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Living With Adult ADHD - Danny's Interview - Part 4 of 4 - 073

adhd interviews podcast May 21, 2020

Today’s episode is part 4 of 4 of my interview with Danny, a writer and director who has been sharing the ups and downs of his life with ADHD.

We begin this section discussing the use of alcohol or other substances to slow down what Danny calls the “cacophony” going on in his head.

And then we dive into all the ways your brain can be retrained so that you can get better outcomes for your life. That is, how to work with your unique brain, how to love it’s quirkiness and how to envision a positive future.

Developing your Executive Function Skills and shifting your limiting beliefs is the fastest and most effective way to overcome ADHD limitations, find focus, gain confidence, and newfound freedom in your life!

My mission is to put an end to the worldwide needless suffering of adults with ADHD and those with under-developed Executive Function Skills - whether from ADHD, chronic depression or anxiety, trauma, addictions, or chronic illnesses.  And, you don't need a formal diagnosis to know you need help developing these executive function skills in order to greatly reduce your suffering.




Full Episode Transcript Welcome to the Living Beyond ADHD podcast. If you're looking for a fresh perspective and actionable steps on hot topics from focus to follow through to self- management and more, you are in the right place. Welcome your host, innovative educator, coach and psychotherapist Dr B.

This podcast is sponsored by Pure Potential with Dr B. You can head over to and find the podcast transcript, great free content, plus information on programs and services including the groundbreaking ADDventures In Achievement online coaching program and one-to-one services with Dr B. That's

Dr B: Hey ADDers. Today's episode is Part 4 of 4 of my interview with Danny, a writer and director who's been sharing the ups and downs of his life with ADHD. We begin this section discussing the use of alcohol and other substances to slow down what Danny calls "the cacophony" going on in his head. And then we dive into all the ways your brain can be retrained so that you can get better outcomes for your life. That is, how to work with your unique brain, how to love its quirkiness and how to envision a positive future.

Danny: I've never had a drinking problem at all. But I always say this a lot: out of all the sort of substances I've taken in my life to alter my brain chemistry, alcohol is the one I would be in love with. Right? If like it would be my drug of choice. Right? Like I have to say since the COVID-19 outbreak, I have not had a single drop of alcohol.

Like, I have whiskey in the house. I don't--I'm not drinking at all. Mostly because I feel like I don't need it. And then, number two, it's also like spending too much time alone and drinking? Those are bad things in my mind. That's not a good thing.

But I would say, that like a third thing that could slow down my thoughts is a couple of beers, right? Or a stiff drink. Like , it could get into dangerous territory if that were my only coping mechanism, right? For someone whose brain doesn't want to stop that temptation of having a couple drinks is super nice. Right? Like it makes me feel quiet right? Like I mean, I don't feel quiet very often.

Dr B: No, and I understand and that was something I used 30 years or so ago, because I haven't been drinking for 30 years. And yes, it tones things down, slows things down, and you could say it's a downer in a sense.

It slows things down enough, that it's not like grabbing air, so to speak, with thoughts. I enjoyed that too. I just didn't enjoy what came along with drinking. Like you're talking about, [00:03:00] it can become a problem. In the past not true now, but in the past, a lot of my life was all-or-nothing. Black and white. And so you're either not drinking or you're passed out. Not knowing where the middle zone was. Where it was just to slow it down, and quiet it down. And so I just found that that wasn't good for me, plus the sugar wasn't good for my body. My body doesn't like the sugar. It was probably the bigger problem with the drinking. But what I've learned over the years is that--as I continue to study and research and write and teach and all the things I've been doing--that our brains are trainable.

And what each brain needs in terms of training is different. I've learned that through doing testing of people's executive function, which I started doing probably three plus years ago, because I was really curious, because curiosity is a big driver and value for me. So what is the difference between someone who describes himself this way and someone who describes himself this way, which is very similar. Yet the issues that they're both dealing with is kind of different and exaggerated in one and not as exaggerated in the other. So what's the difference? What's really the difference? Is it how they grew up? Is that this? Is that that? There's so many factors to look at, but I wanted to look at data. I like data. I like science. And so looking at the data I would see that there were people that I tested that were in the 90th percentile plus--some of them almost 100%--with no skill development in certain areas, for example. Then I look at others that was maybe 60%, 70%, and it wasn't bad.

They struggled. They got by, because they had ways they could work with that, like some of what you've talked about in your life. And it still was a struggle and it was exhausting. For the people that are almost a hundred percent, it's totally exhausting. You know we can get things like adrenal burnout and all these other things that can happen to our sensitive nervous system.

My podcast show is called Living Beyond ADHD now, and people objected to that title. Some people objected to that title because they said ADHD is a lifelong issue. What is this business of calling it Living Beyond it, as if you get past it? And they would say things to me like, "You don't cure it." You don't this, you don't that, and all of that. And I looked at that and I said, "I'm not talking about cure." I'm talking about that some of the bigger things that really impact us, like training your focus. To consciously be able to focus when and where--and I used to talk about this in the meetings--when and where you need to focus.

Those are the two big things that I remember talking about... is I wonder what it would be like if all of us could focus when and where we needed to focus and how we needed to focus for as long as we needed to focus. And if on an emotional level our emotions were regulated well enough, that they didn't get dysregulated and derail us so that we couldn't do what we said we wanted to do, needed to do, whatever that might be. If we had something to say about our emotional state and our focus, would we have these same issues? And I remember in one meeting, there was kind of this consensus of people there that said, "Gee, if focus wasn't an issue and emotional regulation wasn't an issue and they develop the skills that they needed, then what would be the problem having this brain?" Because having this brain that you have, that I have, it's an amazing brain.

Danny: It can be, for sure.

Dr B: Yeah, it can be if the ways in which it's a limitation or limits us on a day-by-day, week- by-week, month-by-month, whatever basis. If those issues are addressed, then where is the limitation? And I know that some people don't want to hear that, because "this is permanent; it's a limitation." And they don't want to get out of that space. And I'm not saying chuck the diagnosis or anything like that. I'm just saying living day-to- day, without the limitations that the diagnosis seems to dictate, and be free enough and trained enough in your own right for whatever that means for each of us. You'll be able to focus and regulate and start and complete and organize and plan and have foresight and all these things that many of us come up short with. Learning all those things that adults do who succeed in life is an essential thing for us.

That's why I started focusing on that along with the wins, which is never going to go away, because like you said earlier a win can be anything. A win can be anything that's good about you, like your sense of humor. That's a win. If nothing happened today and you didn't find any money and didn't find this, that, and all these other things that have happened in your life, but you decided to honor and celebrate the win of your sense of humor and your curiosity and the things that make you you, those are all wins.

Danny: Agreed. Yeah, I mean, it's so second nature to me that I find stuff every day. I told you this story on the phone the other day, that like, a couple weeks ago in normal circumstances in Los Angeles you plan your life around driving, right? Like, so one of the things I've done for years is I don't go to the gas station to get gas during commute hours.

Dr B: Right.

Danny: If I can ever avoid it. You know, sometimes we don't plan so well and that happens, right? I went to the gas station at 7:30 p.m., because I had to work at the crack of dawn the next day. I was not going to be able to go at any other time. But I pulled into the gas station, a very, very busy Arco station, like a station that normally if I pulled in there at 7:30, there would be a line outside of the station to get to a pump.

Right? But I went there during this because everyone was just starting to commute from home, or telecommute at that point. And it's 7:30 in the evening, and I pull in, and I have my choice of pumps. Like it was like, holy crap. I was like, this is awesome.

There's some really horrible stuff going on in the world right now, but like, even within all of that you can find stuff that is just gold, right? Because to me, at that moment, that was gold.

Dr B: If we reframe the meaning we give things, and we don't think black and white, all-or-nothing, that this is horrible, there's nothing good... If that's the meaning we're going to make out of it, this is going to be a horrible experience. Instead, this is challenging. There's no doubt about it for many, many people, and many people are taking a hit in all different kinds of ways.

Danny: Sure.

Dr B: Emotionally, financially, mentally... just all different ways.

Danny: Yes.

Dr B: And the meaning that we give to the hits that we're taking, how we frame them, how we interpret them, and this meaning that we give them: Is it good? Is it not good? Can we see what the gift, the blessing, is?

3 A perfect example is parents who are homeschooling their kids. For some of them, it's an absolute nightmare. For some, they have decided to homeschool differently and taken some suggestions that I've offered, like in my program for example, and now they get along. They're not fighting. The kids are still learning, because the kids are learning in the way that works for them. So they're getting to figure out their learning style, how they can be excited about their education, which is something that couldn't happen if they were still in school the regular way. But because they're not, there's this opportunity to figure out what's the best way to learn. What do I really enjoy learning? And how do I best learn? And what would excite me to be learning right now?

Because there's a lot of kids, and even adults, that I meet that want to learn. But the way in which they have to learn according to systems of learning don't work for them. I was one of those people. I had to step out, or chose to step out, of mainstream ways of learning and studying, because it didn't work for me in terms of how I absorbed information. And when I found what was right for me, you couldn't hold me back. You couldn't stop me. I was like, here's the banquet table with everything that I can study and learn in my life. I finally figured out how it works for me, how my brain best learns things, and just get out of my way, because here I go, and I'm going to study this and this and this and this.

And different because I related to what you were talking about about being a slow reader in comprehension and integration and all of that. And again, I did an experiment with myself to reprogram my brain, because I wanted to read better. I wanted to be able to integrate, not reread and reread and be slow and all of that, because obviously I love books. It was a heartbreak since I was a kid. I would go to the library look at all the books there. I couldn't keep up with what was there, and every day, every week more books, more books are coming in and I'm thinking if they keep bringing in new books every day and every week I am never going to be able to read everything that I want to read, which was really disheartening. Because I did want to read it all, and I did want to learn everything that was there because I was curious about all that I was seeing in the library.

And it was an impossible task. And it was impossible throughout my entire growing up years until I was an adult and understood more about brain structure and how I could repattern this so that I can read like other people do. I'm still not as fast as some people I know that are really fast readers.

Danny: Me neither. Dr B: And, speed reading classes didn't work for me. None of the stuff like that that I tried didn't work because that wasn't the issue. I needed to repattern how my brain could integrate information, retain it, keep it, not bump it every day and have to go circle back and reread things. Now I read like a quote "normal person." Still not speed but certainly faster than I ever read before.

I don't have to reread things, and to me, it's just a miracle. There's so many little things like this that I experiment with, because I love being a guinea pig in my own life and trying things, and learning this worked, this didn't work, tweak it this way, do this, do that. This is the result that I got. Kind of like a science experiment. And finding there's been a lot of things I could change that maybe were deemed unchangeable. I don't know. But they got changed. They've certainly improved the quality of my life, because I love to read. I love to gather knowledge and apply it.

So I'm curious, we've been talking for a while...

Danny: Sure, and there's a bunch of stuff that you brought up that man, we could talk for hours about the emotional regulation stuff--

Dr B: And we will. We will revisit this, and we'll do another episode. What I'm curious about in terms of, like a takeaway message for listeners, is if you were going to recap all the things that you shared with me--for some people that may check out, may miss it, even though they're listening--it happens. We know that.

Danny: Sure.

Dr B: What would you recap as the main significant things in your journey that you've been sharing this time, that would be really significant takeaways for them from this episode?

Danny: Yeah, I feel like I didn't do as well of a job of connecting the dots, but I like I like the informal nature of this conversation. For me my biggest change in terms of this is that just this idea of wins and trying to give equal time to the good that's happening in your life while it happens like notice it as it happens. That gets you in a habit of not just noticing the good but keeping it with you to the point where it sustains you at least a little bit more than it would if you weren't going to think about it anymore, right?

So like, for me, that process was pretty immediate. Like I adopted it pretty immediately. But what I didn't expect was that that continued process was going to literally change the way I think and change the way I live to the point where I evicted some of those negative voices from my head that had plagued me my entire life. I feel like now, I'm not just a glass is half-full person. I feel like I'm more realistic now than I ever was before when I considered myself a down-and-dirty realist. I feel like now I'm not only much happier and healthier, and I'm not Pollyanna. Like I know this stuff that's going on both in my life and in my world.

My mental health is so much better because I don't focus on the bad stuff and I'm more grateful for the things that I have, right? Whereas my focus before was on all the things I don't have and can't possibly get in the next 10 minutes. Which led to a perpetual, you know, downcast.

Dr B: And at the same time, all the things that you didn't have definitely leading to that ongoing depression because it's all about loss. It's all about what you don't have. Whatever you focus on grows. Life happens for us. It's not happening to us. Yeah, I know that some people don't feel that way. And yet I feel like the things that have happened that you've shared today, your life happened for you and continues to happen for you, presenting opportunities, presenting wins, presenting you with the things that are going to allow you to [00:20:00] continue to grow and evolve into the person you truly are inside. More and more that becomes evident externally because he's already there. He just needs to be able to come out and be expressed.

And we get lessons that we need each of us individually. We don't all get the same lesson, even in the world though now, we all kind of are getting the same lesson. But yet it's a lesson that's unique to each of us in what it means and what we need to do with our lives.

If it's true that life is unfolding for us, then I'm grateful for everything that happens in my life because all of it is a win. Because however life is orchestrated: if it's happening for me, and I'm growing, and I'm learning, and I'm changing, and I'm able to do good in the world, then what a gift. That even things that seem on the surface to not be such good things turn out to be gifts. And I find that that's like another level of me looking at wins. That there's even deeper gifts that I didn't even recognize that I'm learning to recognize now. Not the more obvious ones all the time that I started with and started teaching in the group, but deeper ones. Maybe more profound ones.

But I really appreciate you sharing your journey. And background. And just what it was like coming into your life, understanding and living with ADHD, the confusion of thinking about it in a particular way, needing to get clear about it in a better way for [00:22:00] yourself. Embracing this is a part of your life. It's not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. You have immense creativity in what you do in your writing, in your thinking. You think deeply about things.

And I know when I talk to some people they think well, everybody is like that. Everybody's a deep thinker and there's nothing special about what I do. I hear this from people a lot. When you start having conversations and you start asking people,

"Are you able to do this?"

"Do you do this?"

"Is this how you are?"

Out of genuine curiosity, not anything else. Just to start understanding how are you like other people? How are you not like other people? And how are the things that are you, gifts for you when you embrace them and see them that way, instead of bad stuff.

You could go through a whole day filled up on a couple of wins in the morning. They could just make your day. Somebody smiles, somebody lets you go in front of them... you know little things like that, that maybe people don't notice. But they're wins, nonetheless. And it starts out your day where you're smiling, you feel good, and maybe you even pay it forward. Because you let someone else go ahead and you do what other people are doing that made you feel so good, and now they get to feel that. But there's so much day-to-day, that's a Win.

It's like looking in a garden. I grow roses. You know it was coming close to my birthday, and I went and looked at my garden roses, and I could see that in a few days there were going to be two roses that were ready for me to trim and bring in that were stunning. And I timed it, and I went and I got the first one, brought it in. And I waited another day or two until the other was ready, and I brought it in.

And those were the two gifts I gave myself this year, because I didn't go shopping for things. They're just stunning. To look at them. To breathe the scent of them. To see how the whole rose itself is structured. It's just stunning to me, and I could spend a lot of time just in appreciation of it, which to me is a win.

It's that I don't just look at it -- yeah, it's a rose -- and move on. It's more than that. So sometimes slowing down is a really important thing to do so that we can really notice the good stuff.

Danny: I feel like I've gotten to the point with the practice of wins, which is like they've been part of my life for the better part of a decade now. That it's all second nature to me. This practice has just sort of become... it's become who I am. I'm sure has changed my brain Chemistry.

Dr B: I'm sure it has! And what you're saying about it's just automatic at this point, is exactly what I teach.

It's like things are new to us. First we do them consciously, you know, we have to think about, "What's the win going to be?" Notice it. Record it somehow. All these things. Takes time. Takes energy. Takes a commitment to doing it. And there's huge benefits if we do.

This is like what happens when you're learning anything new. But when you practice it multiple times a day, every single day, every single week, it just becomes part of your life. It's almost like there wasn't life before wins, wasn't life before thinking this way.

Because now this is you. This is how you think. This is how you live.

This is how you pay attention to what's going on around you and it's what you're attracted to or you seek out that feels good to you. It's not always going to be a big thing to do like a struggle to do it. It eventually can become an automatic thing that just like you said becomes a part of you if it's something you do in an ongoing way. But if you do it hit and miss, just like anything, it isn't going to become who you are . It's always going to stay at that level of consciousness or still in the learning of it mode.

Where if we invest the time and the energy to just do it, like repetitively, pretty soon it's just the automatic thing.

But I do want to thank you for everything that you shared. Honestly, Danny.

Danny: Of course.

Dr B: It's so wonderful to see you and we'll make time to talk about the other things about emotional regulation and other stuff like that because there's so much to unpack here in terms of things that I feel are important for the people that listen.

So I want to thank you so, so much for being my very first guest and--

Danny: Absolutely, I'm honored.

Dr B: Thank you so much!

Thanks for listening to my first podcast interview. I had a lot of fun with this format and will hopefully be doing more of them.

If you're just catching this last episode, I definitely recommend going back and starting with Part 1, so you get the full picture of Danny's story and how he overcame a lot of struggles that were rooted in his undiagnosed ADHD.

As always I want to encourage you to celebrate all of your wins, no matter the size so that you can promote a positive outlook for your life and for living beyond ADHD.




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