Bill Cottringer

I have studied ADHD for nearly 60 years now and am ready to share the results of one very in-depth, classic case study—myself.

As a child I would have gotten double “X’s” on every symptom checklist available. I ran and climbed constantly as if I had nuclear power, talked incessantly without having the time or interest in listening, and rudely interrupted others blurting out what I just had to say. I never followed directions—especially the ones that made the most sense, and jumped from one thing to the next without ever finishing anything completely or correctly.

I forgot things quickly, lost important items, fidgeted, and didn’t want anything touching my body. I made entirely too many mistakes, felt odd and peculiarly different from others, and jumped into too many empty swimming pools before thinking first. Sometimes I think I lead about five people’s lives in one single chronological time frame. Exhausting, to say the least!

I was never even aware of what might be wrong with me (although I did sense something wasn’t right) until my own daughter was diagnosed with the same disorder within one minute into an appointment at a psychiatrist’s office in Miami.

And even this valuable clue didn’t sink in enough to help me stop a wake of destruction I left in my own life that included more job, family, financial and relationship failures than I want to remember. Approaching the age of 60 virtually homeless, jobless, broke and alone is not an experience I would recommend for others. It is a life of failure that can no longer be denied.

The profound significance of the Christian Easter Weekend has finally hit me between the eyes. You do have to lose yourself before you find yourself and you do have to die before you start living. There is wisdom in understanding suffering.

We all look for explanations and cures—especially in response to failures. And so, unknowingly I spent most of my life looking for all the wrong reasons and possible cures for my own failures and probably prolonged a life of failure in the process. The only failure I have been guilty of is trying to do it all on my own in my own maladaptive way; the only real cure is letting go and surrendering to God’s will and help. Why did it take me a lifetime to figure this out? Better late than never!

I finally ran out of things to do in the lopsided place where most other ADHD “victims” spend most of their time—and somehow started migrating towards a healthier middle ground where I have a much better view of things—including God and His plan for my life. This is ironic; given the fact that I have been a hostage of this “here and now” middle temporal position, the so-called “golden mean,” all along. But moving like a Tasmanian Devil, I didn’t see anything but a blur. I have always been exactly where I needed to be, but I couldn’t see that, being in constant motion chasing my own tail.

The rest of this article is about the better view I have discovered thanks to God’s forgiveness and compassion. I have squandered a life of abundant gifts and deserve all the uncomfortable disciplining I have been given, and probably a lot more. Shame on me! I guess it is never too late to start over again. At least I have my physical health, positive attitude and a more balanced position from which to see things—including the more productive choices in life, closer in alignment with God’s private plan for me.

The longer I live, the more certain I am that all experiences we have had are training and preparation for dealing more effectively with what is to come—especially the smaller painful, uncomfortable “failures” in life that may be trying to warn us that the light at the end of the tunnel may be a freight train. When that turns out to be the case, it is time to jump aboard and ride that freight train straight out of the tunnel full speed ahead!

I have also realized that things are not always as they first appear. How can they from such a lopsided position? How can we feel God’s imminent presence when we are suffering and needing Him most, like Christ did on the cross? “Father, why have you forsaken me?” is a question we all ask in our darkest moments. The answer, “Just to let you know I am real and here for you,” is divine love, or the experiential wisdom that leads to transformational thinking that results in successful behavior.

These two important insights were born out of ADHD frustration and my serendipitous reconciliation between Grace and Salivation, which we are all given for the asking. This is the door to the real cure of ADHD, and all other disorders, beyond symptom-repressing medication.

Having survived ADHD through adulthood without Ritalin, and finally understanding the true significance of Easter—the crucifixion and resurrection—I eventually learned one very important thing about the disorder. Some of the more prevalent symptoms can actually be turned into productive behaviors with transformational thinking. Of course the bad news is that this takes a long time (at least it did for me). It is not a quick cure; but it is a more permanent one.

Understanding ADHD is difficult because you have to actually experience the intensity of the compounding interaction and tornado-like vicious circle nature of the four main symptoms—hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity and hypersensitivity.

The general feeling is that your head and body are going to explode with the mounting frustration from not getting anywhere, no matter how hard you try. The “all or nothing” results you immediately need only make matters worse. In a sense you are asking for ultimate spiritual enlightenment all at once, when in reality it takes a lifetime of commitment and hard work just to see what to do and how to do it.

Somehow, I finally learned how to slow down, stop the blur, get to a more balanced viewpoint and step outside this vicious circle to see how these symptoms were perpetuating my own failures. This was only achieved through God’s grace and love. My salvation will come about as I continue surrendering and aligning myself with His will for my life, which can’t help but result in a much more abundant fruit basket. Maybe my own fruit basket will be filled by sharing these insights to help plant the seeds for your own change if you have this disorder or perhaps understand and deal with your ADHD children better if you have, interact with, or teach them.

Consider the four major symptoms of ADHD—how they make the child feel, and how these symptoms can be used for productive outcomes—with positive thinking as an adult.

Hyperactivity --I feel panicky and desperate to get everything done before time runs out.
--I feel stupid and inadequate for being in too big of a hurry and not taking the time to do things right the first time.
--I wish I could just slow down and relax like everybody else.
--I have to try everything before I know what I like.
--When will my body and mind ever stop moving…I feel like I am about to explode with frustration! --I can use all this energy to get four times as much done; if I slow down I will actually get more done.
--I can learn a lot from repairing all my rushed jobs and save time in the future.
--I will sleep well from doing so much.
--I will eventually know what I really like, having done so much.
--The more I experience, the more I know, and the more I can use productively.

Inattention --I don’t have any problem focusing on things I like; people even complain about me being obsessive about some things.
--I hate screwing up by not paying attention but I can’t help it.
--Why am I never satisfied? There are too many things I want to do.
--Why does it take me so long to see what others see so quickly and effortlessly?
--These needless details are boring; I want to see some results! --Maybe I need to vary my interests a little and open up to paying more attention to things I don’t like to learn more.
--If I pay attention I will save time and be able to do what I really want to do later.
--I just need to enjoy the many things I do like, more.
--Maybe I should ask them how they do that.
--Maybe I can get better results quicker with a few more details.
Impulsivity --All that counts is having fun now; I’ll deal with the future later.
--It’s more fun being free, besides I can’t control myself even if I wanted to.
--We were meant to enjoy life, not think about it.
--I just want to hurry up and get to it!
--It’s more fun to let go and be free and not worry about consequences. --I can have fun and still not jeopardize my future.
--I can control myself gradually, by focusing on the little things first—one thing at a time.
--You can get more enjoyment by improving the quality of your thinking.
--Anticipation can be enjoyable.
--You can have more fun and be freer by doing things that have positive consequences.

Hypersensitivity --There is something different about me. I worry about being abnormal.
--Why am I the one who always has to change?
--Why does everyone always find fault with me?
--I feel this vague potential for greatness inside but it is just frustrating; I am getting nowhere fast.
--It hurts to be so misunderstood all the time and I feel angry about that sometimes.
-- Maybe we all feel this way and I need to find out by asking others.
--If I change for the better, I will be ahead of everybody else.
--I just need to learn how to push people’s buttons the right way.
--I need to translate my daydreaming fantasies into concrete goals and specific actions to make progress.

--Maybe if I find out what I am doing to be misunderstood I can help people to know me better.

Overcoming the negative aspects of ADHD is a matter of learning how to use these behaviors positively to get to where you are meant to be. First, you have to understand how you are reacting to the symptoms and how they are controlling you (holding you hostage) and keeping you from being where you want to be.

In essence, you have to see just how lopsided you have become. This is the moment of truth in your spiritual awakening—realizing just how far you have wandered from God with your choices and efforts to make your life into what you wanted it to be and then acknowledging your failure and accepting the real cure.

Then you begin to see ways to direct all your boundless energy more positively and productively to get better outcomes in moving towards a more balanced position so you can begin to see how to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. The real gap is between your way and God’s way and the real solution is to make them both the same way.

As a person with ADHD, you have some disadvantages that just need to be seen as advantages—kind of like making lemonade from lemons or building a door to knock on when one isn’t there.

The key is to gradually transform negative, unproductive thoughts and feelings into more positive, productive behaviors that get better results—turning your liabilities into assets one by one. Fortunately you have boundless energy to do this, once you start directing it at the real culprit—the negative interpretation of your symptoms and your pride to do it all on your own, which are holding you hostage in a lopsided room without a view.

This process starts by understanding how God is taking you to a much better place through agonizing and maddening failure and suffering. This understanding rejoins your personal and spiritual development journeys to the single path you and God want for Him and you. Learn as much as you can where you are at right now. Accept that place just enough to motivate you to move forward.

There is a very big bottom line to all this. God gives us each our own unique “disorder,” which is really our special talent in disguise that we can use to carry out our private mission in life. Disorders like ADHD are both the lock and key to our lives. First though, we have to fail enough times with our disorders to eventually see past them—to see the bigger picture truths and governing principles that are actually so much a part of us, just like God and the lock and key set, that we can’t see the forest for the trees. We have to finish the experience of understanding and helping ourselves—especially in reconciling ourselves with God, before we fulfill our purpose in successfully helping others do that too. This is God’s plan and the plus side of disorders such as ADHD.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA. He is also author of several books including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow-Secrets, Passwords To The Prosperity Zone, “P” Point Management, Do What Matters Most, and Reality Repair. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or