How to Stay Consistent With ADHD Treatment

Are you an ADHD partner who has trouble consistently following your treatment?  If so, you wouldn't be alone.  But not remembering to take your meds has a bigger impact than you might imagine.  Here is how one man describes his on again / off again relationship with meds and my thoughts about how to become more consistent while also improving his relationship with his wife:

"So...my wife had a pretty epic blow up at me this morning because of my inability to see the problems I am causing.  I get into this crazy cycle where I am doing okay with seeing a therapist and taking medication, but then inevitably I "fall off the wagon". i.e. start missing therapy appointments, stop taking medication and then the cycle starts all over again.  My question for the successful people is, how do I avoid this?  I am not even aware that I am doing it.  That's the main problem in my marriage is my lack of awareness...I am convinced that ADHD matters, btw.  I just often lose sight of why it matters or again, my awareness.  Thanks in advance for the tips and responses."

I often see this when working with couples.  The spouse with the ADHD is only reminded to "take care" of the ADHD when things are bad, but when things are good he or she stops thinking about it.  I call this "going on vacation" and it is hurtful to your relationship because it gets in the way of your partner being able to trust you.  In fact, if you are in the habit of "going on vacation" as you describe (ignoring appointments, stopping meds) you create a roller-coaster experience for your partner that will result in her not being empathetic towards you for it's too dangerous for her to be so.  In your model, if she is empathetic and "easy" with you, then the result is that you become "worse" again by stopping taking care of the ADHD.  She learns this pretty fast, so what really happens is that you not only hurt her, but you hurt yourself.  Wouldn't you rather that she could relax around you and enjoy being with you without fearing that by showing her joy she encourages you to "fall off the wagon"?

The way to stop this is to create a specific reminder habit for the meds and for the appointments.  Set an alarm in your cell phone to remind you to take your meds at a time of day when you are near them (i.e. breakfast, etc.)  If you are a multiple times a day pill taker, set multiple alarms.  Set them to go off every day.  Set a once a month reminder to refill your scrip, about one week before you actually need the meds.  Set it at a time when you can immediately act on it (i.e. Saturday morning rather than when you are at work).  If you are taking a controlled substance, set an alarm to remind you to contact the doctor at the interval needed (this time during working hours!)  Some find that setting a specific ring tone for this alarm that is different from other tones used is helpful.  If you don't have a cell phone that you use, you need to find some sort of reminder system that stays with you (on your body is best)...it's useful for more than just remembering meds.

It may sound pedantic, but your getting this operationalized (if you want to think of it this way) is incredibly important for these reasons:

  • consistent use of meds allows you to be your best most often, and gain reliability and consistency - very important in almost all aspects of your adult life
  • getting out of the "going on vacation" cycle sets up the most likely case where your spouse can learn to trust you again
  • by making the effort necessary to always take meds you communicate to your wife "I'm serious about this, and about our relationship - I love you"

Make this a priority.  It's worth it!