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.”

No shit.

“It was.”

“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?”

No shit.

“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.”

Lie.

“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.

“Ok, thanks.”

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…).

But me – a drug addict? Yup. And I’m recovering every day.

14 comments

  1. You have captured the very essence of early/moderate addiction and the denial that goes along with it. I love hearing what you really think in response to the doctors…I can’t begin to tell you how many silent “I Love You’s” I through to my 50 year old fat and balding doctor who kept on prescribing me stronger and stronger doses of various narcotics, Ritalin to keep me awake and then he threw in the Fentynal Patch to boot.

    You have captured the way the addict mind rationalizes, thinks and acts better then any other writer that I have ever sen…NOT an easy task. A Brilliant piece of writing.

    When my palms got wet and I started getting really restless and could not sit still I knew you have certainly had pierced a nerve.

    This addict went from that place you describe so very well to a year later when I would go to the emergency room of whatever town my girlfriend Kim and I were in and I would Re-Break and old fusion on my right big toe so the x-ray would show a seriously ( and YES, a very PAINFUL…and it was!). So yes, I was breaking my own big toe to get drugs and I did this a dozen times easy.

    Fantastic post Christine…

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      1. And not once did I ever recall think: ‘What am I doing? This shit has to stop!!” No…it was always about the next high, I never though about the past. We sure have come a long way. My apologies…th`at comment of mine was simply awful, full of typos and an unfinished sentence or two. I’ve been fighting a bad case of Bronchitis and not sleeping and it showed in that comment. I don’t typically like to litter up other peoples blogs with poor writing (or my own for that matter, so again, apologies…).

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  2. I’m curious to know how, after many, many months of mentally reliving your life so as to put it down onto paper, you feel about your life now as a whole? I can only imagine your writing to be some of the best “therapy” you have had to date. And your writing is an inspiration to myself, as I’m sure it is to the rest of your readers.

    Wonderful story, Christine. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, JL – it is very theraputic. I started out writing my story to chronicle the moments for my book (in the process of writing memoir). I quickly realized many things about myself, and headed straight back to therapy. Not only does sharing my story(here and in the book) help me own my truth, but in a way, it gives the whole ride more of a purpose.

      Thank you for letting me know anything I share is an inspiration. This is something I never saw in the beginning, but now, is one of the main reasons why I am dead-set on following through with this dream of having my story be heard.

      There is strength in Truth – and knowing we are not alone.

      xxoo

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  3. Ah love, you truly do inspire. The lies we tell ourselves are the most damaging, aren’t they? Explanations and rationalizations…..only to one day see the mirror. Thank you for your vulnerability–it’s beautiful.

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  4. when you get past the whole “but I’m a good person, I can’t be a drug addict” bullshit, you start healing.

    this is excellent writing.

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  5. You are an inspiration in every way.

    I’m buried right now. Turned off from the real world, just trying to get the words right in this godawful thing called revision. (You know the feeling.) But I took a little break to say hello to some of my friends and you, you my darling girl are this gorgeous light burning through my writer’s fog. Your story, painful and hard as it is, becomes this redemptive, breathtaking journey in your capable hands. You inspire me to write better, to DO better. I love you, sweet girl. Write hard.

    Like

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