Tell Me About It: ‘I moved back in with my folks who think I have dependency issues’
PROBLEM: I’m a woman in my mid-30s. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and I moved back home with my folks after living in the US for almost two decades. They’re sceptical about my ADHD diagnosis as I wasn’t a “hyper” child and was grand in school and college.
In the US I smoked weed [cannabis] and have been honest with my folks about that and now they think I have substance abuse issues. I think they have internalised stigma about cannabis use because it’s not legal in this country. I’m thinking of moving to a country where cannabis is legal because it’s too stressful to try to find it here, plus there are moral and legal reasons not to [buy it] but maybe that is a sign of dependency?
I haven’t been smoking much because of lockdown and instead have a few glasses of wine every day. I don’t get drunk and a bottle might last two days but I usually have one glass around lunchtime and my Mam doesn’t approve. In other countries, it’s socially acceptable to have a drink at lunchtime.
How do I know if I have dependency issues? And if I do, what should I do? I think if I was back home in the US, I wouldn’t be having these problems because cannabis is accepted there.
ADVICE: A question in your letter needs to be answered – about the level of dependency you might have on cannabis or alcohol – and it might be very good for you to set this to rest for yourself, not to verify other’s opinions but to have a sense of agency over your own life. The Health Service Executive provides good assessment services and you can look up your local area to book an appointment (Addiction Service – HSE.ie).
You say your values and diagnosis are being questioned by your family and it is worth looking at all aspects of this. Often, we do not know how much we are attached to something until it is taken away from us; is your reaction trying to tell you something? If you are willing to move to a new country to keep your lifestyle habits, then it might be worth some investigation as to the extent of your habits. On the other hand, you suggest that the culture of your family home is not conducive to your lifestyle so this needs to be tackled, but it might be better if it is not done defensively.
There is a sense that you are being parented, much as a teenager would be, and this often happens to adult children returning to the family home.
Take Christmas holidays for example, adult children return as capable functioning adults only to find they have regressed into teenage habits in a day or two. Covid and lockdown has intensified these positions of parent and child as people are forced into a type of childhood intensity that is no longer appropriate for their ages. This may be playing a big part in your frustration and should be taken into account. Taking up a full adult position is what is needed now; letting go the defensive teen reaction and speaking with your parents as equals. This will require you to accept responsibility for your behaviour and choices while acknowledging their concerns as valid and worthy of attention. It may be that you will have to call a slightly formal family meeting and be aware that you will not get this sorted in one sitting.
You do not want more monitoring, so request that you all reflect on what has been brought up at the meeting and then come back to an arranged further discussion in a week or so.
Having your ADHD diagnosis treated with scepticism is not acceptable and this needs to be part of your conversations with your family. Their understanding of adult ADHD is limited, so you might need to hear them out first so that they are able to listen to your knowledge and experience of living with this diagnosis. Again, if you address this with calmness, and with confidence in your own expertise, you will find you will not be dismissed.
You may find that your parents are more prepared to give serious consideration to the conversation if you manage not to have your lunchtime drink for a few days, indeed maybe you should have the conversation at this time to demonstrate your maturity to them. All change is difficult and the habits you have built up may be comforting but it is clear that a decision is facing you so take this as an opportunity to reassess and choose the direction you want your life to take.