As a teen, I used alcohol and drugs to minimize the idiosyncrasies of my ADHD brain. Now in recovery, I'm finally ready to embrace them.
by Bill D.
You hear it in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings all the time: That story of adolescent awkwardness -- of not fitting in with family, classmates, the "in crowd." Feeling different often precedes the first fateful drink. And alcohol too often becomes the Number One escape because it alleviates that uncomfortable feeling of difference.
The type of drinker who ends up in an AA meeting feels like they finally fit in once they have beer, wine, whisky or fill-in-the-blank. I relate to that story: I was born, my feelings were hurt, and I drank.
But now I am learning that those feeling of not fitting in are also common among those of us affected by ADHD.
I felt different as a kid. I was shy, not particularly athletic, and I had a wide-ranging imagination. While biking my after-school paper route, I would spin out stories in my head of cities in clouds over a desolate planet and of hover crafts powered by a renewable-energy electric motor (this was in 1983!). Had I been more science-minded and able to set long-term goals, I might have invented such a Jetson-like vehicle and we'd all be floating around on "Billy-mobiles."
Instead, I looked for ways to fit in with the other kids and I found drugs and alcohol to be the easiest way. In recovery, with a growing understanding that my brain is actually different than other peoples, I’m beginning to embrace the fact that different is OK.
I stumbled upon the documentary "ADD and Loving It" on our local PBS station this past weekend. I was inspired not only by its profiles of successful ADDers, but also by the evidence that our unique attention-deficit brains can spark creative problem solving not common in typically wired brains.
What really resonated with me was the high percentage of Hollywood execs with ADHD. Perhaps my imagination and the flighty connections it makes might be worth embracing rather than running from. Thirty years after delivering my last newspaper, I still like to dream up stories. Someday, I would even like to finish one!
My journeys of recovery and living with ADHD have just begun, but I know that by staying sober and learning to accentuate the positive aspects of how I think, I could learn to celebrate my own skin. It helps that the horrible days of junior high and high school are a fuzzy memory. Finally, I'm learning to accept myself.