Struggling with ADHD: 'I Almost Didn’t Make It Through High School'

Help arrived in the form of a ADHD coach. But was Rob really ready to make life changes?

“I Almost Didn’t Make It Through High School”

A lot of our focus was on trying to improve his organizational skills and time management. So when it came to long-term projects, we'd talk about ways he was going to break things down to get the work done in time. It's professional nagging, but done in a way that is a partnership. The child benefits because he feels he has to be accountable to a third party, and the parents no longer have to be the naggers, so the relationships improve.

When Rob finally disclosed his drug and alcohol problem, we had been working together for six months. He apologized for keeping it from me. I simply said, "Thanks for sharing and are you ready to continue?"

Sometimes I can tell when someone is using, but with Rob I couldn't. Although, once I found out, it made a lot of sense, since we had really struggled to get on track for six months. When he stopped using drugs and alcohol, there was a significant shift in the effectiveness of the sessions, and his schoolwork improved too. He was already in a program for his drug use, so I could continue to focus on school issues.

What a coach does is to put structure in place for someone whose brain doesn't do it naturally. Being accountable to someone else is the key to the client's success. Great, supportive parents are also important. A coach must never be judgmental. You might be questioned, but the client never sees you as a threat. It's a true partnership - I'm not a parental figure, not a therapist, not a teacher.

Rob: Jodi showed me little ways to cope. She recommended I listen to classical music and Gregorian chants when I study. All of my friends are like, dude, you're weird, you listen to Bach to do your homework? But I know it stimulates something in my mind that puts me into school mode.

Jodi also taught me how to use ADHD as an advantage. She encouraged me to use spontaneity - an ADHD trait - to find things I'm passionate about. I'm creative, but I always got C's and D's in English. For me, writing was hard until my senior year, when I wrote a paper about my grandfather. He was running a gun on a destroyer, and the gun got jammed and killed his friend. I wrote about what the experience must have been like from his point of view. I got an A. I wasn't smoking anymore and I was taking my medicine. I was able to write the paper in an hour. It was unbelievable that I could focus so well.

Writing that paper helped things click for me. By eleventh grade, I wanted to change, but I didn't know how. By twelfth grade, thanks to Jodi, I had the tools to know how to change. I feel so blessed to have all these people who care about me - people who I had turned my back on in anger. I became a Christian and I'm active in church now. I work with inner-city kids as part of a church program. I tell them where it's at and that there's a lot more to life than dealing or doing drugs.

For kids out there like me, there are so many ways to take that first step. A coach definitely helps, and so do supportive parents. But the question you have to ask is 'Do you want to change?' Just because you have ADHD doesn't mean that you can't succeed. People with ADHD are people who take risks.


After three-and-a-half years of coaching, Rob no longer self-medicates with marijuana, and he's closer than ever with his parents. He's gained 40 pounds in muscle, thanks to daily weight-training workouts, and believes that regular exercise is a must for anyone with ADHD. Rob also improved his grades in his senior year, and maintained a B average at a community college he attended for two years. Always ready for a challenge, he applied to the University of Hawaii - and was accepted. He'll begin this fall as a second-semester sophomore studying marketing. He says that the next time you're in Hawaii, look him up... if he's not in class, he'll probably be surfing. The tide has definitely turned for Rob.


This article comes from the August-September 2004 Issue of ADDitude.

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