'The Adderall Diaries'

A dose from San Francisco author Stephen Elliott's memoir of moods, masochism, and murder
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Illustration by Jason Crosby

a&eletters@sfbg.com

EXCERPT My psychiatrist lives just down the street from me. I can walk there. I see her once a month, or once every three months, and she prescribes my pills. The pills make me crazy, I know that, but I don't see the alternative. It's really just speed, no different from the original amphetamine salts Gordon Alles injected in June, 1929, and almost identical to the Pervitin used by German paratroopers in World War II as they dropped behind enemy lines in a state the British newspapers described as "heavily drugged, fearless, and berserk." It's the same stuff injected in high doses in the Haight Ashbury that Allen Ginsburg was talking about in 1965 saying, "Speed is antisocial, paranoid-making, it's a drag, bad for your body, bad for your mind."

Without the Adderall I have a hard time following through on a thought. My mind is like a man pacing between the kitchen and the living room, always planning something in one room then leaving as soon as he arrives in the other. Adderall is a compound of four amphetamine salts. The salts metabolize at different rates with diverse half lives, so the amphetamine uptake is smoother and the come down lighter. And I wonder if I'm not still walking back and forth in my head, just faster, so fast it's as if I'm not walking at all.

My psychiatrist is tall and thin and her skin hangs loosely around her face. I like her quite a bit though I've never spent more than 15 minutes with her. She works from her home and a small waiting room is always open on the side of her house. There are magazines there, one in particular ADD Magazine. The magazine is full of tips for organizing your life. There's even an article suggesting that maybe too much organization is not a good thing. Mostly though, it's about children. How to deal with your attention deficit child and the child's teacher, who might be skeptical.

In the writing class I teach, a woman recently turned in an essay about her son who suffers from attention deficit. Her essay was written as a love letter and was completely absent of hate or envy or any of the things that make us human. It was missing everything we try to hide.

"How are you feeling?" my psychiatrist asks.

"Better," I reply.

I had stopped taking the pills for a year, maybe more. Three weeks ago I started taking them again. When I quit taking Adderall I was still dating Lissette. I would go to her house in Berkeley during the day while her husband was gone, and wrap myself around her feet while she worked. Or I would visit her at the dungeon she worked at on the weekends as a professional dominatrix. I would sit in the dressing room with the women and we would watch television. Lissette was the most popular and she would be off with the clients most of the day. She would leave them in the rooms to undress. When she returned they would be kneeling on the floor, their naked backs facing her. She might walk carefully toward them, sliding the toe of her boot across the carpet. Or she might stand away from them, letting their anticipation build, as she pulled a single-tail from the rack. She loved to be adored and the best clients made her feel happy and complete. The walls were thin and I could hear the paddles landing on the client's back with a thud sometimes followed by a scream. When she was done she might come downstairs and sit on my lap for a while, and then we would go.

I have a memory of Lissette in the dungeon, which was really just a four-bedroom basic Californian with a driveway and a yard in a quiet town north of Berkeley, near the highway. She's standing on the back of a couch, grabbing a toy from above a row of lockers.

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