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The “I wish I could freeze time” Fantasy

On Adderall, you’re in your own little world. All you want to do is work on your epic project, and you don’t want anything else to interfere. As long as you keep popping pills, you never get tired, you never lose interest. You just keep working into increasingly intricate details. You don’t want to stop. You want to keep going. And you will rationalize cancelling any obligation that comes up to be able to keep going on your precious Adderall-fueled project.

Until that bastard clock gives you no choice and you have to stop. Only 30 minutes until you have to leave for class and turn in your paper. You can’t rationalize it anymore. You’re out of time. You have to stop working on that perfect cover page you’ve been obsessing over for 7 straight hours and actually start writing the paper.

You can never finish anything, but only because you run out of time. You never run out of motivation. If only you didn’t have to stop. If only the world would leave you alone…you could finish it all…you could make it all so perfect. Time ticks away so quickly in Adderall world. If only you could stop the clock and take your glorious project all the way to completion.

If you only had a device that could freeze time

Many movies and TV shows have featured a plot thread where somebody invents a stopwatch (or whatever) that can freeze time for everyone but the person wearing it, leaving the main character free to do whatever he wants while the rest of the world stands frozen. It’s been done a hundred times, most famously in an episode of DuckTales that you probably saw if you were a child in the 80’s, and then totally ripped-off by the Nickelodeon movie Clockstoppers, then done again by Hero Nakamura in Heroes.

Huey Duck from DuckTales freezes time with Gyro’s magic stopwatch. Full episode here.

Having the ability to freeze time is the most fervent wish for somebody who is intensely wrapped up in Adderall world.

This is why Adderall users love to stay awake all night long and work. First off, fatigue is never an issue if you keep popping pills. And there’s so much time and no distractions! You have 8-10 hours to build an intense Adderall buzz and work while the rest of the world sleeps. It’s as close as you get to freezing time.

The fantasy becomes ingrained

Even though you don’t have  a magical time-freezing device, you will find yourself acting on Adderall as if time were frozen. You will dive deeper and deeper into the obscure details of a project, ignoring the reality of the clock as it if weren’t even there. You have to ignore, because if you do think about the clock too much, you’ll obsess over it and drive yourself crazy. So you ignore the clock as much as you can and let yourself get totally lost in Adderall world.

And then that kind of thinking becomes a habit. You start to put off big projects because you don’t have 8 hours of perfect, uninterrupted time to devote to them. And since you’re “freezing time” and obsessing over all your other projects, whether you have the time or not, these big projects just get pushed farther and farther back (until your next all-nighter).

Eventually, your brain modifies how it handles big tasks: How does big work get done? Why, by popping pills and staying up all night working on it when nobody else can detract you. That’s the only way.

Ultimately you stop thinking about time at all. It just washes beneath you as you throw yourself at one epic project after another, putting off the big ones over and over again.

You keep this mentality when you quit Adderall

When you quit Adderall, a cruel things happens: Time starts to matter, but instead of ignoring it by losing yourself in Adderall-fueled work, you’re losing yourself in procrastination and indecisiveness…because you’re suddenly paralyzed by your inability to work at a super-human pace without needing any will power.

This is a damaging mentality. Your brain still keeps effectively “waiting on the next pill-powered all-nighter” to get big tasks done. Except now, the big tasks are infinitely more important and crucial to your moving forward, because you’ve regained your ability to prioritize.

Your definition of “big important task” changes dramatically (for the better) when you quit Adderall.

On Adderall, “re-writing the users manual” at work is a huge deal. It’s all consuming. It’s what you think about when you leave work. You must do it perfectly, obsessively; it must be the greatest users’ manual in the history of the world. And it is very, very important, so much so that you are emotionally involved in it. That’s why you need to put it off until you have time to really binge on the project.

When you quit Adderall, “re-writing the users manual” becomes totally unimportant. Hell, it’s fine the way it is. Maybe just a little outdated, but it works. You’re not going to stress it until the company designates time for you to do it, and then you’ll figure out a way to get it done. No biggie.

The new big, important, emotional tasks in your life will be things like “submitting my application for grad school” or “applying for that internship” or “submitting my novel to publishers”.  These are the crucial steps towards changing your life for the better. They are very, very important and have a big emotional significance. That is why you need to put them off until you have to time to really binge on them.

See the problem?

You’re still putting off big tasks like you did on Adderall, except now two things have changed: 1. The tasks actually matter and 2. The binge never comes.

This can lead to all kinds of semi-catastrophic procrastination. Now you heart is facing in a new direction, but your actions aren’t moving you forward at all. So you just sit and stew in the excruciating contrast between where you are now and where you want to be. As you sit action-less, time washes under you, gradually eroding your spirit and resolve as it passes.

So many of these tasks are stupidly-simple, 30-minute tasks. You put them off because they are emotionally significant, and that makes them feel technically difficult and complicated even though they’re not.

Try to be more selective about your procrastination

You have to take control and develop a habit of acting fast, if messily, especially when the task itself is straightforward. Filling out a student loan form is just a matter of clicking links, locating the neccessary personal data, and typing stuff…no creativity, no big decisions. There is no reason to put that off. Like, you don’t have to deliberate inside your head for 3 months about it. Just pull up the damn link as soon as humanly possible and start filling stuff out.

Maybe even try the one-sentence, instant-cure for procrastination

Change this thought…

“I have to finish this important task. It should already be done by now and I just need to do it.”

To this…

“I choose to start this task with a small, imperfect step. I’ll feel terrific and have plenty of time for fun!”

It’s fine to put off things you can’t do, but do not put off things that you can do.

Little straightfoward tasks are just a matter of overcoming procrastination. But the bigger, more variable tasks — the ones that require big decisions — are harder. You can’t just messily act on those, because you risk screwing up your life horribly if you make the wrong call. So you put the entire decision off indefinitely.

This is wrong. What you should do instead is Google your fears and concerns to death. You have to develop this reflex: paralyzed by all the variables = start searching the internet for ways to deal with them. Unknown and important variables are terrifying. Shining a light on them and researching them, one at a time, costs you nothing and is one of the most stress-relieving activities you can engage in because it helps you make informed decisions.

Ultimately, you need to develop the super-power of detaching emotion from a task

Do you know how to do that? Do you know how to take a big emotional task and remove the venom enough to start acting on it? Look at the clock.

13 Responses to “The “I wish I could freeze time” Fantasy”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    All so true. Thanks for the helpful post. AND.. today I have been Adderall free for 74 days!!!

  2. ERIN says:

    Thanks Mike! So the article you asked me to write falls in line with this article, lol. I just gave up on it for the time being because I’ve been doing a 1,000 new things now that I have my life back. 1 Month and 1 Day clean today!!! Whooooo hooo!

    Ok Mike so I gotta tell you. This is absolutely the best line ever…”When you quit Adderall, “re-writing the users manual” becomes totally unimportant. Hell, it’s fine the way it is.” – LMAO

    I know exactly what you mean. Oh, and guess what? I left your website link on the webpage from my incident last summer:


    Hope you don’t mind, but I don’t know why I didn’t post it there until just now. Hopefully, we can help some others get better too.

    Thanks for a great article!

  3. Mike says:

    @Elizabeth: Thanks, and congrats! After 74 days things should be starting to get interesting. 🙂

    @Erin: Ha! Figures. You should still complete the article though! The whole time thing is a big subject. Plenty of room for lots of different attacks. But no rush. Totally understand about the 1000 new things. These days it’s all I can do just to keep pushing and juggling everything forward, and hope that in the end everything turns out OK. It’s actually kind of impressive that you’re this busy 1 Month in. I think at the 30 day mark I was still asleep most of the time, and distracting myself with social engagements as often as possible. But I guess you’ve had a couple of prior attempts to get that out of your system, so this time you’re ready to hit the ground running and get down to business. 🙂

    And of course I don’t mind you posting a link to my site in that comment thread! That’s great! Much appreciated!

  4. Haley Meijer says:

    Mike you are awesome. This site is awesome. I’ve been on and off adderall for almost 10 years, flushed my rx down the toilet so many times. Been almost completely off of it for nearly a year. I still miss it sometimes of course but it’s good to have my soul back at least. I just found this site today and have been posting it to my twitter, facebook and tumblr. Never before have I come across anyone who is able to sum up the Adderall experience so perfectly. Cheers! 😀

  5. Mike says:

    Haley! You picked my all time favorite image to post your Tumblr. I spent like 3 hours making that teddy bear/chemical formula/chalk board graphic illustrating that Adderall is a love potion. Even though I created it, I still laugh whenever I look at it. I’m glad that you noticed it! And I’m honored that you’d post my stuff everywhere!

    Congrats on being off Adderall for a year. That’s a huge marker. You’ll find that you miss it less when you replace the things you “lost” by quitting with better things. Takes time, but you get there eventually. Take care!

  6. g0ose says:

    mike, it’s like you went into my mind and soul, organized all the neurosis, and put into words the last three years of my life.
    well played, sir.

  7. Mike says:

    @Goose – lol thanks! I’m glad you liked it.

  8. Luke says:

    This is perfect. I’ve been off it for a few months now and was about to take the pill for a project I have, but I found this instead. You have saved me and helped with a significant problem in my life. You also write very well.

  9. Sarah says:

    Hi. I would appreciate a response sooo much if u have some time.

    I am in the process of applying to medical program and studying for the Mcat.. And I have been on adderall for at least 7 years. It helped me get good grades and get through all the high school and college classes I hated.

    Do I quiet adderall now and throw away everything I worked for? I tell myself after I take the Mcat I will quit, but after Reading all this on the website makes me question if I should just quit right now? I know If I did quit now taking Mcat and applying to an intense medical program would be out of the question. I pretty much chose to pursue a career in the field because it was a good paying job and in good demand. I dont nessesarly hate it or love it I just want to be financially stable and successful. I stopped taking adderall when I was out of school for six months and weight gain was probably my biggest problem at that time.

    I guess I’m just terrified of the unknown. I want to quit but should I quit it now… The most important time in my life school/ career wise? How do I rationalize it will be better for me. It seems I’m loosing out on life if I quit or don’t quit. With adderall I always feel there is just not enough time in the day. I am always racing with the clock and never really get to completion in whatever I am doing. But without adderall it’s even worse

    I know I’m shooting to become someone I would have never been able to be without adderall… And for some reason i see that as a positive thing. I feel like i was destined to not be good at anything and when adderall came along it changed my fate so that I have a chance to become something.
    please if u have any advice on what coahuila do I would appreciate it.

  10. Fred says:

    For me, I’m half on board with quitting; Oh how nice it would be to live a life not having to rely on a ‘speed pill’ (Adderall) to get me through my day. I wish I would’ve never taken it in the first place…not popping that first pill…I wouldn’t have fallen in love with it. I wouldn’t know how it felt…You can’t miss something you’ve never MET…WHY DID I MEET YOU ADDERALL!? On the other hand–I like adderall! It brings out this person everyone looks up to for his brilliant judgements, intelligent thoughts, just an overall excellent example of a human being. I’m half and half with adderall. Some really hard things you have to remember when thinking about quitting adderall [These are the things holding me back from quitting]: Is all that pain and suffering worth enduring to get back to normal? How do I know I’m going like who I am naturally? What if I go through the struggle and return back to the ‘old me’, then realize I what the drugged up me back because I was better then than now…? Is the lemon worth the squeeze here? I don’t have a clue!
    Something I absolutely dread when I take adderall–when the drug starts wearing off, I start to think to myself how I acted when I was ‘high’, and I feel so guilty! When I get back to my “normal self” and recollect what happened when I was all speeded up–that feeling—that feeling of knowing that wasn’t you doing the work, talking with friends, being on top of your game going 100mph all day long–No, it was the adderall doing that for you. That feeling of guilt for taking adderall grows a little each day. Another day ‘high’, another day ‘wasted’. I truly do hope that the guiltiness grows very big inside of me. That way I can use it to ‘kick my ass’ into quitting.

  11. Whatever says:

    I have been off of Adderall XR now for about 3 months after taking it for 9 years (50mg daily). The first week after quitting, all I could do was sleep and eat. Lately I have been able to stay awake pretty much the entire day, but I still don’t feel like doing anything. Almost nothing I used to enjoy gives me any amount of pleasure. I barely leave my apartment, and when I do it takes an enormous amount of effort. Its pathetic. I gained almost 25 pounds, I quit my job, and I am soon to be evicted from where I live. I keep trying to tell myself that quitting Adderall was a good decision, but I can’t ignore what is becoming of my life. While on Adderall, I used to be a very motivated person, and never had a problem accomplishing virtually any task I set my mind on. I want to be that person again, but I don’t want a pill to run my life. I am so tired I don’t even know if this makes any sense. If it does, Please offer me some advice. I need help and I don’t know what to do.

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