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Vitale Buford: Addicted to Perfect — a journey out of the grips of Adderall, a story of hope and healing

September is a month of beginnings – it marks the changing of the seasons, and the fall season, and school being back in session.

September has a special place in my heart because it’s also National Recovery Month – and I’m five years sober from a 10-year addiction to Adderall. Because of this, it’s a month of reflection for me – and coincidently it’s also the same month my addiction started in 2003.

I will never forget how it all began. It was my junior year of college and I was taking 18 hours that semester and working two part-time jobs – I had no idea how I was going to survive. My boyfriend introduced me to Adderall – he said it would help me study. And it did – not only did I get straight A’s that semester, I also lost 20 pounds.

As someone who had struggled with my weight and dieted all through college, it was the “perfect drug.” I loved how it shut off all the negative diet and body talk in my brain, how the weight fell off me effortlessly, and how I could study and work for hours and hours. I loved the way it made me feel – it made me feel perfect.

Perfection was my real addiction and Adderall was the drug I used to cope with it. It wasn’t until a year later that I got my own prescription.

What started out as an innocent “study drug” became a 10-year love affair with Adderall. I wanted to be the perfect weight, and make the perfect grades, and have the perfect career – and hold everything together perfectly. Adderall got me there – at least so I thought – until it didn’t.

After college, I got my first job in public relations and because of my work ethic and my ability to work 24 hours a day, I got promoted. And then I moved onto marketing and business development in the legal industry – and at the age of 25 I became the director of my department.

And it was all because of my addiction to Adderall which allowed me to be productive and perfect. I worked until 2 or 3 a.m. six days a week – I was superhuman.

Over the years, my tolerance for Adderall grew. The more I took to be perfect, the more I needed. I started illegally doctor shopping to meet my growing drug tolerance. I went from needing one prescription a month to needing one prescription a week.

Over the course of a decade, I went from taking 20 mg/day to 360 mg/day. I was illegally seeing multiple doctors to maintain growing tolerance, and I was obsessed with making sure I never ran out.

Adderall and my need for perfection ran my life. And no one on the outside knew – they all commended me for all my professional achievements and for being thin and pretty.

I looked perfect on the outside, but I was dying on the inside. I was drowning in the endless pursuit of perfection and Adderall. 

My decade-long drug use came to an end when two doctors found out about each other – they could have turned me into the police, but they didn’t.

I was out of Adderall and I didn’t know what to do. I had run out many times before during the 10 years, but not like this. I knew something needed to change. I knew that I couldn’t keep up this charade much longer. I knew I couldn’t keep up with my growing tolerance and dependence on the drug.

I also felt like I was being a given a gift – I could have gone to jail, but I was given the opportunity to do something different.

 So I chose different.

I was ashamed, scared, filled with guilt, and had no idea if I could live without Adderall – but I was willing to try. I was willing to get uncomfortable – I didn’t want to be slave to Adderall any longer. I admitted out loud I had a problem and I drove myself to rehab. It was the best and scariest decision of my life. 

I’ve been sober for more than five years now, and during that time I realized that my real addiction was to perfection – my Adderall addiction was just a symptom. It’s what I used to cope with my undying need to be perfect and worthy.

Society puts so much pressure on us to be productive and perfect – it’s unbearable. We need to be busy, and hustle and have a career and a family – oh and look perfect doing it at the same time. I fell for the perfection lie – I fell hard. It’s the lie that tells you that you need to be perfect in order to be worthy and lovable. It’s the lie that says you’re not enough as you are. And the interesting thing is – there isn’t a whole lot of attention being paid to Adderall addiction. Or, perfection for that matter. No one is really talking about it. No one is talking about the pressures we put on people to be productive and perfect.

National Recovery Month is a time to celebrate for me – not only because I recovered from my Adderall addiction, but also my perfection addiction. I’m able to live my life authentically. I experience real joy and peace and freedom – things I never experienced during my addiction.

In my upcoming book, Addicted to Perfect, I share the highs and lows of having been a slave to Adderall, the destructive relationships that ensued, and the way that I finally broke free. It details the many twists and turns involved in the years leading up to me getting sober and my road to healing.

Perfectionism and Adderall nearly ruined my life and it no longer something that enslaves me.

My memoir is a story of hope that no matter where you are in your life, you can release the grip of perfection. You can heal your pain and your abandonment and your loneliness and your fear and your guilt and your shame. You can experience true freedom, and most importantly, replace perfection with self-love.

Vitale Buford is a professional coach and change agent living in Lexington. She is also an international speaker sharing how she broke free from the grips of addiction and perfection with individuals, groups, and corporations. You can contact her at vitalebuford.com. You can preorder her book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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