I was prescribed Adderall at age 23 because I could not focus on my corporate job. Sure, I definitely do have some ADHD, but I’m super high functioning and made it through school with the highest grades despite my chronic procrastination. (FYI for my fellow ADHD procrastinators, my psychiatrist told me procrastination is a coping mechanism in which we use the adrenaline of looming deadlines as the edge we need to get focused). I had taken my share of Adderall pulling all nighters in Leavey library while studying biomedical engineering at USC, though at that time it was not prescribed. When I was 23 I hit a wall while working remotely on a consulting gig. The project was so boring. I could not for the life of me focus and it was getting in the way of my performance. At the psychiatrists office I was given an evaluation, I answered all the questions honestly, and I walked away with prescriptions in hand. 

Each morning when my alarm would sound, I would reach over to the bedside table and fumble for the pill bottle I had positioned there the night before. Half asleep, eyes still closed, I would pop a 5mg instant release tablet into my mouth and wait for it to kick in. When I felt the faintest of a jolt, I would peel myself out of bed and proceed to open a second pill bottle to take a 25mg extended release (XR) which was quite literally the only thing getting me through the day.

The high was amazing at first. I could concentrate for hours on end and complete all the mundane tasks that were required of me with robotic efficiency. But after a few months, I started to experience a host of other issues: chronic fatigue, brain fog, digestive issues, and more. Around this time, I was also recreationally doing stimulants like cocaine on the weekends. My whole system became reliant on and was propped up by drugs. 

It was during my spiritual awakening in my 24th year that I first faced the thought ~ “the work I’m forcing myself to do is meaningless to me.” I had the AHA moment… I literally could not force myself to care enough so I was drugging myself into submission to work in a system that I was just not meant for. As I dove into self discovery, I began to get curious about what lit me up and what fulfilled me. I started to get intentional about my career and began to consciously shape my next moves to cater to my interests and natural gifts and strengths. I did this in small ways at first – like being more choosy in the next project I would take on as a consultant. And then in slightly bigger ways – leaping to a smaller company and literally creating my ideal role for myself there. And eventually in the biggest way – jumping from my cushy high powered position making $350k+ to start my own mission-driven businesses that are direct extensions of my own life’s purpose and purest passions. 

Once I began finding more purpose in my work, the need for Adderall fell away. It seemed so obvious in retrospect that the root of my problem had been deeply spiritual – a lack of meaning, a lack of purpose. I promised myself I would never again do a job that required me to drug myself. 

Everyone is different and there are people who are prescribed stimulants that benefit greatly from them. For some people they are necessary and work well.  And, there are also a lot of people living out of alignment, abusing and self-medicating. For me, Adderall was my best attempt at being “successful” based on what I thought that meant at the time. Reiki and transformative energy healing triggered a profound awakening through which I realized that I deserved to do work that I was excited about and that I didn’t need to be drugged to deliver. 

It’s now been a decade and I’m on zero pharmaceuticals. Of course as an entrepreneur and business owner there are times the negative self talk creeps in… “I should be more productive”, “there are so many little things to do”, “I’m afraid I’m going to drop the ball and forget something important” or “I need to get more done”. But these days I catch myself. I have the tools and self love and self awareness to say, “I am living in my alignment with my own way, my unique and genius productivity.” I won’t mold myself into some societal standard of what it means to be “successful” if it is defined by how busy I am or how much I churn out at the expense of my wellbeing. No, now I’m redefining success. Success for me now is thriving in my life and my business. Success is sustainable growth. Success is reaching higher and going bigger while maintaining balance and wellbeing. Success is leading with purpose and creating value for my highest good and the highest good for all.

How do you define success?

Grace Emmons

Breaking Free from Adderall: How I Reclaimed My Purpose and Redefined Success

June 11, 2024

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