Today is Good Friday. It also marks the beginning of Passover. For Christians the day stands for Death and Resurrection. For Jews it means slavery and liberation. Both parallel addiction and recovery. The death and slavery that comes from addiction, as well as the resurrection and liberation that springs from recovery.
A 2013 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that cocaine addicts suffered a significant reduction in the amount of their brain's gray matter. (Gray matter is found in regions of the brain that control muscle movement, as well as sight, hearing, emotions, speech, decision-making and behavior, so, yes, it's critically important.) The longer the addict abuses cocaine, the greater the reduction in gray matter.
Another NCBI-published study found similar decreases in gray matter density in the frontal cortex of heroin addicts. (The frontal cortex is the part of the brain where higher levels of thinking take place. It's also where information is processed for understanding and recollection.) Again, as with cocaine, the longer the heroin abuse the greater the brain deterioration.
Think of these losses as little deaths. And each little death compromises the addict's mental acuity, as well as the manner in which they behave in the world at large. They also compromise the addict's capacity to recover. Compounded over time, these little deaths can not only be debilitating, but they can be catastrophic.
There is hope though. That same study found that an addict's brain's gray matter began to return within a few months of sobriety. Within six to 12 months, the gray matter had returned to baseline levels and was about the same as those who had never been addicted. The second study discovered an even quicker baseline level return in the brains of heroin addicts.
But it's what happened to the cocaine-addled brain after a year of sobriety that really offers hope. See, after twelve months of clean time those areas of the brain began to form an even greater level of density than in those who'd never used cocaine. (There were no sobriety checks in the heroin abuse study, but we're betting on similar results.)
Now, we're not saying you should go out and get addicted to cocaine in order to eventually increase your brain's gray matter density. Not even close. In the first place, there are far better ways to grow your brain (i.e. meditation, aerobic exercise, learning a new skill, using your imagination). In the second, we don't want you to wreck your world, let alone risk your life.
What we are saying is that your brain can bounce back from addiction -- and so can you. In fact, you and your brain can even bounce forward. That recovery can not only give you a new life, but it can also free you from what's been holding you back. In other words, recovery can lead to both resurrection and liberation.
Addiction and Recovery
There are many reasons to equate slavery and liberation with addiction and recovery. There are just as many reasons to equate addiction and recovery to death and resurrection. Addiction is slavery. And, at the very least, it's comprised of a thousand little deaths. Recovery, on the other hand, signifies liberation, as well as the resurrection that comes from sobriety.
Over 70,000 people died last year from accidental drug overdoses. That's more than every American who died in the Vietnam and Korean Wars combined. Another 500,000 could die in the next decade. Considering an estimated 20 million Americans are currently suffering from addiction, that alarming number could be even greater.
So it's imperative to act. If you or your loved one is experiencing problems with substance abuse, please give us a call. Let us help. That's what we're here for. And that's what we'll be here for so long as there's even one man in need of real recovery.
Meantime, let's mark Good Friday and Passover by sending our prayers to all those who are suffering from addiction, as well as those who've made it into and/or through recovery. Let's also send prayers to their friends and their families. May each and every addict find freedom. And may all of their loved ones reap the rewards of their resurrection.