When I initially recognized that I was dependent on Adderall, I was determined to find a way to stop taking it. At first, I tried self-help books, seminars, and therapy, but none of them worked. As my addiction grew worse, so did the problems in my life. I was unemployed, became single after a 3-and-a-half-year relationship, was broke, and constantly stressed out.
I knew meditation was something I could try out since one of my mentors constantly talked about how it helped him in his life, but having ADHD made me totally skeptical that I would ever receive any of the benefits from meditation. I had so many excuses: I don’t have enough time. My mind is way too busy to do it. I can’t even sit still for more than a minute. I don’t even know how to do it.
But I was in a pretty bad place and was desperate to try something to help out with my addiction. So I downloaded a meditation app and gave it a go. I committed myself to meditate for 15 minutes a day for an entire month to see if it was worth doing.
After my first session, it didn’t seem very promising. The guided meditation instructed me to focus on my breath, but my mind couldn’t keep its awareness on the breath for more than 10 seconds! It would quickly start thinking about “what am I going to eat for lunch today?” or “man, that was such a good Robert Downey Jr. movie I saw last night”, which would then lead to me getting frustrated, only making things worse. Not a great start.
Since I was committed to a month of meditation, I kept on. I found that with each occurring session, I was able to keep my attention on the breath longer. “Hey, I’m getting much better at this!”. But I would always start to beat myself up whenever my mind wandered from the breath, ultimately robbing me of my practice. Plus, I felt much calmer after my practice but had no idea how this would help me to kick the addiction. I felt screwed.
On top of feeling screwed, I felt like I was doing it wrong. So I put on my humility cap and starting reading a bunch on meditation and mindfulness principles. I researched WHY it worked and what are the key skills we are actually developing in meditation. My findings absolutely shocked me. Here’s what I wrote down in my notebook:
• By learning to focus on the breath, we are building the skill of concentration (almost like a natural Adderall!). But the skill is not developed solely by how long we are able to stay on the breath for; it’s developed when you NOTICE YOUR MIND HAS WANDERED and you bring it back.
• That noticing of your mind wandering helps to develop the skill of awareness, more specifically, self-awareness and being able to live in the present moment.
• Additionally, when your mind gets distracted, or outside distractions take your mind off the breath, notice those things WITHOUT judgment. It is this skill that helps you to become more resilient and open-minded to things.
• By doing this, you learn to see things as they really are without creating a story behind it. Whether its emotions, thoughts, or habits, when you see things in this way, you realize that they aren’t actually a part of YOU. They are what they are.
That last bullet point hit me. I would think about the times I tried to go without Adderall and all the negative emotions and thoughts that would pop into my brain. “What are you doing? You need to take Adderall to do this!” were an example of the thoughts flowing in my head. But if that last bullet point were true, those thoughts weren’t actually ME. They were just thoughts. And my intuition spoke to me at that moment and let me know that if those thoughts aren’t ME, then I don’t have to listen to them.
Everything changed after this realization because I not only knew the core aspects of Meditation and Mindfulness, but I was now applying it to my life. Whenever a negative emotion would arise, I would simply feel it as it is and just observe it inside of me. I didn’t resist it or try to make it go away. Eventually, the emotion WOULD go away or if it lingered, I was able to not let it affect my actions in the outside world.
I also learned to be more present and engaged in the current moment. I savored each piece of food that I ate, I took the time to really take in the environment around me and what was going on, I actively listened to the people I was talking to. It was like experiencing life in high definition!
My stress was significantly decreased, my focus was absolutely on point, and I was much less reactive to my negative thoughts, fears, and negative emotions that arose in me. I felt like I was finally taking control of my life! Because of this, I decided to stick with the meditation for as long as I possibly could.
After about 6 months of daily meditation, I felt that it was ready to take the leap. I knew that I had to put these skills to the ultimate test and try to function without an addiction to Adderall. The mind started to tell me all the reasons why I shouldn’t do it, but I just observed the thoughts and knew that they weren’t me. My decision was made, I was going to go through with it. That was really all it took.
As of now, I’m a month sober and I will never go back to taking Adderall. Sure, there have been some hiccups along the way where I would feel incredibly fatigued, be slammed with negative thoughts, and have difficulty concentrating, but in those moments, I choose to be MINDFUL instead of REACTIVE. Whenever those things occur, I pause and take a deep breath. I look at what is going on inside of me and just observe it for what it is and let it be there. It puts me in the place between STIMULUS and RESPONSE, where I can then CHOOSE the way I want to respond to it as opposed to impulsively reacting. I always choose to be at peace with it.
That’s the most amazing thing meditation has taught me. Meditation doesn’t necessarily make your problems go away or make you not feel stressed at all: what it does is it teaches you how to handle your problems and your stress intelligently. It allows you to build rock-solid resilience to take on any challenge you may face because you learn to see things as they really are. When you see things as they are, they aren’t as difficult as it once was perceived to be.
I still meditate every day and I plan on teaching others how to meditate so they can tackle their own problems in life in a peaceful, balanced, and mindful way.
Congratulations on quitting your addiction and finding a healthy outlet in meditation!