How to Overcome Addiction with Brain Health

Orlando Vargas

How to Overcome Addiction with Brain Health with Orlando Vargas

Dr Daniel Amen talks with the Director of House of Freedom, Orlando Vargas. They discuss the origins of the organization and how it helps addicts overcome their obstacles by improving their brain health.


Interviewer: Hey, everybody, welcome. This week’s going to be very important. As the pandemic is winding down, mental health problems are not. They have in fact, escalated during this very difficult time, especially substance use and substance abuse problems. And so, I decided to get one of my friends who’s an expert at substance abuse treatment to join me this week. It’s Orlando Vargas. He is currently the Director of Research, Development and House of Freedom, a substance abuse treatment facility in Orlando, Florida. Orlando has been an Amen Clinics brain health coach since November 2015. He started his journey with House of Freedom in 2009, and has a vast amount of experiencing developing brain healthy recovery programs in cooperating with the Amen Clinics method to do this. In addition, he’s a certified addictions professional, and is dedicated to helping and working with alcoholics and addicts from all different backgrounds. So, Orlando, welcome. So, excited to be able to talk to you today.

Interviewee: Thank you so much for having me, Dr. Amen. And it’s really an honor. And I’m equally excited to be here and to be able to share information with the audience.

Interviewer: So, talk to us about how you became involved in addiction treatment.

Interviewee: Okay, well, my wife, her father actually founded House of Freedom. And before, believe it or not, I was assistance and application analyst at a bank. Okay. But I always had a desire to help other people out. And, you know, like you mentioned in your book, you know, you have to know your why, know your motivation, right. So, when I saw the opportunity, you know, given how my wife and her father, right, they worked in substance use recovery centers, I decided to give it a try, you know, I decided, hey, look, I think I can do this. I certainly have the passion to help other people. So let me see how I can incorporate this and help others and that journey. You know, like I said earlier, we’re like, like you said earlier, it started in 2009. And I’ve been in House for Freedom since then working and helping, you know, different family members and individuals.

Interviewer: So, I actually love that you come to this from a systems analyst perspective, because too often, addiction treatments are loosey-goosey. And it’s like it’s not done in a brain centric or brain healthy way. So, how did you get connected to my work?

Interviewee: Okay, well, that’s a great question. So, back in 2010 I’m sitting in my office, and I have a little bit of a budget here within the organization to buy some books. Okay. So, I’m sitting in my computer, and a colleague of mine by the name of Carlos passes by, and I go, “Hey, Carlos, I’m actually looking for books, to you know, to get to our patients here. So that way they can, you know, learn about addiction and whatnot”. And he says, “There is this book, you have to get it”. And I’m like, “Okay, so what is it” and he’s like, “It’s called Unchain your Brain.” And I’m like, okay, so you know, I went ahead and ordered the book. And once the book got here, I think I finished a book within like three days, and I didn’t finish it earlier because I had to work during the day. And it was one of those aha moments where I’m thinking, oh my god, you know, “How come I’ve never heard of this before?” And I quickly, you know, went online, I looked at information, I started calling the corporate offices, okay, of the Amen clinics, and I said, we need to get a brand spec machine here at House of Freedom. Because you guys have a Sierra Tucson facility that has it? What do we have to do? And that just completely changed my life. And I’ve been completely honest here, not only for my patients, but the way I approach things, the way I see things, the way I read make recommendations, it was just one of those moments where I just became that more, much more valuable to the community that I serve. Because, you know, everything that I’ve implemented from the Amen clinics, and from that book, is actually provided some really good results.

Interviewer: Yeah, it’s just sort of a rational approach that all addicts aren’t the same. If you don’t look at their brain, how do you know what’s really going on? It’s easy to call people bad, it’s easy to shame them. So, you know, I’m just so grateful. Let’s talk about some of the big things you learned, and how you apply that House of Freedom.

Interviewee: Okay, well, first of all, like you said earlier, you know, how do you know unless you look, right, so understanding the four components, right, which is the biological, psychological, social and spiritual aspect? You know, that’s really the four components, like you said, in the book that make up a person. So, we have to make sure that when we’re treating someone, we’re not just doing one area, because a lot of times with different substance abuse facilities, they just focus too much on either medication, or just too much on the social aspect or too much on spirituality. And a lot of times, it’s like, Hello, no, what’s the origin of behavior? Well, it’s the brain. Okay. And, you know, unless you fix that, first, there’s no way that the other aspects, the emotional aspect of an individual can reach its full potential and actually implement those desires and wishes. So, that has to be the foundation for every person in recovery. And, obviously, not everyone can afford right brain spec, but even the tools that you provide the questionnaires, they’re truly magnificent, because a lot of times, you know, not only can you learn more from the individual, but you can sort of like, you know, put them in certain categories and say, “Okay, well, it seems like you might be a compulsive sort of addict.”

Okay, so how do we treat that, and then, you know, we follow those protocols, or you’re impulsive, or you’re emotional. And, I’ve noticed that in your book, you’re doing this for this lesson, and you actually updated those types, which I love, you know, the first one, which is sort of like, the balanced, right, because, you know, if you’re fine, well, how do we keep it like that? I mean, you can’t just go start, you know, hitting your head with like playing football, or, you know, doing MMA or playing soccer or whatnot. So, you know, those components are really, really crucial. So that’s sort of like, you know, to me the foundation. And, you know, believe it or not a lot of people who come here, they’ve been to four or 567 treatments. And like you said, in your book as well, you know, if somebody has a temporal lobe issue, there’s no amount of therapy that’s going to fix that. Right. So, we have to correct those underlying conditions there in order to really position the individual to have a successful recovery.

Interviewer: Yeah, what a concept. So many treatment programs are wed to medication and a 12-step model. And when I was writing, your brain is always listening. I’m like, how come no one updated the 12 steps with a nurse science informed perspective? And then I thought, well, this will get me into trouble. But you know, being in troubles never been a problem for me. But it just sort of made rational sense. And the typical 12 steps with your life is out of control. It starts with number one, and I’m like, but that’s not number one. That’s number two. Number one is what the heck do you want, right, as you said, if you don’t know your why, you won’t do the why. And so, in the new program, I’m like, step one, why do you care? Why do you want to be healthy? Why do you want to be sober? Why do you live right? Why do you breathe? And if you don’t know that, and so often I ask people to tell me your goals, and they immediately go to work, or they immediately go to money. And I’m like, “No, no, no, no. Now, what are your goals in your relationships? What are your goals in your health?” Work and money, they’re important. But they’re important only in the context of a whole life. Because those people that were just seeking money or just working 80 hours a week, they’re generally not happy, unless their purposeful. Unless it has the deeper sense of meaning, and purpose. So that’s step one.

Interviewee: I agree.

Interviewer: Step two, step two is your life out of control? Right? Basically, you know, I live with this question day in and day out, does it fit? Does my behavior fit? The goals I have for my life? And if it doesn’t, then what am I going to do about it? And then three, it’s like, just like you said, got to get your brain. Right. How many scans do you think you’ve sent Damon clinics over the years?

Interviewee: Oh, I want to say, over 50 scans. Okay, which I wish it was more to be honest. Right. But, you know, we do travel a lot to get to the facility. And that’s why I’m so happy that you’re actually opening up an Amen Clinic here in Florida, which when I found out it was just like, Oh, my God, it was like, another aha moment where I’m just so happy, because I’m finally you know, able to go back there and go through the process and utilize their software and your applications, which basically, they’re great and easy to understand.

Interviewer: And has Step three, and then in subsequent podcasts, we’ll go through some of the other steps that impacted your own life personally?

Interviewee: Which Step Three?

Interviewer: Yeah, get your brain right and your mind will follow.

Interviewee: Yeah, well, you know, I actually had a brain spec clinic in Reston, that’s where I had my first brain spec, okay. And when I had my brain spec you know, the blood flow throughout the cortex was actually healthy was good. And I haven’t had any traumatic brain injuries or have any substance use disorders or anything like that. I don’t smoke cigarettes or exercise. But I did notice that my basal ganglia were very active. Okay. And, you know, oddly enough, you know, I am someone who does have anxiety at times, I sometimes do avoid conflict, okay. And, you know, when I see that, I’m like, I’m like, my basal ganglia are overactive. And, you know, it really makes sense, because I do feel like, I am someone who has anxiety at times. So, how do I manage that? So, what I did was, I changed my diet even more, I started taking omega three, okay, you know, that your omega three Neuro Bite Plus and, Brain and Memory Power, okay, so those three, like you call them, those are the brain basics. And, you know, I took that, and then I had my second Stan in California, when I had the training with you back then. And that activity had calmed down so much, because not only that, I understand how my neuro chemistry was working at the moment when I was taking action and making changes, you know, implementing, and I do a lot of the Omni diet that Tina wrote, you know, for that 70% vegetable 30% protein approach, which is really the most beneficial. I mean, obviously, you know, people react differently to different diets and whatnot. But that’s like one of the safest approaches, and one of the most successful because obviously, one thing that we can all agree upon, it’s that eating more vegetables is actually good for you. Okay, and that diet really has a lot of vegetables and there and why implemented that than it did make a huge difference. Not only that, I eliminated gluten from my diet. And oddly enough, it helped so much, even though I don’t have celiac disease, right. And I don’t have any sensitivity per se.

I just feel better when I don’t eat daily. When I take my omega threes, my Brain and Memory Power my Neuro Bite Plus, when I exercise, when I sleep well, you know, when I do all the things that you mentioned in all your books and just really, you know, applied to a method to my life personally. So that’s been you know, a really benefit and it’s funny. I know that you are the brain Dr. Wright, you are known as a brain doctor. And I tell people all the time Well, if Dr. Amen is the brain doctor, I’m the brain counselor, you know, because I’m always, I’m always talking about brain, you know, I would fix it, you know, how we check that out, you know, what are we doing to make it better? You know, we recommend a lot of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which, you know, I’ve seen you utilize to great success. So, you know, everything that you do and say, I implemented fully and in operation and in my life personally.

Interviewer: Wow, I’m so grateful. I mean, you know, it’s really the fruit of my work over time. And when we come back, we’re going to talk more about substance abuse, addiction treatment, and this new 12 step module. Stay with us.





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