My Anxiety About Tonight

February 9, 2011

Tonight is supposed to be my first Al-anon meeting.

I’ve been planning to attend for some time now and was all set to try it out. I did everything I could to prepare for this. I chose an evening and location that worked for me. I read the welcome information to get a sense of how it works. I felt good about all of it. I was actually excited at the thought of addressing my recent feelings. I hoped to overcome all the turmoil brought back into my life over the last few months by a family member who has a serious addiction.

It isn’t like I have never sought help or support to deal with this issue before. I have been in therapy since I was 14 years old and over the years have embraced individual therapy sessions as well as group processes to help “reset my compass”. I have missed out on so much of the love and support that most people get from their families that I constantly question my direction in every aspect of my life. Even when I am succeeding, I can still hear the voices of my past telling me that I’ll never get it right enough and that I’ll never be good enough.

It’s a horrible way to live. I couldn’t survive another day if I didn’t keep “resetting my compass”. Over the years, I have paid a therapist to do what many people trust their families to do – to ask important questions, be there to listen without judgement, to validate my strengths and to challenge my insecurities before they take over and cause me to doubt myself and everything I have worked so hard for. A therapy session helps to keep me on the right path and heading in the right direction.

So I was surprised today when I started to develop some pretty serious anxiety about attending the Al-anon meeting for the first time. Each time I allowed myself to think about it, my heart would start to race and my breathing would become difficult. Just to give you a sense of how truly ridiculous my concerns are, I’ll share a few with you.

  • Too many people show up
  • Too few people show up
  • An opportunity to share
  • No opportunity to share
  • New information that may get me thinking
  • No new information and I leave feeling like I wasted my time
  • I run into someone I know
  • I won’t know anyone and how I wish I did
  • I’m worried my wall will come down and I’ll be vulnerable
  • I’m worried I won’t be able to let my wall down because it all hurts too much and becomes too real

Ironic how my thoughts gang up on me, despite the fact that they contradict each other. It’s no wonder I’m emotionally exhausted from all this. If ever a person needed this, it’s me. I know this because I can’t even bear to have the telephone with me during the day because I’m afraid it will ring and that I’ll get more bad news from home. On the one hand, I’m afraid I’ll hear confirmation that the alcoholic in my life is spending yet another day drinking their way into a vodka-fueled stupor. On the other hand, if they aren’t drinking, it could only mean they’ve been hauled away in the back of an ambulance. Those are pretty much the alcoholic’s options at this point.

And so, despite the 16 years of therapy I’ve had, I can so easily get sucked back into their world of chaos. I never stay for long, but I visit too frequently for my liking.

Nothing can be worse than what I’m dealing with right now. I have to believe it can get better. I need to go to this meeting.


My recent post on ADHD and Substance Abuse was THE MOST VIEWED POST I have written to date. 108 hits in 8 days for a little blog like mine sends a pretty clear message.

I have also received many emails asking me to focus more on this subject because so many in the ADD/ADHD community seem to be dealing with the issue in their own lives. Alcohol and drug abuse (illegal and prescription) are certainly a very real challenge for someone with ADHD, as it is for many others.

My favorite resource to share is an informational booklet, created by Al-anon Family Group Headquarters, and published just this year. It is current, easy to read and filled with the basics to get you started. Whether you’re a parent, a child, a spouse, a sibling or a friend of someone with a drug or alcohol problem, this booklet is a great first step to understanding what you can do to help yourself live a healthier life.

Al-anon Faces Alcoholism 2011

If you feel that Al-anon or Alateen could be right for you, please reach out to them and find out about meeting times and locations in your area. To check out their website, click here.

I will be writing a post about my personal connection to this disease, once I find the words. I’ve been trying for 3 weeks. It’s a great deal harder than I had imagined it would be. I’m working on it.

ADHD and Substance Abuse

January 25, 2011

Photo Credit

Though I like to focus on the strengths that come with ADHD, the reality is I wouldn’t be blogging if it was always smooth sailing, now would I? I promised to be real on here and the reality is that anyone living with ADHD knows that the condition comes with a fair number of challenges.

One of them is substance abuse and the statistics are staggering. It is said that between 30-50% of those living with ADHD will try drugs or alcohol in the hopes of improving their abilities, numbing their fears, decreasing their anxiety, and coping with painful issues and past traumas. Self-medicating may seem like a good idea in the short-term, but in the long-term it will result in a host of other addiction-related problems.

Wendy Richardson MA, MFCC, CAS, author of the best-selling book The Link Between ADD and Addiction explains, “The problem is that self-medicating works at first. It provides the person with ADHD relief from their restless bodies and brains. For some, drugs such as nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, diet pills and “speed” enable them to focus, think clearly, and follow through with ideas and tasks. Others chose to soothe their ADHD symptoms with alcohol and marijuana.

People who abuse substances, or have a history of substance abuse are not “bad” people. They are people who desperately attempt to self-medicate their feelings, and ADHD symptoms. Self-medicating can feel comforting. The problem is, that self-medicating brings on a host of addiction related problem which over time make people’s lives much more difficult.

What starts out as a “solution”, can cause problems including addiction, impulsive crimes, domestic violence, increased high risk behaviors, lost jobs, relationships, families, and death. Self-medicating ADD with alcohol and other drugs is like putting out fires with gasoline.”

That last part has been stuck with me since the first time I read it in her book. It makes so much sense to those of us on the outside, looking in. It is so easy to see clearly when you aren’t the one affected. It isn’t that simple for the addict though.

They can’t see what we see. Addiction is a disease that fools even the addict. It sits on their shoulder and tells them whatever they want to hear. It blocks out the ugliness they can’t deal with by covering everything with darkness, until they feel nothing. Their families and friends struggle to reach them and pull them back into the light but it’s never easy for either side. The brightness can be too harsh and the pain too much to fight with only good intentions. And so the struggle continues.

It doesn’t have to be a losing battle though. So many have overcome addictions using treatment plans that include medical interventions, therapy, 12-step programs and the support of the friends and families. There are so many inspiring stories out there and so much support to be found in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, from people who’ve been there and survived to tell about it.

So, where do you start if you or someone you love suffers from this disease?

The first step to dealing with a substance abuse problem is recognizing that there is a problem. To do that it helps to understand the disease better.

  • What signs should be looking for?
  • What might be causing it?
  • What part do genetics have to play?
  • What changes can be made to improve your situation?
  • What treatment options are right for you or someone you love?
  • How do you take care of yourself, if you love someone suffering with an addiction?
  • Etc.

I’ll be posting some helpful links over the next few weeks to help address this challenge. If you’re reading this and have any links to share, please feel free to comment below or send me a message.

Substance abuse is something I hope to teach both my sons to avoid. Given our genetic pre-disposition for it and the fact that D has ADHD, it won’t be easy.

I can use all the help I can get.

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