PBUH). Make dhikr and remember Allah often. Contemplate on Allah’s majesty and grandeur. You need to get close to Allah and connect with your Creator.
What will help you especially immensely is to start fasting. Fasting teaches you self-restraint and self control. It reminds you that Allah is watching you. It balances the body, mind and spirit. You are showing many signs of severe depression especially after the suicide attempt. I know fasting has helped many people through depression. If you just start with these small steps inshaAllah you will be on the road to recovery. You need to remove all other attachments from your heart and attach your heart only to please Allah. Your body, mind and soul need to be trained to love what Allah loves. This journey is not easy because there will be times when you feel lethargic or lazy but just keep on moving forward and take it one step at a time, even if you just do things robotically. Make small changes in your life and be constant with your acts of worship. What is very important is that you make a pure intention, take sincere actions and make an effort to cure yourself from this sickness asking Allah to help you always. What is imperative is you need to learn forgive yourself especially and accept that what has happened has happened and this was the will of Allah. Move forward now.”
“This sounds like a plan and a start” I replied.
I woke up in the early hours of the morning when the world is totally dark and everything is silent. I was trembling again. I decided to talk to Allah.
“O Allah I am the worst sinner in the world. I have done so many wrong things. I can’t forgive myself for putting my parents and Layha under such trauma these past few months. O Allah I am ashamed. I have ignored you. I have neglected my salaah. I have dressed so indecently. I stopped covering myself and lost all modesty. O Allah I committed adultery and I drank alcohol. O Allah I took drugs like sweets. O Allah I beg you to forgive me. I ask you to remove all my sin and give me another chance to make my life better. O Allah it is very difficult to leave drugs. I have this craving for it all the time. I ask for your help to remove this attachment from my life. O Allah I ask for your love and mercy and forgiveness. O Allah, Aslam almost killed me and I am finding it very difficult to forgive him, he is dead now, forgive him and grant him peace in his grave. O Allah I was almost killed and would have died without imaan. O Allah I beg you to help me get back onto the straight path.”
I was sobbing uncontrollably now. I decided to take out the pink musallah from the cupboard and the burqah. I went to the bathroom and performed Wudhu. I performed two rakah salaah. I set in dua for a very long time crying and begging Allah to forgive me and pleading for help.
When I woke up the next morning I felt some peace. I was not cured but I felt different. I felt like I had some purpose again. I wanted to live my life to please Allah. I would try my best. I started to perform my salaah regularly but what helped me immensely was when I fasted and fasted and fasted and fasted some more. I must have fasted for months. I would wake up for sehri and have a good meal. I fasted during the day. I broke my fast with dates and water and a light meal. I prayed at night. Fasting I believe brought me back my sanity. It removed most of the toxins from my body, mind and soul. I never felt better in my life. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I broke my fast daily. Fasting helped especially with my depression.
I was soon out of rehab and back in Kempville with my parents. I completed my iddat in the rehab centre. I decided to go back to school. I rewrote my final exams. I am proud to say I aced all my papers.
This is all I can remember about those dark days, as I sat there deep in thought waiting for my name to be called out.
“Dr. Fatima..” I walked up to the stage at my graduation ceremony. I wore the traditional graduation gown but more importantly I had my scarf on again.
As I received my doctorate, I looked into the crowd. My parents were crying. Layha stood up and started applauding. She has really turned her life around. She is now a well-known motivational speaker for abused woman. Next to her sat my fiance’ Shaheen. He is a qualified hotshot lawyer and has also started growing his beard. I feel blessed and grateful to have all these wonderful people in my life that have supported me through my struggles. People say once an addict always an addict. I am living proof that if you have the will to change your life anything is possible with Allah’s help.