Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Drug-addicted (sort of) at 40

I use drugs. I nearly freaked out on the teeny plane I was just on, the plane that took off from a location below sea level, wobbled its way into space on the border next to Mexico, swayed in the sky for about an hour, and dove to a landing at LAX.

I used to be a freaky flyer and had to pop an Ativan every time I flew. “I only take drugs when I fly,” was my response, and over the years I whittled that little pill down to something like an eighth of a milligram, just as reassurance that I had some nugget of calming wonder flushing out the freaky interference in my brain. I finally realized I was essentially taking a placebo, and stopped popping the tiny tranquilizing slivers. I had gotten over my fear of flying without drugs.

The airplane freak out happened for the first time on a flight from Tel Aviv to New York. Immediately after the plane took off, I panicked and didn’t know up from down, down from up, terrified for ten hours and finally passed out at some point shy of landing. On the ground in New York, the ticket agent told me I was welcome to hop an earlier connecting flight than the one I had scheduled, but I shot down the offer and tried to calm myself at utterly uncalm JFK for a few hours before finally taking my scheduled onward flight. After a lifetime of flying, at age 22 I became afraid of flying. Ativan came to my rescue and once again I regained the freedom to go wherever, whenever, arriving perhaps a little groggy but calm.

The freak out flight was precipitated by my second go-around with a vestibular neuronitis – an inner ear disorder that would occasionally flare up (usually overseas, due to an illness, or sometimes on its own in very polluted places) and I would begin to have balance problems. Being unable to maintain one’s balance is a horrible feeling, and led me to my panicky episodes on the plane, and sometimes in tunnels and on bridges and other locations.

In the last six or seven years of Ativan-free domestic flights, I’ve gotten a little antsy from time to time, but usually calm myself down after about 20 minutes. For really long, overseas flights, I’ve continued to pop a pill and enjoy a mellow journey that I will have almost no recollection of afterwards. Even puddle jumpers, which have become more and more abundant in our current state of air travel madness, have been perfectly normal floating environments for me.

So I was surprised that I decided to take half of an Ativan on my last flight. And because the drug is best taken an hour or two ahead for maximum results, I don’t think it did anything for me. I felt edgy and irritable and a bit panicky. Now I’m sitting in one of those first class seats on an A319, designed for people with big asses and long legs (and I will become one of them, without the long legs, if I eat anything else today). I feel perfectly at ease.

I’m more drug-reliant than many people I know. They’re all legitimate prescription drugs and I’m not being Dubya daughter or a McCain Barbie wife. I know I’ll never be addicted. I don’t like to take most of them, but do enjoy the comforts modern medicine offers us: Lunesta, Sonata and Valium each have their place in everyone’s medicine cabinet. Sudafed, Claritin, Horsepills of Ibuprofen: these are the modern wonders that help us cope with the modern problems.

I’m assuming that my latest freak out probably had something to do with stress, less than four hours of sleep last night, and lousy air quality on the US-Mexico border. Or maybe I’m just becoming a freak again and I should give up on all of this flying.

I just sold my house and now I should be calm. I should be really calm. And I should finally be able to sleep very well now that I’m not dealing with realtors and difficult personalities. So tonight, with an Ativan already in my system to stay calm, and a Benadryl waiting for me at home, to sleep well, I will medicate my way to the relaxed state of being that I should be now that there is less stress in my life.


Anonymous said...

What makes you think you're not already addicted?

Joey said...

I would know if I were addicted. Right?

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