The room was dark, decorated with the usual credentials.
“So, how can I help you?” His eyes were peeled to his appointment book.
“I had a panic attack and ended up in the ER.”
He shot me a half-smile.
“Those can be pretty scary.”
“What do you do for a living?”
I’m a bullshitting, calendar-keeping, ego-stroking, corporate ass-wiper.
“I’m an executive assistant.”
“So, under a bit of stress then?”
“I took Xanax once, years ago for anxiety, and it helped.” I was suddenly eight-years old, asking for dessert.
“Well then, why don’t we get you some?”
And with the stroke of a pen, the candy store was open.
When it comes to drugs, I’m an arrogant broad. A former party girl from the 80s (ok fine, and most of the 90s), my dance card was always filled with pot, blow, ecstasy, booze, and the occasional windowpane (that’s acid, my innocent darlings) thrown in for good measure. Add to that, a grueling stripper schedule of pole-swinging and bed-hopping (I only got paid for one of those, thank you very much), and it was enough to burn a gal out – which is exactly what went down, when I was 28.
Somewhere between the VIP rooms and puking on myself, I stopped feeling sexy.
So I walked away, literally. I sold my belongings and hopped on a plane, with just two suitcases and a dream of having the kind of life I didn’t have to hide. After landing in San Francisco, I flung my proverbial beret in the sky, and Mary Tyler Moore’d my way around the culture shock of it all. The vast differences between growing up in Honolulu, and living in Northern California were enough to entertain the friends I was making. I freaked out the first time I saw my breath in the cold winter months, took my umbrella everywhere for half a year, thinking the smog in the distance was the mountain rain heading to town, and called my mom the first time I saw a squirrel (I thought it was a Mongoose).
I was embracing my new digs, and secretly bragging to myself how I didn’t need rehab to leave my old life behind. Sure, there were drug cravings, so I dabbled now and then (that’s normal, right?). Also, I kept the cocktails flowing, because really, the worst was behind me. I mean, I was almost 30. I had my shit together. Besides – me – a drug addict?
Fast-forward a decade, and my dance card is just as full. I’m back on the floor, under the spinning disco ball of denial, not realizing the irony that I never really left. The scenery was different, but I could still shake my ass – even without the stripper pole. And hey! New music! Damn, if those orange plastic bottles didn’t make for perfect maracas. A lovely addition to the soundtrack of my dysfunctional life.
It didn’t take long before I was back at the candy store. This time, his office didn’t seem so dark.
“Well, are you taking it daily, as prescribed?”
“Yea, but I don’t think it’s helping.”
“Your tolerence is building. Let’s just up you to one [milligram]. And feel free to take two; one when you wake up, and the other before bed, as needed.”
I love you.
As needed. Two little words that pack quite a punch. To a normal person, they serve as a guideline; a written code of rules and responsibility, never to be taken lightly. These are the types of people who have pain killers in their medicine cabinet from getting their wisdom teeth pulled a decade ago.
For us pill-popping-party-animals, “as needed”, is really code for “GO AHEAD”, “IT’S OKAY”, and “YOUR ASS LOOKS GREAT IN THOSE JEANS!” It’d be disrespectful for us to take our doses only as needed – I mean, we know what that bottle is saying – and far be it for us to do anything half-assed. We may even double-dose, just to be polite.
Funny thing about double-dosing – the bottles get empty a helluva lot quicker. But addicts are nothing, if not resourceful, so I found a way around that little conundrum.
Shady behavior aside, at this point, I knew I was back in Party Mode, but me – a drug addict?
So Party, I did. For the better part of a year, it was Xanapolloza. I was rocking my socks off under that spinning disco ball; hundreds of little square-shaped mirrors, all begging me to see myself clearly.
When I wasn’t rubbing elbows with the suits at work, trying to keep my balance, I was isolating in my apartment. The aroma of depression began seeping through the cracks in my foundation, but with every pill, I fought hard, pretending I wasn’t about to taste it.
There were hours spent chatting on-line, dancing alone in my living room, watching Sex and the City marathons, and having deep conversations with Missy, my rescue cat. Living The Dream, I know.
The dream turned into a nightmare the moment I realized I maaay have a slight drug problem. One of my supplies was cut off, and I suddenly found myself with an empty bottle and no replacement pills for weeks. My arrogance wrestled with reason.
I can do this.
The next few hours were spent trying to convince myself I was fine – that if I could walk away before, this would be no problem. I fought the need for a trip to the Emergency Room, but thank God a friend came over, threw me in her car, and forced me to go.
To try and describe the sheer anguish of detoxing from Xanax, wouldn’t do it justice. Even when Googling “Benzo withdrawal” or “Xanax withdrawal”, I’m still not satisfied. Just trust me when I say it’s not fun. And you can die. Sometimes, you wish you would, just to make the suffering come to an end.
It was during a group meeting in Club Detox (a nick-name I have for the amazing rehab hospital where I was), that I realized some things. My past Stripper-Party-Girl life and the one I was trying to live now were really one in the same. That I was a drug-snob, in telling stories of how I was able to rise above needing rehab the first time, and how shocked I was that I was even there. And that I wasn’t alone.
For so many years, I judged the label “drug addict”; I lived my life pretending I was anything but. Now, I see there’s nothing wrong with owning who you are, even if there are parts of yourself you are working to improve.
It’s freeing to live in our truth. When we wipe the bullshit away, it provides a clean slate for us to begin to build again (and again, and again…).