Many of you may not know that I used to take Adderall. I took it the majority of my adult life. It’s a topic that I’ve been less vocal about, as I’ve needed a little space to heal from my personal journey before being ready to help others by sharing my story. I’ve been off of Adderall almost seven years now, and seven is the number in the Bible that represents perfection! Now, I feel I’m at the “perfect” place to share part of my story and hopefully help others! Stay glued, as my story may seem a bit bumpy, and my thoughts may seem scattered, haha! But it’s my first time to share this chapter of my story publicly.
When I was 18, I displayed symptoms of ADHD and was diagnosed with it. I excelled in my academics as a young child, but as I got older, I no longer made the great grades, and I had a hard time focusing and thinking clearly in high school. My senior year, I was so happy to realize there was an option for me to take a pill that helped me think clearly!
I remember my doctor telling me that it was not addictive, it was fully safe, and it would not make me lose weight. Ha! I did lose weight—literally within my first week of taking Adderall, I had lost enough weight to notice my pants fitting more loosely. But I LOVED that! I literally could eat just about whatever I wanted and stay more thin than I was when I dieted!
Adderall works! I went from having a difficult time focusing to being able to zoom in laser sharp and focus on anything! I felt brilliant all of a sudden! Not only that, but I also became great at getting tasks done and becoming super organized. I literally felt like a super woman! I felt like I was finally living up to my potential! I gained more confidence, I studied well, and I could knock out any list that was given to me if I set my mind to it.
After college, I went straight to seminary and earned a Masters degree in theology. I know that the Adderall definitely aided my progress in school, as theology school is heavy in reading, researching, and writing many papers. I am grateful I was able to complete my formal education, and I know taking Adderall helped me achieve my goal more easily.
The whole time I took Adderall, I had an inward battle over the ethical implications of taking the stimulant drug. I would also often ask myself the following questions,
“Am I being the authentic me?”
“Am I cheating?”
“Could I be successful without taking Adderall?”
“Would I get overweight if I stopped taking Adderall?”
“Would I be as intelligent without Adderall?””
Would I be happier if I stopped taking it?”
I did a lot of honest soul-searching. Heck, I even wrote a research paper on the ethical implications of taking a stimulant drug to combat ADHD! I earned a great grade on it, too, by the way! My conclusion at the end was: It was ethical because taking the drug enabled me to best be an image bearer of God. I was more successful; and therefore, it was making me the real me!
Then after graduating, I came to a crisis: Should I continue taking the pill now that I’m done with school and studying? I knew I no longer needed that same level of focus and concentration since my formal education was completed. But guess what? Life didn’t stop. Responsibilities didn’t stop, and tasks actually increased as I gained more independence. And if I was honest with myself, (which I oftentimes wasn’t), I also was afraid to stop taking Adderall because I had grown to finally love my body. And I found a lot of identity in feeling beautiful, and I was scared to jeopardize my own perception of my beautiful self. I also feared acting like an “airhead,” which a teacher (yes, I did say teacher…) once called me back in high school. I was insecure about being flakey or perceived as less than the intelligent young woman I’d finally viewed myself as being.
With all those variables, I opted to continue taking Adderall. I dabbled with ceasing to take it a few times for a few months over the years that followed, but I always ended up feeling it was hard to do life without the prescription. When off of it, I would put on weight, feel more flakey and less organized, and sometimes have “brain farts.” Adulting is not easy to learn, and there was never the “right” time to stop taking the prescription that had helped me to blossom into the woman I felt confident being.
In hind sight, I now see that I firmly believe the Adderall helped me with tasks, but it deeply hindered my emotional and relational intelligence and maturity, unfortunately. I thought it helped me, as I felt a sense of confidence and sometimes a euphoric feeling. But I now realize it would oftentimes make me too intense to talk to, and then I would battle feelings of rejection when others “couldn’t handle” my intensity.
I also had a false sense of emotions. I’d have unnatural highs that would sometimes conclude in unnatural lows. In fact, it wasn’t until I stopped taking Adderall that years of pent up emotions I’d carried over since childhood were finally given the chance to get purged out of me! I literally went through years of counseling in graduate school and in my early professional years, but I was never able to get to the root issues of why I had relational and emotional difficulties. Yet, literally within one month of getting off of Adderall, all the negative beliefs and anger I’d (unknowingly) held onto came out. And that’s when healing was able to begin for me.
Fast forward to my early 30’s… I became depressed. I even asked God to take my life. I was tired of feeling like a relational failure, I didn’t love myself, and I felt like I’d failed at what I considered to be the successful life. I began to take a prescription anti-depressant. Again, I wasn’t supposed to feel its effect until after being on it a little while. But I felt its effect immediately. It slowed down my thinking, and I felt so weird taking it. I felt even more numb.
Unfortunately, the combination of anti-depressants and stimulants can have a wonky effect! I believe it was the combination of these two drugs—plus the fact I’d taken Adderall for so many years—that created an addiction in me. Me! This good, Christian girl who’d prided herself in being so! (In hind sight, I cringe when I think of what this “good Christian girl” was doing in her free time during those years. I had lowered my standards and was not living as the PRINCESS of God daughter that I was called to be!… But that’s another story altogether.)
Life just got ugly for me from there. I had to take Adderall more frequently to achieve the same effect. I was able to get my prescription bumped up in quantity to meet my “need,” as I was a working professional at that point who couldn’t just have “brain farts” in the middle of my working day. So my focus and ability to get tasks done was achieved. But my relational and emotional issues reached an all-time low. My depression sank lower. I was numb. And I just wanted all the pain to end. Work was my life-saver at that time. It’s all I’d get out of bed for…that and walking my beloved Bracey girl.
I realized the depression medication wasn’t helping me. So I started to taper myself off of that. I also realized I had a major problem (though I was not ready to call it an addiction) with Adderall. So I sought out a new physiatrist who offered me the time-released version of Adderall in attempts of taking a smaller dosage per day.
Without sharing all of the personal details, these steps weren’t enough for me. I needed intervention that was more thorough. A few very generous souls—YOU know who you are and that God used YOU in my life BIG TIME—paid for me to be able to get help in a treatment center. I flew out to Orange County in California and went to New Method Wellness for a month. It’s a drug rehabilitation center. I was so embarrassed! I never broke the law, cheated, or stole! I was legal! I was a good Christian girl! What the heck!? Oh my gosh I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide this chapter of my life!
But guess what, in that first month of being off of Adderall and all prescription drugs, unknown rage came out of me! I felt again! I admitted and realized I didn’t love myself! I finally was able to be authentic! And I was an emotional wreck! But at least it was real! At least I could purge junk out of me. And I was surrounded by others with stories that had one thing in common: We were all broken. We weren’t bad people. We were just broken and trying our best to figure out how to “do” life and feel happy and successful doing so.
That month of my life was eye-opening for me. I finally was able to face the real Angel and realize I didn’t really like her. But I also learned that I was lovable, despite my unlovely aspects. I was finally free to start over from a blank slate. I left there with a fierce determination to get true HEALING. I couldn’t afford the expensive counseling and therapies I’d read about that could help me. So I took up journaling. I tracked my emotions and figured out what triggered me to feel rejected or sad or whatever negative emotion I’d feel until I was able to hire a professional to help me further. That one year of self-counseling and meeting with the professional counselor did more good for me than all of the previous years combined. I truly healed from the inside out. I truly grew to see myself through God’s eyes and grow to love and accept myself. I learned that I was ENOUGH without the benefits that Adderall had offered me.
God met me where I was! He picked me up from the ashes, and he truly gave me a new chance at life. Literally after a year and a half of hard self-care work, all my dreams literally came true! I am literally now living my dream life and loving life and deeply love myself!
I wanted to share about my story with Adderall. No one can argue with my testimony. Needless to say, I am NOT a fan of the prescription “wonder” drug. I believe those who take it or give it to their children have great intentions. But I believe it is highly addictive and can really challenge one’s sense of self. Even if I had never gotten addicted to it, I firmly believe that the pros do NOT out-weigh the cons.
Without getting too much off on a tangent, I also have grown to realize and embrace the beauty of our differences! I may not focus like a super woman anymore, but I am awesome at multi-tasking and being creative! I may not be as thin as I was, but I have beautiful curves and tone muscles! Who says everyone should learn the same way or be gifted academically? Who’s to say that someone who works with his/her hands is any less intelligent than one who’s book smart? We are a beautiful tapestry when we all come together with our unique gifts and passions! Let’s celebrate the unique gifts and talents each of us (and our children) have!
In my blog next week, I’d like to share some practical strategies that have helped me succeed with focus now that I no longer take any medications. I’ve learned some natural strategies that truly work! Granted, I am not able to focus like I could on Adderall, but I have learned how to perform well, stay organized, and get tasks done!
My children need me now, so I’m making this into a two part blog. Part one was my background story. Part two will be practical strategies and alternatives for combatting symptoms of ADHD.
Thanks for taking the time to learn about my journey. I can’t end this vulnerable post without giving glory to my heavenly Father who never left my side while I was walking through my darkest night. God’s love is so perfect, so personal, and so infinite. God loved us enough to come to us in the form of Jesus. Jesus came to be a bridge between us and God. He took on our SHAME and guilt so that we never need to find our identity in them ever again. No matter what your story is, a new chapter can be written and absolute BEAUTY can be made from out of any ashes!
PS: That photo of me was taken last month in Orange County at Laguna Beach! I was able to take David back to where God changed my life from the inside out! That photo displays a GENUINE smile! God has turned my mourning into dancing!
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your
praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to