What I Learned As A Recovering Addict in Egypt

What I Learned As A Recovering Addict in Egypt

Credit: Joey Sylvester
Credit: Joey Sylvester

There’s a dark side to everything –especially to living in Egypt, the country that is progressively growing more capable than a maximum security prison of making you psychologically ill. With all that is happening, presumably a lot of people -myself included- are nurturing a secret life in hopes for blowing some steam off.

Due to ludicrous socially and politically imposed reasons, many forms of self-expression are deemed to have an evident consequence. As a result, sometimes one cannot help but search for a powerful remedy that could hush all the pain, frustration, and anger inside. Because isn’t it instinctive to search for a painkiller when there’s a lingering chronic pain? Usually, this is how an addiction grows.

Credit: Rachel Curran/ Flickr
Credit: Rachel Curran/ Flickr

The definition of an addictive behavior transcends being linked to mere substance abuse. Addiction is the consuming behavior that sends us to wonderland for a second, a minute or an hour then drags us back to hell for a much longer duration. Whatever we indulge in for temporary distraction and relief, while consciously knowing that we are repetitively making things worse, is an addiction. Yet oftentimes, it feels like quitting is an impossible act. This applies to many behaviors that seem to be taking full reins of our lives.

Usually addictive behaviors thrive upon emotional pain. When we are deeply hurt and alone we search for an alternative that could make up for the emptiness we so bitterly feel. Pain could be spurred by feeling rejected, unheard, bottled up with no chance for speaking our own minds, hurt, ridiculed, abused or a myriad of other gloomy emotions.

This emotional bleeding awakens in us a vigorous urge to search for something; a dependency in a relationship, indulgence in a virtual reality, consumption of drugs, porn, alcohol, tobacco, etc. In Egypt, reality seems to be pushing more and more people to give up their own lives to that sweet euphoric high of an addictive behavior. On a personal level, that’s how I have been living for a great deal of time.

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

At an early age, I started developing addictive behaviors until I grew intimate with the pain it breeds. Through the recovery meetings which I currently attend on a frequent basis as part of my recovery program, I have come to understand more clearly what addiction thrives upon, how it tries to gain back control when the addict starts recovering, what fuels and defuses it, and how denial can keep an addict trapped in an ever-continuous cycle of horrific agony.

The frustration that being unable to voice your own thoughts breeds is unbearable for many. As a result to the plethora of intolerance which has grown to engulf many Egyptians, we are usually afraid to speak, disclose our views or speak our minds. This situation creates powerfully suppressed emotions that keep fiercely boiling inwards, waiting to burst into a tantrum of sheer rage.


Trapped in our bubbles of bitterness without anyone to blurt out with, we make friends with a drug of choice. It may not be the best substitute in the world but that’s how desperation could push us to pursue truly sad behaviors.

The loved ones of an addict always find it very hard to believe that their son, daughter, friend, or relative is an addict. Instead, they tend to deny the faint possibility of their addiction because of how grimly stereotyped addicts are. And despite evident behavioral changes, denial continues to grow deeper roots.

Having an addiction does not mean that we are shattered, dysfunctional humans who ought to be escaped like the plague. Our addictions reflect severe root problems that have never been properly addressed.

In such tense times of disconnection and coldness between humans, we need, more than ever, to sincerely develop empathy towards those we claim to love; to actively listen as there isn’t a more powerful drug to our emotional bleeding than feeling accepted, heard and appreciated for who we are.

In the 12-step addiction healing program that is rampant around the world, one of the most powerful things that helps an addict feel less inclined to relapse further is the warmth and acceptance he/she feels from fellow addicts who attend meetings together. This display of heartfelt care and kindness engulfs the wounds of our dry souls with what we have been obsessively seeking for our entire lives. Their smiles, reassurance, and meaningful hugs change something inside.


The first fellowship for addicts started for those who suffer from alcohol addiction and is dubbed Alcoholic Anonymous (AA). The program continued to deal with diverse types of substance and behavioral addictions until today, successfully freeing thousands of addicts from the path of darkness they have been shuffling through.

Dr. Gabor Mate, a Canadian physician specialized in the treatment of addictions, shared in his TEDxRIO+20 talk: “If we want to understand addiction, we have to look for what’s right in the addiction not what’s wrong to understand what the addict gets from it that they don’t have. And what the addict gets is a sense of relief from pain, control, calmness and temporary peace. And the question is, why are these qualities missing from their lives, what happened to them?”

With the right amount of empathy, we could try to understand the underlying motivations of those who suffer from addictive behaviors. With the right amount of mind openness, we could truly listen to their words to help create an empathetic view of what they are going through. Only then can we truly help a loved one satisfy his/her dire emptiness, offering them faith in a better tomorrow.

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Muhammad Hazem Sherif works as a digital marketer and is interested in writing about the workings of addictive behavior and recovery in a manner relevant to how we behave daily.

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