Blogs from the Edge

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My first drug dealer was my mother.

It began when I was about five or six, and innocently enough. She’d give me Dramamine on car trips with a sort of conspiratorial grin, ostensibly to keep me from getting carsick.

I never remember feeling carsick that much, but I do remember loving sinking into the warm, fuzzy embrace of Dimenhydrinate in the back seat of the Subaru, or the Saab, or the Mazda or the Volkswagon. I started asking for Dramamine every time we had a long drive ahead, even if it was just an hour or two. I think I slept a lot upon arrival at my Grandma and Grandpa Marshall’s house when I was younger.

My pediatric dentist didn’t help matters any. Whenever he gave me the Nitrous, he giggled and said, “Ok, you’re going to feel like a flying squirrel! Hee hee!” I think Dr. Fletke might have been hitting the gas himself a little bit too much.

While I never felt quite like the flying squirrel he promised, I did love how my whole body vibrated when it gave me – until he started doing whatever hellish thing he needed to do to my teeth. Nitrous is great for a buzz – not so much for numbing dental pain.

In high school, it was prescription muscle relaxants: Darvocet, Percocet, Valium, Flexeril, you name it. If I had any aches or pains, if I couldn’t sleep, Mom always had a pill to hand me. Better Living Through Chemistry!

All the red-suit-clad Nancy Reagan posters in the world wouldn’t have made a difference. “Just say no?” Sorry, Nanc, but Mom says it’s ok.

I understood the hazards of drugs just fine – when other people used them and became addicted. For me? Totally fine!

In college, the muscle relaxant trend continued. For me, most of the time, it was recreational. In truth, I think it was for Mom, too. We both loved downers. I had no need for speed – my nervous system runs hot enough as it is, thanks – I needed something to mellow myself out. Force me to sleep.

In college, when I told Mom I had (gasp) smoked pot, she was So Disappointed in me. What had I been thinking? She had raised me better than that! Well, no, not so much. Not really. The only difference between our drugs was she had a prescription for hers.

I think I’m pretty lucky I didn’t end up strung out on heroin or wasting away with an opium pipe somewhere, because I bet my body would have loved those. When I saw “Postcards from the Edge,” I so strongly identified with Meryll Streep’s character, man. It never occurred to me it wasn’t perfectly fine for her to give an elementary student downers as a matter of course.  I surely didn’t know any better.

After freshman year at Umich, when the Restless Leg Syndrome started to hit, drugs became more than a fun, once in awhile gig; they became my nightly companions out of strict necessity. Twenty-one years later, they still are. And while I somewhat enjoy being forcibly dragged down into slumber by the Triazolam, I hate that I can’t sleep without it.

Restless Leg is a bitch, people. A serious, nasty, snaggle-toothed bitch.

But I didn’t tell you about my early forays into drugs to talk about RLS.

I told you to give you the background for Mom. Like me, she has usually been on one kind of sleeping pill or another after I left home. Whenever she has any kind of muscle or joint pain, she hops all over pretty heavy-duty pain pills without a second thought.

Today, at the physiatrist’s office, he said he only wanted her to take the anti-vert as needed, usually an hour before she planned to try to read or do anything that would possibly cause a vestibular response. He doesn’t want her to take it three times per day, as previously prescribed.

Hearing this, my mother said with complete sincerity, “Oh no, I wouldn’t want to take it more often. I don’t like to take pills.”

I did a literal double-take (and not for the last time this morning, I can tell you.)

In the split-second following her statement, my brain cycled through (and mercifully did not speak aloud) all of the preceding thoughts, envisioned her talking about how nice sleeping pills are, how they would help me relax, and weren’t they kind of fun, really?

I envisioned the hundreds, if not thousands of white, pink, yellow and blue pills we had consumed between the two of us.

I am honestly not sure if she meant it, or if she was merely responding in a fashion of which she thought the doctor would approve. This is a woman who takes daily pills for hormones, thyroid, bladder issues, pain and to sleep. Now, she’ll be taking antivert and Ritalin on top of those.

Perhaps the traumatic brain injury has changed who she is on a fundamental level.

The full-time journey with her is very close to beginning – only a few weeks away now. I’m getting little tastes of what it will be like, here and there.

Why is it the right things to do are so seldom the easy things?

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