Occasionally, I would try to get off the drug. Each attempt began the same way. Step 1: the rounding up of all the pills in my possession, including those secret stashes hidden away in drawers and closets. Debating for hours whether to keep just one, “for emergencies.” Then the leap of faith and the flushing of the pills down the toilet. Step 2: a day or two of feeling all right, as if I could manage this after all. Step 3: a bleak slab of time when the effort needed to get through even the simple tasks of a single day felt stupendous, where the future stretched out before me like a grim series of obligations I was far too tired to carry out. All work on my book would stop. Panic would set in. Then, suddenly, an internal Adderall voice would take over, and I would jump up from my desk and scurry out to refill my prescription ”” almost always a simple thing to achieve ”” or borrow pills from a friend, if need be. And the cycle would begin again. Those moments were all shrouded in secrecy and shame. Very few people in my life knew the extent to which the drug had come to define me.
Over the years, I’ve been told by various experts on the subject that it should not have been so hard to get off Adderall. The drug is supposed to be relatively quick and painless to relinquish. I’ve often wondered whether my inability to give it up was my deepest failing. I’ve found some comfort in seeing my own experience mirrored back to me in the dozens and dozens of disembodied voices on the internet, filling the message boards of the websites devoted to giving up this drug. One post, in particular, has stayed with me, a mother writing on QuittingAdderall.com:
I started taking Adderall in OCT 2010. And my story isn’t much different than most. … The honeymoon period, then all downhill. I feel like I cannot remember who I was, or how it felt, to go one minute of the day not on Adderall. I look back at pictures of myself from before this began and I wonder how I was ever “happy” without it because now I am a nervous wreck if I even come close to not having my pills for the day. There have been nights I have cried laying my daughter down to sleep because I was so ashamed that the time she spent with her mommy that day wasn’t real.