(ModafinilExpert’s Guide to Quitting Adderall/Ritalin – Part IV)
Thus Far –
We’ve covered what Adderall/Ritalin addiction is all about, factors that can make the process of quitting more difficult, and who would benefit from quitting cold turkey in Part I
We talked about how exactly you go about tapering off your dosage via the "slow and steady approach" in Part II
We covered the two biggest obstacles that stand between you and freedom (and what you can do about them) in Part III
In this section (Part IV), we're going to go over effective methods that will make this entire process a lot easier on yourself and boost your chances of success significantly. Without further adieu, let's jump right into it!
Laziness is a fundamental human vice and the father of underachievement. For most of my life, I had been fighting hard to resist its seductive pull to banal comfort and underachievement. It wasn't until underwent the process of getting off my ADHD medications that I realized how I could use laziness it to my advantage.
At the heart of laziness is the desire to conserve energy.
Instead of being lazy about finishing up an important project, why not put myself in a position where I could be lazy about fetching my medication?
Here's exactly how I applied this back when I was in college and still going through withdrawals. Before I left my apartment to go to the University for classes, I would leave my Rx at home (I used to bring it with me so I could use it whenever I wanted).
If I had already arranged to take a certain amount that day, I would bring the amount with me and leave the rest at home. Later in the day, if I was in a bad mood or feeling particularly un-motivated and wanted to reach for the Ritalin, I wouldn't be able to.
That would require me going all the way to my car, driving 10 minutes to my apartment, getting it, driving back, and getting back to my business. There would be days where I would be sitting on the 5th floor of the library, staring at a piece of software text, wishing that I could self-medicate to get through the boring assignment.
In this case, being lazy works to your benefit
It was way easier for me to accept the suckiness of the situation when changing it required me to pack up all my stuff, take the elevator to the first floor, walk in the freezing cold to my car, drive back to my apartment, fetch my meds, drive all the way back to school, find parking, walk all the way back to the library, and get back to work.
It's 3 PM and you're starting to doze off at work. You stayed up really late the night before and you have a lot to get done. You feel like it would be a lot easier to power through it if you had another 10mg Ritalin on you. Which scenario automatically sets you up in a better position to not slip up:
a. You left your month's prescription in the glove compartment of your car parked out front.
b. You left your medication at home, which is half an hour away.
Are you more likely to drive all the way home, take your Ritalin, and drive all the way back to work? Or would you rather suck it up and power through it?
You're used to waking up to Adderall every morning but you're not supposed to take any today. You feel especially tired and you know it would wake you up in a jiffy. Which situation helps you stick to your gameplan, and which makes failure all too convenient:
a. Your Adderall is sitting in your drawer 5 feet away in your bed.
b. Your Adderall is locked up in a box inside the shed. You can go outside and get it if you like... but the weather is cold and it would take you a few minutes to move all the junk aside and reach it.
If you're sitting in the library typing up a paper for a class, does it make more sense to leave your prescription at home, or in your backpack where you can reach for it like a bag of potato chips?
You don't have to drive 20 miles away from your house, dig a hole in the ground in the middle of nowhere, and bury your Rx there. (Props if you're willing to go through all of that, though)
The point is, you don't want to store your drugs on hand where its easily accessible and convenient to reach out to. You want to place it somewhere where its a little bit inconvenient for you to go grab it.
This is the #1 tip I can give you because it's the easiest to implement, requires no effort, and is extremely effective.
How much willpower does it take to reach into your backpack or purse and pop a pill?
How much willpower does it take to drive all the way home and back to work to pop the same pill?
It's a no brainer. You can unconsciously slip up in the heat of the moment, but you can't unconsciously go home to get your meds. That requires a conscious series of events. Even if you were to go through with it, there are a dozen stops along the way where you think to yourself,
Am I really going through with this? What am I doing? Why am I even doing this???
Going through the process of consciously going out of your way to get your meds stirs up all kinda of negative feelings; guilt, uncertainty, disappointment.
Good for you! That's your mind speaking to you and letting you know that you know you shouldn't be going through with it. Let it speak to you. Give yourself a chance to feel guilty and remorseful in the moment.
It's a hell of a lot better to feel guilty in the moment and stay clean and feel accomplished, then it is to go to bed with the less temporary guilt of knowing you set yourself back
If you slip, get right back up. Do not binge! Ditch the idea of "streaks"
Ever hear this before? Guy says he's starting a new diet and he's determined to stick with it. He goes strong for a few days, then he screws up and has a cheat meal when he's not supposed to. But instead of jumping back on the diet, he uses it as an excuse to eat shit because he ruined his streak and he feels like he has nothing to lose.
The fallacy with this whole idea of "streaks" is that it only exists in your mind. If you stick to the plan for two weeks, and slip up once, does that mean all your progress is gone? Of course not!
Several different online communities for quitting gambling, alcohol, or porn have what you call badges that are displayed next to the person's username. The number on the badge is supposed to show how many days in a row you've managed to successfully go clean. The theory behind it goes something like this
You'll get excited about how long you've been clean, and that should motivate you to stay clean.
Guys, trust me on this one...
Do not get caught up in the numbers game where you're keeping tabs over how many days in a row you've gone clean. What do you think happens when you're on a really good streak and you mess up?
Your badge or streak gets reset to 0 and your mind tricks you into believing that you're all the way back at square one. From there, you start thinking
Damn, this really sucks. I was having such a good run... Now I'm all the way back at Day 0. Oh well, since I messed up I better enjoy it while I can and get it out of my system before I start my next run.
"Enjoying it while you can" because you ended your month long streak is a convenient excuse to go on a binge. Instead of jumping right back on the wagon, you keep binging for a few days or weeks until you decide to get serious again.
Do this enough times and you'll start asking yourself things like
Is this really possible for me?
Can I even do it?
Is worth it?
Then, you really will be back to square one.
You don't get off your meds by thinking about how long you've come since you've been on your meds. You get off them by living your life and sticking to the schedule you set for yourself.
Setting a Realistic Time Frame for Yourself:
If you've been on ADHD drugs for 10 years straight, does it sound like a good idea to set a goal for yourself to be completely off one month from now? It's one thing to be optimistic and motivated, but you're only hurting your own progress by setting unrealistic goals that are damn near impossible to meet.
Why not give yourself an entire year to get off and slowly take your time with it? I mean you've already been on them for your entire life. Instead of having these huge jumps where you suddenly cut your regular dosage in half, you can take your time and allow your body to slowly adjust.
People have this idea stuck in their mind that quitting speed is as simple as quitting cigarettes.
Storytime with Joel: I've tried several times in the past to smoke cigarettes consistently. Sounds silly, I know. I had this idealized image in my mind where I pictured myself sitting on the beach on an island in Hawaii and working on my laptop while I had a cup of coffee and an ashtray spilling over with cigarettes right beside me. But every time I would buy a pack, the same thing would happen. I'd smoke half the pack over the course of a few days, get bored with them, and throw the rest of the pack away. Even when I would smoke them, I didn't get any real pleasure out of it and I've never had any kind of strong craving for a cigarette out of the blue. Alas, my dreams of the ideal life on that Hawaiian beach were shattered, all because of my body's inability to give a fuck about nicotine.
Even though I've never been addicted to cigarettes, I'm willing to bet that speed is A LOT more addictive. People seem to forget this. Some of you have been picking up your prescription from the pharmacy for YEARS and you never once stopped to consider that your "medication" that's supposed to help you succeed in life is just barely different on the chemical level from the crystal methamphetamine that homeless drug addicts use.
It's time for you to wake the fuck up! You're on SPEED, remember??
One of the most addictive substances on the face of the Earth (we don't like to think of it that way.)
On a subconscious level, you need to understand that your medication is just one step below cocaine in terms of addictive-ness.
Would you expect someone who was snorting coke for years to taper down over to nothing in just one month? That's absolutely ludicrous!
So why the hell would you apply that standard on yourself?!
Because you got it from a doctor and its not illegal? Unfortunately, your brain's receptors doesn't differentiate between "medicine" and "drugs". It's all the same as far as your brain is concerned.
If you've tried quitting in a really short period of time and failed a dozen times, what makes you think this time will be any different?
Realize that your body is physically and psychologically ADDICTED (scary word, right?) and treat it accordingly.
Having an Accountability Person That You Trust and is Easily Accessible:
Not everyone has this kind of luxury but if you do have it, take advantage of it.
I'm not just talking about emotional support where you talk about your problems and receive comfort and re-assurance. While that can certainly help, that's not the main role of the accountability person.
The accountability person's role is to hold you accountable for your actions. I chose to go about this all by myself because I didn't feel like I needed it. In hindsight, if I had swallowed my pride and allowed a friend to hold me accountable, I would have made the process easier on myself.
The reason this works is because it drastically reduces the amount of willpower you have to exert. Remember how willpower is a finite resource?
Wouldn't it be a lot easier if you could hand over your monthly supply of medication to someone you trust, and have them give you only what you needed for that day? Then you wouldn't have to worry about being tempted to take more because you can rely on someone else to make that choice for you. I know some of you are going to say to yourselves
I don't want someone else babysitting me.I'm too good to ask for help.
I can totally understand where you're coming from because that's exactly how I used to think.
You feel like its "beneath you" to have another person monitor your progress and have control over your medication.
It's not beneath you nor was it beneath me.
Had I not let my stupid pride get in the way, I could have made the quitting process a lot easier on myself emotionally.
Don't make the same mistake I made. Swallow your pride and let someone help you.
Just make sure it's someone you know well and trust. I don't suggest picking an acquaintance or someone who isn't too emotionally invested in you.
If you have a sibling or a boyfriend/girlfriend who isn't going to cave under pressure and hand over your drugs when you demand more, that would be the best scenario.
The problem with picking an acquaintance is because there is an implicit boundary in your friendship. They have a life of their own and its not their obligation to call you up every day and check up on you. Also, if you try and pressure them into forking over your drugs, they're more than likely to do so because it's not worth it to them to do otherwise.
In the ideal situation, your accountability person is someone you have a close bond with and interact with on a day to day basis.
In a less ideal situation, it could be a close friend who calls you up regularly or semi-regularly and checks up on how you're doing.
Progress Comes One Step At a Time
I can't tell you how many times over I've seen this happen... A guy has set a reasonable time frame to come off his medication, he's a few weeks in, and everything seems like its going fine.
But he's getting impatient...
He would rather get this over with faster. It's been an entire month and he's gone from taking 10mg of Adderall 4x/day down to 10mg 3 times/day.
That is a big step, but he doesn't think he's improving fast enough.... He wants to get this over with as soon as possible and starts thinking to himself
You know what, I've been really disciplined this past month and I've made some progress. Let's step it up a notch so I can finish this faster.
So you've made some progress, you're feeling real confident, and you're in complete control so it won't hurt to adjust your protocol to shorten it right? WRONG!
The reason we're picking a longer time frame to beat this is two-fold:
You give your body and mind plenty of time to slowly wean off. This way, you won't go through any sudden withdrawals or feel like you're losing your mind and the world is going to end if you don't get your medication RIGHT NOW.
By giving yourself a longer time frame, you can take small, consistent steps every day instead of banking everything on one giant leap of faith.
If you allow yourself a 6 month - 1 year time frame and stick to it, you put yourself in a much better position to succeed.
If you think you're being smart by suddenly dropping your dosage because of a sudden burst of confidence, then I have no pity for you when you fail and go back to wondering "Why can't I quit?!"
Think back to how you got addicted in the first place.
Did your doctor put you on 80mg a day of Adderall to begin with?
No. More than likely, you started off with a low dose of 10mg/day. And you took it consistently for months at a time. Then you got it bumped up to 20mg/day once your brain adapted.
You are where you are now because it took months or years of consistency to build it up to this point!!
Steady, daily consistency is what dug you into this hellhole and consistency is what is going to get you out of it.
Stick to your plan. You may think you're barely making any progress, but that's just because you're impatient.
Take a look at this segment of an interview with Will Smith (its only a couple minutes long).
The part where he says "There is going to be a hole in this wall forever" perfectly illustrates the mindset of so many people in their approach to quitting ADHD drugs. A year sounds like a really long time and you feel like you have so far to go, so why bother right?
Did you think the same thing a year or two ago? Did you do anything about it?