I am so glad I found this place. It has truly been a life saver for me.
I was on some form of ADHD stimulant drug (usually Vyvanse or Adderall) for almost 5 years. I am 27 years old and was diagnosed with ADHD when I was a senior in college. I was studying to take the MCAT at the time. I had never struggled in school and actually had a very high GPA without any meds. It wasn't until I noticed I was not able to finish the MCAT test sections that I knew it was a problem. I had relied on so many healthy coping mechanisms (listening to music, going for walks between study sessions), that I really struggled in a standardized test setting where I had to sit without any music for extended periods of time.
Anyway, my twin sister and dad both have it, and so it made sense to me when I was diagnosed. I was prescribed 10 mg Adderall XR and then 20 mg Adderall XR a month later. It felt like a light bulb turned on in my head. I remember being angry at my parents for not having sought our treatment for me earlier when my twin sister was diagnosed at 16.
For about a year, I felt like my life improved significantly. I could study and earn the same grades in half the time. I no longer needed to rely on my coping mechanisms to get me through the day.
Of course, as you all know, things got worse once I was dependent. I would take higher doses just to get the high. It felt like I couldn't do anything without it. Why would I even try when I had this magic pill at my fingertips that made everything easier?
The habit took on a life of it's own and it eventually became clear that I didn't have control. The drug had stolen so much of my own innate passion, motivation, inpiration, and creativity. I lost interest in many of the things that at one point had fueled my life. There were many days I felt so numb that I would pop a pill and spend the entire saturday sitting on the couch doing nothing but online shopping. I was so focused on things that had no real meaning in my life. I knew that if I continued, I would only become more lost.
Everything on this page resonates so deeply, and I applaud everyone here for having the courage to even come to this site in the first place.
My very early recovery thus far:
I have officially been off meds for 2 weeks. I have tried to quit several times in the past. The longest I have ever gone without meds is 1 month. This time feels different though because I have actively replaced the drug with other healthier habits.
Here are a few healthy habits that I am using to replace the pill popping habit:
I know I had heard this so many times and underestimated it, but I cannot emphasize this enough for the ADHD brains out there. Even when it is so hard to get out there, I truly believe there is no better stimulus for the ADHD brain than a natural adrenaline/endorphin rush that comes with exercise. There are some evolutionary theories that suggest that ADHD traits arised as a consequence of nomadic lifestyles prevailing despite a majority of humans moving toward more agrarian lifestyles. We are the hunter/gatherers living in a world mostly made of farmers. We are biologically hardwired to experience intense focus and pleasure from exercise. I honestly feel like it is the best thing I can do for my neurotransmitter-depleted brain.
#2 Nature Walks/mindfulness
Nature is extremely therapeutic. I recommend anyone who is struggling with withdrawal to go for a walk outside in nature. You won't regret it. Listen carefully to the birds and the wind in the trees. Look at the sky and the clouds. Take notice of what you sense without analyzing it. Take pleasure in how wonderful it is to experience nature in your raw, undrugged state. These moments have been profoundly healing for me. While on adderall, my mind would be moving way too fast to really be able to listen or notice anything. I would get impatient and irritable so easily. Now, I am extremely grateful for any moment that I know I would not have been able to fully experience while on Adderall.
Mornings are usually the worst. I have had trouble sleeping at night since I quit. Sometimes it feels like it takes me all day to get in my flow and then I'll be too excited/inspired to go to sleep. I have needed at least 9 hours of sleep a night since I quit. One thing that is comforting though is that my cravings are usually worst in the morning, but they almost always subside by the afternoon/evening. There is almost always a moment where I feel extremely grateful that my brain is drug free. All my senses feel so much stronger. It's like Adderall had put this gray film over my entire sensory experience. Food tastes better now. Sex is way better. Music is so enjoyable. I notice and feel everything so much more clearly now. It's amazing and I encourage anyone feeling discouraged to relish all of these raw moments in your life. Break down and cry if you need to as much as possible. These moments are literally healing your sweet abused nervous system.
#3 greens and supplements
I drink a green drink every day. I recommend Athletic Greens. Drink plenty of water, and coffee helps, but don't overdo it. Additionally, I take a supplement called Seriphos. I put it in an old empty adderall pill bottle to maintain the same behavior of opening the bottle without the drug (I noticed this action alone gives me a kick of dopamine). Seriphos contains phosphorylated serine, which acts to lower cortisol levels. This has been a total game changer for me. Anxiety from withdrawal can be extremely debilitating, and I have found this regimen and daily exercise to help significantly.
I do yoga and deep breathing exercises daily. I have been doing this for a long time before I quit, but I enjoy it much more now. I used to get really rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. Yoga helped to calm my nervous system, but I would still struggle to breath long, deep diaphragmatic breath. Now, I am so grateful that my vital capacity has increased without meds. My lungs and heart feel stronger, and it feel amazing to know that my entire body is also recovering.
I did this guided meditation right before I quit where I was guided to imagine my future self without dependence on this drug. What would your life look like if you were totally free from this drug? I was then asked to imagine my future self on the beach walking toward me. She then embraces me with more love and forgiveness than I have known in a long time. Love yourself especially when you feel weak and vulnerable.
This is your life. Addiction is terrifying and powerful, and I know my recovery is only just beginning. I just want to encourage anyone reading this to believe in your future drug-free self. He or she is beautiful, creative, passionate, and fully capable of accomplishing his/her goals. You will be better off without it because your true natural self was made this way for a reason. You may not fit in the status quo profession and you may feel like an outsider. Maybe you're not meant to conform. Maybe you are the nomad in a farming world, and that is a beautiful thing. Go explore. Give yourself the freedom to discover yourself without Adderall. Stimulate your mind with exercise, nature, and music. Write in a journal. Most of all, love yourself. Forgive yourself. You are not broken. Your mind, body, and spirit are healing as we speak. This is a process and it will take some time before you feel 100%, but every day you go without the meds, you move toward freedom.
I want to end with a poem by Mary Oliver. I wrote this on my mirror to encourage me on the tough days. I hope you continue to heal.
Someone I loved
Once gave me
A box full of
It took me years
That this too
Was a gift.
Your struggle and your recovery are tremendous gifts. Be kind to yourself. You will get through this.