It started off innocently enough. I was in college at a four-year university at the end of my first semester of junior year. Finals were looming, baring their teeth with only a week between them and me. As a habitual procrastinator, I had left most of the semester’s work to this last week before the papers were due.
A friend and I sat in the library behind our laptops and I groaned as I checked my word count. 4,392 left to go. My friend leaned across the table.
“Elliott, I’ve got something that can help you finish that essay by the end of the night,” she whispered low. “Adderall. You’ll be done before you even know it.”
She dug through her backpack for a moment and extracted a light blue capsule from its depths. Already deep in an active alcohol and marijuana addiction, rife with experiences with other drugs, I asked no questions. I took the pill from her outstretched palm, popped it in my mouth and swallowed it with a swig from my water bottle.
The paper was finished in under five hours — citations, references, and all — and I had found a new lover.
The Rabbit Hole
I procured another pill from my friend before leaving the library that night and went home to research. I enjoyed reading the documented experiences of others’ highs online and began to look deeper into Adderall. It took less than half an hour to find out it was similar to cocaine, a drug I loved but a habit I couldn’t afford on a student loan budget. When you crushed and snorted Adderall, the effects hit quicker than waiting for the time-release capsule to melt in your stomach.
I pulled the baby blue pill from my pocket and a credit card from my wallet. When I gently pulled the halves of the capsule apart, I looked inside to find a small collection of orange spheres, not realizing what I was getting myself into.
I crushed, cut, and snorted the four lines the pill created and was off to the races. I finished another paper before sunrise and dragged myself to class as the effects wore off, accompanied by a pounding headache and a noticeably empty stomach. It took a moment to realize I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before.
While countless friends had prescriptions for my newfound friend, I knew my younger brother had recently stopped taking his prescription due to the appetite loss side effect. When I went home for break after finals, I located the bottle beneath my parents’ bathroom sink and dumped out a hundred or so into my palm.
Scurrying back to my bedroom, I immediately smashed out a few lines and was flying high for the afternoon. Nevermind that I had to care for my brother; Adderall had taken hold.
Within two weeks of returning to school, I was carrying a pre-crushed jar of powder in my backpack with one end of a tampon applicator to snort it. It took less than that amount of time to run through what I had stolen from my brother.
Fueled by a diet of prescription amphetamines, coffee, alcohol, weed and cigarettes, I began to pilfer from my friends’ prescriptions. They would give me some and I always took a few extra for the road, justifying it with the reasoning that they would have more next month. They only needed it to study — I needed it to survive. Or so I thought.
My run with Adderall was a sporadic and passionate love affair. There were times my ability to find it would dry up and I would slave through the weeks of frustration, agitation and cravings. Then I would find another friend with a prescription and repeat the process all over again.
It all culminated when the Adderall, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs landed me at the end of my senior year with three uncompleted classes, three weeks before graduation. I knew there was nothing normal about the amount of substances I used. I couldn’t do anything without smoking a bowl, snorting a line or swallowing a shot.
A caring professor sat me down after class one day and mentioned the papers I had produced throughout the year. She brought up the allusions to substance abuse peppered throughout my work, the run-on sentences and rambling thoughts fueled by “legal” amphetamines. She explained to me that she had just celebrated 10 years of sobriety in March using a program with a path to sobriety.
She told me her story of swigging from bottles beneath her desk before classes started. It was as though she was looking into my mind, reading the thoughts as they raced through my brain. She knew me and she didn’t even know me.
She put me in touch with another student in the program who took me to my first meeting. I was astounded at the things these people shared, amazed that I felt the same way they did. Still wary of giving up my drugs, I went to a few meetings high. After a couple of weeks, though, something stuck and I found myself sober for days at a time.
That same teacher helped me develop a course of action to complete my school work. She helped me realize how capable I was when I wasn’t fueled by a concoction of substances. She gave me hope that I was worth more than the toxins I fed my body.
I am now nearly three years clean from Adderall. I slipped up on alcohol and marijuana a year and a half back, but now have 11 months completely clean and sober. Through the help of other addicts and alcoholics who were willing to share their experience with me, I realized that I could also live a sober life.
I wouldn’t trade the friendships I’ve made or the lessons I’ve learned. I look back at the person I was and mourn the missed opportunities, the feeling that I “wasted college while wasted.” I know that staying stuck in that regret will not help me, though, or allow me to help anyone else.
I have a beautiful life today and it is all thanks to removing the hook to what I thought was my lover.