Nine years ago, after my annual physical, my doctor told me everything was fine. Excellent, actually. Then she asked me if I had anything going on in my life she should know about. I told her that my business was booming but it seemed to be taking a toll. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was a bit moody and agitated at times, and I seemed to have lost my filter. Success is not without its shortcomings.
As I was speaking, she was writing. When I was through, she turned to me and said, “take one of these three times a day, but be careful, this stuff can be addictive.” She wrote me for alprazolam, which also goes under the trade name, Xanax. The Xanax I might have caught, but the alprazolam got by me.
Not that it would have changed anything. Such was the measure of my anxiety. Now, what makes this little journey interesting, is that, right there in front of her, in my medical history, for all to see, was the unvarnished truth about yours truly.
Having barely survived the wretched excesses of the 70’s and with three decades of sobriety under my belt, no one knew better than the both of us what I was capable of when it came to any type of addictive abuse. Being in the restaurant business, the music business and comedy, breeding grounds for destructive behavior, I was well versed in the language of irresponsibility.
I must admit my complicity, after all, it takes two to tangle but I must plead ignorance to its severity. I did not know that in six months I would be singing ” I love you baby, can I have some more?” In a couple of years I was beyond that “nice” feeling and just trying to stay ahead of my “Jones.”
The pleasure was gone but the misery kept on. I had to start planning my day around adverse side effects. It felt like the early stages of the flu at different times of the day.
It got to the point where my wife booked an appointment with my doctor just to tell her off. (I found out about this recently) She told her, “What the hell is wrong with you, giving a person with his history such an addictive medication?” The doc was silent through the whole barrage.
Once, in frustration, I tried to kick by myself. I got through twelve of the worst days of my life. When their office called me to ask why I hadn’t refilled, I told them what I was doing. The nurse told me my doc wanted to see me…now.
I sat in an exam room with two nurses, each holding one of my hands, and my doctor. She proceeded to tell me what a foolhardy thing I was doing and she thought I could stroke out at any time. Now I’m pissed, nervous and confused. “What the hell are you doing to me?” I yelled. She said, “You have to go back on or you could die.” WTF?
So much for “First, do no harm.”
With that amount of fear and pressure, I relented. In a few weeks I was back at the races with a bullet. Now I’m hurtin’ in a big way. I have no choice but to get over myself and play the game.
Soon, I cut her out of the picture and went someplace where dosing might not (would not) be an issue. I’ll leave this part blank and jump to the finale. You don’t need a gypsy to tell you how the next act went.
In frustration, on Mother’s Day this year, I picked up a drink after 37 years of sobriety. My walls were closing in me, my life was changing rapidly and on August 20, of this year I was admitted to the VA Hospital detox unit in Bedford Ma. I spent seven days in rehab where they walked me down and off of alcohol and benzodiazepine.
This to me, was my bottom of my bottom. I was back in a barracks culture with everything I hated about lack of privacy and open bathrooms, (ugh) while all strings, belts and shoe laces were confiscated.
There was screaming at night from enemy captured P.O.W’s ( those poor bastards, I thought) along with bi-polar victims still suffering the ravages of war, past and present. The echoes of “Oh my God, what have I done myself’?” got louder as the fog lifted. I was feeling the real me for once. The one I was trying to stuff down a hole all these years.
Seven days later, wobbly, like a new born calf, this little “dogie” was ready to “git” along. I will write more in the future about my experiences with the VA, which was (and still is) nothing short of wonderful.
Life is full of chills and spills and I can only say that your doctor and his or her decisions should be helpful….but not too helpful.