My husband and I have been together for 14 years… we started dating in the summer of 2000, when I whisked him away to Seattle and we started our lives together. Since the very beginning we have dealt with what has become known in our family as “Drew’s ADHD”. Drew was about two years too old to be swept up in the ADD diagnosing craze that followed him. Instead he went without treatment his entire life, until a few years into our marriage when we finally had to figure out what was going on. It wasn’t that there was something wrong with him… on the outside he was totally normal, gregarious, and fun-loving. It was what haunted him behind the scenes: a history of losing things, a trail of unfinished projects and his personal frustration with not being able to focus. From my perspective it seemed like he just couldn’t sit still, he would think of something, often several things, in the middle of any conversation and instead of being able to file them away for later, he would literally rush off to complete them in the moment. We’d be talking about dinner plans for the week, making a menu for hosting a couple we know, and he’d leave the room. He suddenly, uncontrollably needed to check his email, or shave his face, or wash a dish.
We tried so many things, but ultimately ended up with a psychiatrist in Boston who specialized in childhood ADHD. The doctor talked to him and because ADHD is one of those things that can’t be confirmed with a blood test, we were left with a laundry list of symptoms and told “well, if the medication works, that means you have ADHD.”
He took Ritalin. In the first week he broke down, nearly in tears and said, “All these years, I thought it was me. It wasn’t. It was this other thing.”
The medication was a huge relief. He couldn’t even conceive of what life would be like with a steady mind, now the drugs showed him. He didn’t know how deep and pervasive his condition was until he had this small window of relief. He could breathe.
Of course, it’s not as simple as prescribing a drug. It never is. ADHD in adults is not the same as children and things like age (as your testosterone levels decrease, it’s suggested that your ADHD will get worse) and environment (working from home and later having children all offered additional distractions) had a big impact. We had it under control, sort of, until we had kids. Then it all went to hell.
A three-year old talking to you, while a newborn cries, while your wife calls you from the other room, while Facebook updates chime on your phone, while under deadline– well that’s enough to drive anyone to distraction. For Drew it was maddening. We started to piece together that it wasn’t so much his inability to focus that was the problem, but his inability to tune-out — he focused on everything, from the sound of crickets, to the breeze tickling his neck, to his kids, to his mental to-do list, to the flashing computer screen in front of him.
Meds didn’t cure him. They helped the symptoms but they came with their own. He would be exhausted at 6 PM after his 12 hour dose wore off. He could double up but he was already taking the limit of Concerta. It was so much medication, and yet, it wasn’t fixing him. Was there a better way?
Of course we thought of meditation, diet, exercise. He did a 10 day silent mediation retreat in Thailand that worked great while he was there, but the effects vanished the second he returned. He tried different diets to no avail. This past summer we biked across part of Europe and I noticed that while the massive amount of cardio helped his anxiety and mild depression associated with ADHD (one of the big things they don’t tell you is how this one aspect of your personality can spin out into all these other areas) it didn’t help him focus. I was clear as a bell after a day of biking. He was still scrambling. For me, that was a turning point. There is no cure for this. Not meds, not exercise, not all day meditation. If we couldn’t cure it, then we had to figure out how to best manage it.
I read a great book for spouses of someone with ADHD called, Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? and I had some comfort in the stories from it (although they are quite sad) because I knew that it’s one of the hardest marriages to reconcile. The divorce rates can be very high. But what helped me was to see how the couples who made it work just released themselves from fighting it. “We can’t fix it, but we can make it better” was our new motto. What did that mean?
We work as a team. When it comes to division of labor, the big thing is to recognize what we’re each good at… I handle the planning and logistics, he handles the kind of physical tasks that also give him a bit of focus.
We laugh about it. It’s the “Drew tax” in our house, when Drew loses or breaks an expensive electronic, we don’t all stress out about it. He forgot his wallet on the top of the car and drove off? He left his iPhone in his pocket while biking and it slipped out? He got distracted and left a full glass balanced on the arm rest of the chair, where his laptop was rest, and forgetting it, knocked it into his own computer? Okay. For a second it’s not funny. But then we laugh. Which is easier for me. It’s hard for him to not beat himself up about it, but I just remind him, “Listen, this is part of your job. My job is to remember things, your job is to not get stressed when things don’t go well.”
We treat the symptoms. We spent so many years focused on what would “fix” him and whether or not that magical cure ever comes I think it’s really harmful to think of yourself or your partner as “needing fixing”. So we’ve decided to focus on things we can control: improving his focus, lessening his anxiety, and giving him strategies to manage everything he wants to do without having to put his life on hold. It might take some creative thinking but was can do this.
That’s how we found ourselves in Barcelona, thinking about buying drugs.It got me thinking of so many things like the chemical compounds in cannabis plant I’m about to give my husband, the dosage, the price – Is it legal? Those kind of things. It seems counter-intuitive, but then so does all ADHD meds. It’s a condition where the person can’t focus, so what do they do? Fill them full of stimulants. It calms him. I drink a cup of coffee and I’m zipping around the room, for him, he enters a state of grace. Whether it was true or not, trying pot as a medical solution seemed like a good choice.
That’s how I found myself googling the laws in Spain around marijuana, looking up places to buy it and sending Drew off into the city to procure himself some drugs. In Spain, it’s semi-legal. It’s okay to have it in your home, to grow it and smoke it. It’s not okay to walk around on the street with it or to buy it in a regular store. But you can go to a private club to buy it.
So that’s what we did. I am not going to list the specifics… it’s easy enough to google the same phrases… but we found a local cannabis club, emailed them and they set up a time to meet Drew. They met outside the Plaza Catalunya, they walked Drew over to their “dispensary” and Drew paid a 40 euro membership fee that made it legal for him to buy weed from them. The membership is good for a year, and now he can go back whenever he wants.
From there, Drew asked for a specific kind of weed. There are two main types: Sativa and Indica. Sativa is a more clear-headed high, while Indica is the super-baked feeling most people associated with smoking pot. We wanted a nice clean Sativa strain, so my 38-year-old husband explained his symptoms: he wanted something that would help him focus, lessen his anxiety, and allow him to work and be active. They gave him Neville’s Haze, a 1998 Cannabis Cup winner, which is sometimes used for treating anxiety.
He bought 20 euros worth which looks like this:
Of course, because of the sort of semi-legal state in Spain, it’s legal to buy it, to smoke it and to have it in your house. But it’s not legal to walk on the street with it. So they check out the windows looking for undercover cops and told Drew to stuff it in his underwear. He did and made it home no problem.
Eating weed is different from smoking it… it’s more intense and lasts longer. So I decided to make some pot butter for Drew. You just grind it up (I used my magic wand mixer in the kitchen) and put it in some butter on very low heat for 45 minutes.
After it’s done cooking, you can store it and use a little at time. Here’s what the butter looked like:
About 1 tablespoon is plenty, any more than that and Drew gets actually high. We don’t want him just stoned all the time! I tried a little of it and it felt like drinking a glass of wine. Just relaxing. Drew is still playing around with the dosing, but just a little bit in the morning has helped. The last two days he’s just sat at his computer (which is a miracle) and focused on his work for a few hours.
I don’t know if this will be a long-term solution, but the volume of meds he was taking made me worried. Some people might think we’re insane for trying this, but a little bit of marijuana each day seems better than 100 mg of some drug that hasn’t been tested over 20, 30 or 40 years.
Anyway, there it is. Semi-legal weed purchasing in Spain, if you’re ever interested. Plus how to make weed butter (super easy). Cheers!