It’s funny how you re-discover things sometimes. The other day I was searching frantically through my computer files trying to find some notes I made on a charity I’m doing some work with. I was getting really frustrated because I couldn’t find the document, and the search function on my Mac wasn’t working properly since I updated my memory.
In my frustrated search I somehow stumbled upon an old email I wrote to a friend back in 2000! I used to live in London at the time. I had completely forgotten about it, and the circumstances of the email. I re-read the email and the memories came flooding back. I decided to publish the the email and share it with you.
The email was to an old friend who started getting into the habit of smoking hashish. He’s an Arab who used to live in Saudi. Let’s call him Salem. I have to admit his habit really upset me, but he always took it lightly, saying that hashish was less harmful than cigarettes and that he “could stop anytime.” Well, he got caught with the drugs going from Saudi to Oman, and got into trouble.
Miraculously, he got off lightly and was released after a few days. When I heard about him getting caught I was very upset. Why do seemingly intelligent people do such idiotic things?
After a few days of careful deliberation I decided to send him an email. Why share it? Who knows, there might be some useful information there that can help you deal with others in the same situation. Or you might just find it entertaining or a remotely interesting. Of course I’ve edited the email and changed some of the facts to protect this person’s identity. I’m glad to report he now lives a drug-free life.
One more thing. You’ll see me talking about prayer in the email, which may surprise you a little. I’m actually quite religious but I don’t talk about it much in public, as I think this is mostly a private matter. I try to steer away from people who are overeager in announcing their religiousness, and I make sure not to talk about my own. But in this case, for the sake completeness of the email, I kept this part in.
Anyway, here’s the email:
Well, well, well…all I can say is HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA and more HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! How was your “time”? Now you can boast of being an ex-convict. Did you have any boy friends in jail?! How was the food? Did you get strip searched by a bearded man wearing rubber gloves? All I can say is TISTAHIL [you deserve it]! I hope you know crime doesn’t pay, not that you intentionally committed a crime or anything. If you want my opinion-and at this point you probably don’t- you got off lightly.
On a more serious note, I know I’m being harsh on you and this is probably the last thing you need right now, but I’m trying to make you realise what awkward situations your ‘habit’ can put you in. I’m writing you this from the depth of my heart. I’ve thought about what to tell your for quite a while after I heard what happened to you in Oman, and in the end I decided to just express how I feel and give you some advice that I think might help you. The rest is up to you, at least I did my duty and cleared my conscience. Here goes…
We’ve known each other since childhood, right? Even though we don’t see each other much and we had periods of no contact for a few years, I still have enormous love for you – don’t ask me why. It’s just there, you’re like family, no matter how little you see or hear from them, there is always a residual love that lingers in your heart.
This is why I will be brutally honest with you. I think what happened in Oman was an accident waiting to happen. It was just a matter of time and you should be happy it wasn’t worse. You have seriously damaged your reputation and more seriously, your family’s. I’m am almost ashamed of being your friend – but only almost. If I hadn’t known you all these years I probably wouldn’t want to be associated with you. Who wants to be friends with a weed addict? But like I said, you and I are not just friends we are more than that.
You need to sort out your life and become a normal person again. The first step is realising that there is something wrong in your life. I think the first thing you have to do is accept the fact that your are addicted to smoking hash (or weed, marijuana or whatever it is called). I don’t pretend to be an expert but I I know a guy who was addicted to it and he explained what it was like to me. He told me it was a psychological addiction.
You get addicted to the comfort/high smoking the hash gives you. He told me it relaxes you and makes your forget all the problems around you (he had serious problems with his girlfriend at the time). The problem arises when you cannot relax until you have a smoke and the situation got worse and worse. He’d spend hours and hours all day smoking hash and doing nothing else in his life. I’m not sure if something specific happened or he just realised that this was taking him nowhere, he decided to seek help and saw a psychiatrist.
He had several sessions with him and eventually managed to get over his addiction. The way I understand it is because it was a psychological addiction the best person to help was a psychiatrist. I know you claim to have done research on hash and found it to be safe and all that but is simply not true. Long exposure to it can numb your senses and have serious long term effects.
So to repeat, you have to accept that you are addicted. If you’re going to tell me you are not addicted and can stop anytime I will bet you any sum you want that you cannot stop for a month. If you are unwilling to accept than you have reached such a deep state of denial that you may be beyond help and only a much bigger incident than that in Oman will wake you up. Or maybe you never will. In that case stop going to work and stay at home and drink and smoke yourself to death. Or better just commit suicide. Might as well.
If you do accept that you are addicted then what is the next step? The next step is to seek help. See a counsellor or psychiatrist or whatever. There is no shame in it at all. The shame is not being brave enough to see one. Tell him what your problem is and together you will develop a strategy to overcome it. What this will also help you do is dig deep and find out what causes you to smoke in the first place. I know you’ve been doing from at least 1995. The constant problems in Jeddah with your father and your family etc. are not making this any better. There may be a whole host of other things that I don’t know about, right?
What I’m trying to say is that you may be justified in seeking a means of escape. Unfortunately, it is not the right one. In fact it only makes things worse. Together with your counsellor you can overcome your addiction to your habit and perhaps explore other avenues of releasing your tensions and discovering things about yourself that you did not know. Like I said, it does not make you less of a man in any way. You can see a counsellor in secret or you can tell people about it. Whatever you decide you will have might support 100%. If you want I am even willing to come to Jeddah and we can start together. If you want I will visit you and we can just talk about things. Just remember, this is not the time to lay the Mr. Cool Salem image who is not afraid of anything. It’s time for positive action.
So what is step no. 2? Step no. 2 is to improve your spiritual side. If you can feel better about yourself it is a huge step to self improvement (I know I’m beginning to sound like some sort of guru but please bare with me). I recommend that you start praying. Trust me, if you feel that God is on your side, as opposed to having the feeling that you are hopelessly lost from God, it makes you feel great. It also gives you great confidence. How do you start? Firstly, do not try to pray all the prayers in one go because that way you will last only 2 days. It’ too hard that way. What you do is set a goal for yourself when you want to be able to pray continuously. Let’s say 5 or 6 weeks for example.
All you do in the first week is pray the Fajr prayer when you wake up. Make sure you never miss it. Just remember to do it when you wake up. in Week 2 add the Isha prayer before you go to bed. Or pray it in the office with your colleagues. And so on, each week add one more prayer to your schedule. By the time you reach your deadline you will be praying all the prayers and you will be feeling much better about yourself.
Bare one thing in mind though. Praying is the minimum you should be doing as a Muslim. So even if you do not stop smoking hash or drinking you should always always pray. Many people think that they are being hypocritical if they drink and pray and therefore they don’t bother praying. They think it is “either or”. It is not “either or”, there is no excuse for not praying even if you are a mass murderer.
Prayer washes away sins that you gathered over the day [referring to one of the Prophet Mohammed’s sayings]. Some people when they start praying try to become too religious overnight and stop everything fun and stop listening to music and want to devote their life to God. These people don’t usually last and soon find the path they have chosen too hard and revert to their old ways. Whatever you do, don’t be like them! You can still be cool and have fun yet pray. Just remember, it is NOT “either or”. In the long term, maybe after 6 months to a year, you should try to pray the Fajr prayer on time, which can also be quite difficult. But anyway, don’t try too much too soon.
Step no. 3 is exercise and/or find a hobby. Having a relaxing past time (and smoking pot does not count) is very important in life. It helps people relax and forget the problems of work and everyday life. I remember you being a good tennis player from the early days. Why not try that? If you cannot find a person to play with then why not join a gym or something? Or play more soccer as you used to be quite good. I’m sure that even me (the most football ignorant person alive) could outplay you in football at your current state of fitness. Whatever you decide, do it at least once a week to start with. Then increase it up to twice a week. If you are feeling really ambitious, do it 3 times a week. But remember, don’t try too much too soon or it will not work. Ease into it. With a proper hobby/sport you will have less time to rot away at home and it will improve your mental state as well. Exercise releases endorphins which can give you a natural high without the risks that are associated with drugs.
Step no. 4: be committed. You must commit yourself to the fact that you want to improve your life. Keep your self motivated and don’t give up. You can do it!
Final note: I am not pretending that what I am asking you to do is easy. In fact is hard. I know your life must be quite complicated and living in Jeddah does not make it any easier. But you have to try. You are in the prime of your life and you have very little to show for it. I would almost call what happened in Oman a disgrace. In fact it was a disgrace. You are above incidents like that and they should never happen again.
I’m sorry for unloading on this but like I said earlier, I am being brutally honest and sharing my feelings with you. You may want to print this long message out and keep it to read gain later to let some of it sink in slowly. You don’t have to respond to this if you do not want to. I do not recommend that you give me your response over the phone as it will make it more difficult to give me your honest opinion. This is not time for mujamalat [courtesies].
PS Don’t forget I am more than willing to come to Jeddah to help if you want me to. Just say the word.
That’s all of it. Let me know what you think.
If you really care about a friend who is addicted to drugs, you will do the best you can to talk him into getting an addiction treatment for his own good.