By James Tilley
I always knew something was wrong but could not figure it out. I had trouble relating to others and making friends. I hated school and I was miserable. At age six I was tested at school and with doctors. Sure enough, I was diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety and dyslexia. In those days, these disorders were not widely accepted. I started meds and counseling. And I attended special education classes and even an after-school study program.
I felt alienated at school, which made everything worse. Eventually, I stopped counseling and doctors. It seemed like everyone knew I hated school so I gave up. I never studied or did homework. I was so disorganized, I don’t know how I made it through grade school. I really think they passed me because my dad was the dentist in our small town and knew everyone.
I started looking for ways to feel better, and I think my problems started with taking Benadryl, an allergy medication. Between that and caffeine, I found I could control my moods most days. Soon I was taking white crosses every day – it was basically legal speed. Then weed entered the picture and I discovered Xanax too.
By the age of 16, I had dropped out school and was using drugs daily to cope with life. Eventually, I was taking two bottles of white crosses every three days and smoking weed daily.
When I was in my twenties, I had an accident. I fell off a ten-foot deck and broke my back! This led to my discovery of hydrocodone. It was a perfect fit for me. It helped both my physical and mental pain. I felt great, had more energy, was more social, I could focus and even started make friends. All was going well and I even got my G.E.D.
But I did not know how addictive it was. I didn’t pay attention to how much I was taking. What followed was twelve years of hell! I overdosed a few times. I spent time in jail and psychiatric hospitals. Still, when I got out, I had to have it or I couldn’t function. By this point I was taking 25 to 30 hydrocodone a day. I even spent time homeless, all to get my fix.
Because of my broken, back the drugs were easy to get. I had three to four different docs and each one was giving me 120 lorcet plus.
Finally, after years, I realized my addiction was killing me. I tried Methadone for two years, but I swore I’d never do that again. I had to go into detox to get off of it. It took three months! Finally, I found suboxone, which has helped me remain clean for seven years.
After my brain had time to heal, I decided to revisit my mental troubles. I found a great psychiatrist and therapist. He told me that 70% of his patients who went undiagnosed for ADHD, either as children or as adults, became addicts. They needed something to deal with the sadness, loneliness, and anxiety.
He was willing work with me but there were conditions. I had to sign a contract agreeing to drug testing and pill counts. I had to give him permission to talk with my doctor so he could monitor my suboxone usage. He put me on Vyvanse, klonopin and Zoloft and reduced my suboxone dosage. Now I have better control and can choose the times I need to be focused the most.
I am on disability because of my back, epilepsy, and mental problems. Therapy helps to deal with feelings. Especially the ones you don’t know where they are coming from. It helped me learn live a normal life.
I’m 41 I have my family back. I have friends. I am happy and now I know where I’m going. Now, I help others online who suffer duel diagnosis of addiction and ADHD. I keep my house clean and organized and remember to do things I’m supposed to. I can start and finish things.
If this sound like someone you love, even it they’re a mess like I used to be, please know they can change and contribute. Now that I’ve got my head straight, I find helping others brings me what I was missing for so long. That is a reason for me to stay on meds, take them as prescribed and also stay in therapy. Helping people who are where I used to be feels like what I’m here for now. At the end of day, I feel content and happy.
I’m even planning on starting a non-profit group specifically dealing with people facing the duel diagnosis of ADHD & addiction. I’d like to help them get care from mental health professionals.
All this to say that, no matter how bad it looks, keep fighting. Believe me, if I can do, this anyone can. Thank you for reading my story. If I can make a difference for just one person, I will be happy!