Well, this isn’t how I planned to start this thing. But hey, I’m in a unique element, miserable or not, so why not get it in writing? I’ve slept maybe two hours in the past two nights. I’ve had sleeping problems as long as I can remember, but things have gotten considerably worse since I last had a blog, so I might as well document it.
Something only my closer friends and family knows about me is that I was stupid enough to get involved with drugs. I never did coke or anything like that, ever. No, I got into pills in a big way a few years back. My pills of choice were Xanax and painkillers, mainly Vicodin and Percocet. I thought it was innocent. People were prescribed these medications, so logically they were safe, right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I’m 32 now, so I’d say that I was into pills from ages 25 to 30. I’ve been clean for over a year now, and I honestly believe that if I hadn’t gotten off of that shit that I’d probably be dead now. It started out simple enough. I would take half a Xanax on Saturday night to help me sleep, since I got off work at 1am, and had to be back at 11am the next morning. Sadly, Xanax makes you feel really good. So, gradually the pill intake increased. A couple of years later I was popping a few bars daily, just to get through the day.
I realized that I had a problem fairly early in the process. I would wake up not remembering much of anything from the day before. People would tell me funny or embarrassing things, and when I asked them who told them that, they would just give me a perplexed look, and say “YOU said that, Tony.”. So naturally, I panicked. I went to the doctor and got help. Thankfully, my doctor at the time, who later closed her practice, showed mercy and weened me off of Xanax with small doses of Clonopizam. Oh yeah, I did start seeing a psychiatrist because of the personal problems my drug use caused, which is an important part of this story.
I always figured that the crazy people are the ones who go to a shrink. I was only half right. The crazy ones are forced to go. The rest of us are willing to do anything to get well, so we go willingly. The shrink I was referred to was not a particularly caring individual. He seemed very uninterested in anything I would say. I think over the three years I saw him for, I never had an appointment last longer than five minutes. Although he listened to nothing I told him, he took it on himself to diagnose my “condition”. He told me that I suffered from depression and that I had bipolar disorder. To this day I will not argue that I may be depressed. I think it’s the most common mental illness in the world, but that you can overcome it. But bipolar disorder? No, I think not. If I had mood swings it was because I was out of my mind on pills. Take the pills out of the situation and I’m a pretty normal person.
Anyway, for my troubles I was prescribed Zoloft and Abilify. The Zoloft is your basic antidepressant, and Abilify treats bipolar disorder and is expensive as hell. I stayed on this regimen for about a year, until I discovered painkillers…
I kept taking the psych meds for whatever reason, but my real medication was hefty doses of opiates. I was blowing at least a hundred dollars a week on pills. Before long, I had a nasty addiction. I damn near went to rehab. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous step of realizing that there is a higher power, (fucking propaganda in therapy, what crap) I would have gone. Liz had her bags packed and even told her mother that she was leaving me, which was all the wake-up call I needed.
The moment I found out, it was crisis mode. I immediately went to my psychiatrist and told him all about my new habit, and boy he was pissed. He still gave me my prescriptions though. A week later I got a letter in the mail from his office, which in a nutshell was him refusing to treat me anymore. Couldn’t really blame the prick.
So I chose a day, and began self detox on my own. With Liz by my side, I quit cold turkey. I went through withdrawals on day two. I wasn’t eating, my bowel movements were just water, and I couldn’t sleep…. at all. When I say I couldn’t sleep, I’m talking five consecutive sleepless nights. I called my primary care doctor, seeking help for my insomnia, and found out that her practice was closed permanently from the answering machine. I received no letter of notice, which I later found out was illegal (malpractice).
So I was a man with some serious medical issues, and no doctor. I found a clinic that my insurance covered and made an emergency appointment. It was with a nurse practitioner, which was fine. My mother is a nurse practitioner, and she knows her shit, so it was totally cool. The lady who helped me was the best physician I’ve ever had. Great bedside manner, and very understanding. She gave me four ambien, a refill on my blood pressure medication (unrelated to this story), a list of rehab clinics should I not be able to quit on my own, and sent me on my way. By that time I was an emotional wreck. I had broken down crying in front of Liz several times during the week. Finally though, thanks to the ambien, I slept.
For some odd reason I decided to get another psychiatrist, still not sure why. For the first quarter century of my life I did not take antidepressants, and I was okay. I had a rough childhood at home, but there were extenuating circumstances in the form of multiple stepfathers. But I got a shrink anyway. He just refilled all of my old meds, and threw Trazadone in the mix as well, for sleep. Only after the fact did I learn that Trazadone is also an antidepressant, and it causes weight gain, both of which shrink number two denied. Multiple medical sites stated otherwise, so thank you internet. It also caused a wicked case of restless leg syndrome, which I thought was a made-up disorder until I experienced it firsthand. It was helping me sleep though, so I stuck with it.
After a while, me and Liz came to an agreement that the Zoloft and Abilify had to go. I wasn’t myself. I was nice and all, but my attention span was shit, as was my sex drive, and I lacked that edge that my personality used to have (my favorite characteristic). So I stopped going to the shrink. My personality came back, my attention span increased, and oddly enough, I lost fifteen pounds with zero exercise… imagine that. The tradeoff was that my insomnia came back. Not full-blown drug withdrawal insomnia, but bad enough where I would not sleep for a whole day.
So, I made an appointment with my new primary care physician, only to find out that the sweet nurse practitioner had left the practice, FUCK! I went to the appointment anyway. I wanted to sleep like a normal person. I go into the office, and eventually am called back into a room. Within a couple of minutes a doctor comes in and tells me point-blank, “Look Anthony, I can’t help you. Go back to your psychiatrist.”. I instantly had the mental image of flying off of the stretcher covered in paper that I was sitting on, and doing a perfect superman punch. Of course I didn’t though. I kept my cool. I literally had to suggest that I go to a sleep study for this asshole, because he wouldn’t do anything at all.
I never went to a sleep study. I decided to try another medication on my own. I believe it’s called marijuana, ever heard of it? It’s hit or miss with the sleep, but always pleasant. The good side is that me and Liz are on the same page with the pot. If you don’t agree that smoke inhalation aside (I use a vaporizer), marijuana is basically harmless, then you’re simply uneducated on the subject. I’ve smoked pot here and there since I was fifteen. Never loved it, never hated it. The bad side is that it really isn’t that effective of a sleep aid. It will stop my locomotive brain, which is all I need sometimes. Other times I lay in bed stoned out of my mind, but still sleepless. Twenty dollars worth of weed will last me a month, minimum. I’m not a stoner by any stretch of the imagination, and am a total lightweight.
So that’s where I am now. A drugless, sleepless asshole. Yeah, I said drugless. Pot is as much a drug as alcohol and tobacco. I only do it at home, so I’m hurting nobody. I kicked the pills all together, through fear of losing the person closest to me, with a side of sheer willpower. It’s been over a year, and I’m not looking back. I guess my next step is a sleep study. Why do I get the feeling that I’m going to be wearing a stupid mask to bed every night, looking like a Top Gun pilot? I can see it now, “Goodnight baby.”, “Goodnight Goose.”. But what other option do I have? Pot is nice and all, but it’s not the answer.