If modern medicine does one thing well, it’s making labels for human conditions. There are many new syndromes and diseases, many new pills and treatments. Medicine seems lacking in any major advancements but an overabundance of symptom management options. Well, what happens when you look physically healthy? For all intents and purposes you are healthy, but the problem is not obviously seen. The problem lies hidden in your brain. The symptoms manifest in wickedly creative ways. Symptoms include isolation, loss of interest in pleasure activities, impulsiveness, drowsiness, excitability, loss of money, loss of career, prison time, loss of family, mental institutions, and possible death…Reads like the side effects of a new drug to treat these maladies. Ironically, these are the symptoms and side effects of addiction, the habitual compulsion to use drugs and alcohol. I am an expert. I have been an addict and alcoholic for over 15 years with lots of in-the-field research.
No matter what I lost, I still relapsed and made the conscious decision to continue on this path of self-destruction.
The losses from addiction far outnumbered any remote benefits I could have possibly gained from heroin and alcohol. No matter what I lost, I still relapsed and made the conscious decision to continue on this path of self-destruction. Constantly I was told I was broken, diseased, and not normal. The experts used many different metaphors about light switches and empty spiritual cups to try to describe to me how I was feeling and my motivations behind my compulsions. Finding new ways and sayings to describe the same thing is great but offers no concrete cognitive change.
When I can read the data and studies, it is a breath of fresh air to truly see measurable change. God knows I have tried everything from hugely invasive, expensive medical treatments to psychedelic Ibogaine experiences. Drugs to combat drugs seem counter-intuitive. That’s why Dr. Farzan’s lecture sharing Dr. about neuroplasticity was a welcome topic to dive into.
For 15 years my brain has been making the same impulsive decisions. I know that with the right focus and determination, I can carve new neural pathways and change my brain and the way I think.
Dr. Faranak Farzan’s explanation of neuroplasticity and the brain being able to change and heal is a fundamentally different approach to addiction than the previous teachings I’m used to. Dr. Farzan introduced the book The Brain that Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge. His book provides countless examples of men and women who have been helped with these methods; they were fascinating and gave me hope. It empowers me to know that I don’t always have to view myself as broken. I can retrain my brain by putting in effort and focus. I have been skiing down the same slope for so long. I can close my eyes and I’ll automatically take the same path. For 15 years my brain has been making the same impulsive decisions. I know that with the right focus and determination, I can carve new neural pathways and change my brain and the way I think. Whether it’s a disease or a choice, I do have a decision. I have a final say in my recovery. We all get caught in the comfort of repetition and repetitive habits.
The science of neuroplasticity is still so new that my spellcheck on this computer thinks it’s not even a word. The field is growing leaps and bounds with every experiment and every bit of research that Dr. Farzan and Simon Fraser University performs. I am immensely grateful for this research and its many applications. I am empowered by the notion that I can change my brain and how I make decisions. Sometimes all we need is a shift in perspective in how we all view our strengths and weaknesses. This is just what I needed with how I viewed my own addiction. There are millions suffering from various addictions in the world. If there is a chance that any of these addicts may be saved by this research and its application then it is more than worth it. The plastic brain is an amazing brain.
More about the book The Brain that Changes Itself
More on articles from our students: An insight into addiction from one of our students.