This week’s message is by far the most personal I have shared in my entire life. It is also one of the most unorganized, all-over-the-place, thought-driven posts I have created. Much of the information you will find below was pieced together through years of various journal entries, research, and discussions with others. I sincerely hope my story resonates, motivates, and inspires all who take the time to read it!
Today’s theme is centered around Letting Go. Letting go of that which does not serve us. Letting go of our need to fit in. Letting go of our need for instant gratification. And more specifically, letting go of our addictions. Addictions can come in the form of food or drugs. One may be addicted to their screen (IPhone, IPad, Computer, etc.). One may be addicted to video games or constantly watching television. One may even be addicted to their significant other, relying on them for their own happiness, fulfillment, or well-being. Below is the story of an addiction I have struggled with, my journey through it, my gratitude for it, and how I ultimately overcame it through the art of letting go.
Full disclosure: I have been legally prescribed Adderall by my Primary Care Physician and Psychiatrist for 5+ years.
For a majority of my adult life, I have been addicted to getting s*** done. Whether it was on the football field, in the weight room, in the classroom, on a computer, or in the office, I was addicted to “accomplishment,” by any means necessary. Through this everlasting desire for accomplishment, I developed another unhealthy addiction, one that has taken me on a roller coaster ride for 5+ years. Allow me to explain.
I first tried Adderall 7 years ago while I was in college. My friends said it would help me study and stay focused. At first, I was weary of the idea as historically, I didn’t have trouble focusing, but decided to give it a shot. Upon consumption, I instantaneously felt like Superman. Upon completion of college, I decided that I was going to study, and pass the CPA. Subsequently, my usage of this “superman pill” increased substantially. I relied on it to study. I relied on it to take tests. Unfortunately for me, during the “CPA Grind” phase of my life, my usage of this “limitless” pill was just getting started.
For the first two years, dosages were manageable and the feeling was remarkable. I felt untouchable. Adderall turned me into a machine. It helped me focus for longer periods of time, get more work done than the average human being, and made me feel like I was on top of the world. Initially, it also made me more sociable and self-assured, providing me the confidence to talk in front of groups and hold conversations with complete strangers. I could simultaneously scroll through Instagram, tie out a set of financial statements, and perform a high intensity workout AT THE SAME DAMN TIME! When I took this beautifully deceitful orange oval-shaped pill, I felt UNSTOPPABLE. I was a BEAST! I could study for hours on end. I could review workpapers until the sun came up! I could stay up 16+ hours and crank work out like there was no tomorrow. I felt like I could do anything. I was unbeatable. I could pass the hardest test. I could write the perfect paper. I could review, edit, and finalize a flawless consulting deliverable. And I could do all of this while running a mile, making dinner, and cleaning my room. WITH A SMILE! This amazing drug made the most mundane of tasks, absolutely thrilling! It made a typical Monday site visit to a client for a Governmental Audit feel like opening kickoff on Superbowl Sunday. Unfortunately, these chemically-induced Superman feelings of absolute power and endless intelligence were short-lived. As with any drug, consuming too much of it over a period of time decreases the potency on the body. Within a few short months, my tolerance increased and I found myself taking larger doses, chasing that first high, to no avail. And this is when it started to go downhill…
I was first prescribed 10mg per day and initially, I felt superb! However, 5+ years down the line, at my peak usage, I was prescribed 60mg/day. And at this time I was utilizing 60-70mg per day, Monday-Saturday. Unfortunately, with increased dosages came increased complications. There were nights where I couldn’t get one bit of sleep. I would toss and turn for the duration of the entire night. Sometimes, my vision would go blurry. I was rarely hungry and preferred to skip lunch or rush through it so I could get back to what I thought at the time to be relentless productivity. At peak usage, it felt like there were 10 voices going on in my head at one point. I couldn’t decipher which one was the true me. At times, this made me feel literally, crazy. I felt paranoid. I felt unfulfilled. I felt unhappy. I felt like no matter how hard I worked, it was never enough. I would receive perfect evaluations at work, yet legitimately still feel like my job was on the line every single day if I didn’t perform at the highest level (and to me, performing at the highest level necessitated consumption of the pill). I felt like a robot. I felt disconnected from society. I felt disconnected from my family. I felt disconnected from my girlfriend. I would pick meaningless fights with others as I conjured hypothetical situations in my head that held no real substance or value. I felt like the world was against me. Like I had something to prove. At times, I felt emotionless. I felt detached from the world. I looked out for myself and myself, only. Best friends would bring this negative quality of self-centeredness to my attention. I ignored them. I didn’t want to hear any of it. I was in my own world. I only participated in activities or events that helped me progress my life, my status, my professional career forward. I was selfish beyond measure. I pushed away those who cared most for me. I neglected my family. I neglected my girlfriend. I neglected my friends. I preferred to sit in my room and work all weekend instead of socializing with friends or connecting with family. I was completely detached, disengaged, and disconnected from the human experience.
Minor Setback For A Major Comeback
Today, I am proud. I have taken two 30 mg. pills in the past 62 days. And I believe there is a lot to say about those 2 pills I consumed over the span of 62 days. In any new learning challenge, we can expect to make mistakes, to incur minor setbacks, to temporarily fail! This same principle applies to learning or practicing ANY new behavior! For example, when we are learning to ride a bike, we will surely encounter slips and falls. On one’s journey to quit smoking, one might occasionally partake in a cigarette or 5. On one’s journey to changing their diet to completely plant-based, one might indulge in the occasional XL bag of Hot Cheetos. The key here is to identify the factors that led to the lapse. Go back over the day and identify the chain of actions or events that led up to it. How did the day start out? What caused the build-up of stress? How did you feel afterwards? By identifying the events that triggered the lapse, we not only dig up or single out potential roadblocks to success, but we also develop the ability to see a lapse for what it is, a reaction to specific stimuli, rather than a personal flaw! DO NOT brow-beat yourself after a lapse. How we treat ourselves after these lapses makes the biggest difference in how quickly we get back on track. I once read “people who don’t recover from lapses are people who have a black-and-white attitude about it. They think eating one cookie [or one pill] means they’ve failed. People who recover quickly are people who don’t think one mistake is a total failure. They don’t turn it on themselves. They look at the situation that caused it instead.”
YES! It took 10+ failed attempts on my end until I finally realized that a temporary lapse is not a sign of failure, nor is it the first step to a full-on relapse. Part of the reason why I failed so many times is because I beat myself up so much over the minor lapses. In doing so, I manifested feelings of unworthiness, depression, weakness, and defeat and, unbeknownst to me at that time, the cultivation of these negative emotions actually contributed to future slip-ups! Whoa… When you internally cultivate those types of damaging emotions, you start to believe in them. And in believing that we completely failed, we set ourselves up for future lapses. Almost everyone experiences slip-ups when trying to break old habits and adopt new ones, whether starting a diet, quitting smoking, or committing to a workout program, a lapse is a natural part of the process of change and the sooner we can accept this comforting and reassuring fact, the sooner we can move forward and grow! All of the power we seek in this world lies within each and every one of us!
I am finally experiencing what it means to truly LET GO. Not just of addictions, but of everything that no longer serves me. I was afraid how this would feel for so many years. I didn’t think I would be able to handle the cravings, the desires to get high so that I could function- so I held on tight, as tight as I possibly could to my addiction. To being comfortable. To familiarity. I legitimately thought I needed that beautifully deceitful orange pill to function, to get work done, to focus, to be my best, to be THE best! Little did I know at the time, Adderall has absolutely zero correlation to an increase in one’s cognitive ability. What it does do, however, is increase one’s confidence, but this artificial spike in confidence is wildly short-lived. See, there were very dark side-effects to my heightened non-organic, robotic, chemically-induced productivity/confidence. It left me feeling anxious, which I was okay with at first. But, then I started to unfailingly feel alone, isolated, machinelike, humorless, unemotional, stressed and downright depressed. But how could I let it go? It was all I knew for 3+ years. In my mind, it was integral to the numerous promotions I received, accolades awarded, and praise bestowed. How could I function without it?
To be candid, when I quit my previous job, I wasn’t sure how to answer that question, but I had to give it a shot, my best shot. I had to at least try! So, I tried. And I failed. Again, and again, and again, and again, and again. I must’ve tried to kick the habit tens of times, and failed, each.and.every.time. There is a dark, gloomy beauty to failure, though. It humbles the mind. It humbles the spirit. It humbles the soul.
When I came back to work, I wanted to dive deeper into Health and Wellness, reaching as many people as I possibly could. But I struggled with this concept. How could I be of service, consulting with others on healthy living and taking care of their bodies, when I wasn’t even taking care of mine? How could I expect to be the Chief Wellness Officer of any Company if I couldn’t even be the Chief Wellness Officer of my own life? We MUST practice what we preach. I once heard on a podcast, “to be of service, you’ve got to be fit for service.” I concur.
It was not until later that I understood why I continually failed. I failed because I wasn’t truly ready to let go. I loved what I had. I was attached to what I had. I was attached to my money. I was attached to my luxury car. I was attached to my status, my place in society. I was attached to the high that it gave me. I was attached to my ego. Shit, I was even attached to my girlfriend! Then, one day, on April 27, 2018, I decided to try again, but this attempt, unlike all other attempts, I wasn’t attached to the outcome. Rather than letting go out of desperation and urgency, I let go out of love, out of peace, and with the intention of understanding, compassion, love, and care. This time, I dropped all expectations of future outcomes and simply accepted what is, each and every moment of each and every day. I let go of my need for money. I let go of my need to have a nice car. I let go of my need to be noticed, my status. I let go of my need to get high in order to function or get work done. I let go of my ego. Shit, I even let go of my girlfriend… While insanely difficult and emotional, this true, pure, and intentional act of letting go of every single thing that does not serve a positive purpose in my life brought with it an inner-peace. An inner-peace that pen will not ever be able to describe to paper.
2 weeks into no longer taking my prescription, I quit my job, I let go of my need to be ON IT 24/7. I let go of my expectation to perform at the highest possible level at ALL TIMES, and instead, I traveled North America and Mexico for 6 whole weeks, bringing with me feelings of joy, fulfillment, gratitude, love, empathy, peace, and compassion wherever I went.
As a sort of “Organic Rehabilitation Program”, I performed and still perform the following. I write in my journal on a daily basis. I read books daily. I jot down 5 things I am grateful for on a daily basis. I send gratitude notes out to at least 1 person per day, letting that person know how thankful I was/am to have him/her in my life. I stay off of my phone for the first hour of the day. I practice gratitude immediately upon waking up. I write down affirmations on sticky notes and place them all over. I take notes in my phone when I come across something positive or some sort of life lesson. I came out of my introverted shell. I met new people. I connected with others. Like, really connected. I meditate daily (110 out of the past 111 days). I pray daily. I work out 1-4 times per day (1-2x per day now that I am back to work)! I practice breathing techniques. I take deep breaths. I practice kindness. I practice forgiveness. Forgiveness for myself. Forgiveness of others. And it was and is through practicing these life-changing techniques, consistently, on a daily basis that I am now learning to successfully let go of everything that does not serve me.
I am much more sensitive to who I hang out with, what I do with my free time, and what I put into my body. I realized and accepted that once I stopped taking Adderall, I had to come up with ways to tap into that heightened sense of energy, awareness and well-being without taking the drug. And I found that by doing what I mentioned above: hanging around people who elevate my vibes, getting 8-9 hours of sleep, managing my stress levels, and eating the right foods, I am able to tap into these heightened levels of consciousness. What’s more, the energy I feel by partaking in the aforementioned activities is purer, more impactful, stronger, and more sustainable than the energy I felt while on Adderall! “For it is in the absence of wanting that we find true inner-peace.”
Allow me to explain one more thing. I am not there yet. I have a long way to go. I still have cravings. I had cravings when I first sat down to write this post, as I used to associate writing and working (stimuli) with the usage of the destructive and vicious substance. Over the last 8 weeks, I have taken 2 30mg orange pills. And I put this out there because I believe it is a necessity to be honest. To be honest with yourself. To be honest with others. That is the only way to grow. While I still have cravings and desires, I take pride in proving to myself over these last 8 weeks of self-reflection, that I could REALLY do this shit! At the peak of my addiction, I never thought a day like this would EVER be possible! Real talk! I have learned that I don’t need the medication to be successful, to be sociable, to be a freakin’ beast. All of that power ALREADY lies within ME! And it lies within YOU too!
In all honesty, I was tremendously hesitant and deathly afraid to post this. I was afraid to make this very personal issue a public matter, but as I consulted with my closest friends, they not only supported me, but many of them confessed to me their own addictions and the trouble they face in their attempts to overcome those addictions. The fact that being open about my journey held with it the potential to help others on their journey is all I needed to hit that “POST” button.
If you can relate to even one sentence of what was discussed above, PLEASE reach out to me! Whether it be opiods, stimulants, depressants or even social media, addictions are very real behaviors, very real conditions that if continually masked or swept under the rug, will inevitably rear their ugly heads at some point in your life. If this resonated with you, lets chat! Let’s share our journeys. Let’s push each other to be better, to do better. We are all in this together! To make this world a better place. Because at the end of the day, this is what it is all about.
Share Your Journey
During my time in Mexico, one of my mentors, a beautiful soul, Kat Sand, pulled me aside after I explained my journey to an entire class of 25 yogis and articulated to me “our ability to be open and vulnerable only adds to the power we can cultivate both internally and externally.” What a wise, profound, and honest statement. Being open and vulnerable is therapeutic! It helps us tremendously in getting through the heart aches and experiencing the true joy that life has to offer. As this article indicates, my ability to be honest, loving, and open about this very personal topic has helped me on my journey through it!
I have shared MY truth and encourage you to share yours. Telling your story to a group of kind hearts and open minds may very well be the most powerful medicine on earth. In order to benefit fully from the healing medicine of telling your story, you must resist holding anything back. “You must strip off your mask, be unapologetically you, ditch worrying about what “everybody” is going to think, and let your glorious freak flag fly.” Please reach out to me with YOUR story and let’s walk this journey TOGETHER!