In late 2006 I was experiencing loss of speech patterns, tremors, often not having the ability to speak in complete sentences. My primary care physician knew I was sick, and drug addicted, suggesting I go to rehab immediately. He also wanted me to get my brain scanned at a place called the Amen Clinic in Orange County. I went ahead and did it, not having a clue what the point was in getting such a thing done.

I met with the specialists at the clinic to review the results, all it told me was my brain was a drug addled mess and I could not agree more. But I had no idea I would get sober and one day have a documentary film made about my addiction and recovery. The director, producer and I discussed getting a new scan of my brain and decided to go for it just before we wrapped up and passed along the footage and interviews to our film editor.

In the photos above you can see what my addicted brain looked like in 2006, then again in 2016 with ten years of sobriety. It is a night and day difference,
tangible evidence that there is such a thing as Neural Plasticity, where the brain can heal and reorganize its structure, function, and connections.

The internal healing process is something that isn’t discussed enough in recovery meetings, most likely because most people aren’t qualified to articulate the matter and I am in that class as well. When I am doing counseling work with a newly recovering person and their family, I use a few things as analogies. A scenario that is easy to understand is this: if you have ever seen someone in a burn unit there’s a lot going on, a lot of pain and healing going on at the same time.

When we are new to sobriety our bodies are badly mangled from intense drug and alcohol abuse. Our brains actually go through a rewiring process as our bodies become clean and sober. One of the key things to point out is that there’s a lot of ups and downs in the first several months of sobriety or even a few years, but things will always get better. This is one of the many reasons that connecting with others who are sober, for me, I attend 12 step meetings. There’s magic that occurs when we are able to identify with the same stuff, we all go through on a day-to-day basis while living the principles of the program.

Whenever I get the opportunity to share the experience of being new in sobriety and slowly changing for the better, I seize it whenever/wherever I can. Someone did that for me, in fact a lot of guys did that for me. It was through hearing their experience of being new in sobriety, sick, scared and how they grew and changed over time. That still interests me because I know I am still changing and evolving as a man, these are things that could never have occurred while I lived the life of a full-time drug addict and alcoholic.

Just yesterday I received a phone call from someone I did an intervention for, and he celebrated one year of sobriety. He sounds completely different (in a
good way), and his life will continue to unfold as he grows and changes. He’s back in his home with his wife and kids, something that was very close to being lost forever. Getting sober isn’t just about helping ourselves, it’s about restoring families, getting love back from people you love, the list goes on and on.

That call made my day.

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