As a mental health and addiction treatment provider, I often feel like the guy in the Hair Club for Men commercial, “I’m not just an owner, I’m also a member!” To many people, I probably look like an average individual who hasn’t faced too many hardships or challenges. When newly sober I remember thinking, “I will never fit into the mainstream of life,”—it just seemed so far away.
Having struggled since I was 8 years old with anxiety, depression, and addiction issues including food, I am no stranger to the process required to achieve freedom, growth, and happiness through recovery. And this process of recovery is truly never-ending, if one wants to experience freedom in all areas of life – emotional, physical, and spiritual. With 24 years of sobriety, my most recent challenge is actually my primary one—food.
Many people look at me and probably think that I couldn’t be someone with food issues because I have never been more than 20lbs overweight. I have, however, damaged my body with excessive exercise, made myself sick eating food that is not good for me, have obsessed over body image and food to the point of not being present, and have used food as a way to avoid issues of everyday life. I recently turned 50 began to deal with the changes in the body and brain that come along with that. Along with excessive stress and lax eating habits, I faced a new set of life’s problems, as if I were a newcomer to recovery.
As a result, I was led to a holistic medical doctor, Dr. Jeremy Kaslow. I had heard the saying, “The gut is the second brain,” but I never really understood what that meant. I discovered that many of the diagnoses that people commonly suffer from, including mental health and addiction issues are due to neurotransmitter depletion, and arise in the gut:
- Depression and mood swings
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Certain types of bipolar
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Premenstrual tension
- Fibromyalgia and fatigue
- Obesity/CHO craving
- Stress intolerance
- Chronic pain states
- Migraines/Vascular HA
- Restless Leg Syndrome
According to another expert on the issue, Dr. Jill Callahan, neurotransmitters play a critical role in our overall health, and when out of balance can impact everything from weight to Alzheimer’s disease:
“These brain chemicals communicate information throughout our brain and body. They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.” The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest. They can also affect mood, sleep, concentration, weight, and can cause adverse symptoms when they are out of balance. Neurotransmitter levels can be depleted in many ways. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that 86% of Americans have suboptimal neurotransmitter levels. Stress, poor diet, neurotoxins, genetic predisposition, drug (prescription and recreational), alcohol and caffeine usage can cause these levels to be out of optimal range.”
I learned that neurotransmitters could only be managed through diet—by eating healthy fats, good proteins, vitamins and minerals.
My discovery led to some changed habits, because as Napoleon Hill once said, “Both success and failure are largely the result of habits.” I began eating more healthfully, adding supplements and making changes to my lifestyle, such as minimizing my stress and adding some light weights to my yoga routine. I’m happy to say that not only am I feeling much better, but also I’ve lost 5lbs of fat and gained 1.25lbs of muscle!
I’ve learned that the process of recovery is really never-ending—because, at the end of the day, we are all dealing with the human condition, which is self-seeking and self-gratifying. Left unchecked, most people generally destroy the good things in life in their pursuit of selfish desires that can only be really satisfied through a spiritual connection. Whether struggles in recovery consist of physical, spiritual, relational or emotional issues, the work of recovery continues. Just think – if one does not take care of their financial amends and pay their bills, they are unlikely to find real freedom around their finances. It is difficult to be free if one does not learn how to deal with money.
At Orange County Recovery, we use outcomes to measure the effectiveness of treatment clinically while helping the client with a foundation of recovery treating the entire person, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
If you know someone struggling with mental health and addiction issues, we can help!
We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today!