The Brain Never Forgets
Updated: Oct 2, 2019
“The brain never forgets,” he huffed as the counselor dragged the sand-filled plastic club chair to the center of the room. I didn’t quite catch what he said as I was still picturing the patient he described that once picked up one of those chairs and threw it across the room. “That ain’t no human,” I thought, “that’s damn Hercules!” Those chairs were at least 350 pounds, and bulky.
“The brain never forgets,” he repeated. I was in my first addiction class, except I wasn’t an addict nor did I have an immediate loved one battling addiction. Nope, I was just caught in the middle of this whirlwind dream and attending the class was part of the ticket home. I’d glance to the right of me and then across the room and see the faces of addicts. I noticed their nervous reactions to the detox process -- the constant arm scratching, trembling, dosing off, and that hollow blank stare of suffering. They would have a good day and then back to the trenches the next. Holding on, that’s what they were doing.
Holding on the best they could.
Laura. The cheerleader she mentioned over and over again. I’m guessing, cheer leading was a time in her life that was a happy time and she clung to it. In the middle of the hall, in the middle of conversation she would break out some limber, gymnastic-like moves reminiscent of her happy days. See, Laura was detoxing off of a cocktail of drugs and her process was quite dramatic. She would go from a manic high, to dragging her leg down the floor with shrugged shoulders, head hung low. She would crash some nights and others she was wired.
This is the same Laura that my friend Jay warned me about. She was a regular. I did my best to avoid her. I wasn’t trying to be rude. I just followed Jay’s instruction, because Laura would cause trouble. It never failed, she would spot me in the hall and basically corner me. I made small talk to appease her but always declined her invites to go hang out in a room.
To be honest, I naturally approached Laura with a judgmental caution. Like we often do when we read about addicts or see their stories on the news. “I would never do that,” I would think to myself. God would work on softening my heart though. He would tell me to take more of an “in her shoes” approach. Not to be confused with an “excuse the sin” outlook – just more heart, more empathy, more understanding. It was my duty to spread the heart and his job to deal with the sinner and the sin.
I didn’t know her story -- her demons she wrestled with. She would give me a compliment and then say something with a glimmer in her eye that softened my caution. She noticed my maternity shorts and said that I had tightened back up well. “I’ve still got a ways to go. And I have stretch marks on the sides,” I replied. “Those are tiger stripes,” she said as she growled at me. Quite the character. Then she paused and mentioned “her angel in heaven.” All the drugs in the world couldn’t have dulled that vulnerable moment. For that second, I saw her heart-broken soul exposed in her pained facial expression. That trapped tear drop puddled in her eye never fell down her cheek.
No, she had trained herself not to cry.
Connecting with her even for a brief time had a way of erasing the bias and judgment held by me.
While I am no expert in addiction, I learned that addiction is a disease (although this is debatable, the American Medical Association recognizes it as a disease). Some people are just more susceptible to falling into the grips of addiction. Whether it’s genetic or a coping mechanism to deal, it is a disease.
I’ve seen firsthand the toll the disease takes on a close friend and the tougher stance it takes on the friend’s loved ones. I’ve witnessed the victories, the relapses, and the torturous detoxing periods. And then I’ve seen the cycle repeated again and then again. It never gets any easier.
What I also learned is that it is entirely up to the person suffering with the disease to fight the hard fight to recovery and continue the battle for a lifetime to stay clean. "In the most chronic form of the disease, addiction can cause a person to stop caring about their own or other’s well-being or survival." 1 No one, not even the spouse or loving parent can make that decision for them or fight their battle.
I do know the One who can help them fight. Faith in God can help the addict fight the battle and Alcoholics Anonymous has used spirituality and faith as it’s overarching principle of the Twelve Step program. Since 1939, the AA process of repentance and redemption has helped countless men and women fight their way to sobriety. The Third Step is "Turn your will and your lives over to the care of God." 2 This crucial step is where God begins the fight for His afflicted child.
“If you do not put Jesus in the biggest hole in your soul, you’ll run to the wrong things.” – Lisa Harper
His words uttered again in my mind, “the brain never forgets.” The counselor was referring to the effects of drugs on the brain and the many triggers that can cause a recovering addict to slip down that slippery slope once again. Sometimes it was family, a beer bottle, or something as simple as a slammed door.
But when I heard those words, “the brain never forgets,” I wasn’t thinking about an addict. No, I thought about how it applied to me and the memories I now had of the past week. Knowing exactly how my brain recalls even the slightest of details, I knew that my brain would never forget. All I wanted was to forget, slap a band-aid on and brush it off.
My recovery road would be akin to the detoxing process. It would be like a roller coaster ride. Good thing I had a riding partner that never exited the ride. One that would tighten the seat belt when needed, hold my hand through the dark tunnel, peel those tight white knuckles from the bar of control one at a time, and show me how to throw those arms up high with eyes open and embrace the thrill of the down as much as the up.
Good Ole' Johnny
I listen to Johnny Cash now. It was my dad’s favorite artist and it is a way that I’ve found to spend time with my dad even though he left this Earth well over a decade now. I’ll write about that later...
Nine Inch Nails actually wrote the lyrics to this song, but I enjoy the cover done by Johnny, Hurt. The lyrics are hard, but pointed.
The Hands and Feet of Jesus
Lisa Harper, not only is she one of the best Bible teachers I've ever listened to, she is so real and down-to-earth. She doesn't just speak, write and teach -- she is literally "the hands and feet of Jesus." I've yet to see her in person and I just want to reach through the screen and hug her. I’ve watched all of her sermons on YouTube and read her latest book. Although, she is popular in women's ministry, I recommend her to everyone -- male and female.
Not only is she down right funny and humble, she puts herself in the shoes of the oppressed. In one of her sermons, she told the story of her first shot of adoption which involved a prostitute addicted to crack. She said "it's easy to sit back and judge, but if I lived this woman's life story -- I'd probably use too." Unfortunately, the baby didn't make it. But God had a special little girl waiting for her Mama Blanc in Haiti! 3 Please check her out!
1 “Addiction as a Disease.” Center on Addiction, 14 Apr. 2017, www.centeronaddiction.org/what-addiction/addiction-disease.
2 Addiction Campuses. “Can Religion Play A Role In Recovery From Addiction?” Addiction Campuses, 2 Apr. 2018, www.addictioncampuses.com/blog/religion-addiction-recovery/.
3 blog-manager. “Just As I Am: Lisa Harper and Point of Grace.” Jesus Calling, 3 July 2018, www.jesuscalling.com/blog/just-lisa-harper-point-grace/.