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Thriving Beyond ADHD: My Triumph Over Adderall Addiction

adderall XR 20mg

"Who am I without my medication?"

"Adderall makes me the best version of myself"

"I can't function without my medication"

I never knew the deception of the medication I was taking until I was no longer succumbing to it's power. How did a little orange pill have such a tight grip over my life for so long? Over the past two decades I have broken free from the grips of an eating disorder, abusive relationships, binge drinking and never even saw how deep I was in the trenches of adderall addiction.

When you have an official diagnosis of ADHD or ADD, it immediately makes it socially acceptable to take the medications... but at what cost? No one ever referred me to psychology to learn other non medication approaches to managing this diagnosis. Having the psychiatrist take 20 seconds to remind me to meditate and sleep enough is NOT good medical advice. Thats just like telling an obese patient to eat healthier and exercise and then sending them on their way with no further instruction.

On day one of going cold turkey I braced myself for brain fog, fatigue and lack of motivation. What I was not prepared for was the steep drop into extreme darkness. And it happened so fast. The only way I can explain it is comparing it to the movie Get Out where the boyfriend gets hypnotized by his girlfriends mother and he has a freefall into a deep, dark abyss. Thats exactly how I felt, laying on my couch not even able to pay attention to the show playing on Netlflix- paralyzed in deep dark thoughts of nothingness. I hated everyone. I hated everything. What was the point of life? It escaped me for a solid 48 hours. Everything good and pleasant in my life faded away. I wasn't even numb. Every breathing moment was unpleasurable and pure suffering.

Day two was a continuation of the neverending fall into the dark abyss. I would never ever try to kill myself, but on this day I wanted to be unalive. Never have I ever felt so much pain. So much darkeness. I empathize now with those who have struggled with suicidal thoughts. I get it. I wish I didnt understand, but now I do. It is so ironic how the things I have judged others on so hard in the past, always seems to bite me in the butt. I am humbled. I knew in my logical mind there was no reason for me to be thinking these thoughts, and yet they were there. I got on my knees and prayed to God to save me from myself. He brought me to it, He would bring me through it. And so He did.

By day three I was still a walking zombie, unable to pay attention to anything. I began grasping desperatly at any positive signs of improvement: My chronic constipation was improving. I no longer looked 6 months pregnant. The deeply painful exhaustion started to lift slightly. I had developed a voracious appetite. After having my appetite supressed for so long, it shot the other way. I was desperately seeking any form of relief from the hunger and aggitation. Logically I knew the increase in appetite was a withdraw symptom and not a true signal from my body that I needed to eat, and yet the cravings were unbearable. Even as a health coach knowing logically what was happeneing, it does not negate the discomfort of the situation. My brain had been so adapted to this drug releasing dopamine for so long, it no longer knew how to do it naturally.

By day seven, I continued to feel better. Here is a word for word excerpt from my journal:

"It is so beautiful seeing my brain adjust to being off meds. I am much more awake in the mornings. The fog is gone. This is one of those situations where I didnt realize how bad I felt until I started feeling better. I used to spend every day chasing those peak energies that inevitably were always followed by a crash. No more. I like where I am at. I went for a jog tonight at 630pm. WHO AM I?! My energy in the evenings is so much better. I used to watch the clock waiting for bedtime. I was ready for bed by 4 pm. Not anymore! I am really loving this new me. And one last thing. My empathy is back! That medication [adderall] was killing me and I didn't even realize it."

I continued to feel better until I took a mission trip to Guatemala and got food poisoning that set me back big time. I ended up taking adderall a few days per week. I knew I was in disobedience to God telling me to stop it. Breaking away from the identity of feeling like I needed it to be successful was so so difficult. I finally decided to take all of the pills I had left back to the pharmacy to dispose of them. The easiest way to prevent relapse is to make it difficult to get the medication. I then removed it from my active medications list on my chart online. I debated putting that I had an allergic reaction to it so that I wouldnt even be able to get it refilled in the future.

I've had to sit with the shame of knowing I was chemically addicted to this medication before having the courage to write this. I am not your typical "addict". This medication was prescribed and never abused. You would never know by looking at me. I am a very successful person by cultures standards but I have been physically ill for a while now. Bless my husbands heart, he has stuck by my side even though I have been ill our whole entire marriage. I am forever grateful to have found a man who truly loves me unconditionally. I would have never been able to take the time to recover from all of this if it wasn't for him working tirelessly to support me.

Here's the thing about addiction.. when you strip away everything except for whats happening in the brain of an addict we are all the same. I had withdrawals from adderal just as a meth addict does. Perhaps not as severe but the same symptoms nonetheless. I isolated myself because of the shame. I didnt feel like I had anyone to talk to. I felt like if I told anyone they would immediatly break ties with me. Even writing this I may lose some friends. I am at peace with it now. Especially since I got through this addiction on my own with only a few people in my inner circle knowing. I now want to tell my story to everyone. I even told my pastor a few weeks ago. It was at a service in early May where I begged God for healing of my body and thats when I got the almost audible command to stop taking adderal immediatly.

The irony of all of this is that I myself am a healthcare professional. I have prescribed adderall many times to patients. Healthcare providers don't fully understand the impact of prescribing these highly addictive medication. And it isn't their fault. What other options do we have ion the traditional healthcare setting. No one takes the time to teach the lifestyle factors. And to make it worse, people want the quick fix in a pill. It's a dangerous and vicious cycle. I chose to break the cycle.

If you have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD please hear me when I say this: you are not your diagnosis. You may struggle with things as a neurodivergent that others may not struggle with, but it is not your identity. You are a child of God who created you just the way you are with intention. God wants to use our uniqueness of who we are without medications! Some of you may refute this statement and that's ok. I used to feel the same way. I thought God perhaps messed up and the meds were a way to correct it. It simply isn't true. Me taking adderall was me trying to fit into a box of who and what I thought I should be.

And here's some more food for thought: is it truly ADHD or is it unprocessed complex trauma that often mimics ADHD? I'll let you sit with that one.

I felt so alone going through this on my own. If you are reading this and relate to my story, please DO NOT quit adderall or any other stimulant medications cold turkey unless under the direct supervision of a medical doctor. I highly advise doing a slow taper over 2-4 weeks, dropping by 5 mg weekly if possible. Again, do not initiate any taper without first seeking medical care and supervision.

Don't suffer in silence. Reach out here

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