Note to the Reader: This post was written by Ian Ford. He has managed to control his ADHD, not with “meds and therapy” but using alternate methods that have given him the ability to be in control of his life. I think you’ll find his story to be interesting. – Jeff

When I was a child, I lived in the bliss of ignorance.  I didn’t know I was different, at least not consciously.  I did know that I was extremely good at things that interested me, and terrible at things that didn’t.  I was called lazy and scatterbrained, smart and adept.  I was, and still am, a math wiz and computer geek, but holding a normal conversation has been practically impossible throughout most of my life.  Paying attention in class or doing any uninteresting activity eluded me and I was always distracted.  I avoided any task that required mental focus.  Fortunately, the other side of this difficulty contained an ability to comprehend and assimilate certain things very quickly, as long as they interested me and I didn’t have to think too hard.  Concentration and focus were entirely foreign to me, but I struggled through somehow.

I started drinking when I was in college and discovered that a little alcohol helped streamline my thoughts.  It even helped me study, and I earned a degree in computer engineering – hooray for self-medicaton.  Unfortunately, I have an addictive nature so drinking got way out of hand after a few years and I had to stop entirely.  This left me back where I started, and in fact, a little worse off as it affected my health and well-being.  Feeling unhealthy most of the time really exacerbated my mental state, and I spent a few years being almost useless.

I was lost for some time, until I stumbled on the terms “A.D.D.” and “A.D.H.D.”.  This gave substance and form to my struggle, and I was so gratified to discover that I wasn’t simply a freak but in fact had a condition that could be managed!  I started seeking treatment options, and in short order discovered that, as with alcohol, the ‘normal’ means of dealing with this didn’t work for me.  Well, if nothing else, I’m better at thinking outside the box than inside it.

The first thing I found is that fighting ADHD was pretty much impossible, so embracing it was a better answer. The medications made life even worse for me, and I found that some of my abilities – to see and hear things others didn’t notice, or to multitask efficiently – were gone. These things are vital in my work.  I tried exercise, but going to the gym did not hold my attention, neither did jogging, nor yoga – although yoga helped a bit I had trouble following through with it.

Finally I stumbled upon a martial arts school near my apartment, and I started taking classes. It helped a little right away, but more importantly, it held my attention and therefore I continued to exercise. Pretty quickly I noticed that my attention and actions started taking a less scattered direction, not much at first but enough. After about three or so years of training and building up, I reached advanced levels and took some additional disciplines, some that included meditation.

Another view on treating ADHD without medication

Bingo. This is the point at which things really started coming together. The physical training coupled with Ch’an meditation techniques gave me a more consistent control which I had rarely experienced beforehand. I’m now able to use ADHD instead of fighting it. I can have a ‘normal’ conversation that others can follow. I can complete boring but necessary tasks (although juggling two or three is easier) and, once again, I can read a book. I can multitask in a way that makes me quite valuable at work and I can enjoy a cup of coffee with little fear of babbling. And I can still hear and see things others miss. There is still the occasional day when things are difficult, especially when I’m low on sleep, but good days are the rule and not the exception.

Meditation allows me to go beyond, or maybe behind, the scattered thoughts to a mental place that has continuity.  There is a Mind behind my mind, and being in that place is my key to dealing with A.D.H.D.  This is not to say that I have eliminated the problem; it still arises constantly. But I’ve trained myself to think before I talk, to listen to others before I finish their sentences, and to occasionally take a moment to compose myself before continuing.  I’ve gained something and lost nothing.

This journey taught me to embrace my true nature and work from there, instead of ‘swimming against the current’ and making no headway. Good luck to everyone, everywhere, in finding themselves!

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  • Laura


    Hey from Atlanta. Love the new website. I love this article. I have actually inquired into getting my daughter into meditation because I heard it can work wonders for concentration and focus. I have made some effort but am encouraged by this article to be persistent in trying it as an alternative for my daughter. It could probably benefit the ex as well but he is still in denial about needing treatment for his adhd.

    Take Care and keep up the great work!

    • Jeff

      Great to hear from you!! You may still have to go a more “traditional” route but…you could take the chicken soup approach…it may not help but…it couldn’t hurt. There are certainly some people who have been successful using alternate treatments – such as Ian – and there have been others. However, sometimes…this “treatment” may have to be part of a constellation of “treatments” – meditation, meds and therapy. Please let me know how things we work. And as for the ex, well, that’s a different story. ;)

  • gina pera

    One of the toughest “in denial” cases of ADHD that I’ve heard in 10 years was that of a martial-arts school director. Finances were in shambles. Back taxes owed.

    If your ADHD is of the mild variety or you don’t have too many other pressing obligations in your life (children, a job, etc.) or maybe you have lots of money, martial arts or meditation might help in the ways it helps all humans. There is no evidence, however, that it is useful in treating ADHD symptoms. In fact, I’ve known people with ADHD who have simply hyperfocused on meditating and martial arts, to the detriment of everything else in their lives. Same with exercise. They spend half the day exercising so they can function in the rest of life, leaving someone else to handle all the logistics at home, with the family, with finances, etc. Not exactly an effective strategy for most people.

    I’m with Jeff — the Chicken Soup approach. If you aren’t in immediate danger of losing your job, your marriage, or your financial solvency due to untreated ADHD symptoms, give “alternatives” like meditation and martial arts a try. Otherwise, stick to the evidence-based strategies.

    And anyway, from what I understand, all humans benefit from meditation or any other practice that helps to slow and focus the human “monkey mind.”

  • Torrey

    Wow I really enjoyed your article!
    I am 19 years old and have been dealing with ADD since my Freshman year of high school. I would spend at least 6 to hours a night doing my homework and it really stressed me out. It wasn’t until my Senior year of high school that i began trying different medications prescribed by my doctor and i still am not too impressed with any of them due to their unreliable tendencies. I too have found that alcohol does wonders in helping me focus and learn better but the last thing i need is an addiction to alcohol too.
    I sort of felt like I was reading about my self when i saw this article! I am also going to school for a degree in computer engineering. While i absolutely love the subject, i cannot make myself focus on the increasingly harder math, (and i love math) or the tricky material that i am learning. Ive started feeling like i am not smart enough for my my degree and i know its not true, but failing exams and spending tons of time on studying while others are able to go party and still pass is not really too reassuring…
    Well recently I’ve been looking for better ways of eating and coping with ADD which is how i came upon your article. I just want to say that i enjoyed reading a story of somebody who is going through the same things, and i think its awesome that you have found a way to make your life easier!

    I noticed that Ch’an is a Buddhist based meditation and was wondering where you learned about it (besides the martial arts) ? I work out already but don’t really enjoy martial arts and dont have much time. I have been interested in Buddhism but have never really looked into it. If you have any sources on learning Ch’an i would love it if you could share them thank you!

    • Jeff

      Torrey, I’m glad that you took that detour away from alcohol since, as you rightly point out, you don’t need that addiction. I don’t know what medications you tried but I would highly recommend NOT giving up on medication. A small percentage of ADHDers can get away with not using medication and while we
      all want to think we are part of that small percentage, it’s kind of like thinking, after buying that lottery ticket, that you’ll become a part of that small percentage of winners. (I think that every time I buy a lottery ticket and, since I never win, I stopped buying tickets.) Well…those odds are like 45 million to 1! (See this.)Also, there are many variations out there and you may not have exhausted them all. Sometimes doctors hit it right the first time…sometimes not. For example, I had taken Ritalin for a few weeks and was bouncing off the walls. (A friend told me that I was talking at hyperspeed.) Some time later I began using Vyvanse and the effect has been wonderful. None of that “hit in the head” kind of thing you can get with Ritalin. However, there are also many different ways that Ritalin is “packaged,” so to speak, so that its effects can last over a long period of time and you don’t get that jolt.

      “Wow I really enjoyed your article!” – Ooops…I don’t want to mislead you here. This post was written by a guest blogger (the note about that appears at the top of the post). I contacted the original author of the post and asked that he address your question concerning Ch’an.

      • Scott Hutson

        HI Torrey! Your comment jumped out (so to speak) at me when you mentioned alcohol helped you some with focus and attn. I understand and can relate too much to the stimulating effects of alcohol. I only wish I would have been as disciplined as you are to admit the harm it WILL do if I continued using it. Good thinking Torrey!

        There is a book that will answer your questions about ADHD medications “ADHD Medications rules” by Dr. Charles Charles Parker. It’s on the right side of page here. It’s an easy read and based on scientific facts. I know little about meditation other than trying it years ago for other reasons not related to ADHD. It does take focus abilities somewhat to do it. So it may help exercise your mind and body…but stimulating your brain, IMHO, is much different and medications will do that. This book or any other reliable neuroscience info is mandatory or should be when it comes to deciding what medication will work best for you depending on your psychical health at this time.

        You came to the right place, Jeffs ADD mind, to find people who really care about you Torrey. Thanks for sharing your experience!!

    • Anonymous

      Hi Torrey,

      Ian here… Congratulations on recognizing the dangers of alcohol before it got out of hand and searching for alternatives. Seems we have a few things in common, such as a love of math, a computer engineering major, and of course ADHD. In regards to meditation, Jeff correctly surmised that it is part of a larger system that works for me.

      Although i don’t use prescription medication, I do drink two cups of high quality coffee a day, the first usually about an hour after I wake up and usually after I meditate. I work out in martial arts class at least three times per week, I make sure to get proper rest whenever possible and I have a very healthy diet. I take the occasional planned ADHD break and let my mind out to play here and there.

      Just remember that life (and ADHD) change constantly and what works on one day may not be so effective at another time. I’m continually learning how and when to adjust and live in this ever-changing situation. But I guess that’s how it is for most people..

      The Ch’an meditation method I learned is a Zen Buddhist technique, but you can find it in Yoga and many martial arts styles as well. The general idea behind Yoga and meditation in general, as it relates to this discussion, is to use the body to control the mind. Many yoga postures and breathing techniques are designed to do just that. Ch’an meditation is designed more specifically for the realization of your true nature and it can help you find the stillness within. You gain a sense that you are not your body, just in it, and there is a Mind behind the mind. This is a super-simplified explanation which is specific to this discussion. (If you wish to study it further you can find a really good overview here: or by reading the book “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche).

      Ch’an meditation is simple, at least the method I am currently using. Sit comfortably on the floor, on a cushion, or a chair – but make sure you’re not leaning on anything and your back is not supported (unless absolutely necessary). Make sure your tongue is touching the roof of your mouth, then simply breathe in and out through your nose. Aside from breathing, sit perfectly still. Do not move, do not scratch an itch, do not voluntarily swallow. Your body will do things on its own, that’s ok just let it. Ten minutes is a good minimum for this, and the ultimate goal is an hour. I can do 30 minutes at this point. Again, this is how I was taught and it works very well for me at this time.

      When you first start meditating your mind will go wild with thoughts, fantasies and memories, but this is normal. Let it happen, it will calm down in time – probably not during the first few meditations, but you’ll catch glimpses of calm. From there you will begin to find a sense of continuity that carries over more and more into your normal day.

      I hope this helps, and feel free to ask any other questions.


  • Torrey

    Thanks for the responses guys, and i’ll most definitely be returning to your website Jeff and a look forward to hearing from the original poster about Ch’an!
    @Scott, thank you too, i think i’ll take a look at that book it seems helpful =)

  • PsychoPathogen

    I really enjoyed your article. I am 30 years old and have struggled with ADD/ADHD (depending on which doctor you ask) since I was a young child. While in elementary-high school I was medicated on and off with mixed results and also treated for depression, anger outbursts, etc. In short I was way over medicated to the extent that much of my teenage years and early to mid 20′s I was frequently feeling suicidal, but had an inherent distrust for psychotherapy and medication. I still struggle, but have a better understanding of how the brain works and I try to control my anger by reminding myself what I’m feeling is a lack of neurotransmitters that my neurons are begging for. I just earned my associate in arts degree, and about to transfer to pursue a Bachelors in Computer Science and hopefully someday a Doctorate in Physics. I thought my anger issues were behind me and I had finally grown up, however tragedy has recently struck my family and I am now in a position of needing to become the breadwinner so to speak for myself and my stepfather (whose help I had been depending on up til now and now I’m sol). Aside from the fact that nobody will hire me, I’m also having a hard time with the realization that my life is 10 years behind schedule. I can’t “stick with” anything. I spent 10 years dealing with my problems through substance abuse, and while I’ve outgrown that phase of my life, I’m at a complete loss as to what to do, and without the drugs, I once again don’t feel normal around other people. I blurt out stupid random things that don’t come out the way I intended and then get embarrassed (I still remember and am embarassed by every dumb thing I’ve said since I was 2 and I know thats not normal), and then start sinking into despair, so I spend most of my time alone. I feel like I’m never going to be self sufficient, never going to get married (or even find a girlfriend), and my whole life just seems pointless (don’t worry not suicidal or anything like that, just don’t feel like living). I’m too broke to even buy food, let alone pay for any kind of professional help. I’m sure there is some kind of process in place to sign up for free healthcare, but the whole concept of paperwork is so monstrously overwhelming that the mear thought of it stresses me out. Lately the smallest things have been setting me off again. I would really like to learn more about these meditation techniques as well any other advice from somebody with similar problems. I’m being honest here so nobody give me any grief please. Thanks

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      I wish I could provide a magic elixir that would fix all of these things. Unfortunately, it does not exist. What I can tell you, though, is that things can improve over time but it takes determination and patience. I would strongly urge you to muster up as much strength as possible to get whatever healthcare may be available.

      “my life is 10 years behind schedule.” – I certainly know that feeling. There are days when I realize that I’ve lost a few decades. However, there is nothing to be gained by worrying about that lost time. You cannot change the past but you CAN change the future. It’s not easy but it can be done.

      • PsychoPathogen

        Thank you for your kind words and advice. I have been doing a lot of research over the past few days on what malfunctions take place in the brain with ADHD and I’ve come to the realization that I’ve never given myself enough credit. I’ve been doing some exercises, but also plan on seeking treatment soon. The idea of filing paperwork and risking hearing people say my problem isn’t real is so overwhelming. It’s amazing how the simplest of things can seem like trying to move a mountain, even though I know I’m fully capable of doing it. I think it will have to be on impulse, like, “I have nothing better to do this very instant, I think I’ll go down to the health department,” otherwise It’s too scary to think about. That’s the only way I was able sign up college. One day I just decided to go up there right then and there.

        • Jeffs ADD Mind

          I’m not being original when I say take it one day at a time but, the truth is the truth. Everything has to be done in small steps, at least for now.

          FYI: I flunked out of college…twice. The third time, I went straight through and graduated at the top of the class.

          • Lance Akins

            I’m doing much better now and have been for 4 months. I’m actually happy (or at least not sad) all the time now. I’ve actually become an overall optimistic person (optimism never came easily to me). I don’t know if it had something to do with turning 30, but I’ve gone through this period of rapid maturation over really the past year and a half but it seems like It’s been speeding up even more lately. I still have difficulties concentration, and saying random things that I think are funny (that still sting with embarrassment), but I’m becoming a much better communicator. I think that is key for anyone who has had similar story to me. Work on how you communicate. What I mean is start asking yourself ” What am I really trying to say/ask?” For example saying ” I really don’t appreciate that because…” works a lot better than asking, “how can you be so f*cking stupid?” Jeff did you go through any period of rapid maturation/mind growth like I’m describing? Was it around 30? Thanks again for all of the work you’ve put into this site, and I hope many many people who suffer find it.

            • Jeffs ADD Mind

              I told someone who was recently diagnosed that, over the next few years, he will rapidly relive most of his life. He will find that interests from the past will resurface and may fade out entirely or may become his real passion. I’ve gone through that myself and have found that the thing I came back to was writing (I’ve been writing this blog for five years and now pursuing other types of writing) and other intellectual pursuits. So, what I’m trying to say is, you are correct about the rapid maturation. It’s as if you are replaying/reliving the stages of your life that you may have “skipped.” There may be scientific proof of this but, anecdotally, you are now the third person who has experienced this.

              • Lisa Dilley

                And now you know four people…

        • Surajit Pandit

          Never Never give up hope.

  • Keenan White

    This is weird. I’m 20 years old, and I learned that I have ADD a few years back. I was also known to be very smart but selective about what I work hard on. Medication took away my ability to see and hear things other people didn’t notice. I learned to manage my ADD through martial arts as well and I’m actually very good. Reading your article is like meeting another me. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one like this, though I’ve come to believe that my ADD is an advantage, not just a disorder.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      It’s a question mark as to whether anyone can really manage their ADHD
      solely through non-medical means. While I understand how medication may
      seem to hamper your abilities (see section three of this post:, on the other hand, the
      problem may really be a result of the wrong medication or wrong dosage.

      I can tell you, from the perspective of someone who was undiagnosed for
      46 years, that ADHDers have a preternatural ability for self-delusion,
      fooling ourselves into believing that we are doing better than we really
      are. I say this to you as a warning. Do not wait 20 years to find out
      that you did not achieve your goals in life and that the martial arts
      didn’t help as much as you thought. Give it 2 years. Perhaps 5 years.
      But that’s it.

      While it’s admirable that you don’t see ADHD as a disadvantage, be very
      careful in assuming the opposite, namely, that it provides some sort of
      advantage. If that “advantage” doesn’t work to your advantage, you’ll be
      setting yourself up for heartache. (You may find this post to be of

      And, in case you didn’t catch it, this post was not written by me. It was written by Ian Ford.

      And, most importantly, welcome to the blog. There’s a ton of material
      here and, if you take note of the dates on the blog posts, you’ll notice
      that my attitude toward ADHD has changed. I don’t see it as magical
      fairy dust but neither do I see it solely as a dark cloud. It simply is
      what it is.

  • Pingback: The Ten Most Popular Posts of 2012 | Jeff's ADD Mind

  • John

    Hi Jeff! Great article! My life has followed a similar path, having to deal with ADD before anyone knew about, being the constant “underachiever”, and then finding my way to martial arts and meditation. As a matter of fact, I have a very, VERY infrequently updated blog of my own where I’ve written about it. Here are links to two of my ADD-related posts if you’re interested.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      Glad you liked it! I can’t take complete credit for it since it was written by someone else. There’s definitely something beneficial about meditation as I found out through my yoga practice.

      Re: Your post about ADD, intelligence and daydreaming. You may be interested in reading the post noted below since it touches on the issue of intelligence, dreaming and ADHD.

  • Chris

    Are you sure you have or had ADHD? The way you described the medications affecting you the way it did shows the opposite affect of what they are intended to do. That is usually the case for people without true ADHD. Who diagnosed you? You can’t just think you have it. I have suffered from ADHD my whole life. I took medication for it until I was 18. I just decided to stop one day I guess. Big mistake. I jumped from job to job, emotions would kick in at meetings, I couldn’t stay focused on a task, and I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Sooner or later, someone would just fire me, no matter how good I was at what I did. I am 30 now and have recently decided to go back on medications. It helps a great deal. I am no longer in danger of losing my job or being passed up on a promotion. I am functional in the business world and my girlfriend doesn’t get annoyed by me any more. I thank God for medication. I have so many goals and strive for the stars! The only thing that was holding me back is my severe ADHD.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      I also thank God (well…the pharmacist and psychiatrist because I’m an atheist and I don’t thank a fictitious being….when someone sneezes I say “Not Proven bless you”) for drugs. I went off my meds for a month or so and that month disappeared. I know I lived through it…but I did nothing that month. I was a lump.

      Oh. By the way. Just want to make sure that you realize that this was a guest post, one of the few posts that I didn’t write.

  • Freedom

    Thank you for this post. It made me feel I am not alone in this battle.

    • Jeffs ADD Mind

      You’re welcome. Of course, much of this blog lets you know that you are not alone in this battle.

  • Surajit Pandit

    Hello Jeff! It was wonderful to read ur story. I too have ADHD. I know that it is a great gift of God and not just an obstacle. There are some cases of lack of focus but the fact is that ADHD can make a person super-focused if he really likes the task and has a set goal in mind. It is ultimately a mind game. Use ur inner self (ur conscience or ur soul) to control ur mind. If ur mind wants to waver for a short while allow it to do but keep a watchful eye. If the wavering becomes too long or too much restless then rebuke ur mind like a small child and bring it back to its place.

    A gainful activity as well as proper meditation or Yogic techniques can be great for dealing with ADHD. Simply love ur life and love everything and everybody around u (I know that it is almost impossible but u can try that for most of the times). Discover joy, happiness and peace from the simple things.

    And don’t feel bad that u have ADHD. It is a genetic trait that is carried by a small percentage of the population. Most of the men with ADHD have superior intelligence levels and (or) with creative genius. These are the men who are the adventurers, inventors, army leaders and the entrepreneurs.

    I wish all of my ADHD brothers and sisters good luck in their pursuits!

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