I’ve been thinking…we need to talk. This has actually been brewing for awhile, but it came to a head the other day. An editor and I were having a little post-mortem outside of the office about the piece I’d published the night before. You know the one. Remember? A few weeks back, you kept me company during a particularly nasty stretch, when I only got four hours of sleep over, what was it, three days? Almost three days. I know, I know: Far from the first time you’ve saved my ass, especially as far as deadlines go. But this time, it was different.
“The first four paragraphs were really good,” the editor told me. “But then you gave me the rest the next day, and it was totally incoherent. I think the Adderall is affecting your writing. Your voice is completely different when you’re on it. I mean, it’s basically just speed, you know?”
I know. I was stunned, too. He knew all about us! It was a little personal, to be honest. But as far as the note on the story, well, let’s face it, he was right. It was the way he talked about you, though, that hurt the most. He dissed you. Said you were good for a laugh now and then but had become a bad influence on me. That’s no way to treat a legally prescribed pharmaceutical, right? You’re not crack! You can’t even be smoked, unless there’s something you haven’t told me.
Of course, I came to your defense immediately. They assigned that piece at the last minute, on the night before a holiday weekend. And of course, he’d been the one to hook us up, at least on that occasion, handing over a spare 20mg extended-release capsule (“I only take it when I’m going out,” he explained), which I gladly, fiendishly gobbled up in the passionate tradition of Dr. Gregory House: no water needed.
Even after all of that, he told me to ditch you, suggested I was whipped.
“It’s just amphetamine,” he went on. “How can you take it every day and not expect to be addicted to it?”
Ever since that conversation, everything has just felt different. Lately, I find myself asking questions, uncomfortable questions. I’ve been with you for almost three years now (tell me you didn’t forget our anniversary), and never recreationally. In fact, our relationship has been validated by totally reputable, board-certified physicians. We’re together for all the “right” reasons.
But listen, please? You need to focus, Adderall: I’m really starting to ask myself how much I actually need you. Or if I really need you at all.
Look, I know I’m not special—I’m not the first writer-type you’ve been with. The fact is, you’ve been around, okay? I mean, start with most of the journalists I’ve worked alongside over the last few years at various magazines or websites. They’ve all fallen under your spell. But promiscuity is in your blood. Back in 2005, when you and Joshua Foer had that weeklong fling (him? really?), he listed all the famous writers who’d fallen for amphetamines just like you: W.H. Auden, James Agee, Graham Greene, and Philip K. Dick, Jack Kerouac, and Jean-Paul Sartre, to name a few.
Honestly, just thinking about you and them together makes me insecure. I can’t compete with guys like that!
It’s not that I’m not extremely fond of you. You’ve been a really important part of my life. I mean, I love you, Adderall. When you’re around, I feel like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, riding a bomb of electric energy, waving a ten-gallon hat in the air as we demolish every empty Google Document in sight. Together, we’ve obliterated entire societies of blank word processing documents, not to mention civilizations of emails, Tweets, IMs, and Tumblr posts. At the same time!
I still remember the day we met. There you were, freshman year, hanging out with the guys in the dorm next door. Between a pyrex bong, a rack of Natty Light, and a stack of xeroxed library research, you lay on the table in little tangerine lines, right before you went straight up Brian’s nose. It seemed like practically everyone was already friends with you. I wanted to know you too.
I went to the university health center and said all the right words. Told the doctor I was “having trouble concentrating.” I was “tired, all the time.” Other members of my family “had been diagnosed with ADD and/or ADHD” and had “taken medicine for it” and “reluctant as I am to try a behavioral pharmaceutical” I was “desperate” for a “solution.” None of which were really lies, per se. They just weren’t urgent truths. Still, just as I was told would happen, they tried to put others between us: Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin (and let’s forget all about my brief, unfulfilling affair with Vyvance years later). None of them really did it for me. But I found you eventually.
The initial infatuation was intense. That first liftoff turned a Monday morning lecture-hall sized government class into an intimate, engaging colloquium on global policy, giving life to personal ambitions never considered, like becoming an ambassador to Turkey. Or The Maldives. You gave me a sugar rush of intellectual ambition. When we’re together, the faucet of Amazing Ideas Thought Up By Me opens up like a fire hydrant on a hot summer day. Inevitably, this sensation eventually fades into The Deep Focus. Cleaning the dorm would become a red wire-blue wire situation: Where should I hang this jacket? Here! This is it!
We were a to-do-list-crossing-off dream team—the Jordan and Pippen of crossing-off. Writing letters, returning calls, running errands. Reading, my god, all the reading. And the work? All-nighters weren’t torturous, but riveting. And whenever you got to be too much, a little pot always managed to come into the picture. You two went together like rocket fuel and molasses. It was wonderful.
But in the end, you took me further in Mario Kart than you ever did in school. And to say my sleep schedule was unorthodox would be unfair to Batman. When I left college, I left you behind. We went our separate ways.
And after a five-year separation, we reunited.
I was working nonstop—a culture magazine during the week, a gossip blog all weekend. At first, the ambition and pressure drove me to perform. But every thrill has its shelf-life. As the rush subsided, the schedule became grueling.
According to friends, I started to look slightly “peaked,” perhaps even “jaundiced.” And then you came back. An Upper East Side doctor handed over a scrip without argument. For a drug that’s completely banned in countries like Japan, he signed you over to me with a surprising lack of hesitation. Every thirty days.
Unsurprisingly, you made life better; you were a pool noodle in the wave pool of posting quotas.
I liked socializing when you were around. You brought me out of my shell, turning me from a reclusive, exhausted misanthrope into a patient and caring interlocutor. You made me a better listener.
Okay, there were some inconveniences. The odd bouts of staring at people on the subway. The dry mouth, the return of tongue-chewing, the abnormally sweaty underarm problem that’s ruined more than a few nice shirts. The oddly short but strong and emotional bouts of depression.
The worst part was that the relationship just wasn’t balanced. I needed you too much. When I couldn’t be with you I’d become miserably tired. Irritable. And lately, you haven’t always been there for me. You’ve become elusive. I’m not the only one who thinks so. Plenty of people been having problems finding you—or is it “scoring,” now?—due to that well-documented nationwide shortage.
A popular conspiracy theory suggests that your suppliers, losing their patents on you, are shorting the supply with the intent of hooking me on something exclusive, like Vyvance. I’ve heard all the excuses. But this is about us. Your inconsistency has put a wrench in our routine. It’s messed with our chemistry.
On the plus side, it’s given me a chance to think.
And what I realized is that the creative part of my brain has been pulverized by amphetamines. It’s a Strawberry Frappuccino. I mean, are you reading this shit?
Do you help me get the job done with machine-like efficiency? At times, sure. You know what else gets the job done with machine-like efficiency? Machines. Truth be told, Addy, you’re a pretty shitty writer. Prolific, but shitty. And sometimes I can’t tell where I end and you begin. Who wrote all those words the last few years? I typed them, sure, but with you whispering in my ear. Reading the stories over, I wonder if I’m reading me on Adderall, or Adderall on me.
It occurs to me now that like so many other humans on this planet maybe I’m just inherently lazy, distracted, unfocused, impatient, and restless.
Relying on you to help with this problem has been, in all honesty, a great deal of fun. But it hasn’t been a very substantial answer to the basic human problem of not being able to—or wanting to—pay attention, buckle down, and get work done.
So I’ve come to a decision. We’re through.
Wait, don’t—don’t do that. Look at me. It’s going to be okay. This week, I’m going to have a chat with the doctor about weaning myself off of you, gently. But listen, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.
That said, my room’s kinda dirty. How about if you and I check off a few last to-do’s from the list. For old time’s sake.
Then you’ll go on the list and get crossed out too.
firstname.lastname@example.org | @weareyourfek
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