I haven’t written here in awhile, mainly because the past couple months have been a whirlwind of positive change. I took a couple leaps of faith and have been riding the wave. The transformation I have witnessed has been incredible. I may write more about it later. Today I want to touch on one aspect.
This is something I cannot believe I am writing about openly. Something I have struggled with for years, keeping a tight grip on this “secret”. Yet I believe bringing light to our dark places has exponential effects. This is something I have overcome in my own messy way over the years, yet I do not believe that anyone needs to take the journey alone.
When I was in high school, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I began taking medication. At first, it was great. I finally felt awake – no longer floating through life in my usual daydreamy stance.
Whether or not you believe ADHD is “real”, or whatever combo of factors may or may not “cause” ADHD, I really cannot say. I can only speak to my experience, as I live it.
Taking medication was not something that I personally felt comfortable with. In college, it helped me get through courses that I would otherwise have struggled with immensely. As one doctor described it to me, it was like everyone else was moving on a flat road, while my own road was on an incline. Medicine helped even the playing field slightly, but not without side effects. The side effects were not easy to live with whatsoever. And in the end, what once served to help, ultimately ended up becoming an even greater challenge.
I am not sure exactly what an addiction is, but I think it’s safe to say that I was addicted to adderall. I tried to give it up more than once after graduating, and had waves of success. Mentally, physically, no part of me wanted to be taking it. Yet I couldn’t kick the habit. Recently, I had a job as an analyst on a capital markets trade floor (not as glamorous as it sounds whatsoever, I was their lunch gopher). Although I cut back on how much adderall I took to get through the day, I nevertheless needed to take it. Without adderall, I missed crucial pieces of information I needed to do my job. I struggled to listen during meetings and on the phone, and found myself in a constant battle with the spreadsheets I was paid to maintain.
Now that I am on the “other side” of it all – I realize the strength of the struggle as an indication. I knew deep down that I was not on the right path for me. The fact that I needed to take a substance to stay on that path was the flashing road sign that so many of us ADD-types will continue to fly by until boom we’re in the middle of the mess, wondering why and how we got there.
The last time I quit taking adderall, I remember it being really hard. I saw a therapist and journaled a lot – some pretty dark journal entries, where I drew swirling black pictures. I just want to be honest, because I know if I were reading this post three years ago when I was just contemplating giving it up, and I read some light and fluffy version of the truth, I would have been pissed off like none other when my experience turned out more difficult.
It’s easy to sugarcoat our way through. Reality is a deep and scary place but it need not be. We can just let it exist, acknowledge, shine light, think “yep, that happened” and (eventually, or maybe right away), move on.
This time, quitting adderall was a breeze. No exaggeration. I just figured out why, and I think it’s a pretty cool story so I want to share.
In the past 6 months or so, I have become obsessed with my gut and maintaining gut health. I did a couple gut-cleansing programs, and recently did a detox program with Spark Yoga. The 40-day detox with Spark was incredible for me, not because of the physical health benefits per say (as I had already done a lot of the detox “steps” on my own), but because I finally had found (without even looking for it) a community of people with similar interests, who were willing to take “weird” measures for health. The support I found was exactly what I needed to embrace my own weirdness and let my light shine.
During the program, a doctor came to speak with us, who recommended supplements he and his patients have found to be supportive of gut health. One such product, super activated charcoal, was something that I had never heard of, but sounded just crazy and weird enough – obviously, I had to try it. I picked up a bottle at whole foods, and voila – the first morning taking it, I remember thinking to myself “this is it – the missing piece for me.” I never looked into what it was doing, I just knew I liked the effects right away.
Over time, the charcoal stopped working so well, so I stopped taking it, feeling a little bit sad that it didn’t turn out to the be the miracle I thought it was initially. A couple days ago, I told sister about this experience. Now, my sister is very into health too, and she is way more organized about it than I am. Whereas I tend to get by through trial and error, feeling my way through, she does her homework and it pays off – I admire her for it. She researched charcoal, and yesterday explained why it worked like that for me – basically it does a sweep of your liver, removing chemicals, food, other build up there. So after a few times, there won’t be quite as much excess to sweep (hence why it doesn’t “work” for very long). You really only need to take it every once in awhile as an insurance policy.
Now here’s the cool part (my aha! moment) – charcoal can actually pick up and remove chemicals in your body. People have taken it after accidentally taking too much tylenol and other drugs, and then gotten themselves checked out and found they had no effects on the liver from the overdose. Amazing, right?
This is why I think quitting adderall this time was easier. I had already done the prep work, without even realizing that’s what I was doing. In addition to healthy, gut-friendly eating, over the years I have established a solid morning routine and self-care practices. Daily self-care work, pranayama, meditation, and yoga, combined with healthy food practices gives my body and mind the environment necessary to thrive. It is all connected. I know this, yet I still did not see how all of the things I was doing were helping me to overcome my addiction. The charcoal discovery helped me to connect the pieces. I thought back to when I introduced charcoal in my regimen. At the time, I remember feeling fuzzy in my mind and tired, yet calm and happy. I chalked that up to the fact that I had a lot of change going on. I had left my corporate job, was taking on various teacher trainings, adding more classes to my instructing schedule, and getting ready for a new job writing fairy tales. Oh, and I decided to move and rent out my condo. And this may not mean much to you, but Mercury Retrograde was happening – so naturally, I decided that’s why my brain was in a fog. Little did I realize that my body was simultaneously working to overcome addiction.
When I made the leap and quit taking adderall (once and for all), I could not believe how easy it felt. I haven’t had any dark and scary journal entries this time around. My journal has stayed pretty uplifting.
Prior to going cold-turkey, I teetered on the edge far longer than I needed to. I was scared of making that leap – and how hard I knew it could be. Was terrified I wouldn’t be able to keep up with life on my own, because I had already “failed” so many times before. Fear of the leap is normal. We all go through it. Yet I have found that the universe naturally works in a beautiful way, in preparing us ahead of time for the leaps we need to take. We may not see the prep work in all its power and glory until after the fact. Trust that it is there and it is all working, in due time. When the leaping moments do come, I am always far more ready than I could have ever imagined ahead of time.
Now don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t been a complete breeze giving up this substance. But now I am ready to embrace my natural self. To stop forcing myself to fit into some kind of mold. To stop living by expectations. That may mean things like time management and organization continue to be growth areas for me. That I have to write myself a million lists. That tasks that seem easy-breezy for others cause me headache. Yet even if I need to pay someone else to file my taxes, it doesn’t mean I’m not “smart” enough to figure it out. I can continue to move in my own way, however unconventional, disorganized, and messy. Because while I may have all these “challenges” to “overcome”, at the same time – I see and feel things that other people don’t. It might take me a little longer to get “there” (wherever that is) but once I arrive – magic happens. And that is something I wouldn’t trade for any of the organization skills or ability to count numbers and file things.
Wherever you are in your own personal journey, trust that you are exactly where you need to be. The leaps are not the hard part. Rather, leaping is easy. The real beauty is in the prep work. In showing up and doing the work even when you don’t know why. We will probably never see the full picture of how everything is working together so magically. But we do catch glimpses of the magic here and there. Those snapshots are enough to keep me rolling.