For years I didn’t know I had ADHD. I didn’t know what ADHD was. For that matter, for many of those years, ADHD wasn’t even called ADHD.
I did think that I was “normal,” but I really could not have told you what normal was supposed to be. Not a big surprise, really, I still can’t.
I thought it was normal to have self doubt, massive self doubt. I thought it was normal to chatter to myself in my head. I thought it was normal to chatter to myself out loud when I was alone. I thought it was normal to be constantly seeking a quieter place inside my head.
The quiet inside the bottle
I also thought, when I had that first drink at the age of twelve, that the quiet that followed in my head was the way it was supposed to be. Like the jolt of clarity that sugar gives me, the calm in my mind from the alcohol seemed to be a blessing.
I pursued that quiet occasionally, casually at first. But the more I realized how quiet it made my mind, the more alluring it was. I was drinking as close to every day as I could by the time i was sixteen.
I did not just crave alcohol, I craved the cessation of talk going on in my head, the peace of mind that came from having only one train of thought at a time, no matter that it was derailed and going nowhere.
And the more I drank, the more at peace I was.
No blind eye to turn
Except, of course, that my family was worried and I was not so blind as to not be able to see that.
And I had to agree that the way alcohol made me feel the next day, though that only lasted until I got well started on drinking again, was not good. In fact, the way it made me feel was broken and ill.
At some point I reasoned out that a few drinks (I was drinking a couple dozen each day by the time I was twenty) might give me the escape I longed for, and leave me the health I needed to reclaim. It might also allow me to reclaim a bit of a social life.
No easy task
I had very limited success with that plan. It seemed that the racing thoughts would drive me on, if one drink was okay then the next one was okay too, right?
And if just one drink wouldn’t hurt, how could that logic that allowed the first drink not be applicable to the eleventh or the twenty-first?
As smart as I am, it took until I was almost twenty-five to figure out that the only drink I could successfully turn down … was the first one.
And the noise?
The racket of constant thought and self conversation did not come flooding back, it was always there, I had only made myself deaf while drinking, mornings after were all noise and hangover. No wonder I had so little control.
But since, if I was going to quit drinking, I didn’t have the ability to turn off that noise with alcohol, I needed to figure something else out.
Embrace your enemy
I did what I had often done in the past when faced with a problem. I tried to understand it. I began to listen to my thoughts, I know that sounds odd, but it was true. I began to appreciate them for what they were, the rapid, multi-directional thinking that I would eventually discover was my ADHD.
And although my plan was to become familiar with those thoughts firing past me, and eventually accepting of them, I actually became comfortable with the way my mind leapt from not only one thought to the next, but from one topic to another seemingly disconnected one.
It was not love at first sight
That’s true, it wasn’t. But it was eventually love. I often open my mouth to speak and as I’m talking I realize how far away from the situation or topic at hand the thing I’m about to say is … and I relish the the looks of confusion that ensue.
And sometimes, the person that I’m talking to will know that this is how my mind works. And they’ll know that i love that it is so. And they will care. And they will smile. And so will I
I love life that is faster than the speed of thought.