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Adderall, or the Cynical Liberalism of College

Nobody ever loved me more than I loved myself when I was still addicted to Adderall.

Even now I hesitate to say the word “addiction” – part of me, I think, still believes I can control it. That I’m not just another statistic. One-third of college students will try study drugs, but it was so much more than an easy A for me. It was a lifestyle.

I don’t remember how I got into it, the same way I don’t remember how I started drinking or getting high; the beginnings of death sentences are often blurry because they are such perfect storms. And I, I was a recipe for disaster in every way, a perfectionist with a tendency to get obsessed, who believed that my life could only be fixed with some outside influence.

I was spiritual for a while, almost cynically liberal; I said things like “Big Pharma” and “Big Brother,” wore my hair long, loose, and messy, always smelled vaguely of weed and maybe a hint of dirt. I liked hippie pants with loose, flowing tees, and sex with guys who had better hair than I did. I marched in protest rallies, distanced myself from my straightedge, suburban parents, thought about dropping out of college and moving to India to help feed goats.

But my obsessive personality couldn’t take the lack of routine. So I went back to my preppy, New York self. I attended to grad school where if you weren’t drinking vodka, you were snorting coke, if you weren’t fucking boys, you were fucking girls, and if you weren’t getting straight-A’s, you weren’t part of the “in-group.” I was part of the in-group, the group where test scores determined popularity, where you lived fast, died young, and you did it all with no sleep and a lot of shady prescriptions.

That is where I discovered my first true love.


If you haven’t loved it the way I have, then you will not understand the lengths I would have gone to for just one more pill. I was rich, wealthy, well-off, socioeconomically privileged, whatever the term is these days, which basically just meant that I could pay any exorbitant sum for a bottle of those gorgeous orange pills.

With Adderall, I was perfectly skinny, I had no appetite, never exercised and weighed a lean 115 pounds on my 5’7 frame. Even now I look at pictures of myself and marvel at the beauty, the symmetry, of my form, the confidence with which I was imbued, the long, dark hair that whipped around a tiny waist and long, tan legs. It’s narcissistic, to think of yourself as beautiful, but if you could see the pictures the way I do, you would think me goddess-like too.

With Adderall, study was a breeze and grades were a thing of the past. I received an A on every assignment I turned in. I studied just as much as before, but you have no idea how much more effective I was…

I had a teacher who taught only from the textbook, 576 pages, who told us our final exam would be in the textbook, no notes allowed. The night before the final I took two Adderall, and I read the entire book, front to back, and, buoyed on the wings of an illegal substance, I memorized the information contained within. I aced that final – got the highest grade in the class.

With Adderall, I was social and brave. My eyes were always fever bright. My ex-boyfriend told me I glowed with possibilities. Adderall made me an enigma; I was hyper, yet charismatic and magnetic. I was beautiful, slender, yes, but beautiful in spite of that; beautiful because of how alive I was, how alive I felt, how I represented love. I was the soul of any party, the center of attention; I was the one who you couldn’t take your eyes off of. I spent an entire night dancing the salsa and made six boys fall in love with me. I taught myself to speak colloquial German, asked out my crush, raised my 3.92 GPA to a 3.96, got an internship and chose my double major in the span of a month and a half.

How could I not fall in love with my drug?

It wasn’t easy to admit I had a problem. Like I said, I still struggle with it now. It is only in the haze of self-awareness that I write this piece; self-awareness that I’m sure will dissipate as soon as my aching bones remind me I am no longer superhuman.

When you have tasted God, how can you ever go back to being human? I don’t know the answer and perhaps I never will. Adderall didn’t just take from me three wonderful years. It took my entire life. Every morning I wake up and reach for a pill bottle that is not there.

When I confessed my problem to my sister, she asked me how I didn’t feel guilty. Didn’t I feel that it had been cheating, to do well? I blinked at that question. I had never thought of the moral ramifications.

Okay, that’s a lie, I had, but whenever I did, I just popped another Addy and read over my A+ essay and pushed my tiny little conscience to the back of my mind. It is easy to convince yourself you are different. In my eyes, I was not a cheater; I was simply unlocking my full potential. All my friends did it; granted, not as frequently nor obsessively as I did, but they did it too – and when they weren’t popping pills, they were high on white powder in class or wasted at raves.

I had always been smart, but my work ethic was more lacking. I told myself I didn’t really need the Adderall; it was just a way for me to be more effective – I could do without, but why would I, when Adderall took no mental effort at all?

As I praise it, I feel sick. I hate myself for my weaknesses; you must understand this. All my negative qualities, except for the whole addiction part, vanished beneath the waves of a drugged sea or submerged themselves in the cloudy reaches of a slumbering sky. I felt perfect, armed with an iron soul.

How can I begin to explain how I felt? I can try, but words won’t do it justice. I know it was wrong, I know that now, and I knew it then, even if I denied it.

Under the guise of power, I was drunk on what freedom must mean. I thought that this must be life. That it didn’t have to be so hard. A single pill could turn me from an intelligent procrastinator, who was painfully awkward, into a certified genius who had more friends than she could ever count. And my slumbering sky kept itself dormant, and my conscience gathered dust somewhere in the deepest recesses of who I used to be.

But in the haze of my love, I cannot overlook the negatives it brought me. I was angry all the time. I was irritable, cranky, upset, and sleep eluded me. I saw the world in shades of red; I saw potential arguments at every corner. The air I breathed tasted of iron and copper. The drug augmented my already hyper personality, as it is wont to do, and my nervous tics became self-harm. I cut, I scratched and tore until I drew blood. If I wasn’t high, I wasn’t happy. I hated myself even more. I took part in more and more dangerous activities like riding motorcycles with drunk boys and no helmets; like speeding down California’s coastal highway at 95 miles an hour; like going days without sleep.

I broke up with more boys than I can even remember. I lost more friends than I can count. All the people who surrounded me at that time are just a haze of faces, people who I have now lost in the crowd that once defined my life. They disappear behind the horizon, and I can no longer see them if I ever really could. I loved nobody but myself. Reflecting on it now, I may have been my most charismatic version, but I have never been more truly alone.

I partied to fill the void that Adderall created. I drank and destroyed my liver to hope, inconsequentially, that my love for the dark side of life could be quenched. I had too much sex, loved too little, lived too fast to try and feel whole again, but I never did. Even now, under the label of clean and sober, I feel the hole inside me. I don’t know what can fill that, if it can even be filled, or if it is permanent, like the memory of omnipotence.

I don’t know what’s a sadder truth; that I had never loved myself more than I did when the world around me glowed with energy, or that I had never really loved myself at all.

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