Interview with ProductiveMuslim.com – PART II

In part 1 of this series, we described the signs of porn addiction and why one needs to break free from it now. In this part, we will focus on how exactly to break free, gradually yet permanently, in order to enjoy a more deeply fulfilling and productive life physically, spiritually and intellectually.

We leave you with this interview with the expert and coach, Br. Wael Ibrahim.

1- Br. Ibrahim, what are the steps a person should take once he/she has identified himself/herself as an addict and wants to quit?

First off, we must realize that identifying oneself as an addict is a victory in itself. Many people are still living in denial and have refused to even admit that they are in danger and need some help.

Another thing we must also understand is that breaking free from this compulsive behavior depends entirely on one’s level of addiction. So, there are no quick fixes or ‘microwaved’ methods of recovery; it is going to take time, persistence and toughness along the way.

I am now going to show you some essential tips that could help you in a great deal, but they are not guaranteed for everyone. Therefore, approaching experts in the field is highly recommended. The following tips are meant for only those who are serious in seeking the cure.

Step one: Stop – for today ONLY

In one of my videos [See video below], I indicated that you should set small and realistic goals when seeking a recovery.

So for example, every day you are going to make a decision and set a goal for not watching pornography at all FOR THAT PARTICULAR DAY. This way, the goal is easy to reach and your brain can easily accept this simple and small adjustment as opposed to saying ‘From now on I will NEVER watch again’. In most cases, if not all, such promise doesn’t work and will have a very negative impact on your self-esteem if you fail to fulfill it.

Do not think of what may happen tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, quit for that particular day as well.

I know of a brother who was successfully able to quit porn using this simple step ONLY; “Quit today only method” and now he has been free from porn for over 700 days. That is almost 2 years.

Yes, I know that you may fall couple of times along the way, but when that happens, just STOP and continue with the plan.

I also wanted you to remember the concept of tawbah or repentance, which means to QUIT what you used to do in the past and COMMIT to not do it in the future.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

“But whoever repents after his wrongdoing and reforms, indeed, Allah will turn to him in forgiveness. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 5, Verse 39]

I want you to print this ayah out and hang it around your house.

The difference between tawbah (repentance) and istighfar (seeking Allah’s forgiveness) is that tawbah means to quit the wrong and commit to not doing it anymore in the future. Istighfar means to seek Allah’s forgiveness from what you have done in the past.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) wants us to return back to Him in repentance ALL THE TIME, because we constantly err. So do not ever despair and keep returning back to Him when you fall.

So your goal is to STOP for today only, and when tomorrow comes stop for that day only, and do that EVERYDAY, in sha Allah.

Step two: Make hysterical dua (supplications like never before)

Don’t ever for a moment say ‘I don’t deserve goodness’ or ‘Allah will not listen to someone like me who keeps on disobeying Him’. Remember, He is the Provider, Al-Wahhab; you are dealing with The Giver and Provider of EVERYTHING. So have good expectations of Him and ask Him even for what seems impossible.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) told us that: “Indeed, having good thoughts concerning Allah is from the perfection of the worship of Allah.” [At Tirmidhi]

Even if I am sinning? The answer is YES. Do not ever give up hope in Him. By Allah, He feels you; He knows how difficult this has been for you. We only tend to think of Him as the last resort. So go back to Him now and BEG Him like never before. He is just waiting for this moment.

Step three: Protect your eyes

Enough looking at each and everything that pleases you. In fact, this is THE single most important step towards the recovery, because naturally you won’t be able to lust over that which you don’t see.

Therefore, protect your gaze. But the question that is often posed regarding this point is, HOW? Well, here are a few tips:

• Install Internet filters that can block any undesirable sexual images. One of the software, which has been improved a lot, is K9 [http://www1.k9webprotection.com/]

• Support groups or accountability partners. There are a lot of websites that are offering confidential help in this area. Whenever you feel that you are about to relapse or that you are suffering from withdrawal symptoms etc., then you may get in touch with your accountability partner to motivate you. You may try Purify Your Gaze as an example which is managed by a Muslim brother.

• Guard your gaze outside. Be careful where you normally go, who you hang out with, avoid going unnecessarily to places where you know for sure that lowering the gaze will be hard.

• Refrain from watching useless TV programs such as talent shows, modeling, movies, commercials, etc. All of them without exceptions contain sexual elements that can easily overpower you and as a result your only option would be to watch porn again.

Funny story about movies:

Who among us did not watch a movie where a boy and a girl had fallen in love with each another? Who did not watch the same movie where the boy happened to be poor and the girl has came from a very rich background? How about the boy proposing to the girl’s family and getting rejected because of his financial status? What about the girl running away from her family’s home for the sake of her boyfriend? – Well, all of us have watched a movie of that sort in different cultures.

One day, I was watching that kind of a movie with my grandma [may Allah have mercy on her soul], and so the girl had decided to steal the car key of her father to run away with her boyfriend. She entered her Dad’s room, she walked on her toes very slowly like a thief, she opened the cupboard where the car key is, her father started to turn his side on the bed while snoring aloud and all of a sudden, My grandma started making dua, guess what the dua was? She said: “O Allah, don’t let the father wake up please…”

That is what movies are trying to teach us; to feel sympathetic and attached to the haram, and as a result, these imaginary and immoral stories have impacted our lives. As a result, many sisters have just imitated these movies and ran away from their parents’ home for the sake of their boyfriends; boys they just knew few weeks/months ago. This is how powerful of an impact movies are having on our behavior.

• Do your best to remind yourself of what our beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said regarding lowering the gaze. Jareer ibn Abdullaah said: ” I asked the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) about (the Islamic ruling on) accidental glance (i.e., at a woman one is not Islamically allowed to look at) and he ordered me to turn my eyes away.” [Muslim]

In another narration he advised Ali raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) (and all the Ummah of course):

“O Ali, do not follow a glance with another, for you will be forgiven for the first, but not for the second.” [Tirmidhi]

Remember, any new behavior requires efforts, regular practice and consistency in order for it to become part of your daily habits.

So be positive even if you fail a couple of times.

Step four: Go physical – do not stay alone

Go out, run, jump, exercise, meet good friends, go to parks and read some books. Just do not stay alone. Once you are alone, you become an easy target for shaytan/satan.

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “… Satan is with the single person and is far from the two persons.” [Tirmidhi]

Step five: Go net-free

Remove all your electronic devices from your room, disable Internet connection at night and turn off your notifications to sleep early without disturbance.

In this case, YOU will be in control of your devices and not the other way around. It is YOU who can say WHEN TO READ the messages rather than being disturbed in the middle of other important tasks by looking at phones every time they ring. In this case, your brain will be accustomed to not use the Internet at certain time, the time where you used to watch porn for example. And this is exactly what you wanted to achieve. So give yourself a break from Internet everyday. Like how you set a goal not to watch TODAY ONLY, make another goal not to use Internet after 7PM for example.

As I said earlier, not all methods are suitable for everyone; it depends entirely on your level of addiction and the history behind WHY you have become addicted in the first place. There are cases for example which require therapy by experts, other cases may find the 12-step program useful, and others may need a personal recovery coach, someone who is willing to listen to their pain and offer them some solutions. This person could be your accountability partner as well if you are ashamed of telling close friends or family members.

2- If a person has reasons to believe that their significant other or close friend is addicted, what can they do about it?

If you have discovered that your friend, neighbor, siblings, children or spouse etc. are addicted to porn, then you should be the first to offer a helping hand, and here are very important steps to follow:

Before confrontation, get some education.

• Learn more about the science of pornography addiction so that you do not act judgmentally and emotionally.

• Understand that pornography addiction is a brain illness, just like being addicted to hard drugs or alcohol, but stronger and more compulsive. So, be compassionate and understanding.

• Remember that LOVE is to be proven through actions. So that’s the time where you can show your sincere love to someone who is badly in need. Remember that this could have happened to you or to your loved ones also.

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “No one of you becomes a true believer until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

• Understand that addicts are NOT bad people or morally sick, they are ADDICTED due to so many different circumstances. So you need to dig into their history in order for you to offer the necessary help.

• If you are a spouse [especially a wife], try to avoid the following:

1. Never withdraw yourself from sexual relationship.

2. Don’t ever think that your husband’s addiction to porn is your fault, IT IS NOT.

3. Avoid negative remarks that can cause boredom, anxiety and depression. All the above could easily lead to relapse after relapse.

• Read some useful books on the subject.

In sha Allah, in an upcoming webinar that will be launched soon with the help and support of ProductiveMuslim.com, I will be recommending tons of books on the subject that could help in great ways in sha Allah.

Approach gently

Now after understanding and learning a bit about pornography addiction, you should approach the suspected addict.

HOW?

1. Instead of saying: “What’s wrong with you?” rather you may say: “I’ve noticed that you are not in good mood nowadays, is there anything I can help you with?” Make the person feel comfortable from the very first sentence.

2. Be direct after that. “I have noticed that you have some issues with pornography, do not worry there are millions who are in the same boat, just let me know if you have found it disturbing and distracting. I can help you if you wish” – Be very considerate while saying that, never be judgmental or sarcastic.

3. After you have asked, then LISTEN very carefully and passionately to what they have to say. Do not interrupt. Make notes in your head then respond in the right time.

4. If they acted as if they have got nothing to do with porn, but then you were sure that they are addicted due to some activities you have noticed on their computers etc., then inform them very gently that you have seen these images and there’s no need for them to deny and that you are very concerned and only wanted to help. Promise them that whatever they may share will always remain confidential.

5. Do not ever try to catch them in the act. This could lead to a great damage in your relationship with that person. And finally,

6. Do not expect them to admit their addiction right away or quit after couple of days etc. Pornography is a very compulsive addiction that is hard to get rid of, so be extremely patient.

Some strategies

1. Do not nag the person, instead ask if he/she would like to be checked on every now and then. You can give them a call every few days or send them motivational texts / reminders etc.

2. Ask them what sort of punishments or rewards they would like to have. In case they relapsed and/or quit for a long period of time. Let them decide and you become their accountability partner.

3. Let them set their goals by themselves and you monitor from a distance.

4. Best would be, ask them to help you in some productive works. One of the things that really could kill pornography once and for all is PRODUCTIVITY. If you are busy doing productive works and you can see and witness the progress of what you do, most likely you will not think of pornography. So you can engage them in:

• Artwork classes

• Learning new skills

Voluntary work

Planting

• Challenging ‘goal hitting’ projects, like reading a book everyday [If you can’t read a book everyday, you can download apps like GetAbstract or Blinkist where you can read book summaries which is also a great way to keep yourself busy].

3- As with any habit we are trying to start or stop, there are hurdles we are bound to face, whether from internal or external factors. What are some of the challenges people could face when attempting to quit this destructive habit?

Based on my studies and real life experiences with addicts, I would say that once a person quits for a period of time, he/she would experience the most peaceful days of their lives.

They will taste the real meaning of freedom and they will recognize and realize their self-worth and real purpose of their existence. However, along the journey of recovery many will experience withdrawal symptoms that could cause a lot of discomfort, like fear of relapsing, anxiety, depression and so on. One of the key solutions to these feelings is to remind one’s self that nothing of the above mentioned symptoms is permanent. It is going to pass if you persist and insist to continue your journey towards recovery. But in all cases, here are some of the withdrawal symptoms that could be challenging to most porn addicts:

** Craving: This is a common feeling for anyone with addiction-related problem. Just like substance addiction, you will experience the urge of going back to use/misuse this substance in order to feel better.

** Mood swing: including boredom, agitation, stress, anger, porn flashes, lack of concentration on important tasks, lack of sleeping, lack of sexual interest with one’s spouses etc.… A recovered from porn may go through these challenges in the first 4 – 6 months of his recovery. Once again I will repeat what I have stated earlier, all these feelings are NOT permanent if you persist and insist to remain free from porn, but once you surrender to these feelings, then severe relapses may occur.

** Discomfort due to brain changes: When the dopamine level starts to decrease as a result of quitting porn, a sense of discomfort will be experienced. It is Ok to be uncomfortable for a while; the end result will be happiness that is indescribable. It’s like enduring the ache of a damaged tooth until it is extracted.

There are other withdrawal symptoms that addicts may experience, but the above are the most common.

4-What can people do to overcome those challenges and have a smooth journey to recovery?

1. Educate yourself very well on the science behind these challenges (withdrawal symptoms) and how to deal with them so that you do not panic when they arise.

2. You have to accept these symptoms and replace them with something more productive. Do not force yourself to do something that you do not like, rather do what you love the most [so long as it is not contradicting your beliefs and values], and on the long run these new habits will become part of your life.

3. Don’t cut out rewards from your life. Our brains will keep on seeking rewards and comfort, you should give it what it sought but in the right and lawful direction. Find out some halal fun activities to perform, productive projects to engage in and so on. Get busy and enjoy what you do.

4. Get out, Get out, Get out. Experience the “No Internet Zone” in your life for a while. Grab some useful books and read them in quite places, like parks, libraries or nice coffee houses, connect yourself with real people and make sure that they are productive as well, go for a walk, fast to curb your desires a bit and so on.

5- What are some tips and tricks to help keep one away from falling into this trap altogether?

1. BIG intentions and SMALL actions.

What do I mean?

I want you to dream and to believe BIG, but to start with SMALL actions that YOU ACTUALLY CAN ACHIEVE. Develop a very strong intention to quit this undesirable behavior form your life, but start with small changes, one SMALL BIT at a time. Only then our brain can accept changes. But you have to also beware of the fact that INTENTIONS alone without ACTIONS carry no weight whatsoever. In fact, it could destroy your self-esteem and self-confidence.

For example: start developing the habit of READING 1 article on ProductiveMuslim.com EVERYDAY. Continue doing that for the next month or two, and you will realize the power of inserting small changes into your life.

This is exactly what our beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) informed us centuries ago:

“The acts most pleasing to Allah are those which are done continuously, even if they are small.” [Muslim]

Our brains could easily accept small changes which require very little efforts and little will power.

2. Get an Internet censor

One of them for example is StayFocused. A web browser that could monitor your time on certain websites and block all adults/pornographic related websites. You can feed it with your needs and it will do the needful. It is for Chrome browsers to the best of my knowledge, but it is worth trying. It can even monitor how much time you should spend on certain websites etc. A similar application called Stop Procrastinating could also block Internet access and other undesirable websites; this app can work with all other web browsers.

3. All digital devices should be in the open

Promise yourself never to use any digital devices when alone. Whether you are at work, school, home or anywhere else. All porn addicts need to clearly understand that using digital devices with Internet access when alone [even for lawful reasons] could trigger them and lead them to a relapse.

6- Can people break free from porn really and enjoy a healthy life? Any success stories you want to share to inspire people?

The answer is absolutely YES. I know of MANY who have recovered from porn and sex addiction and now living a very healthy and pure life.

Comes to mind the story of sister A.L who was hooked on porn due to sexual abuse when she was young. She grew up in a divided family who were also engaged in many haram activities. After finishing her high school, she moved to another country to complete her studies. She spent most of the time alone in the college dormitory with an Internet access. In a matter of weeks she discovered that she have a serious problem with over watching porn and other aggressive sexual images.

The sister spent over three years watching porn regularly until she decided to act it; but Alhamdulilah, before indulging in the major haram activity she cried out for help and reached me. The sister was willing to do ANYTHING to get rid of her addiction. And in a matter of 9 months she was completely recovered. She stated the secret of her recovery in an email to me where she said:

It was the Internet. When I cut out all Internet connections from my room and moved to another place, I was able to change. When I confide to my best friend, who was very sincere and loving person, I was feeling safe. My friend was there for me day and night making sure that I am focused on my studies and away from Internet when at home.

She cut out all Internet connections from her devices, she moved to another room with one of her best friends, she opened up to her and her friend genuinely helped her until she was able to overcome her addiction.

So it is very possible to break free from porn and other sexual addictions, however you have to be willing to change, ready to make sacrifices and seek professional and outside help if needed.

Quote from my book CHANGE to those who are in despair:

“The road towards purity is surrounded by difficulty, but once the journey is complete, your total comfort will be granted.”

Final advice

As we have said repeatedly, pornography users and addicts usually suffer from grieve, anxiety and depression. In order for us to battle these dangerous feelings, the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has given us a beautiful advice – [And this would be the homework of everyone who’s reading this article in sh Allah.] He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) taught his companions a beautiful dua/supplication that I call “The Heart Reliever.” At the end of the dua he said: “…whoever hears them {i.e. the words in the supplication] should learn them.” In other words, whoever hears that dua, must memorize it and repeatedly recite it when feeling down, depressed, sad or grieved.

So what are these words?

It was narrated by Ahmad (3528) from ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ood, who said: The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “No person suffers any anxiety or grief, and says: “O Allah, I am Your slave, son of Your slave, son of Your female slave, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every Name belonging to You which You named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Qur’an the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxietybut Allah will take away his sorrow and grief, and give him instead joy.” It was said: O Messenger of Allah, should we not learn them (these words)? He said: Yes indeed; whoever hears them should learn them.” [Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in as-Silsilah as-Saheehah, 199]

Note here: After a long introduction in the above narration, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) have asked for ONLY ONE THING, He asked Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to make the QUR’AN the life of his heart and the departure of his sadness and grieve. This is the solution my brothers and sisters in Islam. The Qur’an.

Ask yourself, what is your relationship with the Qur’an? Do you read it daily with understanding and reflection? Do you weep when reading it or your heart has become rusted due to so many factors?

If you are among those whose hearts need to be melted out of fear and hope in Allah’s Help, Mercy and Aid, then you have to renew your relationship with the Qur’an. This could be a huge step towards your recovery from any addiction, in sha Allah.

So what is the homework again?

  1. Memorize the above dua.

  2. Read the Qur’an EVERYDAY with understanding and reflection [One page, two pages or whatever you can commit to daily]. The most important thing is to ponder over what you read and do your best to implement it.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) purify you all and grant you a total freedom from any enslavement except to Him subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Now, leave us a comment below and let us know if you have further tips on the subject, or think you can help someone you know by sharing these articles.

Wael Ibrahim is the founder of Serving Islam Team [Hong Kong] and Connect Institute [Global].

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