ADHD, mental load, and addiction - how do you manage when your addicted loved one has ADHD?



I’ve been hearing a lot lately about “mental load” or “invisible work” - especially as it typically relates to women’s roles in a relationship. This recent article got me thinking about it more:

Article: No, you can’t just ask your wife to make a list. This is how to become equal household partners

It’s something I feel on a daily basis - not only doing the work, but owning the thought process behind each task. In my marriage, I’m the one paying the bills, making the grocery list, planning the meals, registering our son for activities, RSVPing to birthday parties, making breakfast lunch dinner, packing lunches, doing laundry, hand washing the pots and pans… the list goes on. It’s exhausting and resentment kicks in A LOT. Just the other night, my husband and I were trying to get the printer to work after replacing the ink cartridges and he said, "Maybe you should call them to deliver a different cartridge, " and I responded, “Maybe YOU should call them…” It’s typically assumed that I’m responsible for taking care of these things.

(In my husband’s defense, there are a number of things that I assume he will do, and I have gladly removed myself from any learning or responsibility for those tasks.)

Anyway, reading that article got me thinking that yeah, that’s all well and good that people are talking to their partners about sharing the mental load, but what about those partners who have ADHD? My husband has ADHD, and while he’s medicated and is way better than he was before he was diagnosed, dealing with mental load is something that is more difficult for him than people without ADHD (like me). On top of that, he’s a school teacher, and I know he spends all day struggling to stay organized and keep track of things. When he gets home, he is mentally exhausted. So I try to stay compassionate, knowing full well that spending his childhood and young adult life with undiagnosed ADHD has been a huge contributing factor in his Substance Use Disorder.

I also read this article, which helped to remind me that adjusting expectations (or releasing them altogether), practicing compassion, and having conversations that stress teamwork rather than blame, is really important: Article: ‘Non-ADHD spouse burnout’ is the new mental load

I especially liked this from the article:

“Take a personal inventory to understand your role in the relationship. Ask yourself questions like, what are my priorities? Where is my boundary line? What are my non-negotiables in a relationship – what am I willing to compromise on/not willing to compromise on?”

“You might think you just feel frustrated all of the time, but it is important to reflect on what might be underlying an irritable or angry response. Instead of ‘I’m so angry with you that you have made us late again’ try ‘I am really worried about getting to work late because it puts my role and reputation at risk’. Anger is often a symptom of fear and is exacerbated when we feel threatened.”

In a more practical sense, she says, factor in considerations that, together, will help you manage time and admin more effectively.

I’m curious to hear thoughts and experiences from other Villagers whose loved ones have ADHD, or may have ADHD, and how you’ve navigated that along with supporting through addiction and recovery. It’s exhausting and feels hopeless and never ending at times, but knowing there are others going through it and making it out alive can be helpful. :sparkles:


I like the comeback that my son often says to me, “The fact that I have alcoholism is not my fault, but taking care of it is my responsibility.” So, I think ADHD is in that same category. It’s not cool to overburden your partner because you haven’t sorted an adaptation. Having ADHD requires more consensus, more permission asking, and in my book, more gratitude to your support person. That’s just me. I think it’s imperative that the non-ADHD partner also holds a consistent line with their person about what they’ll take on, and what’s the other person’s job… otherwise it breaks down. Good luck. It does go on and on, and it is survivable. Good Luck!


I can so relate to this article, the only difference is I am the mom and I have ADHD as well. Let just say that ADHD or. ADD is not a one size fits all. For some individuals, it impacts their lives very little and for others it can be almost crippling.

My son is my second child and was diagnosed with ADHD at age 3. At the time I was ready to jump the bridge. He was impulsive, energetic, didn’t sleep well, got distracted easily and trouble following through with directions. It was exhausting. He did things like climbed up the cabinets to get to the knives we kept on the top of the fridge. Everything had to be under lock and key for him not to get into it.

Throughout his entire childhood we struggled with trying to adjust medications that would lessen some of these symptoms so that he could function in a classroom and control his impulses. He alienated himself from other most children which caused him to hang out with the wrong crowd. His friends were the risk takers, trouble makers, and defiant ones.

Fast forward to today ……he is not on medications to control what I would consider severe ADHD. In the past he has states that he doesn’t like the way it makes him feel. Which I find kind of comical coming from an addict. But as an adult that is his choice. Not being on meds for ADD leads to forgetfulness, disorganization, procrastination, distraction, and even depression at times. I have tried to teach him some coping skills

  • A Tray on his nightstand or desk to place his keys, wallet, and other small items in to keep track of them

  • A container to keep all of his medications in one location

  • Reminders regarding his doctor appointments

  • Wake up calls or calls to make sure he is headed to work

  • Calendar reminders-which he doesn’t use! Who doesn’t use a calendar to keep track of appointments?

  • setting alarms- he recently just started using

  • Reminders to do what he needs to do- like put the garbage to the road on Mondays

  • He transfers me all his money and I pay his bills. I am hoping to transfer this to him in the next year. This is mainly because he owes me thousands from when he was unemployed and couldn’t cover his bills

I think he would do much better on medication as it would help him focus better.

I feel that having ADHD aids his compulsive behavior and addictive personality. He hasn’t used heroin or fentanyl in 8 months and said he is so glad he isn’t doing it any longer because he hated that he “had” to do it in order not to get sick. He does still drink alcohol nightly and smokes marijuana. I do test him randomly to ensure he is not using other substances.

He has difficulty keeping a job for an extended period of time. He has been fired for being consistently late, making too many mistakes when he is under pressure, and in the past he was using which impacted his performance at work.

He recently lost a job that he really liked because he was making too many mistakes.
He confronted the owner about an incident and when he was told they didn’t think “the job was right for him” he blew up and said things that definitely “burnt that bridge”. His impulsivity got in his way and he should have just allowed the boss to cool off.

I take medication and wasn’t diagnosed until I was an adult. I struggle with some of the same issues my son does, but the difference is that I am able to identify my struggle and work on preventing it. I however am the one who makes all the lists, makes all the phone calls, plans the meals for the week, and do most of the chores around the house. I do however rely on my husband to do certain things. He manages our bills, fixes anything and everything around the house that needs repairs or replacing, takes out the garbage, maintains the lawn during the summer and the snow in the winter. With my first husband I did everything, I was much younger then, but at times it caused resentment.

At times I do have some resentment that my son relies on me so much, but we are working on him being more independent. And I am the one who enabled him for so long. I usually talk to him on a daily basis, but I do the same with his younger brother. However, if I don’t touch base with him at least once daily I get worried because he lives by himself and has overdosed in the past. Even though he hasn’t used in 8 months, he will always be an addict. Once he has a roommate again, I will worry less.

Wow I feel like I am going on and on! So in a nutshell (a big one) I feel it is ok to feel resentful at time, but as we reflect on it we need to determine if it was a moment of overload that led to it or is it like a continuous weight on your shoulders? If it is the later, maybe there are things that you and your husband could work together on to lessen your burden. It shouldn’t all be on your shoulders. We have to remember not to dwell on the past and their past experiences. We can’t just take everything on because they had it tough as a child or because they have a demanding job. I am an Accountant and I need to work on staying organized, but it is my responsibility to do that and not my husband’s. I can’t just come home and expect him to do everything because I am mentally exhausted by the end of the day. My husband has a demanding job that makes him physically exhausted at the end of the day. But we have a partnership and during tax season I tell him if he wants me to make dinner every night I need him to empty the clean dishes from the dishwasher when he gets home so I can make dinner and load the dirty dishes in the dishwasher as I go along. Otherwise I multitask too much and we get burnt dinner :slight_smile: plus him doing that one little chore makes a big difference in me feeling like I never get to stop while he is allowed to rest on the couch. He refuses to cook, otherwise I would have him do that as well…lol.
My husband does have me call everyone about everything and he doesn’t have ADHD, I just think my personality is more cut out for it and I know the right things to ask and say. I’m a “get it done” kind of person…even though I do procrastinate as well…I’m a walking contradiction at times. You might be wondering if I took my meds today after reading this.



@jewelrydiva70 -0h so good to hear from you and thank you for posting with your experience and deep understanding of this issue.

I appreciate that if you carry a heavy mental load then using substances to space out from them can hold a great appeal (initially). And although you say you are doing too much for your son, only you know what is the right balance. It’s different for everyone. No one knows the dynamic just like you do, so don’t sweat it.

Have you noticed that we have been changing the main categories? We think it will be easier for people coming into the community to find kindred spirits using these new points of demarcation.

Happy holidays to you and best in the years to come. :beetle:


Thanks for your response @jewelrydiva70! Love hearing from you. :hugs:

Congrats to your son on 8 months, and to you for supporting him through it all! My husband stills smokes marijuana, but we were just talking the other night about how it can help many people with anxiety and stress. So maybe your son is self-medicating in that way.

Agree! I tell myself this often when I’m trying to make things easier for him because I know he’s tired. Because I’m tired, too! I work from home and don’t have to deal with face-to-face interactions or long commute, which helps a lot, but I also work part-time on top of my full-time job, and am trying to cram in bits of housework during the day when I can. Lately as I’m making dinner, I will ask my husband to do what seems like a small task but ends up being really helpful.

I think we all are at times! Sending love, @jewelrydiva70!



I do think the titles help!