About me – Andrew Lewis
I am Andrew Lewis, I coach Adults with ADHD/ADD full-time for my living. Here’s some relevant background about me. My coaching qualifications are given in my coaching Q&A, but they include a messed up BSc Physics degree, graduation from the ADD Coach Academy, qualified NLP Practitioner (but mainly forgotten) and an incomplete half Psychology degree from Open University.
Further related experience is in setting up and running several ADHD support groups and even a clinic for several years: ADHD Tear & Share Support Group London, ADHD Expert Talks UCL, ADHD Women’s Coaching Group and the Cambian Adult ADHD Diagnostic Centre in London. The wisdom gained from talking with and helping other ADHD adults, either met briefly at conferences and support groups, or coached sometimes for years is invaluable.
Previous work and life experience can bring an extra dimension to ADHD coaching. I have ten years experience of studying my own ADHD, with decades before then trying to puzzle it all out. I have eleven years as a single dad. I have twenty years experience as an IT professional and set up five businesses. I achieved at school but struggled big time at university.
I have been painfully diagnosed ADHD three times with many disappointedly aborted trials of ADHD medications. I have turned around some serious long-term, ill-health challenges too.
Today I offer ADHD / ADD coaching for adults and offer this short personal history. Like you, I too have travelled a bumpy ADHD highway. Though I’m sure my life does not match yours, I am equally sure that being ADHD/ADD – we have a lot in common.
I live in London, UK. I have tried many supplements and been on more ADHD medications than anyone I have met but I do not take any ADHD medications at the moment, as they provide me only slight benefit and cause me tachycardia issues. I walk a lot, eat quite healthily and I am wheat-free. Though I struggle a little with the dishes and tidying up, I am a good dad or so my teen daughter tells me! I love to learn, to read, and to travel – read my thoughts on the novelty of travel here in my Camel market experience. With forty years of playing computer games, I can personally confirm that there is a link between game playing and ADHD – games don’t make us ADHD, they help keep our boredom at bay. I am a pretty good cook, in a very ADHD improvisational way. Here’s my ADHD life from childhood:
My mum tells me that I talked at 8 months and walked at 11 months. I was certainly motivated to get on with things. President Kennedy was shot on my 2nd birthday, as I sat in my new rocking chair, the news broke on TV. I remember aged 8, eating cornflakes at 4am watching Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon.
At school, I was bright, talkative and easily distracted. My teachers were frustrated, but I did well. Most friends were well behaved and studious, but I also kept in with the naughty and rebellious ones too. My teachers’ comments in my school reports are amazingly clear in identifying the problems I would continue to face throughout my life: from punctuality to laziness and focus. Yet their reports lack for a single piece of constructive or helpful advice, most fall into the useless: “Andrew is his own worst enemy”, “Andrew appears to be both very intelligent and immature”. See some of my school reports here.
I went to University to study Physics and my troubles began! No self-discipline, I missed most lectures and labs. I was so, so bored by the dull 70 year-old professors, dictating notes to theatres full of over 70 students. No interaction, no questions and no debate – awful. I couldn’t grasp this independent study thing at all, I wanted to be in an interactive classroom where we could question and discuss theories, not sat on my own trying to study dry text books. I have a profound love of learning, but not of memorisation and revision.
University was a very rude shock. Without any support or guidance from the university, I struggled on unmotivated and quite depressed. In four years I went from being the highest graded student at school to receiving the worst grade possible with an BSc Science (Ordinary Class). I recovered from the career damage over the next decade, I think the psychological repair is still ongoing! Read more on my experience and view of higher education here. With my poor degree, I was out of work for nearly a year, then I took a COBOL programming course. I received a distinction, and felt more confident -programming was easy and really rewarding.
I soon found a position as a programmer at a pension company. It was fantastic at first, new people, new tasks, fast development and salary checks were great. Problems were soon to emerge though as my easy boredom and drive for novelty were hard to fight. I remained there for five years, in which I moved from programming to systems analysis, to mainframe systems management. Pensions had nothing more to offer me so I left to join IBM.
I was uneasy about joining such a large corporation but it offered a chance to recover from my degree and to develop my business skills and opportunities. I started in a technical role but was soon asking to move into marketing, and then into sales. Seven year later I left, IBM had nothing more to offer me. I then had two very successful years in an IBM partner, selling integration consultancy, but continued to be behind in paperwork and business processes.
In 1999, I persuaded the CEO of a Boston, USA integration consultancy, to take me on to establish and run a new European outpost bringing with me three colleagues to help. We grew over two years, to around 20 employees, but the dot.com bubble had burst and the company soon folded. After another few years as European VP at another US software company, I had had enough of working for American CEOs, so when a business partner suggested setting up our own business, I leapt at it.
Within a couple of months our JAVA integration and consultancy company was trading. We were a good team. I was more presentations, ideas and solutions, he was more sales management, back-office and relationships. I loved working independently of authorities and the ease of taking an idea so quickly to completion. We were successful and our company grew, we hired an office, employed consultants and work felt good for a while. The basic consultancy side of the business grew but the software solution side struggled for lack of funds and I lost interest. I was late to business meetings, procrastinating set in, in effect I began to check-out from my own business.
I was bored, miserable and drinking too much. Everyone was frustrated with me. My business partner was fed up, my wife was fed up, I was fed up with me. My wife and a psychiatrist persuaded me to take a month long stay at the Priory Hospital, a residential mental-health centre. Highly trained, well-paid therapists and psychiatrists, offered me little convincing help of any kind – no one suggested ADHD. Anti-depressants didn’t help either. I did however really benefit from the time I spent with the other sensitive and damaged patients. Some even sought my support and advice which opened my eyes to the possibility of helping other people. I left the Priory and returned back to my disappointing business, marriage and life.
I knew I was different, yet the specialists seems oblivious. I was clearly born this way. My issues did not come from past trauma or how I was parented. I was me and I’ve always been this way, different to other people. I searched Google occasionally for an answer, with terms like low dopamine, poor memory, bored, novelty loving, shaky hands and intuitive. One evening I came across Sluggish Cognitive Tempo, and a click later I was on ADHD at Wikipedia. It was a complete revelation, at age 43 to realise my physical neurology was not like other peoples in a number of profound and extraordinary ways. Of course I then hyper-focussed for months, reading voraciously everything about ADHD, from sites like ADDFORUMS and to books like Delivered from Distraction. The knowledge that I am ADHD profoundly and positively changed my life.
Desperately fed up at my consultancy business, I decided that ADHD coach training would help me personally and offer me a new career path. Within only months of my ADHD diagnosis, I was training to be an ADHD coach and had sold my half of the business to my relieved business partner – to end my twenty year computing-industry career. Within a year I was nearly trained as an ADHD Coach and had started coaching. I was divorced and living in a new apartment, co-parenting my daughter and my new life started.
I set up SimplyWellbeing as a one-stop ADHD organisation for adults with ADHD. I worked hard to bring together independent ADHD professionals: psychiatrists, researchers, charities, support groups and therapists to offer comprehensive support. Over the last eight years I helped with adult ADHD diagnosis referrals and later set up and ran an Adult ADHD Diagnosis Centre in central London. I hosted a couple of large ADHD adult support groups like “Share & Tear” and “ADHD Expert Talks”. I have delivered many presentations and workshops for ADHD adults, professionals and teachers. Along the way I have coached a few hundred ADHD adults too. Today I am a full time ADHD adult coach and writer, and far happier in work than ever before.