Voices of the Addicted Generation: Daniel - Pacific Standard

Voices of the Addicted Generation: Daniel

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Phoenix, Arizona, works for a major insurance company, 29

As Told to Madeleine Thomas

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(Photo: Christopher Leaman)

Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared in our July/August 2016 print issue as a sidebar to “The Addicted Generation.”

I was a pretty crazy kid. Very outgoing, but very distractible. Around the start of second grade, my mother decided to take me to see a doctor. I went through the DSM test, got diagnosed, and started on Ritalin. I was really smart; it just wasn’t turning into good grades. Pretty much as soon as I started taking medication, my grades became phenomenal. By the end of second grade I was doing awesome in school, and crushed it all the way through high school.

“In an ideal world, I’d love to get off it. I just don’t think it’s possible.”

In college, I decided that I was going to try my own behavior modification method. For the first year I did pretty good in school, still getting all As and Bs. Before, I was an all-As, AP-class, super-nerd kid. But I was satisfied with my As and Bs in college because I had more of a social life than I had ever had. I think part of the reason I was able to come out of my shell so much was because I stopped taking stimulant medications, which made me feel wired and anxious socially. For a brief time there was a re-adjustment period emotionally, but that ended up being a really good thing. I felt a lot more positive and outgoing and happy and fun to be around. I developed the social skills at that time in my life that I use in my current job.

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A version of this story first appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Pacific Standard.

When I got this job, I knew that I was going to fail if I didn’t get myself strictly back on a medication regimen. It worked like a charm. I’ve been killing it like I used to again. Still, it depresses me that this is something I have. It depresses me that it’s difficult for my fiancée to deal with. When I’m coming down at the end of my day, I feel really zoned out. It’s difficult to focus on a dinner conversation at times. I’ll catch myself being caught in my own thoughts, as opposed to present and in the moment.

It sucks that I have an issue that requires me to be on medication for the rest of my life. That’s probably the hardest thing I’ve had to come to terms with. You feel like you are lacking something that everybody else has. In an ideal world, I’d love to get off it. I just don’t think it’s possible. Even if I weren’t doing such a stressful, high-stakes job, just living day to day and not being all over the place would be difficult if I wasn’t on some kind of medication. Now, is that because I started taking it when I was so young, or is it just because I have ADD and I’m always going to have ADD? I don’t know.

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