My Drug Abuse Problem

This is a cautionary tale. It involves drug abuse on my part, no less. Even though it was inadvertent and one time only. The drug in question here is a popular one, the sedative sold as Ambien.

After a surgery my doctor prescribed Ambien to help me sleep. I can attest that for me it works like a charm. I wake up from a restful sleep, refreshed, ready to seize the day, more or less, with no side effects. When I take it correctly. Therein lies the rub.

Some people who have taken it report unexplained sleepwalking, sleep driving and performing other daily tasks like frying a batch of eggs for themselves while they are asleep, waking up in the morning without any knowledge of doing it.

I never did any of that. Until one morning. The morning I mistakenly took an Ambien instead of my usual blood pressure pill–just before work. That morning Ginny had left the house before me for an appointment and was unavailable to monitor my movements.

Unaware I was Ambiened-up, I proceeded to drive myself to work. Thank God I didn’t hit something like a tree, or worse, a young pedestrian on his or her way to school. And by thank God I sincerely mean thank God.

By the time I arrived at work I knew what I had done. But, my modus operandi on Ambien I found out that day is simply to pretend everything is fine.

I was barely in the door when a co-worker said, “Are you alright?” I snapped back, “I’M FINE!”

Now at my desk, I didn’t feel sleepy. It’s just that from time to time I would “black out,” more or less, for periods of time ranging, I’m guessing, from a few seconds to something like the better part of a minute.

A day or two earlier I had promised buddy Rob Kupec that I would be part of a radio trivia game he was hosting at the time on WDAY. Ambien or not, a promise is a promise. On the phone with Rob and one of his listeners, I remember being asked about every OTHER question on the air.  Interestingly enough, my radio partner and I correctly answered four out of five of them, good enough for him to win a prize.

Later when Ginny called I asked, “What’d I say?” She said, “You were fine.”

Like a remorseful alcoholic, I spent much of the next morning making the rounds of the building, apologizing to colleagues for my “unusual” behavior the day before. I was especially concerned about what Rob would say about the radio thing. “You were fine,” he said.

When I recounted the episode to my doctor in his office a few days later, he too seemed less concerned about about my radio guest shot, but very much concerned about my driving.  He said something like, “I think now would be a good time for you to come off the Ambien.”