Habits run our lives.
And yes, I’m talking to people with ADHD here. Habits are a part of everyone’s life, but we with ADHD have a special relationship with them.
We have good ones and bad ones and really, really bad ones.
And they play a bigger part in our lives than the habits of neuro-typicals play in their lives.
I’ve had some pretty bad habits. Some have been addictions. My drinking is right on the top of that list.
I would consume a 25 ounce bottle of white rum in an evening when I was drinking, and yes, I knew the healing powers of a couple of drinks in the morning when my hangover wouldn’t respond to anything else.
When I quit, I quit suddenly and completely. And I started a new habit, one of being sober.
Does that work?
Well, I wrecked a car and lost my license and freaked myself out about the fact that I could have easily not been alone in my car or could have actually driven into someone else and caused damage or death …
Usually just stopping a habit can work if you can replace it with something else.
When I quit smoking I replaced that with two things, a nicotine patch for the chemical dependence, and golf as a reward.
Does that work?
Yes, breaking a habit is actually just starting the habit of not doing the thing you’re trying to quit. And habits are made by our brain associating rewards with the doing of the thing.
So every time I picked up a club I reminded myself that I wasn’t smoking anymore.
So what’s with habits and ADHD?
Whether we admit it or not, we use habits as default mechanisms to replace or make up for our shortage of executive function.
Whenever we reach a crossroad and we need to make a decision, our brains often freeze up. It’s the same reaction many of us have to filling out forms. It’s the thing that causes procrastination in us.
But, the crossroad is right there. We have to decide which path to take if we’re going to move. In the absence of a decision, we cannot move.
And do we like not moving?
Hellz no! Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go, go, go!!! We do not sit still very well.
Even those of us who are primarily inattentive do not do well when confronted with a decision of importance. We want to have the decision made, move forward and get back to day dreaming.
So what do habits have to do with that?
Personally, my decisions are often made by choosing the most unlikely choice. That usually leads me to adventure.
And that choice is usually made quickly. I do not waste time considering too many options.
I do, however, stop and think if the decision is one that I’m making with someone I care about. I usually list off all the options I can think of and all the potential results of those options …
And then freeze!
I don’t like making choices that may have negative effects on someone I love.
The good news is that when I have a job to do, experience has given me lots of habits that work.
So habits being used as executive function are actually a pretty good recourse for us.
So remember, that good, bad, or indifferent, your habits need to be considered, ’cause they are a part of your life … for good, hopefully.