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.” Suddenly, I was 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 (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 (only getting paid for one of those, thank you very much), and it was enough to burn a gal out – which is exactly what went down. I was only 28.
Somewhere between the VIP rooms, naked parties and puking on myself, I stopped feeling sexy.
So I bailed. Sold my shit, hopped on a plane, with just two suitcases and a dream.
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 shit a brick the first time I saw my breath in the cold air, hauled my umbrella everywhere for months (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 was embracing my new digs, secretly bragging to myself how I didn’t need rehab to leave my old life. There were drug cravings, so I dabbled now and then (normal, right?). Also, I kept the cocktails flowing, because really, the worst was behind me. I was nearly 30. I had my shit together. Besides, me? A drug addict?
Fast-forward a decade and my recreational druggy-dance card is just as full as it was when I was stripping. 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.
After a few short weeks of abusing my new Xanax supply, I was in familiar territory back at the candy store with my new drug dealer, my doctor.
“Are you taking it daily, as prescribed?”
“Yea, but I don’t think it’s helping.”
“Your tolerance 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 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 people who’ve had Oxy in their medicine cabinet from getting their wisdom teeth pulled three years ago.
For us pill-popping-party-animals, “as needed”, is really code for “TAKE AS MUCH AS NEEDED TO FLY OFF YOUR ASS.”
Funny thing about double-dosing. The bottles get empty a helluva lot quicker. But addicts are nothing, if not resourceful. I found a way around that little conundrum, doctor-shopping my ass around town like a clueless pill-popper having no concept of you could go to jail, dumbass.
Shady behavior aside, I knew I was back in party mode, but I didn’t care. Ask anyone in the throes of using if they give two shits about the down side. We’re feeling too good to care – which is really the whole point of drugs, duh.
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 look at myself and see clearly.
Work was getting rough. When I wasn’t rubbing elbows with the suits trying to keep my balance, I was isolating in my chick-cave. The aroma of depression began seeping through the cracks in my foundation, but with every pill, I fought hard pretending I wasn’t this close to tasting it.
There were hours spent chatting on line, dancing naked in my living room, binge-watching Sex and the City, and having deep conversations with Missy, my rescue cat. Living the dream.
My dream turned into a nightmare the day I learned I may have a slight problem. One of my supplies was cut off, and suddenly I 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 from blow and Molly all those years ago, this would be a cakewalk. My heart thumped inside my sweat-soaked chest and I fought hard to hang on. By nightfall I was in the ER.
To try to describe the horror of detoxing from Xanax, wouldn’t do it justice. Even when Googling “Benzo withdrawal” or “Xanax withdrawal”, I’m still not satisfied. Trust me when I say it’s personified suffering. Also, you could die. There are times you wish you would, just to kill the pain.
After detoxing for days, I found myself in group therapy with my new war buddies.
It was in these meetings at Club Detox 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. I was a drug snob, telling stories of how I didn’t need rehab the first time, and how shocked I was that I was even there. Also, that I wasn’t alone.
It took a year to fully get myself back from the Xanax addiction. Even longer to fully wrap my mind around why I started that shit in the first place. And I’m still settling into the fact that I’ve got this disease of addiction.
I used to judge drug addict. Living my life pretending I was anything but. Now, I know there’s nothing wrong with owning who you are, even if there are parts of you still under construction.
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…).