60 year old untreated ADHD and 28 year old treated ADHD

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      I am 28 years old and have struggled with ADHD my entire life. I had a diagnosis at an early age and have been on medication for most of my life. There were times when my ADHD was out of control and times when it was in check (not gone just managed). A few years ago I decided to take my ADHD seriously and make managing it a central component of my life. This was also around the time that I got sober. Like many people with ADHD I was prone to addiction and used alcohol to medicate. But today I am sober and proud to say that I exemplify an adult with ADHD that has his disorder manged. Life is built around my sobriety and managing my ADHD.
      I am setting this up to say that recently I caught a glimpse of what life looks like when you have lived most of your life with unmanaged and diagnosed ADHD.
      My uncle is in his 60’s has been sober for about 30 years (but is a dry drunk). He was finally diagnosed with ADHD 10 years ago and has been on medication ever since. The medication has helped him and he has some systems for management.

      I recently visited him at his home and I saw something I had never noticed before, the effects of ADHD on this man. The signs were always there but I saw them clearly for the first time. His car is a mess, it has stuff all over it. His home is even worse. He lives by himself and rarely has guests but there was not a place to sit for anyone other than himself. Every room was dirty, with half completed projects, broken things he bought, random systems of organization (he had all of his sun glasses hanging on a rack by the door but everything that should have been in his kitchen cabinets was outside of them), his one or two objects away from being a hoarder. His house, which I doubt he has paid off and may have taken multiple mortgages out on, is in complete disorder. It caused me anxiety to walk around. He goes through different phases, every room in his house has been wall papered and painted multiple times. I saw remnants of past interests, scuba diving, painting, meditation, etc and various collections he has started, tea pots, old campaign stickers, art etc. It was clear that ADHD was thick in air.

      Walking around his home gave me an insight into past behaviors of his. He would show up hours late during the holidays, mislabel gifts, give me broken or discounted gifts, leave family gatherings over random slights. He is very intelligent but has been in the same job for 20 years that is below his level and that few people stay in more than a couple of years. He went to four different colleges before graduating. He has very few friends and no deep connections. But he has a heart of gold. I can see now that he had untreated ADHD for decades, that he was never taught proper behaviors, was not given healthy coping mechanisms, he did not have the correct support and guidance in life. (Note the correct, he had support, came from a wealthy family, and did have an education. But he grew up in a time and area where ADHD was not as well known and not treated well) There are simply things that are not his fault but he has not responsibility for the things that are.

      He means well, I know he does. But for the first time I saw that there are things he actually cannot do. No matter how hard he tries he can not will himself to have a clean house, give me gifts that are not broken, or show up on time. He has a disorder that effects his perception of time and ability to perform executive functions. He has ADHD. I don’t excuse his behaviors or accept them but I do forgive them and understand them more.

      As a 28 year old recovering alcoholic with ADHD, I don’t have to have the same fate as him. I have to live alone, in a dead end job, with a messy home. I can live a full and meaningful life. I can do this because I put my sobriety and my ADHD at the front of my life everyday. If they are in order than everything else can happen. I take my medication every day, I live a minimalist life style, carry a pocket journal, have a launch pad, keep a clean and organized home, I pay my bills ,I exercise regularly make deadlines and commitments clear. I attend 12 step meetings, have a sponsor, and talk to people when I need help. I also read books, articles, and listen to podcasts about ADHD and addiction. These are not easy things to do but I do them because I have to. They are the foundation of my life and they let me live.

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