Aged twenty-four, Azaam (not his real name) is currently working as a recruitment consultant and is studying IT part time. There was an unfortunate time in his life when he was addicted to drugs and they became his companion as he struggled through a difficult period of his life. He has traveled a long and complex road in search of freedom and a life of abstinence. Here is Azaam’s story.
Growing up in a home with his parents, brother and sister, life seemed quite normal. However, with much difficulty Azaam admits that at the age of six or seven, he was sexually abused by a family member. Talking about such things is taboo in his family and community and as a result, Azaam had to live with this dark secret that tainted his life forever.From that day forward he chose to dissociate himself from life and his family, to run to a “safe” place within himself, a place where things felt ok.
At the age of sixteen, Azaam was introduced to marijuana. His first encounter with the drug was with a group of friends whom he met up with after school one day. “To be honest, I felt nothing, but I felt ok with myself. It was the first time that I felt at home with myself,” admits Azaam.
The use of Marijuana progressed onto experimenting with other drugs, which led to his choice of drug, Cocaine. At first, he only used cocaine on weekends and sometimes during the week, but within a month he was addicted and could not sleep for weeks at a time.
For six months, he used it every day. At the age of nineteen Azaam was not working and lived alone at university. He had a house and a car. “Everything around me was falling apart, yet I did not care, and just continued to spiral down,” said Azaam.
Eventually he managed to clean up for about six months. Unfortunately, by that time the damage was done. He was soon on his way back home to South Africa. After being back for approximately a year, his life took a formidable, yet familiar turn.
He went back to using Cocaine, although this time it was different because he was at home with his family. For about six months he managed to hide it from his family, but eventually they came to know what was happening. Azaam admits that he knew he had a problem, but figured he could overcome it alone. His family found it difficult to come to terms with his problem.
The Road to Recovery
Throughout Azaam’s life he visited psychiatrists and therapists. “I was always able to manipulate people to get the result I wanted,” said Azaam. There came a point when he realized that he wanted to make a change in his life. This time he wanted that change to be for himself, not for his family or anyone else.
“I remember my mum and I went for an evaluation, in which the counselor did a urine test for me. I will never forget the way my mum looked at me, and I could not shed a tear,” he added.
The following week he went into rehab on his own account. “They say when you do drugs, from the first hit you close a door in your mind, and open a new one. This is entirely true,” said Azaam.
Azaam has been on the road to recovery for about a year and a half. About eight months ago he relapsed. He was at a crossroad; he could either continue using drugs to the point of death, which was his goal then, or he could clean up, but this time without rehab.
Azaam said, “The last eight months have taken me through every emotion, and feeling. Things I’ve suppressed from a child are coming out. The days don’t get any easier, and life doesn’t cut you any breaks. I’ve had to relearn basic skills, such as how to deal with a basic situation."
He continued, "There are a few things that I have learnt: you have to have faith in your higher power, and you have to be honest, and willing to change. I developed an emotional dependency on drugs, and I used them no matter what I felt. They used to help me get away from reality. I used them because I wanted to, and I didn’t know any other way of being. I’ve since developed little coping skills and have realized my true passions in life.”
A Word of Advice
Azaam’s advice to the youth is that they should always try and do the right thing. He commented, “Everything happens for a reason in life. It’s all about how you look at it. Remember that whatever you do, you are not the first to have done it and won’t be the last.”
He continued, “I know it’s not easy to stop using drugs, and the craving doesn’t ever go away, but when you are willing to make that change, trust me, the universe will work in your favor, and you will be guided. Now that I look back on what has happened, I realize that all this has brought me to where I am.” Azaam’s greatest support during his difficult times has been his family and his faith in Almighty Allah.
Poetry and painting are two things that Azaam truly loves. He started writing poems at the age of thirteen. When writing, Azaam says that he feels like a child again. He feels free, and does not have any concerns about people’s judgments. When writing he explores his emotions and feelings, which he can freely express.
Writing poems allows him to open his mind and influence people’s perceptions of things. It also makes him realize that he is not the only one going through this kind of problem. It is a way of connecting and hopefully allowing others to see that they are not alone either. Writing has become an effective outlet for Azaam to express his innermost feelings.
In a sense, Azaam has dissociated himself from his past. “I’ve been forgetting that I am a recovering addict, and it’s at these times that I need to remind myself of the reality of my past. They say for an addict there are only three choices in active addiction: jail, institutions and death. I’ve done one of them and been very close to the other two.”
It is with much courage that Azaam has faced his problems and is determined to make a positive, lasting change in his life. I pray that Almighty Allah will guide him, grant him ease in his endeavors, everlasting success and keep him firm on the straight path.
Finally, I hope that the story of Azaam will be an example for others who are going through a similar situation. I hope they can be inspired by this story and take the first step towards recovery.