Brother’s Alcohol & Marital Problem

15 December, 2016
Q As Salamu Alikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu, Dear Counselor. Just a couple of days ago, I found out that my brother is consuming alcohol. He has been having serious problems in his marriage. I want to tell you briefly about what our family has been going through for the past few months. My brother used to work in the Middle-East. He wanted to marry, so my dad suggested his friend’s daughter for which my mother and my brother prayed istikharah. In addition to it, looking at the bride’s photograph, my brother said he was happy to get married to her and then my parents proceeded with the marriage. So far everything was going well, but my brother couldn't attend the engagement ceremony due to work commitments. He was very excited about his marriage and plans for his future. Then we came to know that he had a new male friend in his company who was much older than him and he used to spend lot of time with him. He arrived just a week before his marriage and we found out that he was chewing lot of tobacco and was addicted to it. He said chewing tobacco was good for his headache cure. But this was not the only strange thing. The whole family was in shock to see him behaving in such a weird manner; he was no longer excited about his marriage at all and no longer had plans for honeymoon or holiday with his wife. Also, he always wanted to eat fish and was crazy about it; he drank plain squeezed lemon juice of 10 lemons or more, did extensive physical workout, and dipped his head in cold water. We asked him to consult a doctor, but he said he was ok. Alhumdulilah, he got married and stayed with his wife for 26 days during which he didn't go for honeymoon, but the whole family went for a 7-day tour. We left the couple alone and they even stayed at a different hotel to have their complete privacy. On the last day when we were leaving for home, we went to their hotel and my dad asked me to check their room if anything was left behind where I found some used tables strips to enhance sexual power, but I didn’t think about anything bad. Then he left for his work overseas alone as his wife didn't have a visa yet. They both used to talk to each other over the phone and were happy. Then he started to poke his wife on small issues and argued with her, and she did the same. He then started to complain about her to our parents who usually settled the argument. Then he started saying new things like that he wanted to come back home and resign from his current job. He also started arguing with our parents and cursing them saying that my dad has done nothing for him and he is struggling because of my dad. Then he took 20 days off from work and came home. During this period, we went through hell, I can't even explain, but both of them complained and finally the matter was so heated that his wife left to her parents’ home. Then the parents of both families settled and discussed mainly his habit of chewing tobacco, which he promised to quit. He said that he wanted to stay here and not go back to the Middle East. We asked him to go back, resign the job get all documents and come back, which he did. But when he came back again, the fights and arguments between him and his wife started again. One of my friends suggested me to treat him with ruqiya (Islamic way to cure black magic) because of his problems in married life and his very aggressive behavior with all family members, but after going through the treatment, it turned out that he wasn’t possessed. The arguments with his wife kept going and she left again saying she would never return back. My brother then met his father in law to talk about the issue, but it seems the problem hasn’t been solved. My dad got very frustrated and scolded my brother for his mistakes and told him that if this marriage broke, he would kick him out of the home. When I was checking my brother's phone few days ago, before his wife left, I read a conversation with his friend telling him that he was drinking alcohol. I thought first he must be joking. But today I found a bottle of alcohol hidden in his car. I was completely shocked and I don’t know what to do. I am worried about my parents, because they already have health problems. If I bring this to their notice, I am worried they will be in shock and it will affect their health. Please advise me what to do. My dad is planning to talk to the girl’s father, but I think it’s worthless because even if they settle the matter again, if his wife comes to know about his alcohol habit, then I am sure my family would not be able to cope with that situation.

Answer

Answer:

As-Salamu ‘Alaikum,

Thank you for writing to us. I am sorry to hear of all the difficulties your brother is going through as well as you and the family. It appears, however, your brother’s bad habits and change in personality occurred when he started working in the Middle East. It further seems your brother deep down knows he has gotten himself into a haram lifestyle and may not know how to get out of it other than leaving the environment which means leaving his job. He did state “I want to come back home and resign this job”, which in itself is a cry for help. However, naturally it worried your parents due to financial security. As he was initially happy about the marriage and looking forward to it, I surmised he did not have intentions of things turning out the way they did.

You are also worried about his “new” behaviors regarding health stating, “he always wanted to eat fish and was crazy about it; he drank plain squeezed lemon juice of 10 lemons or more, did extensive physical workout, and dipped his head in cold water”, and “my dad asked me to check the room if anything was left behind where I found some used tables strips to enhance sexual power.” Based on what you say, I believe that he was coached by some of the men at his company on how to enjoy peak sexual performance on his wedding night. Often different cultures have health advices for men who are about to get married. These health advices, no matter how strange they may appear, are often used to help the new husband enhance his sexuality, even if it is not needed.

It also appears that his friendship with the older man from his company had a great influence on him – possibly not a good one. Perhaps, your brother was pressured into doing certain things by this man, or the company, which he compromised his values to do. This could be anything from being threatened to lose his job, or the promise of a promotion, or any other numerous things.

The point I am making is that your brother early on was aware that things in his life were not right and wanted to quit his job and come home. Alhumdulilah, your parents finally agreed he could come home, and from what you said, he did get his papers and come home, but the problems persisted.

During his time in the Middle East, it appears your brother may have become addicted to chewing tobacco and alcohol, although I cannot say for sure, but it is my feeling. I also feel his behaviors and disrespect may reflect his feelings of guilt, confusion, and frustration. While this does not excuse his behavior, it may explain it in part.

If, indeed, your brother is addicted to alcohol or chewing tobacco (which I cannot say he is, he would need to be evaluated) Aboutislam states that “If a person drank alcohol a couple of times, it does not mean that he has an addiction, but it does mean that he is abusing a substance, and that could be the starting point of an addiction. If a person has become an addict to a substance, his body becomes dependent on that particular substance. Even smoking is physically addictive. And if an addict stops using a substance like drugs or alcohol, he may experience withdrawal symptoms.” Also, it’s stated that: “When you become addicted to alcohol or other drugs, your brain actually changes in certain ways so that a powerful urge to use drugs controls your behavior. Someone who is addicted uses drugs without thinking of the consequences, such as problems with health, money, relationships, and performance at work or at school.”

Based on your letter describing his change of behaviors, his wanting to come home, his anger and change in personality and problems now with family and relationships, it is quite possible he is dealing with addictions and may either be fearful as he is Muslim and knows it is haram, or he is in denial.

Brother, I understand the pain and confusion you and your family must be going through as well as your brother’s wife and her family. It is truly devastating. However, I would suggest talking to your brother, alone, when things are relatively calm. If you can approach the subject by inquiring what it was like to work in the Middle East, what he enjoyed about it, and what he did not like, that might open up a dialogue in which he discloses his behaviors.

I suggest dear brother that you don’t mention the current problems that are going on now with him in regards to the family, but keep it centered on a genuine interest in how his experience was and how is he doing now, as well as inquiring about his future plans. This way, it may in sha’ Allah open the door to trust wherein he will confide in you about things you may already suspect. From that point in sha’ Allah, you may be able to guide him to treatment; however, expect resistance at first. Be patient, remind him that Allah (swt) and his family loves him, and ask him to repent to Allah (swt) and encourage him to start a fresh new life with his wife once he is on the road to recovery. Again, I will state, I do not know if this is the problem; however, based on the information you gave, it appears it might be a possibility.

In any event, I do suggest that your family get counseling to learn how to deal with his behaviors. As he seems to be a totally different person now, there will be some adjustments that need to be made in order for everyone to function in a somewhat peaceful state. As far as his wife, I suggest that they don’t divorce as Allah (swt) dislikes divorce, but instead she can stay at her parents until your brother gets himself on the right track, in sha’ Allah Until then, pray to Allah (swt), make du’aa’ for your brother, and try to instill calmness at home despite the situation.

You, your brother, and your family are in our prayers.

Salam,

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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach.
Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.