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The ADHD Double-Whammy

The ADHD Double-Whammy2013-07-03T14:01:45+00:00

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    Some children with ADHD grow up facing a double-whammy. First, they have ADHD with all the baggage it brings, and if the child has ADHD, often one of his or her parents have it as well. Whether or not the child faces that double-whammy depends on how well the parent is coping with the problem themselves. If an ADHD parent is having trouble dealing with their own ADHD issues, then things become twice as difficult for the child. I know. I lived with both.

    They say ADHD is hereditary, something I can fully believe. I have traced it back through 5-generations; my son, myself, my father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather, using historical plus military records to conclude this about the oldest three. I was the first to get my ADHD diagnosed, doing so when I was 59-years of age. My son then went through the process and once I figured out what was going on with us, it didn’t take much of a leap to realize that my father had ADHD as well. The records I have for him support that belief and caused me to wonder if it stretched back any further. Studying all the records I could collect for my grandfather and great-grandfather, I was left with the impression that they suffered with it as well. I didn’t come to these conclusions by any scientific method. I just compared each of their life-timelines with my own. Some were harder to spot than others, which left me believing that while ADHD is hereditary, the level of affliction isn’t necessarily equal throughout the generations.

    While there was no joy in discovering all of this, it did do one thing that I am grateful for. It allowed me to forgive my father.

    My father lived a very difficult life. Like most ADHD’ers, he had more losses than wins. The biggest issue with his life, however, was his practice of self-medicating with alcohol. In truth, my father was a drunk, and a mean one at that. He was a violent man both in and out of the home. Sober, he was barely able to control his temper. Drunk, he didn’t bother to try. He was a physically formidable opponent to the men at the legion, but to an 8-year old boy, he was just damned scary.

    While growing up with an alcoholic parent is bad enough, growing up with an ADHD-inflicted alcoholic parent is a living hell. He was physically abusive when he lost his temper, which was often, and emotionally abusive when he didn’t. Because I was an out-of-control kid who couldn’t cope with my own ADHD problems, I was the focus of his wrath. He had three common words he used when addressing me; stupid, idiot and moron. Needless to say, I ended up believing that I was a total idiot because, after all, why would my father lie to me?

    I struggled throughout public school, repeating a few grades. When I turned 16 I not only failed grade 9, but I became legally allowed to leave his house. I dropped out of school and ran, not walked, away from him and have been on my own ever since. I resented quitting school as soon as I did it, but couldn’t afford to return without returning home. Eventually I found the funds to complete my Bachelor of Arts plus a year of law, all done as a mature student.

    My father often told me how his father threw him out of the house when he was 14. The school records that I discovered listed this happening when he was 15, but close enough. He worked the pig farms around his home and had other menial jobs, such as being a grocery delivery boy for the local market until he was old enough to join the army. At 18, I wanted to return to high school but couldn’t afford it. I approached my mother and asked her for help, but knowing she could never get away with it without my father’s approval, she asked him to allow her to do it. He flat-out refused. If I was thinking straight at the time, this should have been my first clue regarding what was going on in his head, but it was years before I realized this was usable information. At the time, I just figured he had it in for me, as he always did.

    It took another 24-years or so after leaving home for me to talk to my father again, even though I went home on a weekly basis to visit my mother and he was often there. The reason I started talking to him again was his failing health. He had emphysema and by this time, we didn’t know how long he had left. I’d like to say I was acting like the caring son, but in truth, I returned to his side for the sole purpose of getting that one sign of approval that I so desperately wanted all my life. During those visits, I often took him out on day-excursions to give my mother a break. We spent a great deal of time together talking, but never discussing our relationship. Instead, we constantly talked about my relationship with my son, which was exactly the opposite of what him and I had. I never brought my son on these visits with him. I had kept him out of my parents’ lives as much as I could since the day he was born because I never trusted my father not to turn on him in the same manner he often turned on me. Surprisingly, he never asked me about this. I guess he just knew.

    Just days before he died I did get that sign of approval, or at least I read it as such. While sitting beside his bed in the hospital, he turned to me and said, “I envy you the relationship you have with your son. I wanted to have the same with you all along”. While I don’t remember how I acknowledged it, I do remember thinking that it wasn’t enough for me to forgive him.

    Twenty years after he passed and after being diagnosed with ADHD I started accessing the family records. His was first, and reading them, I couldn’t understand why he treated me the way he did. His records show that we were more like identical twins, rather than father and son. He did have a bit more difficulty dealing with authority than I, and Lord knows it was difficult enough for me. After going through his military records the first time, I went through them again, this time doing a little math. As it turns out, he spent 54% of his enlistment time sitting in the hoosegow for being AWL. Twice he escaped his detention for being away without leave so he could go AWL again. While the army didn’t kick him out, eventually they held the door open for him to go.

    One of my many attempts to get an education after leaving home resulted in me signing up for the air force. When I arrived at base camp I was coughing and ordered to report to sick bay the next morning. An hour after I did I was in an ambulance on my way to the Hospital where I spent the week. At the end of that week I was medically discharged for having lousy lungs. During my next visit with my mother, I told her all about it, not knowing that my father could hear. When I was done, the old man barged into the kitchen and started to berate me, saying things like, “Even the military has no use for you”. I left and didn’t return for months. I remembered that event when I started going through his records, which pretty much put me into shock.

    My first impression while putting his information together was that he humiliated me to make himself look better in his own eyes, that he wanted to think that he was better than I. As I was going through my grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s records, that opinion slowly changed.

    What I came to believe is that my father treated me in the same manner as his father treated him. My grandfather was a gruff, old, Sergeant-Major but he and I had a special bond. This was due to me being the namesake of his oldest son who was killed in action during WWII and also because I lived with my grandparents for a year when I was 6-years old, during a time when my father was too broke to feed us, which probably added to making our bond stronger than normal. Thinking about the relationship I remembered my old man having with his father, I realized it wasn’t what you could call “warm”. In truth, if it wasn’t for their drinking bouts together, they wouldn’t have had a relationship at all. I discovered a lot of common elements between our two childhoods, elements similar to his refusing to help me return to school and his father’s refusal to let him live a home so he could stay in school. While he was wrong, I realized I couldn’t blame him for it. If I blamed my father for my lousy childhood, I had to blame the man who taught him to treat me that way, and the man who taught him, and so-on. If that was the case, I had to lay blame going back to that first parent in my family who suffered with ADHD and didn’t know how, or just plain couldn’t, deal with his ADHD child properly. As it turns out, the reason for my lousy childhood is because no-one before me had it together enough to break the chain. It is as simple as that.

    In the end I completely forgave the whole lot of them, especially my father. I also accepted my own responsibilities for some of our issues and most importantly, I realized how much I loved and respected him. Once I got over my resentment of him, I realized how similar we are, sans the booze and violence, of course. Most important to me, however, is realizing that forgiving him has helped me along in my quest to become a better person.


    Post count: 1096

    What an amazing post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your personal family history (and present) with us.

    You are obviously a very good and understanding person. 🙂



    allan wallace
    Post count: 478

    Wowee, that was a very moving post! I had a giggle here and there, shed a few tears, and found the candour as refreshing as country air! Stranger, I salute you!


    Post count: 27

    Wow your story is both heartbreaking and vindicating at the same time!!   It’s really sad when we think about the hell our parents went through (those of us who’s parents also have/had ADHD).   I’m sure both of parents have it, my father also is an alcoholic; drug abuse, and alcoholism plague both sides of my family.  

    I’m sure my dad sees him self in my brother, he was harder on him then he was on me.   I too wanted my parents approval  some times I catch my my self still trying to get it.   

    I too have come to forgive my parents, my father for all his ranting and raving, his put downs and leaving his family for the Captain …aka  uncle Morgan, and my mom for putting up with it,  for not protecting us from my fathers temper tantrums.   With that said, when I received   my own diagnosis, and much therapy I’ve come to realize  inside of these two adults who are my parents are two very confused scared children.  Neither one of them had chance.   There was no therapy back then, no one to console them, they were left to believe they were failures.    As your father did, and his father, and so on and so forth, they did what they were taught.   I will say for both of my parents, who I do love and respect very much, they did the best they could with what they had to work with!!

    I take my had off to you, and congratulate you for breaking the cycle, for giving your child the very thing generations of  fathers  in your family wanted so badly for their children but could not give them!!   You’ve also reached your goal of an education, congratulations  and thank you for letting us peer into that part of your life, and showing us that despite the verbal, mental, emotional, and physical abuse success is both possible and attainable!!

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