The Adderall Diaries
The day Rose left it rained. It was October 1st.
I fell in love with Rose the first time I met her. I found her during one of my first nights at college as I walked blindly around the dorms, intoxicated, feeling juvenile. She stood, a thin girl with a large chest wearing baggy clothes, dishevelled yet unbothered by it. She was surrounded by a group of boys ogling at her as she threw back her long strawberry blonde hair in a tangled disarray, holding a lit cigarette, her huge boobs bouncing as she let out an echoing laugh. I still hear it from time to time, and I fall in love with her all over again. She was the most surreal human form of chaos I had ever seen.
We spent that night and years that followed indulging in Adderall, screaming out the words to our favourite song – Aerosmith’s ‘Combination’ – in her gold Toyota Corolla as if we were Joe Perry and Steven Tyler ourselves. “Yout can’t part the three of us once we got a hold!” We sang it with an intensity that could have been a red flag for anyone sane who felt remotely insane enough to be in the presence of any of it all. But we didn’t have that red flag; no one measured to the insanity we drove ourselves into. Veins popping out of our heads, high off amphetamines and whatever else we’d found that night, we’d throw our heads back and laugh, singing every word, knowing the irony of it all.
Rose was someone I revelled in my addiction with, the one who taught me all the debauched crafts in Operation Adderall: taking it on an empty stomach meant bigger peaks, snorting it got in our system quicker and with more intensity, and drinking alcohol eliminated comedowns, because why ever feel less than impassioned? She assured me I was a person who meant well no matter how disreputable I felt abusing my prescription. When the month’s end neared, the months that we had spent popping our prescriptions like candy to the point we fell short of our refill dates, we turned even more toxic.
We’d spend nights finishing a bottle of booze and piles of Ambien to get through withdrawals that felt like stretches of monsters gnawing at our muscles, or gallivant around parties like little gypsy socialites, making connections with strangers, intuitively knowing what we were looking for. She was the Bonnie to my Clyde, the Courtney to my Kurt, the method to my madness. In other words, she was my best friend and worst influence.
Adderall wanted more of Rose than it did of me. I’ll never fully understand where or what it was that caused Rose and I to fall into our different paths. Sometimes I think she was stronger than me in some weird way. Like she could take more and wanted to feel more than I did. She had found harder drugs and I could no longer relate to the symptoms of the highs they gave her or the desperation in her voice when they ran short.
What I remember from October 1st is trying to dig pills from her clammy hands as she stood in the rain of our driveway. I remember trying to hold her as she resisted. I remember the damp smell of her shirt and her brittle collarbones thrashing against my cheeks. I remember the piercing wail she let out as she surrendered to me. I remember both of us falling to the ground and staying there while a friend phoned her family. I remember waking up in my room the next morning and knowing she was gone.
On October 2rd Rose entered detox with open charges for Benzo ID, Oxycodone, Cocaine, Ethanol, THC, Opiates, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines and Adderall.
I waited 10 months to see Rose again. She called saying she was six months sober and wanted me to attend a meeting where she could collect a celebratory coin addicts get after each milestone of being sober.
I flew to Boston and attended my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I entered it with guilt, knowing I had been taking my Adderall despite what it had done to Rose. It was held in the basement of an old church in a stuffy room where a group of us sat for about three hours, listening to people take turns sharing stories of their weeks coping with sobriety. Others listened on with empathy, tapping their feet and nodding their heads. A man next to me fiddled with his wedding band and a woman from across the room watched it deviously. There was a hunger present. They clapped their hearts out for every confession made, every foot in the door, every story told. They were optimistic in a silver lining. And as far as I knew, they didn’t need Adderall for any of it.
I was six years old when I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder and prescribed Adderall. I have been addicted to it ever since.
Adderall has aided in replacing my underwhelming, social anxiety-ridden, lethargic persona with one quite opposite for as long as I can remember. When it kicks in, the only word that justifies the feeling is euphoric. I have reached Nirvana (except in this version there is a heightened sense of self and desire, so basically better than Nirvana) and let me just tell you, it is great here. I am the ultimate optimist, opportunist, enthusiast. Every thought that enters my brain has a certain ecstasy behind it and in that moment everything feels right. My mind is in a state of unadulterated bliss. I am up to speed in a world that slows down for no one. I go from sure to absolutely, overcast to sunshine, how come to why not? I have become enlightened; I am my own Guru. I have travelled from darkness to light. I am in love with the feeling that Adderall gives me, and can you unfailingly blame me?
Rose drove me in silence to the airport the morning I left, thinking back on the years we had in that same car. I looked over at her. Windows down, her tangled hair blowing in the wind, her dainty hands holding a cigarette as she turned the volume up in the gold Toyota Corolla and Aerosmith murmured through the speakers. Without a look, we threw our heads back, laughed and sang along:
“You can’t part the three of us once we got a hold…”
Today my life still revolves around that orange bottle of amphetamines. Whenever I attempt to endure a sober fate similar to Rose’s, the withdrawals come. Withdrawals are ruthless and relentless, a form of punishment that seems to be a work of karma, smacking you with all the wrongdoings and years of abuse, how I took for it all for granted and they were there to remind me. They found me in my bed, knowing sleep was my only escape, and woke me with cold sweats and restless leg. They crept deep in my muscles and veins, tugging and gnawing at them, sending my body into an endless cycle of tossing and turning in a helpless attempt to release them. They tugged on my heart, pulling it into the pit of my stomach only to shoot it back into my throat, inducing vomiting and uncontrollable tremours. Even with nothing left to throw up, the withdrawals stabbed my sides and stomach cramps, sending me hurdling over my bed, dry heaving in the thick air. My body was suddenly hypersensitive to noises and sensations. I started hearing cracks in the walls and felt every drip of sweat.
This is when the reality of drugs sets in. This is the real party. No Rose, no Aerosmith, no skipping through crowded rooms. It’s now tossing and turning, sleepless nights with trailing thoughts and missing the ironic freedom of having control over how addiction punishes you.
I still think of Rose every day. She has relapsed several times since my visit to Boston, but continues her rocky road to recovery.
Cover by Greg Raines