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I have to admit, I’ve skated through life thus far with a fair degree of irresponsibility. When I was a teenager, my mom didn’t get home until late in the evening, so my entire afternoon between school and dinnertime was basically a free-for-all. And she was gone in the morning before I woke up for school, so as long as I actually got to school, I was free to spend my mornings however I wanted as well.

As I progressed to college life, that didn’t really change. I got a mountain of free time and I did basically nothing useful with it. I played a lot of Magic: the Gathering and D&D (later Everquest) and, once I had the college’s T1 connection at my beck and call, basically became an Internet junkie.

Graduation happened, and I moved in with my wife, and I told her outright: I can’t handle money, you do that part. Over the years, and several jobs lost to various forms of (unrecognized except in retrospect) ADHD-related stupidity, that morphed from “you handle the money” to “You handle the thinking. Just tell me what to do and when to do it.”

ProTip: Don’t ever ask someone to do that and then get pissed off when they tell you what to do.

So in my last post, I mentioned that I was going to the doctor to get an ADHD prescription. As it turns out, because I’m diabetic enough to be classified as having heart failure (defined as “your heart moves less than 45% of its total contents through with each beat”; 65% is ‘normal’), I can’t take any of the standard ADHD medications.

So, here I am, suddenly forced at 35 years of age to recognize the fact that I’m not properly equipped to be responsible for anything — I’ve relied on my wife as a crutch for a decade, and before that, I basically didn’t care. And with that realization comes two cold, hard facts: one, my brain has a problem that keeps me from being able to properly keep track of time, recognize what’s supposed to come next, and focus on the appropriate task; and two, I’m an [expletive deleted] diabetic, and if I can’t keep track of time, keep track of my blood sugar, keep track of my insulin levels, and keep myself from munching on the wrong thing inappropriately, I could up and DIE from my own irresponsibility.

…woah.

Not to mention the fact that it’s a pretty bad example to set for my son. He already reminds me: “Daddy, you can’t put corn in the soup. You can’t eat corn.” He’s so damn smart. I love that kid.

…so we’re being forced to learn how how to cope with ADHD without drugs. The basic strategy seems to be “create a routine for everything and stick to it.” I now have 15 alarms on my Kindle that go off all the damn time to remind me of everything from when to wake up to when to start our daily batch of kefir to when to switch the laundry loads.

And the amazing thing is…I like it. I thought, as I set those alarms up, that I would chafe under the incessant binging. The truth is I’m grateful for every day that ends up normal enough that all those alarms are useful. The days when something comes up and screws up my plans are more challenging — but even then, I just adjust my alarms as needed and move forward.

It’s strange, but it’s also the first step toward taking control back from my own flawed brain and continuing to ensure that I’ll be both alive and useful to my family in another decade.

The doctor says in six months they’ll give me another echocardiogram and if my heart isn’t failing anymore, we’ll talk about ADHD medication. Until then, it’s a strange struggle every day to keep myself on top of everything — and I’m still not taking care of the money, the calendar, or any of that abstract domestic science that I’ve never bothered to really absorb.

It’s hard, but I feel good about it. Every day when I remember to take my blood sugar before I take my first bite, I feel like I’ve conquered one more neuron, and someday, I’ll take over my whole brain and be able to live up to all of that potential that every teacher I’ve ever had has told me I was wasting.

Until then.

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