She dragged her feet into my office and reluctantly handed me a small bag of pills.
“I must say I’m very proud of you Maggie!” I smiled.
“I’ve been clean for a year, 4 months and 26 days, and yet every time I’m feeling down I still think of drugs! Like they say ‘once an addict, always an addict’, right?” Maggie smiled sadly when I offered her a cup of water. Tears of regret flowed down her face silently, as she remembered how it all started…
“Umm, hello? Dump him!’’ Tanya said, rummaging through her fridge.
“He’s my husband! We have a child together and I love him!” Maggie replied.
She had been staying at her friend’s house for the past three days. Maggie was trying to put pressure on her husband, hoping he would take her seriously and start realizing there were two people in this marriage.
“He hasn’t called which means he’s already made his decision! How can he possibly think I can do it alone? I can’t!!” Maggie cried.
“I told you he’d leave one day because you’re too conventional Maggie, it’s boring! You need to loosen up a bit and have some fun! You’re still too young for this heartache!” Tanya said, “Here take this!”
“What is it?” Maggie asked.
“It’s a magic pill… It will make all your problems disappear…” Tanya smiled wickedly.
Maggie knew exactly what the pill was, but she ignored her better judgment and took it anyway! Day after day she went on the ‘drug escapade’ until pretty soon she was completely strung out! Mortified at what had become of her, Maggie’s family shipped her off to a rehab facility a couple of months later. And by the time she was released, her husband had left, her friends had abandoned her and her child was treating her like a total stranger.
Maggie was shaking when she looked up at me. “I stayed in rehab for three months! It was a nightmare, but at least I was getting better! Now that I’m out in the real world, it’s a constant struggle to stay strong! It’s so hard to stay away from that ‘high’ especially at times when you feel so ‘low’ ” She said.
“I love how you summed up the three types of adversities in life;
- Staying steady in times of turbulence,
- Staying away from sinful pleasures in times of weakness,
- Staying sane enough to see the light during our darkest times.
It’s not easy, Maggie! Whoever says otherwise is either lying or is not human! Think of drugs as all kinds of sinful desires people yearn for and you’ll see how every one of us is struggling too!” I said. “It starts with an instinctual alarm sound, like the one you disregarded when you took that first pill. At times of weakness, we go against our own belief systems because of a strong ‘pull’; be it forbidden pleasure or passion, peer pressure, loneliness, temptation… whatever the trap is, we’re drawn into it through either doubts or desires. The doubtful thoughts are hopefully cured with Islamic knowledge, but the desires, those need special training, like boot camp!” I smiled.
“What do you mean?” Maggie asked.
“Patience doesn’t just come naturally, Maggie; it needs practice and training!
For the three hardships in life we spoke about, we desperately need three shields:
- Patience to stay on Allah’s path
- Patience to restrain ourselves from sins
- Patience during the hard times
Lose one of those three guards and you’re a prime target for Satan to lead you astray! Without extensive training, you’re literally a sitting duck!” I joked.
“Where can I find this ‘Patience Boot Camp’ then?” Maggie asked.
“It’s in your mind, body and soul. And your heart is the strict coach keeping everyone in line. The fourth pillar of Islam is all the training we need. Every Ramadan we practice the three types of patience and win the battle against our weaknesses and desires! The fact that we can stop ourselves from ‘halal’ acts like eating and drinking, is enough proof we can surely restrain ourselves from doing ‘haram’. We’re a lot stronger than we think Maggie!” I said. “So, no, once an addict is not always an addict! Allah is more Merciful and Kind than to put us amidst temptations without the proper tools to fight them! Now, if you don’t want to change, no one can help you, but if you do want to change, nothing and no one can stop you! Don’t tag or label yourself. Allah forgives all our past sins in Ramadan so we can get a chance to start anew after 30 days of vigorous self-discipline and training.” I said.
“I remember now. Every time I would ask my nanny why she was always fasting, she would relate this hadith.
‘Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins.’ [Bukhari],”
Maggie reminisced. “I was a spoiled child and a trouble maker sometimes, but my nanny… She never gave up on me! She loved and took care of me. Even after my dad kicked her out, she didn’t treat me differently! Perhaps you’re right, some people do master the art of patience. Those are the people who change lives, for last year she had surely changed mine….”
“Eat something sweetheart! You look like a ghost!” Her nanny said. She served her a bowl of soup and stared lovingly at the daughter she never had.
Maggie had never stopped visiting, making sure she brought groceries and meds and anything else she thought her former nanny might need. She could not imagine her life without this old woman who came to replace her late mother. She only babysat her on weekends, yet had given Maggie more care and softness than she had ever known.
“When are you coming back?” Maggie asked. “The house is not the same without you! It’s like a morbid grave!”
“Aren’t you a bit too old to have a nanny?” The old woman joked.
“Don’t change the subject. I know exactly why you left, and I’ll never forgive my dad for what he has done to you! He’s horrible!”
“Manners Maggie! You must respect your parents no matter what they do!” Her nanny scolded.
“I’m sorry. I just feel so lonely now. My dad has been miserable lately, my son hates me, my husband is gone and my friends are scared of me! I wish I had a ‘person’ you know? Someone who can be there for me and lift me up when I’m down… Like a sister or something.” Maggie said sadly.
Her nanny was silent for a long time; her mind had obviously drifted far away. When the old woman finally woke up from her temporary haze, she took Maggie’s hand and headed to the door.
“I’m not going to watch you wither away! You need to get checked by a real doctor! You’ve lost so much weight you look like Popeye’s wife!” Her nanny said.
“God, you’re old!” Maggie laughed.
The old woman took her to the clinic to see Dr. Miller, and then made a lame excuse for why she could not accompany her inside, which was weird, given it was her nanny’s idea to come see this doctor in the first place.
“What can I do for you today?” The young nurse asked after introducing herself and checking the filled-in medical chart.
“Oh, I’m just here for a routine checkup with Dr. Miller” Maggie replied.
“Very well then! Let’s get started” The nurse nodded.
“Thank you, Miss ummm… I’m sorry I didn’t get your name” Maggie said.
To be continued…
What do you do to remain patient during afflictions? Share your techniques in the comments section below.