Jan's Story: Recovery from Brain Injury and Substance Abuse
Until she finally realized what her life was truly missing after two TBIs and substance abuse, Jan Brown was able to get the help she needed for recovery.
This is an excerpt from BrainLine's webcast Substance Abuse and TBI. See full webcast here.
Jan, let me come to you. Now I know that you've suffered 2 brain injuries. First of all, tell us how they happened. [Jan M. Brown, ACC - SpiritWorks Foundation] Sure. The first one I had been using substances, and I fell down a flight of concrete stairs, and because I was intoxicated, I have very little memory of the actual event. The second one was as a result of not believing that I could have that second injury and had been somewhat careless and was just kind of living my life. Some of the consequences of the first one--fatigue, things like concentration and attention and things like that, my coordination, my balance--were somewhat off, and I was working at the time and was really exhausted and was playing with a group of youth in the swimming pool and went to swim from one side to the other and missed my turn and swam head first into the side wall of the swimming pool. What were the effects then from your brain injuries, and which ones were the hardest ones to deal with? From the first one, I really didn't know what I had lost. I was grateful to be alive and to be sober and things like that. It wasn't until later on when that one got diagnosed, I was really able to know what was missing from my life. >>What was missing? Pleasure, first and foremost. I was going through the motions and watching my friends in recovery from addiction get back things they had loved and lost, and those things weren't happening for me. I had horrible moods and aggitation and restlessness and things like that. I had been a competitive athlete and was no longer able to play sports on the same level, so I used to teach tennis, and then when I'd go to play tennis, a bird might catch my attention. So concentration? Absolutely. Absolutely. I got to a place in my rehab and was able to get some help and rely upon checklists and cue cards and pagers and all kinds of devices to help my memory because I just didn't have it. And then the second brain injury--what did you see missing then? The second one for me was much more difficult because that time I knew what I had lost. I had begun to put my life back together again with lots of help after that first one. In the second one, I lost the ability to work and was on SSDI for many years. I lost the ability to drive. So things like that. I was dependent upon essentially a full time caregiver--so pretty significant in addition to the activities of daily living which I couldn't do anymore, so I had quite the losses from the second one. Okay, so how and when did you learn to compensate for all of that? The first one--I finally took a job working at a physical rehab and I worked on the brain injury unit by good fortune, and was watching the people--I was working as a physical therapy aide-- and the people who I was working with behaved like I did, and a lot of the problems they were having, I was having, and I hadn't really told anybody about those problems before that, and so I went to a neuropsychologist and I went to a speech therapist and told the truth and was able to get testing and began to get the help that I needed from that one.
Posted on BrainLine November 22, 2011.
Jan M. Brown is an advocate and champion for wellness and choice around living in recovery. Jan has lived in recovery from addiction for the past twenty-two years.