My wife wants to stop taking her meds

I haven't posted in a LONG time because things have been going relatively well.  I have learned to be more empathetic about certain behaviors and nag and criticize less, and my wife has been working really hard on managing her ADHD, including taking her meds and seeing a therapist.  We have read Melissa's book and attempt to use some of the techniques contained therein, including doing learning conversations when we find ourselves going in circles.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed my wife acting differently, and I asked her if she had taken her meds.  She hadn't.  She said she was running low and she was "conserving" them until she had a chance to see her psychiatrist.  Her appointment was for the next day.

A couple of days later I asked her again if she had taken her meds, and she hadn't.  She said she was still "conserving" them, and I said - it looks like you have plenty - how long does it take to get the meds?  She said she hadn't mailed the script yet.  I got angry and said "What?!  You've had the script a week now and haven't sent it?  Why not?"  She said she wasn't sure she wanted to keep taking the meds because she wasn't sure they were really making a difference.  That she thought it changed her personality and that she was thinking she could just work harder instead.

I felt panic rush in.   I said I thought they made a big difference.  I also said "we've worked really hard on this stuff, and everything has said that treating the ADHD with meds is an important part of managing the ADHD. And now you want to just stop taking the meds?!!"  Granted - I said this angrily and probably not as succinctly, but this is the gist of it. She promised she'd mail off the prescription the next day.  And I said, more calmly, I think - "Honey, what's going on?  Why do you want to stop taking the meds?"  And she said she didn't want to talk about it.  I said I though we needed to.  She said not now.  I said - so when then?  She said tomorrow. 

We didn't talk about it the next day - big mistake.

The following day, I again noticed her acting in a way that made me think she hadn't taken her meds, so I asked her if she did.  She said she had.  Later in the day, I again asked her, for I knew she hadn't - I could tell by her behavior.  And she again said she had.  Well - and I'm kind of ashamed to admit this - I had counted the pills the previous day when she had said she was "rationing" them, because I was curious how many she had left.  So, I wen and checked, and there were the same number left. 

So I called her on it.  And she admitted she hadn't.  I got really upset, not just because she hadn't taken her meds, tho that was a big part of it, but because she had flat out lied to me about it.

You have to understand - one thing I could count on in our marriage was that my wife would always tell me the truth.  She prides herself on being honest, and that is one of the things I really love about her.  I always knew that no matter what, she would not lie to me.

Well, obviously that rug has just been pulled out from under me.  So I told her I was afraid.  Afraid of what was happening to our marriage.  Afraid because the one thing I thought I could always count on, I no longer can.  And also afraid that if she is deciding not to take her meds, we are going to go back to square one, and I don't want to go through that again.  I left the room in anger.  I avoided her the rest of the night.  I refused to kiss her goodnight (thought I did SAY goodnight.)  And then this morning, we both got ready for work and left without saying a word to each other.

And I don't know what to do from here.  I am really upset that she lied to me.  But part of me does feel like I am blowing it out of proportion.  The bigger fear is that she is going to decide to stop taking her meds.  Oh, I did toss a zinger at her last night before going to sleep - I said "I hope you think about what the effect will be on our marriage if you decide to stop taking your meds.  I do NOT want to go through all that again!"

Any advice?

Maybe try to sit down and

Maybe try to sit down and create a list of improvements you saw with her on the meds and how you felt they helped the marriage as a whole. I have never gotten far trying to appeal to my DH's 'logical' side and have come to realize that if it isn't something he wants to do, he isn't going to do it...not for long anyway. He stopped taking his meds, started again, stopped again. No clue why he stopped. I refuse to hold him up in that aspect anymore. His treatment is on his shoulders and I have to accept that and let the chips fall where they may. He has consequences just like everyone else in this world and if he doesn't get treatment and work on his ADHD then I cannot spend the rest of my life with him. Bottom line.

What you might be seeing is a pattern of behavior that you'll fight for the rest of your life. (her stopping, you losing your mind, being overwhelmed with fear, her lying about taking them, etc) I hope you can make some headway with her and help her see that they were benefitting the marriage in real, tangible ways. Don't approach it as "you're like X when you don't take them" but as "I really saw a lot of improvement between us in the area of _______ when you were on your meds." Ultimately the decision is up to her. Good luck!

Stopping my meds...

I cannot imagine stopping my Adderall. I don't like feeling the way I used to feel. It is bad enough when I wake up in the mornings and feel kind of sluggish. I take my first dose as soon as I get up. How long has your DW been on the meds? The awakening from the ADD Fog can be a little overwhelming because of all the things you notice that you were previously oblivious to. Ask her about what she feels has changed about her personality, but try to do this early in the day when the meds are working, the later the day gets (Even on meds) the worse it gets. Unfortunately most couples don't get any one on one time until later in the day... Something must have happened to make her re-think taking the meds.

Good luck... 

She says she doesn't like being treated like a "drug addict"

Her initial answer to my question about why she doesn't want to take her meds anymore is that she's "tired of having to continuously prove that she isn't a drug addict" because of whatever she needs to do to be able to get a "controlled substance."  I have noticed that the last couple of time she has had to get a prescription she has dragged her feet - put off making the appointment, delayed sending off the script once she gets it, etc. So that she runs our of meds before the next batch arrive and has to go several days without taking them.  I had assumed that was just the "ADHD" at work, resulting in her procrastinating, and so I didn't say anything.  But this time I did say something, and I find out that she has been intentionally delaying getting her meds.

I suspect it is something else going on - perhaps related to her not wanting to feel like she is dependent on meds and wanting to think she can deal with this herself.  Like she's trying to prove to herself, and to me, that she doesn't really need them.

I will suggest a learning conversation tonight to see if I can find out more about what is going on from her point of view.  At one point last night, she did say "you just don't understand what it's like."  I know I could have said - so then help me understand.  But unfortunately it was after we had gone to bed - a time when I am not very productive in having conversations, and a time when she typically brings things up, despite my having repeatedly said to her "I am not in a place late at night to have a very meaningful conversation - I am not at my best.  So if you want to have a constructive conversation about something, bringing it up after we are in bed and the lights are off is not a good time."

So tonight I will try to understand what she is feeling/thinking, and also try to communicate to her what I am feeling/thinking.  And I will try really hard NOT to try to solve the problem, but just try to gain some understanding.  Wish me luck!!

Oh, and to answer your question - she has been on meds for several years now.  They did have to be adjusted a couple of times but I think she's been taking her current dose for quite awhile now.

Drug addict...

I never felt like a "Drug Addict" until the last couple of Adderall refills. Due to the shortage I'd have to go to store after store and call multiple pharmacies to get this filled. What a BEATING... I don't have time to spend 4 hours a month getting a script filled. The shortage is supposed to be over according to my doctor, but if it is not I'll be forced to try something else. It does not help when uninformed people joke about ADD meds as "Speed" and how lucky it must be to get the diagnosis. If she were an Addict you would need more and more. I know I was scared when I first learned about what was in the ADD meds. The amount has not changed for me since I dialed in the right amount in over two years.

Late at night is the Worst time for me to have one, which is when my DW can bring stuff up, usually ending badly...

Good luck tonight on your conversation! 

She knows she's not an addict

Oh, she knows she's not an addict.  She just says she hates having to prove to OTHER people that she's not.

So, I just sent her an email that says "I am sorry I was so angry last night.  I was really hurt that you lied to me.  Still, I overreacted.

"I would like to understand why you want to stop taking your meds.  You deserve to express that to me without being judged and yelled at.  I was thinking more about how it would affect ME if you stopped taking them, and so I didn't even try to understand your point of view.

"That's not fair to you.  Can we have a learning conversation about this tonight after dinner?"


That was a nicely worded email. Email has saved my DW and I on many occasions. That is good she understands that she is not an addict. 

Does your DW visit this site? My DW does not visit the site and I wish she would so she could better understand some of the things she has been through and understand how the ADD has affected us. I think it is great that you are here looking for answers and trying to understand the mess the ADD can cause.

I hope your conversation goes well...


Hi XYZ - thanks for the compliment re: my email.  And no, my wife does not visit this site.  BTW - what does "DW" mean?  I see it here a lot and have no idea what it means.  :-)


Dear Wife :)

summerwine's picture

The first medication I ever

The first medication I ever took was Concerta and I had really bad side effects and it made me feel cranky and angry. IT helped my ADHD stuff but it made me miserable. So I stopped taking it and I couldn't tell my ex husband because he wouldn't understand he just would have been angry with me and yelled at me until I took them again. I waited until I made an appointment to try something else but it was even worse! We tried different doses but it wasn't working. The whole time I kept it quiet from my ex because I knew it would be nothing but demands for me to get better, not caring about how the medication was making me feel and guilt trips and yelling. I knew he would just carry on about how I was being a big baby an how I was ruining our marriage by not taking my medication and stuff. So I kept him out of the loop until my doctor and I found something that was working better. Is your wife keeping quiet about her medication because you'd make a big production out of it? If she told you that the stuff was making her sick or her heart race or something would you be understanding? Do you have a history of not listening and blaming or guilt tripping? Have you been asking her how she feels on the medication if its making her sick or stressed or anything? Or are you just focusing on how it makes her do the dishes? Are you giving her a safe place to talk about her medication and treatment without being badgered or worrying about getting into a fight? If she told you she wanted to go off her medication because it was making her feel bad would you get angry with her instead of support her and get her to the doctor to trial something else? Wow sorry that was a lot of questions!

Good questions

You are absolutely right - I have not been very supportive because I know the issues we have when she is not on her meds and I dread going back to that state of affairs.  However, she hasn't said anything to me other than "I don't think they make a big difference."  And so my response is always YES THEY DO!! instead of asking her to talk a little more about how she is experiencing things being on her meds.  The only side effect I was aware of to date is that she has trouble sleeping when she is on her meds.  But the flip side is that she says she accomplishes a lot the nights she has trouble sleeping.  This week is the first time she mentioned that she thinks the meds "make her a different person."  I think she thinks they make her be less fun.  Hoping to find out more this evening.

summerwine's picture

It s a BIG DEAL having to

It s a BIG DEAL having to take medication to be good and do things right. If someone told you that you are not any good as a person or a wife or a worker unless you take pills every day how would you feel? I feel like a looser. Such a big time failure that I have to take pills. I feel like I am less of a human being because I have to take medication to act like a proper person! I hate my medication and I hate that I have to put my kid on it. How will I explain it to him when he is old enough to ask? Sorry baby but God made you different and people don't like people who are different and you are not right and you are made wrong so you have to take pills to make you a decent human being. OUCH. Why do people act like it's no big deal to take medication? Like I should just be soooo happy and carefree and totally ok with being so broken and fucked up that I have to take pills for the rest of my life? I've never really had anyone but my counselor to talk to about it. No one understands how much it hurts. They don't even try! Ugh now I'm venting!

Your right . . . I don't understand

I have to take meds for some issues, and I accept that.  The side effects from the meds suck, and yet . . I keep taking them.  I wish I didn't, but I do.  And I do not see a single tangible sign that they are working.  They are meant to prevent recurrence of cancer.  I am told they sometimes work, sometimes don't.  It would be so easy to say f*** it.  These side effects stink.  I don't even know the meds are going to have any effect.  Why am I doing this to myself?"

My wife has a condition that is helped by meds.  I thought she understood that.  We spent a lot of time reading about ADHD and both came to understand (or at least I thought that we had both come to understand it) that one of the things that helps manage ADHD is meds.

And now she is feeling like she doesn't want to take them anymore for some reason.  Probably for the reasons you name - she feels like a big fat failure because she has to take meds in order to "be good."  In fact, when I tell her I can tell she isn't taking her meds, that's the question she asks "Why - was I bad?"  I am sure it ties into her self-esteem. 

Just not sure how to respond.  When she asks me to tell her how she is different when she is not on meds, I feel like if I answer her it almost serves to confirm her feeling that without them she is a "bad person" and so I am reluctant to even go there.

Where do I start?  Re: conversations, do I tell her "when you take your meds, you are less likely to go into long monologs about things, less likely to interrupt and talk over people, less likely to say things that are unintentionally hurtful, less likely to blurt things out in anger, less likely to say things that are socially inappropriate or will embarrass you later, you seem much less distracted, etc."

Re: time management and organization, do I tell her "when you take your meds, you are less likely to stay at work until 10 pm and more likely to call me when you will be late, more likely to be ready to leave on time when we have to go somewhere, "

So, as I was writing these things, I realize that these are all things that I view as beneficial, and so I stopped writing.  I wonder . . . does SHE see them as beneficial, or merely as things I want??  Might part of her reluctance be that she didn't feel like her ADHD WAS a problem until I came along?

That puts things into a different perspective.  Maybe the question I should ask, at some point, in addition to "why do you want to stop taking meds?" is "Why did you start taking meds?"

I think that is why my

I think that is why my husband stopped taking his. He didn't want to take anything 'for the rest of his life'. I do not care either way, as long as he finds a way to control his ADHD symptoms. Right now, NOTHING. He's doing everything someone with ADHD is advised NOT TO DO. (ZERO exercise, drinks daily, sleeps erratically and MAYBE 2 hours...maybe 4 hours...maybe 12 hours, eats crap food, drinks too much coffee). It has resulted in what appears to be an almost complete lack of motivation to do anything...including going to work like he should. That is my only beef with him not taking meds. I didn't want him to take them for our marriage, didn't really want him to take them at all, but if they would help get him out of this hole...

I know that I would probably benefit from Zoloft or Lexapro...anti-depressants...but I am working VERY HARD to try and avoid having to go that route. I am aware my family needs me to be healthier, especially my children, and I WANT that for them and am doing something about it. It isn't typically the nature of someone with ADHD to be so motivated and see the need to change. I think meds are very important in some cases. The ONLY reason I avoid taking A/D meds is because I gain a TON of weight every.single.time I take them. I have battled hard to maintain my weight for over 5 years now...and still need to loose more. I cannot fathom gaining weight...but would do it for my family if it was a last resort. 

I understand both sides of it

I am a person with a chronic problem for which there is no treatment. I would love to "have to take a pill every day" and be able to walk normally and live a normal life. At least you have something which is treatable.

But I understand about not wanting to feel "broken" either. At one point in our marriage my husband forced me to take anti-depressants and I HATED them. I felt like it took an incredible amount of nerve for a person to demand I take a pill so I could deal with the frustration of working two jobs while he refused to work or even look for work or keep my house (that I paid for by myself) clean. Of course I was angry! (I'm in that situation again and I'm STILL angry.) But the pills dulled my emotions and made me feel dead inside. I hated how I felt.

I also have hypertension. I will for the rest of my life and I'll have to take pills for it. How is ADD different? If I could will myself to have good BP numbers, I would, but people can't do that. If you can't manage your ADD symptoms in a way that works for you, your job and your partner, what's the harm in taking medication to help? Does it improve the quality of your life to take them? Then take them and be glad they exist!

meds, fights, humiliation.... oh, my.....

Ok, I am a wife with ADD and I'm going to jump in here:

* the effectiveness of the meds can decrease or just not work inexplicably sometimes

*even if you've been on meds for a while, picking up your pills every month is humiliating.  Even when you know the pharmacist and they aren't shining a flashlight up your @$$ and interrogating you (which happens whenever you have to get meds while traveling or during the shortage last year, scramble from pharmacy to pharmacy begging).

*Lying sucks.  However in this case, I kind of understand why she did it.  What a person puts into his or her own body is his or her responsibility and should be controlled only by him or herself.  When ownership of one's own body/brain is questioned by someone else, no matter how well meaning, it can cause anger/defensiveness/lying.

*Summerwine mentioned the frustration of knowing that we are fucked up and 'wrong' and will never be 'right' according to the rest of society and we have to take pills to fix it.  This reality can be ignored, but the pain of it often comes back in waves.  I'm not sure what triggers it in myself, sometimes just watching/working with a 'normal' person and getting envious of the ease with which he or she accomplishes something I need to redo/reread/get help with 8 times - even WITH meds.

*not wanting to talk at night is understandable - but if your wife may be like me: nighttime is when my meds wear off and my brain turns inside out and I start worrying about everything.  My husband is snoring within seconds of the light turning off, so I can't talk to him and he is so busy any other time that we don't have a 'learning conversation' for months.  I think our last one was in August. Seriously.  I've asked to schedule one 5 times in the last week, and he's said yes, but then always runs out of time. 

*you casually mentioned insomnia as one of the side effects she experiences, saying that on the 'flipside' she gets a lot done while she's unable to sleep at night.  Insomnia sucks.  especially for a person who is usually in a fog.  The fog is much thicker the next day.  When I experience this side effect (I've taken my 2nd dose too late or i've asked for decaf but was given regular coffee etc). Not only am I unable to sleep, but I am getting anxious about how I will get through the next day on 3 hours of sleep.  Heart palpitations are another side effect that can be really, really frightening and there's nothing you can do about it but wait.

*lastly, you said that after you busted her for lying (after going through her personal belongings to count her pills) you picked a fight, left the room angry, avoided her for the rest of the night and 'refused to kiss her goodnight."  really?  How often do you behave this way?  Is it really a wonder she lied to you?  You said "i'm kind of ashamed to admit" you counted her pills.  In my opinion, you should be ashamed.  And refusing to kiss her goodnight?  is this some kind of emotional blackmail? wtf?

I know it must be alarming to think everything will go back to square one without the meds, but a lot of people can deal with ADD med free.  It's a huge huge struggle and effort but it can be done.  Give her a chance and try to listen to her side. 

Thanks for your reply

Thanks for your reply.  I needed to hear it.  The main reason I post here is that I get to hear from persons with ADHD what their take on my actions is, as well as their thoughts about what my wife might be experiencing.  My wife isn't always so good at clearly communicating what she is thinking and feeling and so I look to you to kind of communicate for her.  Does that make sense?  Hearing how she might be experiencing things helps me a lot

I also hope that SHE will communicate some of what she is feeling/thinking but I know it's really hard for her to say these kinds of things, for fear they will somehow make me feel bad.  She IS starting to learn to stand up for herself more, and that's a good thing!  But . . . she's not quite there yet.

Thanks again.



Thanks all for sharing your thoughts.  My wife and I talked last night - it was kind of a "learning conversation" but we don't exactly have that down yet.  Anyway, long story short - my wife has a new psychiatrist and so when she went in to get a new script, she was subjected to a level of "grilling" she hasn't had to deal with for awhile.  Answering the questions about the effects of taking the meds, both beneficial and side effects, got her thinking about whether they really do make much of a difference.  She said "It's really hard to know how much is the meds and how much is my efforts."

Also, she says she has not enjoyed being with people as much this past year or so (she's been on the meds for a couple of years now) and she's wondering if that is more an effect of the meds or more a result of her being more aware of how she comes across to others.  She is an extrovert so NOT enjoying being with people really sucks for her.  So that also got her to wondering about how useful the meds are.

Finally, she said she lied to me, not because she feared I would jump down her throat (though I probably would have) but because she thought if I KNEW she hadn't taken her meds, then I'd be super vigilant about all the "bad" things she was doing as a result.  She was hoping to see if I remarked on her behavior without knowing she hadn't taken them, and that if I did, it would serve as a more "objective" assessment of the impact of the meds.  (Sounds like she was doing a field test of sorts, though she said it wasn't something she had really "planned" to do.)

For my part - I listened and reflected back, wanting to truly understand her thinking.  I told her I was sorry for attempting to make her treatment decisions for her, and that I would cease doing that.  That she was in charge of what she put in her body and I'm sorry to have been so controlling in that area.

I also shared that when I saw she wasn't taking her meds, and that she had "decided" that without even talking to me about it, it made me feel left out, like my thoughts didn't matter at all.  Her immediate response was to explain that it wasn't something she had "decided," etc, and I had to keep stopping her and say "wait - this is a learning conversation.   We're not supposed to respond until we reflect back what the other said to make sure we understand what they are saying."  I had to do that several times until she finally was able to do that.  But she did!

The conversation ended with me asking "So what do you need from me?"  She said she didn't know, but she thanked me for taking the time to ask and to take the time to listen.  (She actually had a lot to say.)  And I thanked her for taking the time to share.

All in all, a successful conversation!

Thanks again everyone, for your remarks.  I really needed to hear some of what you had to say.  I especially needed to be reminded that my wife's treatment decisions are just that - her decisions.  Not mine.  I don't think I would have gotten there without you help.

I'll definitely be back next time I am feeling the "urge" to control things!!

That's good...

It sounds like things went well. Congratulations... Hopefully things can move forward for you two.

Keep up the good work!


great news

by the way - dunno if this was already addressed, but regarding the social aspect (talking too much, saying inappropriate things) you could always choose a signal or 'safe word' together to use when she starts doing this to cue her to stop.