I used to be addicted to alcohol. Alcoholism is a substance use disorder that I didn’t know anything about. I shouldn’t have been introduced to it as a child but I was. And my mental illnesses were too overpowering to fight. Addiction for me was a disease of compulsion. Of obsession and compulsion to be honest. I would obsess about being drunk, I wanted to drink alone or in a group, I couldn’t say no if offered and I felt like I had to imbibe. I felt powerless to say no.

Today none of that is true. I can go into a liquor store and not buy anything but soda. I’ve trained myself to do this. If I feel overwhelmed by the desire to drink, I trust myself to leave the situation immediately and work on positive coping skills. 

I don’t remember when the last time I had a drink was. Because I don’t need it anymore. I don’t need to mask my feelings and give in to those demons. I don’t need to drink something alcoholic in order to deal with grief or mania or sadness. It took me a long time to get to this point and hard work. 

Today I tell myself that alcohol is a substance I have no reason to approach. So I don’t have to rely on only my willpower, I can use my religious and spiritual beliefs as a reminder of what not to do. 

It’s become easier to say no. I’d love to go to a 12 step meeting now and then to be around my peer group. Meetings are where I find the most support and understanding. But in the end, it’s up to me not to drink.

I know I’ll never touch alcohol again and thankfully, the cravings are gone. But the nostalgia is still here. I now have to work on missing my addiction and missing that feeling of belonging when I drank.

I’m learning to find this elsewhere.


I am a person living with chronic and mental illnesses. I didn’t plan this, and I often don’t know how to manage this lifestyle. I research things a lot, and I cry a lot more. I also make dua.

When my mom was living, I had a sounding board and a confidante. I also had a friend. My mom guided me through my life and helped me parent with mental illness. Now I turn to my father and sometimes my friends. I also lean heavily on my mentors for support.

To me, an ally is someone who cares and is there for you throughout your life. They are someone who can help you handle your feelings and your situation. An ally is a person who steps in and asks what they can do to help. They are someone who notices a problem and decides to pitch in.

When you are an ally, you don’t pick that title for yourself. It’s a role and an unspoken relationship between you and another person/community. It’s learniny how to hold space for someone and their feelings. It’s not centering yourself, while at the same time, making sure not to diminish your own needs and such. Being an ally is challenging because while you are a helper, you have to know how to be emotionally sound and develop proper boundaries.

You have to know when to step in and when to step back. You have to know how to ask people what they need and how to listen. Being an ally is about active and passive listening skills. You also have to forgive yourself in the beginning and throughout, for the times you will and do make mistakes.

As a person who needs allies, I am learning to ask for help and to forgive myself for my own mistakes. This is a work in progress but I’m happy to be on the road to wellness with good friends, and true allies.

Life Plan For Mental Illness


Life Plan for Muslims Living with Mental Illness

To illustrate how a person living with mental illness in a Muslim community (or any marginalized area) can safely and happily share their life with others

Who Should Make a Life Plan
Anyone who wants to share their lives with loved ones and feels comfortable adding them to their support team. A person who has a mental health diagnosis and wants to inform people how to address any concerns or questions about their health and safety, should an emergency arise (how to get the individual to their doctor and such). Someone who feels comfortable sharing emergency contacts and wants to teach others about their mental illness.

Who Should Be Involved
The individual who has been diagnosed should make this plan with their diagnosing psychiatrist. That way, the patient and doctor can discuss the person’s needs as far as their physical environment, support system, transportation, religious and psychosocial development, educational counseling, financial needs and so forth. Once developed, the person may share this plan with whom they wish. But as it is now part of their formal diagnosis and medical record, it cannot be altered or commented on by a layperson. And should not be tampered with. The purpose of the life plan is to augment the support system and make their job of helping the patient heal easier and more cohesive. It also helps the patient communicate with their doctor during check ups and any emergency visits.

When to Communicate Needs (Patient)
When the person notices their quality of living standards are reducing to the degree that they cannot handle day to day tasks and it is interfering with their quality of life. As an example, if a person isn’t able to attend to daily hygiene needs and if this is harming their standard of living, they may want to reach out and tell a friend they are in need of extra attention. Note: this isn’t cause for alarm right away or a call for action. Their prescribing doctor is the only one who can diagnose any new symptoms and understand the situation. Communication helps those around the person know that things are happening and to be more empathetic at this time. For the Muslim friend or neighbor, this is a great time to make dua and ask for relief of hardships for the person, nothing more. They must refrain from offering unsolicited advice, piling on extra household chores, parental duties, etc, and make a concerted effort not to add to the person’s overall hardships. In general, stress and pressure exacerbate mental health conditions and make recovery much harder. Stress also makes living conditions more tense. A person may feel shy to tell their friends and family members this and can ask for help with communication from a physician or social worker.

Always remember, reliving a sick person’s difficulties can bring many blessings inshaAllah.
It was narrated from Abu Hurairah:
“The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Whoever relieves a Muslim of some worldly distress, Allah will relieve him of some of the distress of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever conceals (the faults of) a Muslim, Allah will conceal him (his faults) in this world and the Day of Resurrection. And whoever relives the burden from a destitute person, Allah will relieve him in this world and the next. Allah will help His slave so long as His slave helps his brother. Whoever follows a path in pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make easy fro him a path to paradise. No people gather in one of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and teaching it to one another, but the angels will surround them, tranquility will descend upon them, mercy will envelop them and Allah will mention them to those who are with Him. And whoever is hindered because of his bad deeds, his lineage will be of no avail to him.'”

When to Communicate Concerns (Support team/living partners or roommates)
If you are living with a mentally ill person or know someone with a diagnosis and become concerned about their symptoms, you may not know how to approach the topic. First, as long as the person has a regular doctor and/or therapist in their life, know that you are in no way responsible for their medical care. Your empathy can be best used by following Quran and Sunnah and not panicking. If you notice a change and are worried for someone’s safety, don’t be afraid to talk about things directly. Asking about suicide and suicidal thoughts does not induce suicidal behaviors or ideations.

An ice breaker may be “hey, I notice you’ve been withdrawn lately, do you mind if we talk?” or “Can we talk later? I’m worried about you. Are you alright? You seem upset. Would you like to talk?” “Is there anything you’d like to discuss? How can I make things easier for you?” “I really don’t know what to say but I want you to know I’m here for you and I support you.” “Please tell me how you’d like me to talk to you about your mental health symptoms. I don’t want to seem dismissive when I don’t know what to say.”
As someone’s friend, neighbor, roommate or family member, you may not talk about their mental illness or diagnosis with others. Even if the person discloses their diagnosis publicly. They are allowed to decide what they want to publicize however gossip rules still apply and it is best to leave sensitive subjects to the professionals. If you overhear someone crying on the phone, laughing with fiends late at night, talking about their inpatient experiences, describing uncomfortable symptoms, talking about their most and least favorite physicians or simply having an episode that a doctor has to handle, please let the professionals do their job and do not violate their personal space. Often times, this is how disagreements happen and feelings get hurt because lines are crossed that need not be. The saying that “too many cooks spoil the pot” applies to this situation. Please use best practices and do not violate someone’s privacy, which in turn will keep everyone safe.

Many Muslims with mental health issues are visible online. Some are mental health advocates as well. If you see someone who has chosen to be an advocate for mental health online and they have specified their particular area of interest, please reach out to them directly and make contact. Get to know them. Get a business card. Give them the respect that you give other advocates and activists. DM them and give them the Islamic Greetings as you would any other Muslim advocate. Offer direct advice and sincere Islamic naseehah when they make a mistake, from the Quran and the Sunnah. With love and sincerity. If you have questions about where they’ve studied, ask them kindly, and not to poke holes in their life and ruin their mental health even further. Help them heal Islamically and spiritually and don’t step over their doctors who have worked hard to put their minds back together. With this, Insha’Allah, the community can come together and learn much more about the topic of mental health and those of us living with mental illness can feel safe and accepted.








Fighting My Demons


In the shadows

Nobody ever sees what you don’t do. The things you know are wrong & shouldn’t do, the things you’re tempted to do… But don’t. What you almost did that time. The close calls. The near misses. The internal struggle between right and wrong. No one can see that.

They can’t appreciate how hard you work to silence the ghosts calling you to revisit old habits. Those pesky things sneak up out of nowhere trying to catch you off guard. Oh the tricks they play… But sadly, no one understands this private journey. Because it’s invisible.

They only see when you actually do stumble. Maybe you’ve resisted for the longest time, say 20 years. And then 1 day you finally slip. Someone will always be there to laugh and say ‘I saw that!’, with a disapproving glare. It’s so frustrating. All you can do is hope for the day when someone sees all sides of you and still wants to interact.

No One Ever Taught Me The Human Side of Islam

I’m angry that Islam was reduced to a collection of lines and circles on a page for me. That it was presented to me as a series of neon green blips and bleeps on a flat, black screen, having no depth. A lesson in do’s and don’ts. A laundry list of should’s and should not’s. A who’s who of the best and worst of people and deeds. But where is the heart? The meat, the crux of the matter? Where is the soul? That special thing, the spark that makes me actually want to follow the rules and laws, and love doing it even when it’s hard. Where was the focus on making me want to change for the better, instead of a shaming into submission like, “don’t you just want to be a better person? The good people do thus and so, and stand on this side. The bad people do opposite and stand over there. Understand? Isn’t it clear why we do what we do?”

No! Was my honest answer years ago when I was a new Muslim. Only I was too shy to say so. My soul was afraid to admit that while I always had a sense of Allah and longing to obey Him, I needed deep guidance on what to do when my spirit got unruly. When things got squirrelly. Like that 1 spiky hair that won’t conform with the rest of the bunch no matter how much gel you use. I needed real help and a sense of soul. That’s less commonly spoken about in Islamic lectures. At least not in an honest and practical way. No real life skills tutorials are given oftentimes. Oh don’t get me wrong, people will quote the Hadith that address issues of the heart verbatim. Countless Hadith, without ever delving into the practicality of the words and actions of the Prophet (ص). I was afraid to ask people, ‘wait what does this actually mean, and what are we supposed to learn?’ Because secretly I don’t think they really knew. Not in a way that would help me at least. Or if they knew, they couldn’t convey it to a person who grew up without this knowledge. They didn’t know how to relate to me or people like me. 

It’s like that professor who is a bona fide genius, but who can’t convey the material in an understandable manner to his students. So they fail the course. People wonder why the students didn’t understand, because the teacher is the best in his/her field. And the students don’t know they could have been taught in a better manner, so they suffer in silence thinking that they are the problem. Or perhaps knowing the teacher failed to convey the information, but being too shy to say so for fear of reprisals and rebukes. This is what my life was like as an early Muslim. This is how I felt.   

I wonder, why are the stories of the companions that struggled with alcohol and other sins, hidden behind the ones of them immediately refusing a drink when it became prohibited? Why is the story of the companion who peeked at a woman in the masjid while he was in rukoo, hidden behind other stories of better behavior? As if these stories of indiscretion don’t exist. I’m not suggesting that we highlight human frailties but I feel like it was a bait and switch somehow. What was presented was a completely rosy picture of people without fault. That’s how it seemed, at least.

And if you as a human being, do stumble, lord help you. Shame on you for ever letting that humanity & humanness enter your world. Shame, destruction, woe to you oh sinful one! It’s like when you make a mistake, you can never recover. You’re permanently cast out like a leper. It’s so tragic. Isn’t a sinful Muslim who is trying their best better than someone who doesn’t even try. Someone who then leaves the deen altogether? We’re so utterly horrified by and unabashedly unforgiving of normal human behavior subhanAllah. But I’m curious, why are there duas for protection against making mistakes and falling into error, if it’s so simple to just do the right thing? 

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