I forget how my love affair with pharmaceutical drugs began. My journey through the adolescent drug phase didn’t’ even take off until I entered my twenties. High school was a sheltered, sugar-coated daze where I drifted between groups of friends, anchoring myself with the bad boys but never participating in their afterschool activities. I would only hear about their shenanigans the day after, when threats of suspension or expulsion would spread quickly across the tiny campus.
Growing up, I watched my single mother buy cases of Heineken and inhale packs of Marlboro Lights—an image that grew taboo in our family because in our culture, women don’t do that. Men are allowed their cognacs filtered with sparkling club soda and ashtrays reaching their brim, needing to be emptied every few hours. Even now, two decades and a stroke later, she secretly sips wine with her medication. The cruel irony is that she’s asking me to pour it for her. Somehow, growing up in her shadows, I’ve inherited her traits. The smoking and drinking that I grew up hating is now my lifestyle. Her indulgences were, no doubt, a result of a lonely life. And I’m filled with remorse and sadness when I think of what she might see as I come home stumbling from drinks. I’m approaching my mid-twenties now and the layers are beginning to peel. It’s funny how our silent common denominator is also reason we’re growing miles apart. I can only begin to fathom her train of thought. Me, her youngest daughter, caught up in drugs and alcohol, an obvious reflection of her past. She’s brought the topic up various times, caught me red handed and even ate my stash of tainted brownies that I carelessly stuffed in the freezer. “I feel funny,” she said. I tried to laugh it off and told her they were spoiled, while having an anxiety attack but carefully battling it with a helpful green pill.
That green pill is the product of months of feigned mental sickness. It first came in the form of a scored, yellow pill that my ex-boyfriend’s dad was prescribed for anxiety. I remember going through their medicine cabinet, looking for bottles with warning labels and checking online to see if there was any potential for abuse. I struck gold with a bottle labeled “Clonazepam”. I convinced him to give me most of the bottle, and I began experimenting. The pills became party favors that I would wash down with a beer and hand out to unsuspecting friends to try. No harm was done, or I just had no memory of it.
I do remember my next episode, a kind of follow-up introduction to this family of prescription drugs. I was in tear-inducing pain from an infected front tooth, sending me to the dentist’s office. I was still an undergrad, working part-time at an office job and uninsured. I was told that I needed a root canal for my left front tooth, which sent me into a fit of vain hysteria. Eventually, I calmed down. The dentist gave me a prescription for valium, which I knew via popular culture, made you literally melt in a sort of anxiety-free dreamland. I remembered this, shed a few extra tears, and got a few extra pills.
Idle days at the office meant my rate of online productivity in all things useless went up. I bookmarked sites with pages of information on prescription drugs, the symptoms under which patients were prescribed specific drugs, and started to memorize them. At this time, I was already an experienced drug user and loved my highs. I dabbled enough to know which highs I preferred, but prescription drugs was a new territory. My reservoir of information proved useful, as I began seeing a psychiatrist at school. It’s insanely easy to be diagnosed with depression, brainwashed into thinking there is maybe, no definitely, something wrong with your chemical makeup. I was prescribed various anti-depressants and would pretend to be taking them, but complain of the various side effects that were popularized online and eventually, I got the medications that I came in for.
I was already buying various drugs off the black market, but obtaining a legitimate prescription made life easier. I now have a certified history of mental problems and could pretty much get what I wanted out of my fifteen minute sessions. These sessions continued after I graduated and I was getting refills that I would have no use for, since my medication was taken on an abuse-only schedule. But by this time, I had shared the wonderful care-free drug with too many friends, most took to them well and I didn’t mind sharing. It was like I was injecting a modicum of happiness into people’s lives, and it made me happy.
Anxiety though, is not something to be fucked with. What started off as a casual encounter is now making me question my own sanity. I haven’t stayed sober long enough to really figure it out—but I think these periods of experimentation and abuse has made me somewhat dependent on these pills. My bookmarked pages are less about ways of potentiating the drugs and more about possible withdrawal symptoms. I’ve grown kind of obsessive, creating a calendar to track my binges, and subsequent breaks. Recent stories of celebrities overdosing make me laugh and cringe simultaneously as the autopsy reveals the list of drugs found in their bodies at the time of death. I go down the list, putting a check mark against the clinical name, quickly recognizing them in my own medicine cabinet.
I’d like to think I’m a responsible drug user. Legal troubles aside, I try to keep my recreational doses at safe but enjoyable level. Last Saturday, a close friend called me after I had gone to bed. It was an early night, only because I had started drinking at five that afternoon. “Dinner” ended with two pitchers and a little green pill that I took on occasions where I wanted to be extra sedated (that night being one). He was calling to see if I had Xanax. I did. It wasn’t my prescription, but having established a pretty effective medicinal bartering system with some other friends; I had pills of various colors, sizes, and uses. He was in a fit of desperation and although it worried me, I agreed to give him a few of everything. He was going to make a trek down from the Valley, roughly an hour commute, to pick up his bag of goodies.
I’ve had many moments of epiphany that made me want to quit, get my act together, whatever. I’ve gone on enough self-awareness hiatuses to prove to myself that these pills don’t control me. I handed the stuff to my friend, someone I considered intelligent but misguided, having only begun his drug experimentation phase less than a year ago. I gave him my verbal warning, expressed my concern, and sent him on his way with mood stabilizers. He drove off, probably back to his apartment to enjoy whatever cocktail sent him into euphoric bliss, and I went off on my own dreamless, voiceless slumber. The perfect kind.