Stuff: My Head Was Getting Full

Greg Allman died. That made me cry. I’ve been a fan for most of my adult life (translation: since Mark and I have been together as adults because he’s a HUGE fan) and that’s part of why I cried. I knew how it would affect Mark. And Matthew. Matt sent Mark a note on FB saying, “This isn’t real, is it?” Of course, it was.

The Day The Music Died played in my head – when Sweet Melissa and I’m No Angel weren’t. The music didn’t really die. Just the musician. Taken down by the same insidiousness that took many others. Others with names like Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix, Cobain, Cornell, Jennings.

Waite.

What do I hate about addiction? Is it that it’s selfish? That it is a form of entitlement that doesn’t just destroy the one addicted but entire families, communities even? Yes. Of course. I hate that it disguises itself as pleasure and peace. I hate that I love that pleasure and peace.

Am I an addict?

Probably not but maybe so. I have the genetic predilection certainly, on both sides. I remember being at an Al Anon meeting once and voicing my frustration.

“Isn’t there someplace I can go where this shit doesn’t exist?”

To a person, those in the meeting with me either shook their heads or simply said no. Take away the alcohol, the drugs and what is left to be addicted to? Food, sex, work, shopping, money. Obviously it’s not the substance at fault. It’s the behavior patterns. And we all have them.

Am I an addict?

I have been, yes. I have displayed addictive behavior driven by everything from hormones to the lack of them. All the kids at home to the kids all moving away. Euphoria to depression. Not enough work to too much work. Not enough choice to everything laid out before me like a banquet. No ice-cream in the house to an actual banquet.

My latest dilemma is stress at work and sleepless nights, both of which, of course, feed on each other. In my first half-century I could count the nights I was unable to sleep on one hand. This does not include infant/child induced lack of sleep. Those were a given and had nothing to do with not being physically and psychologically able to let go of wakefulness. No, the latter is something that was saved for me until I was lulled into a false hey, this getting older thing might be okay, state of mind. Kids are grown, hot flashes are easing, I see freedom calling up ahead sort of thoughts were roaming playfully in my brain.

Then the next section in the manual opened itself up to me and revealed that those hormones I used to have do more than just all those other things I thought they did. They also helped me to sleep.

Apparently they’re gone just like said slumber.

I, literally, lay awake all night long.

It happened once. And again. Then again. And more regularly. I started taking half a Benadryl at night get to sleep but it didn’t always work, so I’d take a whole one. Sleep was deep and as long as I took it fairly early I could drink enough coffee in the morning to wake up for the day. Which became a problem in itself because I really don’t have a large coffee capacity. One or two cups are the maximum and it always took a third to shake the antihistamine blues, which, in turn made me shaky and a little dizzy. Then the antihistamine stopped working and I became pretty frantic. I cut down on coffee, upped my water intake and spent a couple of days and nights trying to get my shit together so I could sleep when I was supposed to sleep and be awake, you know, when I was driving and working and stuff. I went to my doctor who offered me Ambien or something like it. Non-habit forming, of course. Such an ironic, bullshit claim. Perhaps the drug itself is non-addictive but if you, like – everybody – are a fan of sleeping, the drug becomes your habit. There’s no way around that. Also, there are some pretty severe side effects with Ambien.  My two favorite, upon reflection are hallucinations and sleeplessness.

I’ll just let you mull that one over.

I took a pass.

My doctor was okay with the half dose of antihistamine but concerned that I took it within an hour of having a night-cap consisting of a shot (and probably a half) of tequila. I told her my liver wasn’t completely happy with me either, but the tequila helped me fall asleep and the antihistamine kept me asleep all night.

That’s important – the all night thing. Some of my worst times have been when I wake up from a sound (sober) sleep in a full on panic because – for no reason at all. Anxiety is in full swing with no warning and no solution and by the time I’ve reached a state of I’m actually not going to die horribly at this very moment I’m wide awake and pissed. And still anxious as I go over every single thing that is/could be/was yesterday/might be tomorrow – wrong in my life, Mark’s life and the lives of my children, grandchild, mother and brother. I have, at times, scooted over to cuddle with Mark but that wakes him up because he knows, even in his deepest slumber, that I do not like to be touched in my sleep. We have lines of demarcation in our bed that may not be breached once I’m in lala land. When the kids were little it was this way because one or more of them were there nightly and there was barely room to breathe. Then it was hot flashes. If I cuddle up to my poor hubby, he knows somethin’ aint right and will wake up ready to take on the world in a way only certified morning people are able to do but it’s the middle of the night so we’re both screwed.

……….Or so I told my doc.

She said, again, that perhaps the Ambien would be a better choice. I said, again, no thank-you.

I have an aversion to relying on medication. I mean, if I had to take something because I was diabetic or had epilepsy it would be different – and I have taken meds for PTSD (long story there……well, really not so long, but for another time) and depression. There was a start date and an end date in sight with both, so I wasn’t quite as concerned. I became addicted to nose spray once. Started taking it when I had a cold and didn’t get off it for two years. The thing about nose spray with a decongestant/antihistamine is that, besides making one look sexy and attractive when shoving it in one nostril then the other and taking a deep huff each time, it makes your nasal passages more open than they would ever be naturally. When you try to stop taking it cold turkey you don’t just get a stuffy nose. Your nasal passages slam shut like there’s actual gold in there to be protected and you can’t breathe through your nose, nor can you swallow because you can’t breathe through your nose. Try it. Plug your nose and try to swallow.

My father was addicted to nose spray. He became ill and was in the hospital where an idiot doctor overdosed him (that one is a long story) with a medication his body basically had a bad reaction to. He was in a state of unconsciousness for such a period of time that we truly thought he would not make it. During that time he could, of course, not take his nose spray. We watched as he struggled to breathe. His suffering was incredibly difficult to witness and inspired the aversion I spoke of earlier.  After Dad recovered I went to my doctor for help in ridding myself of the nose spray. She said, simply, to use it in one side or the other as often as I needed until the side that wasn’t getting any assistance unplugged, then stop using it on the other side. She said it could take about three weeks. I was off it in less than two and felt so free and, well, stupid for not figuring this out much, much sooner.

Now, to get back on medication and have to depend on it for something that should come as naturally as sleep? No. I couldn’t see it. Still, if I was honest with myself, it was six of one and half dozen of the other in the drugs vs. alcohol category.

Am I an addict?

Probably. But I’m an extremely particular one, if so.

I stopped taking the antihistamine a few weeks ago. The long term effects started to rear their ugly heads. Moodiness, increased day-time anxiety, depression – they came on fast and were difficult to control. I cut out sugar at night, back on coffee in the morning, cranked up my water intake and am gradually settling into a more restful pattern leading up to bed time. Basically I’m a three-year-old again. Who gets a jigger of tequila and a Coronita nightly if she wants.

I’m not giving up all my fun.

I sleep better, for the most part. Electronics are banished to drawers and other rooms. TV is off and the temperature is cool. I’m dreaming again which means I’m not taking myself to an oblivious place and when I wake up it’s just slow and cranky like it’s been from the time I was a child. Not groggy and “why did I take the stupid antihistamine again,” the way it had been for a few months.

Am I an addict? I have addictive tendencies – just like most people, I suppose. I’m on guard, though. I mean, everybody has to die from something but I won’t go because I drank/smoked/shot up/snorted my internal organs to death. That hurts like hell. That hurts everybody like hell and it’s hard to get over. Some people tend to obsess, even.

Can one be addicted to making sure they’re not addicted?

These and other insane questions will be covered on the next edition of “Shit I write down so my head won’t explode.”

<Insert eye roll here>

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