We used to think of the brain as something solid, fully formed, unable to be changed. If a hole was poked, if something was bent- it would stay like that forever. Drugs and alcohol had warnings of permanent brain damage, and although damage is inevitable with addiction, we are learning now that it may be reversible.
Neuroscience studies are now showing that the brain is able to make sure pathways as ways to work around the damage, and literally create new brain connections for our bodies to operate. So although it can be hard to accept that while battling addiction, your health took a major toll, it can be inspiring to know that the plasticity (ability to change!) of our brains can offer us a healthy future!
What Does the Brain Have to Do with it Anyway?
Everything that has to do with who we are as a person (think our health, personalty, opinions, habits, etc) all stems from the brain. Pain stems from the brain, motor function stems from the brain, without a properly functioning brain, the rest of us is pretty much doomed. When we develop a habit, the brain creates a path to support, remember, and engrave that habit into us. It remembers emotions associated with it, places, frequency, etc. The longer we engage in a habit, the deeper the pathway becomes in our brains.
When you suffer from addiction, you spend a long time letting your brain carve into your mind that you need this drug for x reasons and x amount of times a day. You think in order to ever be happy, ever feel a release, you need that drug. Now, we know that’s not true, but if your brain is being told something over and over again, guess what you’re going to start believing? That’s right, you have the power to deepen these pathways, and at the same time, you can cut them off and build new ones.
The brain gets trained to rely on drugs and alcohol, but with the right treatment and dedication, we can retrain the brain to function on healthy habits and keep us satisfied in a sober lifestyle.
The brain has the capacity to experience pleasure from all sort of things in life. When the chemical dopamine is released into the brain pleasure center, it insured that people will continue to seek out whatever caused the release. Drugs and alcohol confuse this reward system, making the brain think it needs these drugs to feel any pleasure.