Jewish Journal

Translating Ideas into Words

by Beit T'shuvah

April 24, 2013 | 3:59 pm

By Ben Spielberg

Despite all the propaganda, I never believed that drugs could harm my brain. The egg thrown on a frying pan commercial was too hyperbolic to be realistic, the old Peter Jennings-MDMA-brain-lesions theory was long debunked, and all the writers and musicians I admired spent more time intoxicated than they had sober. I thoroughly read through chemical compositions of my favorite drugs and looked for hints of neuronal death. I found little actual evidence, and I continued using drugs.

It wasn’t until sobriety that I recognized the extent of my memory loss. Blurred experiences became reinforced into virtual non-existence. Faces of people whom I’d met when I wasn’t even using drugs became lost. Recalling any character from a movie was a triumph for me.

Memory is only a part of executive function, but it is very much the foundation of it--the more things one can “hold” at once means that more concepts, ideas, and people can become correlated. One of the major complaints that I’ve heard throughout the past year is the difficulty in translating ideas into words, and feelings into phrases. This is very much the “recall” aspect of memory, in which one is forced to pull into their bank of words and grasp one.

In reality, it may have not been just the drugs that led to my executive dysfunction. It very well could have been my behavior; doing nothing all day does not generally lead to mental stimulation. Luckily, most of these things can come back as one recovers--you just have to think a little harder than before.

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