The dark side of undiagnosed neurodivergence

TW / CW // substance use, childhood sexual assault, sexual behavior, addiction

None of this is for sympathy. I don’t need you to feel sorry for me. I don’t – I survived.

I have had substance use issues in my past. I don’t need a chip to claim sobriety, I don’t need all or nothing thinking. I am not ashamed of any of my drug use. It was a logical response to a world that didn’t want me in it, so I took the only way out that wasn’t ending my life – I escaped reality. I was simply trying to escape from the endless wreckage that was my life.

I have only ever been addicted physically once to a drug, I’ve had mental addictions to a lot of things.

It started young. When I tell you these stories – I don’t want you to blame anyone in my family for what happened. The propensity for people to blame mothers, fathers, or siblings is just wrong. We were all failed by systems that were not designed to support us. We did things to each other that we cannot take back. No one in my family has a diagnosis – I suspect certain things, but I have no proof.

Childhood (pre-12)

I hated myself young. I was bad at school. I was disliked by teachers. My parents divorced at age 6. My mother was stressed and working the whole time. The day my parents divorced I went to school and I was caned across my knuckles for arriving late. Even though I was in tears. Mrs Edwards was a horrible person.

Before this age I was molested at a McDonald’s birthday party by an adult – I didn’t know what it was, but I remember being told to “keep it between us” from a family friend that took me to go to the bathroom. I don’t need to go into details.

I had few friends at school. I had some people I hung out with for a while… but we were severely impoverished. I changed schools at age six. I changed schools again within two years.

We were renting always – and we had flatmates at this point.

I ended up staying over at friends houses as a form of child care and due to my previous abuse I kept showing my genitals to other kids. I thought this was how you made good friends ? I don’t know I just know I did this a lot. I got caught by a female friends parents and was sent home as a “disturbed child” – my Mum was livid with me. I never did this to girls again.

I loved burning things. I never wanted to be a bad kid, but I did a lot of weird stuff. I used to burn a lot. I love watching matches burn. I still love flames – but I know they are not good. I never burned anything of significance – the worst was a bamboo bush out the back of our house. The fire department got called.

The first substance addiction I found was solvents. When I was young I used to love “smelling” marker pens. I didn’t realise but I was doing this for the high. I did this quite a lot. I was younger than 10.

At age 10 – I started smoking. It was a thing that the bad kids did – for the first while I did this I wasn’t actually inhaling. I was an asthmatic kid – so this was incredibly destructive for me. I used to be the one who had to approach random people, I guess these adults who bought them for me were probably just like me at some stage.

I started drinking but not heavily at age 11 at intermediate after school with the other misfits in school. By this stage people had reinforced to me that I was an atrocious so I just leaned into it – I remember thinking it would be cool to be the kid in Robocop 2 who’s a criminal because he’s liked at least – I’m not going to deny there was conscious choice at some of the times I did stuff. It was usually always based on naive faulty logic.

When I was about 10 or so – I went to a Pog Tournament at Aotearoa Town Square – there I saw a ‘huffer’ she told me about how cool it was to do solvents. They told me I could do it with fly spray, butane, or air freshener.

I started doing this a lot – Mum was confused as to why we were going through so many of these things until she caught me – I used to pass out a lot – I am extremely lucky I did not die from this. It’s fatal in so many cases.

Teenage Years

I tried cannabis for the first time at age ~13… One of my friends lived in a place that barely had parents. So we hung out there a lot. An older girl ended up “smoking me out” for the first time here. I was in love – my mind slowed. We found out how to find tinny houses in our neighbourhood and it was a pretty frequent occurrence along with cigarettes…

You might be wondering how a young kid manages to afford this stuff. As well as stealing, which most of the crew I hung out with did – we often had pocket money. We used that.

I got the internet really early. The one thing that Mum did that was awesome was to get us the latest technology – we were not rich by any measure – all my clothes were second hand, but she worked incredibly hard and would not eat at times just to ensure we had thing we wanted. I had computers from about age 8 onwards. But the internet came out around age 12 or 13 when we got it.

CW / TW // sexual assault

However I sometimes got money in other ways… This next part is going to be hard to hear – I’ve never discussed this before. Not even with my family or my wife.

With it came IRC. A way to chat with people on the internet. I was hyper sexualised as a child – although I realised that my abuse as a child was not ok – I was older now – so I had a ‘choice’.

I thought I was grown up – way more mature than I was. My Mum was working, my brother was off living his life at times with his friends. I was alone.

In the dark corners of the internet, I found an IRC channel that connected older men with young boys. It was a way for me to feel ‘special’. Someone wanted to be with me. I arranged multiple times to meet men who were far beyond my age for sexual encounters, some as old as seventy. They knew my age. They knew what they were doing.

They gave me “pocket money” as a reward. I’d lie to my Mum about staying at friends houses – only to be abused by old men. They told me I was special, sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes I came home with unexplained bruises. It was the bullies at school or I had got into a fight with my friends, I would say.

I didn’t know this was wrong. Sex education talked about not doing stuff to kids and it talked about opposite gender interactions but nothing to do with same sex – so I thought what happened to me as a child was wrong but now I was old. An old soul… I didn’t realise I was still a kid. I was naive, I didn’t know… I just didn’t know.

I consistently used cannabis, cigarettes, and alcohol whenever I could. One of the worst times I ever got drunk was at a cast party when I was fourteen for a play was in. I drank enough that I probably should have died – I spent the entire night throwing up on myself in the shower – I thought I might die. I’ve been close to this a lot.

The other addiction I got here was to the game CounterStrike – it was a mod for the half-life engine at this point. I started missing a lot of school to play this game – it was incredible for me – I was great at it – inconsistently, but when I was on fire I was near unstoppable. I got huge into edgelord culture – I had the handle “Rape&Pillage” at one point and ended up with a guild named after me…

I dropped out of school at 17 to go to University… I was playing a ton and not going to course I was immersed in a bad environment. I was a shitstain of a human who was saying horrible shit that would have hurt so many people. I didn’t realise how toxic this was. My lack of early moral education has been a huge source of grief for me.

Then something happened… something that changed my perspective.

I started to realise the toxicity of this culture in 2001 at 17. September 11th happened. I tried to play a few games to take my mind off it – people were spamming “Terrorists Win” spray paints with the Two Towers – I was broken from seeing this and people crying on the news with my unknown hyper empathy – I knew I was doing something incredibly wrong – I left this culture soon after – I also turned 18… now I started to speed run my life derailing.

I’m an ‘Adult’

I can’t give an accurate timeline here – someone I knew gave me ecstasy and a ticket to a rave for my eighteenth birthday. My world changed… Ecstasy was unlike anything I had ever tried in my life. I felt connected to everyone and everything for the first time in my life – there was no fear, no anxiety, no 9/11 – the world was a safe place – maybe this is what neurotypical people feel? I don’t know.

I got a job working fulltime as a barista – I was working 18 hour days and then my weekend would start on a Wednesday and end on a Sunday… sometimes… I actually have really fond memories of this time and the people I knew and met, but it was a drug filled craze. I basically went through the entire catalogue of narcotic substances that were available in New Zealand. The only rule I had was to never inject.

I did LSD here – that was awful for me – absolutely awful – that experience scarred me and gave me facial dysmorphia for 10 years – whenever I looked into a mirror I saw a distorted version of my face – it was folded on itself… It’s hard to explain exactly but eventually it came right. LSD is an incredibly powerful substance and should be used with great caution always. It could have done a lot worse.

G/GHB/GBL/Fantasy – Liquid E – This is the most fucking dangerous drug in the world… It’s usually used as a date rape drug or by some bodybuilders to allow them to push through pain. This was the main drug I could afford – it was dirt cheap compared to anything else. It was also extremely bad if you got measuring it wrong – you needed to use a syringe to measure it – but you didn’t inject. The difference between 0.5ml and 1ml and the strength of the actual product could be fatal, and put people into comas.

One of the first things I had learned from someone who had been doing it for a while was the adage “you can always have more but you can’t have less”. This lesson was a vital one for me – although I was clumsy as shit generally, I was obsessive about making sure that people didn’t overdose. I became a bit of a control freak when I was allowed being the measuring guy.

When I say this drug is dangerous as shit I mean it. Multiple times I had to breathe for my friends. I am pretty sure that a lot of my female friends got abused by men around me on this – but I was too naive. I was abused by other men twice in bathrooms on it. Looking back I hung out with some questionable people as can be assumed in this sort of environment.

I was starting to realise that I was definitely bisexual, and maybe I was just gay – nothing was clear here. I didn’t know what labels I was – I just wasn’t attracted to just girls. I would later discover – I am attracted to anyone – as long as they are attracted to me.

On my watch ONLY one person overdosed on GBL. Only… I ended up riding with them in an ambulance while someone else I knew was having a mental breakdown that was close to me. This was happening at the same time… and doctors were screaming at me to know what my friend had taken when we arrived. I thought I would go to jail if I spoke honestly so I lied… I hated myself.

This was the lead up to my first “mental breakdown”. I had fallen in love with a man – it wasn’t even like we hooked up either. I just read way too much into the situation. This kinda started a mental breakdown process. Getting rejected in this way broke me – I had never been as vulnerable at this point – to actually admit that I might have feelings for a man.

I was using meth amphetamine too at this point… I ended up on a three day binge from Saturday to Tuesday morning… when I ended up going around looking for meth with a random woman I had met… at 3am… on a Tuesday. It was at this point I knew my life was broken. I knew that I needed help.

I got help… My Mum took me back – I ripped off some flatmates a weeks rent saying to take it out of my bond cause I thought it worked that way. There was a lot of my past I regret.

I still had drug issues at home – but I got stable employment… I also started to get promoted and I was doing well in my career in tech support. Then I got hit with the next addiction…

World of Warcraft… I think I probably averaged about 2-3 hours of sleep every night when I got this game. I would be working fulltime and then come home and I’d stay up for hours playing it – it was a perfect environment for me. I loved it. I still love it – it taught me a lot of skills, I also learned a bunch of useless knowledge. I probably have around 10k hours in the game.

I went overseas… I did more drugs in Sydney… I worked at a job I hated. I did a lot of cocaine… none of these drugs ever seemed to “work” like others described them… I figured this out later.

I had alcohol issues mainly… I stopped drinking after a particularly bad night in Sydney at a work Christmas party when my boss who was awful to me started trying to be all nice to me and telling me I reminded her of her son… I lost it and told her to “Fuck Off” so loud the entire bar stopped and looked. I was put on a final warning on the Monday… I was so drunk here I slept under my desk at work.

I woke up the next morning and I had psychosis almost from the memories of the night before, I kept having visions that I had killed someone with a car too – I would find out 13 years later that this was due to OCD. I was having intrusive thoughts but I had no idea what they were – so I thought they were real. I obsessively checked the news for weeks to look for a death, but none was reported. I still sometimes believe it happened. I don’t drink. Not anymore.

I ended up getting addicted to one drug. When I returned to tertiary education to get my Bachelor of Software Engineering before being diagnosed with anything – not even ADHD at this point after being denied a few years earlier – I started using ‘legal’ cannabis – which was actually just synthetics.

This shit was addictive… physically addictive. I actually hated it but by the time I realised I was addicted it was far too late. I would have to smoke this every two hours, or I would get unbelievable withdrawal symptoms. This is something our government had legalised instead of cannabis. I thought it was safe due to this… It was not.

I ended up lying to my now wife during this time to buy product. It was awful. I was so addicted. She stuck by me through it. But at the end of the year of course – she told me that she couldn’t see me do this, asked if I had lied to her and I admitted it, and then we both agreed that I should stop.

The withdrawal from this drug is the worst thing I have ever had… Ever. I was unable to sleep, I had full body cramps, I was sweating continuously, I couldn’t eat – except for a can of pineapple a day – for over 20 days before I felt ‘normal’. This stuff ended up killing over 50 people in New Zealand. Cannabis doesn’t have a single death in history from overdose… Drug laws are absolutely ridiculous.

Things I never want to hear…

I never want you to judge people who do substances. I never want you to shame people who use substances. For me I have no need for them now I know who I am, and I ended up having to fight to get diagnosed and treated for ADHD because I was honest with my doctors with my substance use.

The worst substances I’ve been put on that had far worse side effects for me personally were ones I was legally prescribed, all but one mental health medication has given me side effects ranging from weight gain, to nearly killing me… but those are ‘acceptable’…

This world makes no sense sometimes.

There’s more I wish I could say… I just don’t want to infringe on the rights of my friends to their privacy. It wasn’t all bad. I survived.

I saw my experience and almost mirror like representation of these years in Rue in Euphoria US. There’s a line in this that explained my relationship to substances – this is what I need you to know…

“To tell you the truth, drugs are probably the only reason I haven’t killed myself.” —Rue

It was true for me… it’s probably true for someone else too. I never thought I’d make it to 20, then 25, then 30, then 35, then 40… now I finally want to keep living. People used to make bets on how long I’d live – this is the world I existed in.

There were lots of time I wanted to end it – if I had this is what I felt if I hadn’t made it or gotten my diagnosis. If I hadn’t learned who I am.

"You said you weren't gonna be here much longer. How do you want your mom and sister to remember you?"
"As someone who tried really hard to be someone I couldn't"

Published by roryreckons

I am an ADHD/Autism/OCD advocate and independent ADHD/Autism researcher. I am training in 2021 to become an ICF Accredited ADHD coach. I write mainly about ADHD/Autism/OCD/Mental health issues, but will also discuss morality, abolition, and current affairs occasionally.

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