By Sheila Gale Kandlbinder
I am the youngest of four girls. I was always a ‘pistol’. I never sat still. Still don’t. At eight my parents suspected I had an overactive thyroid so they took me to my doctor. I remember his exact words when he looked at the test results, “No kiddo, you’re just a real go-getter!” So off I ran, going and getting until I crashed.
My sister, Roberta and I are a year apart. In school she drew on her desk and looked out the window instead of listening. In 4th Grade, they brought Roberta to a child psychologist for her behavior but nothing came from it.
We both struggled so much with focus, we could hardly read. Luckily, I was clever enough to skim through a book and write a book report that sounded as though I read it. I also struggled in algebra and sought ways to make them think I’m smart, when I knew I wasn’t.
My Father came from meager means. He worked his way through medical school and I felt he was always disappointed in me. “Do you think you’ll ever amount to anything?
As school, I didn’t receive much encouragement either. “Sheila shows great potential but needs to put forth more effort…Talks too much and her work is messy.” This was a behavior problem and the consequence was punishment.
It was a Friday night in 1964 when my parents were out. Roberta and I decided to try alcohol. We plugged our noses and chugged vodka out of the bottle and were high in seconds. I remember that instant, fantastic, warm, glowing feeling. I thought I’d discovered the secret to life in this magical elixir that made me smart, funny and beautiful. We both loved it and, on that day, we began our alcoholic careers.
I graduated high school in 1970 and got a summer job at Jack in the Box. Four months later my dad died and my world shattered. It shocked me to discover he had been self-medicating. What?! He was the one who told us to stay away from drugs. My God, my foundation, gone!
My twenties were a train wreck of anxiety, tranquilizers and alcohol. With no coping skills, my life finally spun out of control. In 1982 I went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. From that day, I did not drink alcohol or use pills for 16 years. That also ended my relationship with Roberta as she continued to struggle.
My story was, “I’m an alcoholic and drinking is the root of all my problems.” My sobriety didn’t last, but it wasn’t because I’m weak, lack will power or didn’t attend enough meetings. I drank again because there was something underlying my drinking. There was something deeper within me I never knew about.
Finally, in my 50’s I was diagnosed with depression and ADHD. The only thing I knew about ADHD is that it meant I’m impulsive and can’t focus well. Not one doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist ever explained ADHD to me. They never told me about online support available at ADDA.
I had not been close with Roberta in many years. Her life has been very difficult and a constant struggle. I judged her as a victim and kept my distance, until now. I realized she is the way she is, and has lived the way she has, because of the debilitating effects of her misunderstood ADHD. My heart opened up and I reached out to her. We are now on this new journey together. We are both grateful to be sober. She has an appointment to see her doctor. I have hope now, because she has never received the one thing that will most likely help her, treatment for her ADHD.