If you haven’t seen Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech, do yourself a favor and watch it when you have 15 or so minutes of free time. Here’s the link, and in the speech he makes the following statement:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever…”

This post has nothing to do with Steve Jobs’ medication, but the statement above has everything to do with the content below. I’m telling y’all, things work out the way they’re supposed to. Everything happens for a reason, and I hope to connect a few dots for you with the story below.

For those of you that read my post back in early April, I referenced that we had to again reschedule a planned trip when our son broke his arm just days before we were supposed to leave. Although annoying, life had other plans for us. We ended up taking our trip in June, and it was a memorable, wonderful, and impactful trip for all of us.

Where I was meant to be, and when I was meant to be there

One particularly hot morning, about midway through the vacation, I found a comfortable place to relax in a large cabana overlooking the beach. The shade and breeze were just what the doctor ordered, so I settled in and soaked in the beauty of the white sand and turquoise water in front of me.

Shortly after I got comfy, a lady came in and sat down in one of the other chairs in the cabana. We introduced ourselves and began talking. Deborah explained that she was normally very active and hated sitting still, but she’d broken one of her toes the day before and getting around was challenging for her. I came to realize later that two of the dots were connecting with the fact that this normally-active lady was hampered by a broken toe from a freak accident (she had inadvertently kicked the rudder of a small sailboat that was pulled up on the beach).

We discussed everything from our kids (including our son’s diagnosis of severe ADHD) to where we lived, music, and what we did for work. After a few minutes of silence as we looked out at the ocean, she said “may I please make a personal comment?” Not quite sure where this was headed, I said “of course.” She said, “would you please consider taking your son off Adderall?” I said, “ok…” She went on to tell me that one of her sons had just died of a drug overdose, six months prior, and it just so happened that she had started him on Adderall when he was young. Furthermore, in her support group of moms that had lost a child to overdose, almost all of them said their children had started on one of the popular ADHD medicines when they were younger. The commonality seemed to be much more than just coincidence.

My wife and I were already thinking about taking our son off his medicine, and this conversation with Deborah was the last straw. We did not give him his medicine the day we came home from vacation, and he hasn’t had it since.

What we came to realize is that we hadn’t done our homework. We were so desperate for a quick fix to improve behavior at home and at school that we went with whatever the doctors were telling us. Over time dosages increased, and our son became a medicine-fueled zombie (until it wore off, and we were right back where we started with crazy behavior). Following this chance encounter, we began to do a bit more research and read some books related to the topic. We even watched a very interested Netflix documentary titled “Take Your Pills.”

With my mission of teaching personal finance to lay the foundation for a life of personal freedom, happiness, purpose, and impact, I had a major “aha” moment while I listened to some of the people interviewed in the movie. As they point out, we’re now in a vicious societal cycle that goes something like this: you’ve got to have good grades to get into a good college to get the good job that pays a lot of money, so you can spend it on luxuries and live the “good life.” And for kids with ADHD school is a serious struggle, so we give them the meds to keep them focused so they can “do well.” This is a classic example of worrying about the “what” and the “how,” instead of first figuring out the “why.”

Instead, what if we start to accept that not every kid is going to excel in school, and that it’s okay if they don’t. Not everyone will make six figures a year, and that’s okay too. There’s something to be said for a simpler life of fiscal responsibility and being happy doing something you love. While I am a big believer in education, sometimes I wonder if the end game of our school systems is all wrong.

Soon after we returned from our vacation, we were introduced (again, a completely chance encounter) to a person that specializes in homeopathic medicine. We’d never given serious consideration to this before but, on the heels of what had just happened on our trip, we were all ears. We began using these remedies and I’m happy to report that we’ve seen drastic improvements in our son’s behavior and performance at school, and all without any prescription medications. Most importantly, we feel like we have our son back – his personality, his empathy, his emotion. You may think that alternative treatment options aren’t for you, but I assure you it is worth further exploration.

Deborah – if you ever get to read this, this post is for you. If, by speaking through me, your message helps just one family, sharing your/our story is worth it. I can’t help but think about that broken arm in a whole new light now. Without it, things would likely be very different for us. Remember, the dots always connect.