After a few years in recovery from neglected ADHD symptoms, I’ve begun to approach things in a different way.
Critical junctures in the past, such as the moment I was accepted into a writing program. Before addressing the emotional dysregulation that cripples so many ADHDers, my memory of this moment would have been drenched in regret – how little I’ve written since! how I’ve struggled in my career!
This week, when the scene popped in my head of myself sitting at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos on Pearl street in Boulder, I immediately began thinking of all that was at stake for me in that moment, what that admission provided for me, and how I can create for myself that same structure, focus, and validation from now on.
Trained in sales, self-taught in technology, I’ve spent years developing and delivering learning experiences for groups.
I may not know exactly how to create all those things for myself that I got from the acceptance letter, but I am willing to bet I could help others do it.
Coincidentally, I’ve been informally collaborating with Dylan, who teaches marketing. We take turns sharing our plans for courses, asking questions and giving feedback.
Even as I create my first e-publication – ADHD What Next?, (one of the warm-up steps to publishing Bull in a Candy Store,) I am starting to imagine that this accountability partnership activity could grow into something bigger.
To me, this is a product of the combination of productive solitude (my ADHD recovery work) and public challenge (in my case, ship 30for30.)
Diagnosed the second time
After the initial relief of my first ADHD diagnosis dissipated, I was left almost worse off, since I had “tried” a solution and it had only got me so far. I was still stuck in many ways. Initially I thought I just had tons of bad habits I simply needed to cast off, so I could function as well as most of my peers and friends. Practically everyone I knew had acquired life skills the usual way – raised without constant disruption, supported along the way, and most importantly, subject to expectations.
These people took certain abilities for granted, assuming an amount of self-control. They took on responsibilities without wondering if they would be able to fulfill them. They received the scrutiny of editors, supervisors, managers, clients, without totally evaporating, crushed by fear and self-abandonment. They were plucky in ways that baffled me.
My response: I had learned “fake it till you make it,” which was meant to help newly sober folks gain a little confidence as they reentered the normal life that presumably awaited them.
But no normal life awaited me.
Why getting sober did not restore me to normalcy
No normal life awaited me in sobriety because I lacked the life skills everyone else seemed to have plenty of – even the newly sober.
So I did what lots of my neuro-divergent friends call Masking. I made friends, created things, found jobs, and tried to grow my life. Finished my degree, changed careers, tried to continue to make music as I had while many of my deficits had been concealed by my youth, by a constant flood of alcohol, and by reliance on a huge network of temporarily located siblings and friends. I had no idea to what extent I had relied on alcohol and people to soak up my pain, help me “blend in,” and at least hide my maladaptive nature from myself.
Growth is not guarenteed by the passage of time
Only a few years later, supposedly grown up, I found myself without many of the basic life skills I had missed out on when all my peers were learning them. Masking only worked in the short term. The relationship would start, but then stall out as the other person realized I had no plans, no idea how to make or carry them out. I would use my excellent sales skills to obtain a position, but then after proving to myself I could kick my way through the door, my interest would flag, taking my ability to concentrate, contribute productively, and even feign interest with it.
This thing only works if you plug it in
My initial ADHD diagnosis and haphazard treatment granted me some momentary relief, but without my own active participation, the solution got lost among other threads.
Next: What finally changed, and why it works now.