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As is often the case in many mental health cases, there is a stigma in how we see people who suffer from addiction. But what happens when we shift our entire paradigm of addiction issues? In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Tana Amen shares her story about how, against her wishes, she was chosen to be a messenger of change.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back, we have a very special podcast for you today, but before we get to that I want to read from On Kilter 180 from the United States. A great podcast and worth listening to. I did not realize that foods can reverse brain damage. When I listened to one of the podcasts, I was sold. Kudos to Dr. Amen and Tana Amen for their research, and may it help a broad majority of individuals that listen to this vital podcast. Thank you for letting me review this product, so grateful
Tana Amen: That's awesome.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, you and I have talked a lot about why we do what we do, and ultimately it's about the stories of transformation. I had a special person that we met from the Salvation Army. She started following me around, I was a little rockstar in her world, and she wanted to learn about neuroscience. She was a director of one of the largest drug-treatment programs in Southern California, and the more she learned about our work, the more she realized she needed to become a Brain Warrior. She needed to be healthy, she needed to get physically healthy. She wasn't, and so she took your class.
Tana Amen: Right
Dr. Daniel Amen: Why don't you tell the rest of it.
Tana Amen: So, Laura is a pretty special person, and she loves what she does. You know, she was running a 185 bed Chemical Addiction Recovery Program, that's what they call it. She took my class, and she lost 55 pounds, which was really the side effect of what she did. Because what she really did was she lost the inflammation, she lost her IBS, her rosacea, hot flashes, headaches, things like that. She got so much better, and as she felt better she had this epiphany that the people that she was trying to help get better and recover from addiction, they were unintentionally not helping. They might even be making some of them worse with the bad food they were feeding them.
So, when she had that realization she thought, "well I have to do something to change it." So, she came to us, and she was like, "I really, really want you to work with me to help me revamp this menu, and see if we can start feeding these people better. They're on a rock bottom budget, and I know I've told this story before but, this time I'm going to tell it from the standpoint of an epiphany I had.
So, I wanted to work with her. I wanted to work with her, I wanted to help her. So, I was excited about it. I went, and I met with her in her office, which was a nice, safe place to be. So, I liked it, and I was helping her. We were going over all of the menus and the budgeting and all of this stuff, and that was challenging but it was good. It was like, "how are we gonna do this on this budget?" Then, she stopped me and she said, "I need you to speak to these people, I need you to come in and work with them directly." It sort of stopped me in my tracks for a minute. I didn't even know what to really say at first. I said "yes" without meaning "yes". Because, I didn't know what to say to her, so I was like "Oh we could probably do that." I remember going home and talking to you and saying "I don't wanna do this."
So, she invited us to go to an event that night where a lot of them were telling their stories. Now keep in mind, the program she ran. Most of the people that were there were there for about a year or longer, and they were court ordered to be there from prison. So this was not your average like "Oh, I'm a celebrity, I'm gonna go for a month" type of program. That's not what this was. This was not a cushy program whatsoever.
So, these were some pretty hardcore guys, some of these people, and women. So, we went to one of their events, and they were telling their stories, and I started to feel really sick to my stomach. I mean like, physically, seriously sick to my stomach. I was uncomfortable. I didn't wanna be there. I remember leaving, and I was really quiet and you said, "what's wrong?" I started to cry, and I said "I can't do this. I can't do it." You said, "why not?" And I was crying, I was like "Because God picked the wrong person this time." You gave me that look that irritates me, and you said "No, God picked the perfect person." It kind of made me mad. If I'm being really sincere, it made me mad.
I wanted to be able to do it, but I didn't know if I was mad at you. I didn't know if I was mad at me. I hated myself for being so judgemental, but the thought going through my head was "I freaking hate drug addicts" I'm just, being truthful. I hate drug addicts.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because of what you grew up[crosstalk 00:05:59]
Tana Amen: I hate them, and it's just the lifestyle is vile, and I was angry. I'm like, "I can't do this." It's like, make better choices. I was like mad. It sounds horrible coming out of my mouth now, but it's how I felt at the time. So, I was so sort of venomous about it. You were like "wow". You were even more convinced that it was like the perfect person to do this, which I found annoying. You also were like, "I think you maybe should see someone for some of these thoughts you're having." I didn't even realize, I actually up until that moment, didn't realize just how judgemental I was. I actually didn't know.
You know, I was doing all these good things to help all these people, and I didn't really stop to think about the fact that I had a lot of anger that was built up over the years. I remember the first day that I went to go speak to them on stage, and there's at least 185 people in the room, people that were attending and some of their family members. I'm on stage and they're giving me that look, arms crossed. You know body language is like arms crossed, and they were[crosstalk 00:07:11]
Dr. Daniel Amen: What do you know?
Tana Amen: Yeah, what do you know about my life and where I've been? I could see it, I could just see the stand-offishness, and they were leaning back in their chairs. I finally said "I can see some of you sitting in your chairs judging me. Guess what, I'm up here judging you." You could just see they were looking at me like, "what!?" I could see the looks on their faces, like I could see the total shift. It was just like it totally shocked some of them. I'm like "I'm up here judging you the same way you're judging me. And you think that you know where I've been, just like I think I know where you've been." I don't even know where these words were coming from, but I told them my story about when I was a little girl.
I sat there telling them the story about when I was four years old. I remember police coming to the door and my mom and my grandmother screaming and falling to the floor. There were police in the house and my uncle had been murdered. He was murdered because of a drug deal with my other uncle.
It's a long story, but bottom line is, I had an uncle who was a heroin addict. The crowd you run in when you're a heroin addict isn't very nice. So, my other uncle was murdered. So, it was horrible growing up, and I remember that uncle, and thinking you know the Walking Dead? The zombies? That's what him and his friend reminded me of. They used to scare me half to death. It always felt scary and unstable. It always felt frightening when I was a child when they were around. Even if they weren't around, because they were always breaking in the house to steal something for drug money. So, it just was always a scary place in my house. So, the best thing he ever did for me was be a drug addict, because it scared me so badly about drugs. They reminded me of zombies, so that was the connection I made early on. Heroin made you a zombie.
So, it was interesting, I was telling them the story. I could see them and all the sudden they were leaning forward. I was watching them, but the epiphany that I had ... I was standing there, and I had this epiphany, and I thought to myself, "Oh my god, they are just like me. They grew up like I grew up. We were the same." Why I ended up where I ended up and they ended up where they ended up, I have no idea. Like, I don't know, I don't know why that happened, but we were the same when we were little. The epiphany that I had was, "I don't know why the hell god put me here, cause I sure as hell don't wanna be here right now, but he did." You were right, he picked me for a reason, and I don't know what the reason was because I was not the nicest person about it. I didn't have a good attitude about it.
Dr. Daniel Amen: You were actually not nice to me.
Tana Amen: I was not nice to you. I was not nice to you about it. I was sort of resentful, but in that moment it shifted, and I'm looking at these people and I realized that I wasn't gonna be able to probably help all of them. I might not even help many of them, but if I helped ten of them, that would be ten less scared little girls. Ten less scared little boys growing up. It struck me, I'm like, who am I to take that away from some child? Like, it's not about them. It's not about me.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's about the gift you could give them
Tana Amen: It's about the gift of healing moving forward, for some child.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And did you get any stories? Did anybody give you any[crosstalk 00:11:03]
Tana Amen: Now you're just being a jerk. The stories were amazing. Yeah, now you're just being a jerk.[crosstalk 00:11:14] because you know the stories
Dr. Daniel Amen: What did Thomas say? Failed his GED three times. He was overweight, he was depressed, he was suicidal. He just cam from prison, he was a gang banger.
Tana Amen: He had six kids
Dr. Daniel Amen: Easy to judge him
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: As bad.
Tana Amen: Yeah he had no idea
Dr. Daniel Amen: Harder to go, "why?"
Tana Amen: He had no idea the power that food would have. I mean I'm not gonna downplay God in his life. God was the big shift for him, but then he[crosstalk 00:11:43] the four circles, bio-
Dr. Daniel Amen: That's those four circles we talked about, right? Biological food was killing him.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The food he was choosing.
Tana Amen: Like most of these guys had never eaten vegetables. They didn't even know what vegetables tasted like. It was crazy. The only thing green they ate was if it was food coloring. Crazy, but he said he never realized that, he thought he was stupid. He didn't realize that it was the food giving him brain fog. The mental clarity, he lost 85 pounds.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Passed his GED.
Dr. Daniel Amen: What did he write to you when he graduated?
Tana Amen: I have been tested but now I have a testimonial. No, my life was a mess[crosstalk 00:12:20]
Dr. Daniel Amen: My life was a mess
Tana Amen: My life was a mess, now I have a message. I have been tested, but now I have a testimonial. I was
Dr. Daniel Amen: The victim
Tana Amen: Now I am victorious.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah. Stay with us.
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