Delivered from Distraction is a fine read (stylistically) and an excellent guidebook for someone who is professionally and accurately diagnosed with ADD, or for those who would like to know what having ADD feels like and the types of behaviors people with ADD are prone to exhibit. This could be of particular benefit to mental health professionals who work with people with ADD. And for those who think ADD is a pseudo-disorder or a political ploy (I'm not one of them), maybe this book will change your mind. Although as Dr. Hallowell reminds us, if such skeptics could walk around for a day with the symptoms of ADD, most would quickly change their minds, and would most likely reverse their stance on the idea that it is some sort of social construct. I myself recall the first time I took Ritalin. I was so overwhelmed by the relief it brought me, I almost began to cry. Overall, if you have read Driven to Distraction by the same author "team" published in 1994, you'll find a lot that sounds familiar, but also much about some new treatments--some "official," some experimental. These include new brain imaging diagnostic procedures, some very strange but interesting stuff about cerebellum stimulation (you have to read it carefully to understand it! (Wait till you see some of the theory behind it and what you actually do during the treatments!!); more specific nutritional advice, new medications (like Strattera, which I have tried but didn't find too helpful--which I'll attribute to the "different strokes for different folks" philosophy, and some really nice touches when Dr. Hallowell relates personal anecdotes about himself and family members with ADD.
This book has much personal reflection on the subject, which adds a friendly touch since one can get a sense of the writers as people, not merely authorities. If you are familiar with the many books on ADD that suggest strategies for living, ordering one's life, conscious awareness of one's proclivities, this book covers some of the same ground but in a more literary and empathetic way (maybe because Dr. Hallowell was an English major in college). It also does so in a way that makes a lot of sense and seems derived from the authors' experience and motivated by a true desire to help others.
The authors also include some new and fascinating "case studies" of people who used their ADD state of mind to their advantage and became highly successful (see in particular the story of the founder of JetBlue). These "success stories" are not so much pep talks (I wouldn't want to run an airline even if I could), but explanations of how one can use one's "disorder." Nevertheless, one shouldn't judge a group by an individual--which can, unfortunately lead to guilt should a reader not be a 'success' in the way the authors define one. However, I found it quite brave that individuals in the public eye, so to speak, are not afraid to speak about their ADD. (I've read in another source, the story of the founder of Kinko's. Who would think someone with ADD would create a company worth 2.5 billion whose major appeal is precision, meeting deadlines, and coordination?!) This is not meant to imply that the authors have a pie in the sky philosophy of "aren't I lucky I have ADD since it enriches my life." The book stresses the fact that regardless of how well you develop strategies to "work with" your special cognitive style, there will be days when things just don't seem to be working--times when all the strategies in the world don't seem to help. But, as the book points out, the important thing is not to beat oneself up about it.
As someone who is a writer, I related to this propensity at self-criticism. I can be very focused one day; however, on another day, my mind will just be so scattered I can't even type a sentence fragment. Everyone has bad days, and given the proclivity of many ADD people to feel dissatisfied with their progress in life (i.e., goals, behaviors, personal identity, etc.,) one should not expect some magic cure-all for one's condition. The authors imply that there will be breakthroughs in treatment but don't expect any "magic bullet" any time soon(that's a horrible metaphor--sorry!). But with that in mind, the authors still maintain an upbeat, positive outlook, and provide a well-considered, thoughtful holistic program to find personal and interpersonal success in one's daily life and in one's journey through life.
I particularly liked the five-step method (graphically illustrated as a circle or flywheel) of developing a positive view and a positive lifestyle to find what the author calls "lasting joy." I found it so simple and impressive, in fact, I plan to copy the diagram and put it on my refrigerator. While I might not have used this somewht idealistic DEScription of the PREscription, it is a very common sense approach with profound possibilities of changing both the way an ADD person can successfully address the issues of everyday living and develop a philosophy of life that helps one develop a more secure "ground of being" (to paraphrase Paul Tillich). It has often been remarked that people with ADD are particularly sensitive, and this trait is apparent in the tone of the book. For example, one chapter begins, "Let me tell you an amazing story about my son Jack." The author then proceeds to tell this story, and it reveals the author's deep sensitivity and thoughtfulness, and his desire to share personal experience--in a sincere, heartfelt way without any arrogance or showing off. Here is an (incomplete) list of certain tenets:
find a compatable, understanding life partner (although why that advice should be different for people without ADD is beyond me);
find suitable work that appeals to the ADD personality (high stimulation, non-sendentary, one that requires creative, outside the box thinking, low levels of supervision, etc., (although again, shouldn't everyone try to find a job that suits his/her personality and traits?);
eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly (nothing like pumping up those neurotransmitters naturally, although again, this is good commonsense for just about everyone);
be aware of and develop strategies to combat one's proneness to addictive behaviors (alcohol, illicit drugs, gambling, sex..hmmm...wait a second, I have to reconsider that last item!);
use human or technological aids to help order your universe (a good accountant, a good daily planner, professional "coach" if you can afford one (I had about 4 sessions with one, and I think that was just about enough), electronic timers, etc.);
learn cognitive "tricks" to stop ADD-type impulsive actions (like showing your impatience, blurting out what's on your mind, etc). During a "business meeting," I once started doing an imitation of Marlon Brando as "The Godfather." I swear the display was completely appropriate in getting my point across but it sort of got lost on the rest of the people. Of great importance, consider that medication should almost always be considered as one part of the "happy with an ADD mind" equation--assuming all the other building blocks are in place;
follow a holistic approach to your situation, and get rid of one-track mind thinking regarding "a cure";
Check out some of the new research and methods that have cropped up in the past 10 years or so.
There's lots more but it certainly can't fit in here
If you haven't read other books on the subject, read this one, then maybe an ADD friendly organization book; see a competent psychiatrist who has expertise in treating ADD,and be assertive regarding what works, what doesn't work, and even the possibility that no medication will work: regardless, don't go the medication route as though it will provide the answer to your problems. When you find you've adapted a way of being that works for you, get on with your life, and monitor yourself every so often--but not obsessively. BECAUSE, if you do have ADD, and you are compulsive, you are likely to spend far too much time reading every book there is on the subject. So unless you plan to make a career of it, read this one, augment it with a good book on organizational skills designed for people with ADD, and get on with your life. And if you do have ADD, from one comrade to another, have the best life you can! And something that works for me, is "Don't have hope; have faith." It will keep you more motivated.
Finally, if confronted by someone who still claims that ADD is a hoax, conspiracy, attempt to disempower minority populations, a drug company invention to garner profits (and I've read about every anti-ADD argument in 'the book', my advice is to converse with them as follows: from as far away as possible.