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I really want my brain back.

Old 05-14-2013, 08:50 AM
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I really want my brain back.

I am about two weeks sober after hitting it very hard for the last several years. I am also under contract for a book project that is very...let's say...cognitively taxing. It's a complex research project with a lot of moving parts. It's both super intellectually exciting and also incredibly frustrating, because so much of the time when I sit down to try to puzzle things out, it's like there is just static noise happening in my brain, a general fog where I feel like as soon as I grasp something it slips away again.

I guess general static with periodic moments of genuine insight is better than the truly appalling garbage I was spewing out when I would have drunken writing sessions, convinced that I was brilliant, just brilliant...and then would read it the next day and have no idea what the hell I was talking about. But man, some cognitive clarity would be pretty nice. I'm wondering if it will ever happen, and what if anything I can do to help things along (I am trying to do all the right things, get plenty of sleep, eat well, work out, and meditate...just generally to feel better and hopefully give my neurons a little cuddle, too.) Anyway, I'm just curious about various experiences you all have had with this phenomenon...obviously it is different for everyone but I just wonder about general parameters.
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Old 05-14-2013, 09:25 AM
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I hear ya Gwenny, I'm 1 week sober...

I've been trying to study Behaviourism and instrumental conditioning (the whole rat in a maze kinda thing) for the past couple of hrs and I think i've read about two pages. I can't focus and I'm having to read the sentences about 5 times over.

That whole static fog is doing my head in.

From what I've read it will pass, but it's different for everyone.
Are you taking any vitamins? B complex is supposed to help.

Some fresh air might help too? I'm off for a run with the dog and my mrs in a bit then hopefully I might get a bit more done this evening.

I hope your 'fog' gets better soon, I have a few more weeks to finish reading this and another module and hand in two essays...urgh
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Old 05-14-2013, 09:29 AM
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Funny Torso--I'm sitting outside at a cafe with my dog right now, hoping the fresh air will clear my head a bit! We've been doing lots of running, too. Definitely taking my B complex. Two pages in a couple of hours is more than I have managed today...I am just plugging along hoping I can make ANY progress today whatsoever.
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Old 05-14-2013, 09:41 AM
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Two weeks sober? Give it time.

Some people drink one night and are hung over for three days...drink for a month or a year or a decade or whatever and, well, it's gonna' take some time.

Eat right. Exercise. Fresh air...all that good stuff y'say you're doing, keep doing it. And don't try force y'self into doing more than you can or put unrealistic expectations on y'self.

And good going for the two weeks sober!
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Old 05-14-2013, 04:39 PM
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All these things are true to my experience too. When I was drunk all the time, I thought I understood why my brain was mush. I was drunk, right? After being sober for a week or two, I was getting impatient to get my intellectual mojo back.

The good news? After almost two years, I am at full speed, but I continued to notice reassuring improvements in recall, word choice and general smarts well into the beginning of the second year.

Hang in, be gentle with yourself, and work on that whole acceptance concept. Best to you. As John Cleese said, he gets confused sometimes and ends sentences with the wrong fusebox.
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Old 05-15-2013, 07:32 AM
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I am 2 weeks sober as of yesterday and I feel that as of today I am starting to get my brain back. I am taking FOCUSfactor vitamin supplements that are supposed to improve memory, concentration, and focus.
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Old 05-15-2013, 02:21 PM
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Hi Gwenny,
I too - like many of us - found the decline in cognitive function pretty annoying, even distressing.

Per your first post, I did some digging on the net; found a long scientific paper about the role of Thiamine (Vit B1) deficiency in alcoholics. Won't post the link, as after all, when we can't concentrate too well, it's too hard to read through the damn thing :-). But I do know from my previous rehabs as well as my latest detox at home after a relapse, that B1 is critical, in addition to B Complex. IN other words, take a separate tablet of B1 as it has a higher dose than you'll find in B Complex.

RE the timing (roughly, as everyone's different) though, I did find a very useful table via the HAMS Network website. (They're into both abstinence AND moderation, just for the record).

http://hamsnetwork.org/images/cogdysfun.JPG
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Old 05-15-2013, 02:41 PM
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Oh that chart is awesome, bemyself--and helps explain why my spatial skills are complete crap and have been my entire adult (drinking) life. I can't read a map, load a dishwasher, or rearrange furniture in a room without going a little nuts. I dropped a friend off at the airport the other day and drove nearly 20 miles the wrong way down the interstate before I realized I thought I was going east when I was going west.

B1 is a good plan and I have heard that too--I am about to run out of my B supplement anyway, so I'll get on that. At the moment I am so frustrated by general cognitive static (here is a video of my brain in action: Inside Homer simpsons head - YouTube) and am so completely stressed out by a writing deadline that is looming over me this weekend that my AV is **screeeeaming** at me to "take a break" (HAHAHAHHA) and go have a pint. Because that has always worked SO well before, and I'm just sure to get just a ton of productive work done if I do that.
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Old 05-16-2013, 02:25 PM
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Hi Gwenny -

Yeh....deadlines. Don't get me started :-) Most of the 'helpful' stuff out there assumes that you're in reasonably good health. And as we know, that ain't so, at least for a while, for most addicts in early recovery.

Nevertheless, you have this deadline. Just in terms of that immediate pressure, are you able to simply contact the publisher or whoever gave you the contract, and do some straight-up re-negotation around the deadline thing, both for the immediate present and near-future. In other words, re-calibrate the whole-book deadline. Let's face it, they can stick to this mythical deadline all they like, but if you can point out the bald facts to them that while you're recovering from an (unspecified) 'illness', the drafts and then finished product from you are not going to be to the required standard.

Sorry to sound blunt about it, but I believe now, after many years, whilst both drinking and sober, of trying to force my self into external pressures like this, that my own self-care MUST take first priority above all else. If it doesn't, then I end up anyway in the terrible feedback loop of shame, frustration, massive worry and stress (about what these 'other people' will think of me, whether they'll ditch me as a viable prospect - professionally or personally, and blah and blah and blah :-)). As us alkies all know, that added shite we put on ourselves can far too easily send us straight back into the bottle. Just like you described, in terms of the illusory but automatic temptation to drink to soften the pressure and stress...the F*^^k it factor.

Anyway, aside from all that (from Doctor Vic :-)), this is one of the more useful articles I've just found amidst the morass online about writer's block and such. Indeed, I'm bookmarking it for myself too, as I've got too far away from my writing life, and need to get it back!!!

Writer's Block: Is It All in Your Head?

Blessings to ya,
Vic
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Old 05-16-2013, 02:30 PM
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And my usual addendum :-) (i.e. stuff I forget to mention):

you'll note that this article, like many of them, is targeted more towards fiction writers. But having done truckloads of non-fiction / complex research (with lots of moving parts too!) myself, the overall principles still apply.
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Old 05-16-2013, 04:51 PM
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Hey Gwenny, I'm a writer as well and work is what kept me from stopping before. My most recent gigs have been PR/marketing/copywriting type work, and even that I found incredibly difficult in early sobriety. I often work in tech so frequently the job involves learning about something technical and translating it into copy. My brain would just absolutely jam on that combination of precision and flow. Usually about 10 days after quitting I would just break down and have a drink because I felt like I couldn't do my job.

This time I took advantage of a lay off to quit, so I can't put my finger on just when it came back. But I know that after the first month I was working on my personal writing projects again without feeling like my brain had rusted through. Now at three months it still comes and goes. There are some days where I feel just illiterate. I'm freelancing so unfortunately deadlines are a reality for me too... and sometimes I am just subpar. It's a bit easier for me in my line of work... If some of this copy is a little weak, it's not that big of a deal. As long as it gets the job done. Your project sounds more demanding and also more precise. But there is something to be said for recognizing the ceiling and not beating your head against it... whether that's renegotiating the deadline, as BeMyself suggested, or just dialing down your inner perfectionist and accepting work that's just OK.

As for vitamins, are you also taking fish oil? I take fish oil twice daily. It's highly recommended to anyone with brain injuries of any kind (which I've decided includes me, at least in some senses). I also take, along with my multi, B Complex, zinc/magnesium/calcium, and a mega dose of C. Speak with your doctor if you've got one, etc, but definitely investigate which vitamins you may personally be lacking in. I noticed the improvement when I began taking them and these days if I forget for a couple of days I feel sluggish.
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Old 05-16-2013, 04:52 PM
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Oh and PS, 2 weeks! You're through the worst of it. Don't give up now. With exercise, vitamins and the right food, you should be coming really close to your breakthrough.
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Old 05-16-2013, 04:57 PM
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So happy for you...you are doing well.
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