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“Confronting My Alcoholism and ADHD”

The distracting ADHD noise in my head was the same whether I was a success or a failure. But martinis always muffled the chattering.

I’ve written a couple of times before in this blog about my alcoholism and how it’s related to my ADHD, hypomania, and the other comorbid disorders I carry jangling around in my head like loose change. But I find the alcohol/ADHD dynamic to be a difficult, smoky thing to express, and I always feel I don’t quite get it. So, I thought I’d give it another try. I hope it will help you. If it does, I please leave a comment and perhaps a story of your own. I also hope I’m not starting to sound too much like Garrison Keillor here.

You could call this a Hollywood alcohol and drug story, but it’s not. It’s not even a cautionary tale about a rube being misguided by hubris and ego, though I am a rube, for sure. And I did pack my head with a bunch of self-inflating lies. The honest dirt floor of this story has more to do with the difference between facts and excuses, and how much you’re willing to lose, and how much pain you’re willing to cause before you finally own up.

I was diagnosed with ADHD, hypomania, and mood disorders after a breakdown I had when I was 49 years old. It seemed to me that I had pretty good reasons to fall apart even without all the medical jargon. After crawling back from an implosion of my TV career, I managed to snag another job retooling a show that, after months of work, promptly bombed. After that, I went to meetings for other shows. The more I wanted any job, the less anyone wanted me. My new agent said people weren’t “responding” to me — I was too desperate and scattered. The ADHD I didn’t know I had was becoming increasingly obvious and irritating to everyone else. The meetings got shorter and more perfunctory. I stopped being desperate and began telling people what I really thought about their shows. Pretty soon, not even my agent returned my calls.

I sat at home pacing by the phone trying to calm the incessant, negative, vicious chattering going on in my head — the same negative chattering that banged around in there when I came home after a day being a serious big shot. And I did the same thing I did back when we still had our big house and all that — I had a few martinis. The distracting ADHD noise in my head was the same whether I was a success or a failure. Every chattering idea started with, “Yes, but what about this?” And wound off down yet another unexplored, dark wormhole twisting down to the same pit of self-loathing they all did.

But the martinis always worked. They muffled the chattering, plugged up the wormholes. That done, I could sit inside my head drinking, singing, and peeking out the window at everyone else: The interior ADHD noise cure. My exterior was droopy eyed, inattentive, and slurred words — but I was inside, so what did I care? For years, Margaret had tried smashing through that window to pry the bottle out of my hand. But I held on. I was smart, persuasive, contrite, and lied my way out when I had to, because without the gin, I’d smash myself to pieces inside the walls of my prison.

Finally, though, it all came unglued in one evening at home trying to help my then ten-year-old son with his homework. Unseen (by me, anyway) psychological stress factors had increased to such a level that they’d crushed the walls of my gin-soaked cell and busted everything else I’d built around myself to a million pieces — and I ended up curled up on the bedroom floor in a fetal position. By the time I’d managed to finally scramble to the doctors for help, I was flailing around in the deepest, darkest panic in memory. I was a quivering, weepy mess. I told the therapists I didn’t know why my whole life had fallen apart so suddenly. Why couldn’t I keep it together?

I always had before.

“Frank is a capable child, but has not yet found his place in the group. He seems to feel he must be the clown and constantly entertain the class. For a while he was better, but during the last few days, he has become almost impossible.” – My Kindergarten Teacher, November 5, 1954

Okay, maybe not.

Craving Alcohol, Years After Being Sober

“My ADHD Drinking Delusions”

2 Comments & Reviews

  1. I read that people with ADHD aren’t motivated by a task’s importance, but more by interest, challenge, novelty and urgency. I too worked in television (for me, it was TV news), and sometimes urgency was the only tool left in the box. This led to constant anxiety; I had to basically get myself into a panic to actually start tackling my daily job duties.
    Alcohol was something that worked to turn the anxiety off (unless it went the other way, and led to a complete meltdown. These were absolutely problematic, but didn’t happen often).
    My career also hasn’t fared well. I’m out of work and looking for something in writing/producing, marketing or event management. But all of the above will still require a boatload of anxiety to keep on top of things.
    After coming off a job miserable and exhausted; that glass of wine waiting for me makes it all bearable.

  2. Dear Frank,

    I recognise much of myself, my father and my brother, my own childhood and how heart-breaking: that of my children in your story. I’m nearing 60, my brilliant and deeply emotionally disturbed father is nearing 90; lately, I’ve been struggling to get him diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADHD and into the healthcare system because I fear the treatment that will befall him when my equally brilliant and exhausted mother can no longer stand between him and society, or indeed between him and himself. As for me, I am a barely practising psychologist and EFT practitioner, doing excellent work when I do work, which is by far not often enough because indeed, I am hardly capable of juggling life’s demands. I tried all sorts of meds, and none have worked well enough to take their adverse effects into my stride. I ruined my marriage. My children did not have the childhood they deserved and could have had if I (and my spouse!) had been diagnosed and had received help during these years – I only realised my ADD a few years ago. I hope to come to acceptance, but I still mourn my children’s loss and mine daily. Today, I’m in a constant battle with stimulants and indulgences and self-medication. I manage, but only by the skin of my teeth. What I lack most in life is joy, and maybe a sense of freedom, since I seem to have to live life on the brake, which hardly seems worthwhile a lot of the time. I seem to be getting more depressed and it feels that it’s only the care for others that keeps me from throwing in the towel, whatever that may look like. My brother has been a fully-fledged alcoholic all these years. We were the only siblings and could never get along and avoided each other like the plague for the past 40, 45 years. In an hour or so – I know I will be late – we’re going for a walk. Our first time walking together, maybe our first time alone since childhood. I hope to be able to tell him I love him and understand his lifestyle, although I fear I may not get past his pathological comic act, which, witty as it may be at times, saddens me deeply. I wish I had more to offer to you, Frank, than the fact that I sympathise and understand; more than just my own story and my maybe not so very helpful suggestion that drinking oneself to death is always an option; in other words: it helps me to consider it a free choice. EFT has helped me most of all singular practices and methodologies, but honestly, not quite enough on its own. I started my first course of antidepressants three days ago. Keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll help me enough to struggle forwards a little longer. Lately, I have been sleeping with music tracks with binaural beats, and listened to ADHD deep relief sounds when writing and a three day course of water fasting brought some relief too, temporarily though it may be. Well, that’s it from me. At least the sun’s out here, in my town, today. Could be worse, could be raining.

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