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It happened last night, in the bathroom of a typical, cheesy sports bar. My husband, heretofore known as Love Gun, and I had gone there after therapy. We figured that since the last three years have been an earthquake – (child born with Down Syndrome), a tsunami (second child brings on a 4th of July hormonal explosion and pathological insomnia) and a nuclear meltdown (wellness doc prescribes Ativan, a 2″x4″ in the realm of benzodiazepines and I get addicted as quickly as the pharmaceutical companies predict addiction)- we decide that therapy might be a good idea. We test for radiation, see if we can approach one another, see if my detox is calming the desperate

shredding that has happened to our family.

So, we’d gone to see Dr. Bruce. Kind man. Big teddy bear with razor sharp intellect. He tells us that at the previous night’s parenting class, the one he’s been teaching for years, the subject of benzodiazepines just pops up. Out of nowhere, someone asks, “Is Ativan addictive?” We all laugh. I’m on the couch with the neon, rose colored shawl over my legs. Dr. Bruce laughs. Love Gun and I laugh. Ha ha ha. Oh, the hilarity of tragedy. And I can laugh because, though it’s shredded my life, I’m nearly halfway through my detox and I’ve become cocky about what a great patient I am. I’ve got a formula. I know how deadly and insidious these drugs are. The culture at large believes that they’re fairly benign, a great boon to the pharmaceutical companies that reap the financial benefits, but I know. After nearly 9 months of trying to detox by myself and puking in parking lots, losing nearly 20 pounds, becoming a twitchy, anxiety-ridden vestige of myself, I found an expert. I became an expert. So, I could laugh the kind of painful laugh that comes when there’s nothing else to do in the face of insanity.

“Is Ativan addictive?”

“Just a smidge more than heroin but hey, everyone’s doing it.”

So Love Gun and I go to a cheesy sports bar after therapy. We go out onto the patio because the televisions that loom in every corner feel like they’re crawling over my body. The lights are bright, the images gross and sharp and fast. I know this hyper-sensitivity is part of detox. I’m fine with it. I’ve got the formula. I know how to deal with the withdrawal symptoms when they come on. Rage? Walk your ass off. Anxiety? Walk your ass off. Nausea? Walk your ass off. Then sleep. And eat as much as you can manage. The benzo detox diet is one of the best, but who cares because there’s a wildfire in your brain. The only desire is to keep it at bay.

Love Gun and I sit. The patio is quiet except for the two bearded men huddled in the smoking cage that juts off at the corner of the back patio. We talk. We laugh. We discuss the insanity of social networking when we can barely manage the minutiae of our daily lives. “I’m flooded,” he says. “The media, the networking, all of it. I just want to sit and feel what silence is like again.” I agree.

We pay the bill and I go into the brightly lit, corrugated aluminum stalls of the bathroom. This is when I realize that I’ve forgotten to pick up my prescription. I’m out of the drug I hate and I begin to panic. I run out of the bathroom. I run out of the cheesy, hallucinatory sports bar. I’m out on the street. There’s no where to go. It’s nearly 10:30pm. The pharmacy is closed.

“Is Ativan addictive?”

If I don’t get my little white pills, it’s likely that I’ll have a seizure. It’s that simple. You won’t die from heroin withdrawal. You won’t die from meth withdrawal. You won’t die from opiate, pot, or anti-depressant withdrawal. But benzodiazepines? Ativan? Yes, you can die. Just like that. Seizure. Brain goes ballistic. I’ve been cocky and now I’m terrified. If the benzoswere human, they’d laugh. They’d say, “Thought you had us under control, babe? No go. We’ve still got your brain in the palm of our hands. We can crush you. Remember that.”

Who's Got the Last Laugh Now?

Who’s Got the Last Laugh Now? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m lucky. I know that I’ve got to get those nasty white pills. They’re like picking porcupine quills from the brain. You’ve got to go slow. You can’t yank. I call a dear friend who’s driving through the night to get to Seattle. He happens to be a psychiatrist. Lucky me. He happens to know that if I don’t get my little white pills, I’ll have a seizure.

He recognizes the terror in my voice right away.

“What’s wrong?”

I babble. I’m terrified. He calms me, says to find a 24 hour pharmacy and he’ll call in my dose for the night. Love Gun and I go to Wallgreens and stare and the wall to wall plastic toys made in China. We stare at all the diet supplements and the rows of things we never knew we needed.

By 11, I have my little white pills. Seizure averted. But I’m shaken. I’d forgotten how I’m still subjugated, my brain trying hard to remember how it regulates things, since the benzos have slipped in and have been whispering “hush” for so long.

Terrifying.

“Is Ativan addictive?”

Yeah. Just a little.

Just enough to kill you.