Welcome to a collective of my thoughts, ramblings, writings, musings, and whatever-the-hell else I feel like broadcasting into the vastness of the world wide web.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Kicking Prescription Habits

I feel a great need to talk about something I've been dealing with lately. It starts with the following words; Technically, I'm a drug addict. I know, it doesn't so much make me look very good but bear with me for a minute. It's not like that, really. A few years ago I was living in Los Angeles with a girl who was going to college there. Sometime about a year in, maybe less, I started having panic attacks, full on shaking sweating can't-eat can't-sleep no-reason-for-any-of-it-that-I-can-tell panic attacks. I went to see a doctor who put me on Xanax, a fast acting short half-life benzodiazepine. I took xanax for about a year, maybe a little less, and then moved through three or four other medications that didn't work well for me before I landed on Valium some two plus years ago. Anybody who knows anything about drugs, and benzo's in particular knows that being on Valium for longer then a couple months is bad news. Being on it for a couple years is fucking terrible news. It's been so long since that first prescription I honestly don't remember how I decided on Valium, or even which fucking doctor first gave it to me. I can say I don't remember the doc sitting me down and telling me about the severity of the drug, or the fact that if I stayed on it for an extended period of time I'd have to go through Hell and back to get off it. 

By the time I moved back to Oregon and found a new doctor, I wasn't even slightly interested in being off my meds, I felt comfortable with what I was taking and didn't see any reason to change it. I'd been on them long enough without any warnings or side effects that I didn't seen a reason to be off them anymore. I want to be clear in that I have never abused my medication, never used them before the refill date and looked for more or shit like that. I took them solely as they were prescribed to me, one in the morning, one at night. Anyways, I started seeing a doc in Bend, and she would constantly yet gently push me to stop taking it, but I wasn't interested. I didn't want to be completely off medication, I didn't feel like I was ready, or in a place where I could handle it. Shortly after moving back to Oregon I was hit with several personal blows, blows that left me emotionally drained and decimated, and thinking about stopping my meds was unthinkable. The doc wanted to move me off the valium and on to an anti-depressant, but I'd taken AD's before and hated every single one. I didn't believe I was 'depressed', just anxious, and wanted nothing to do with any other medication. I was comfortable with my 5mg of V in the morning and another five at night, kept me in a nice warm little fog, one I lived in for so long I quit seeing it as a fog and it became my worldview. So she continued to prescribe it to me casually, keeping me on the same dosage I'd always been on. Did you know that after about a year of regular valium usage you start to lose some mental and cognitive functions? Essentially you get stupider. Anybody who knows me at all knows that for better or for worse I place a lot of stock and pride in my intelligence. I've never been a star athlete (though I was a kickass swimmer), never dated any supermodels, never made a million dollars. I've always and only had my brain to set me apart from the masses, and my taking this drug everyday was literally slowly eroding the bedrock of my IQ. I didn't care. Until about two months ago. 

I reached a point where I wanted to be off my meds for two reasons. Reason number one; I wanted to be off my meds. Period. I wanted to experience life beyond the valium daze. Fair enough right? Reason number two; You can't fly helicopters if you're taking that kind of shit. Gotta be sharp and alert. I decided to become a pilot, and in order to do that, I had to kick the valium. So I started tapering off with the 'help' of a therapist, going down a couple milligrams at a time, then throwing in a second benzodiazepine called Klonopin to be taken every once in a while as needed to cut the severity of the valium withdrawals. For the first couple weeks I went up and down, feeling good one day and less the second. I'd have waves of anxiety that would just come out of nowhere and crash into me like a truck, rendering me largely incapable of performing even the most basic of tasks or social interactions. After every drop in dosage the symptoms would come back for a couple days and then subside, never getting to a point where I really felt constantly aware of them. Until recently. I mentioned before that I had bronchitis a few weeks ago, and when I was so horribly sick I didn't even think about my valium until I realized one morning that I hadn't taken anything in four days. So I decided to see how long I could go. I made it a couple more days before I hit a wall of symptoms that actually scared me, and I took half a pill. Well its been over THREE WEEKS now since I took that last half of a valium. Two pretty decent weeks, withdrawal symptoms not very severe, coming and going, and for full disclosure I have still been taking half a klonopin as needed, usually every three to five days, with the periods in between slowly getting longer. Then came this past week.

I just today completed a full seven days in between k-pin halves, still haven't touched the valium, and good sweet Mary mother of FUCK was it a hell of a week. The worst of the withdrawal symptoms kick in towards the end, once you've been cold turkey for more then a couple weeks, and explaining the horrific nature of them is quite difficult. 'Sensitivity to touch', check, sometimes it hurts to just have clothes or my sheets touching me. It hurts the bottoms of my feet to stand. This brings me to 'general pain', which holy shit I have. It hurts to blink, to move, to turn my head. My body is in a near constant state of feeling like it's on fire and at the same time immersed in a bath of ice, it's bizarre. Reality is different, and this is the most difficult symptom to explain. I see things differently, I perceive them differently, and I'm able to watch from some balcony in my mind as my speech pattern changes, the way I move changes, and I can't do anything about it. Personality changes are common to see during withdrawals from valium, lasting weeks or months sometimes. Everything looks odd, objects I look at are razor sharp, like I'm fucking seeing in High Definition and I'm acutely aware of EVERYTHING, while at the same time it all looks fake and computer generated. The very essence of how I view the world, the people and situations and interactions around me, it's all CHANGED. I feel like I'm on a bad drug trip that won't stop, and in a way I am. Usually when that happens though you can just wait it out, tell yourself it'll only be a couple hours and you can soldier through it. Not this though, this fucked up ordeal is going to last anywhere from a couple more days to a couple months. It's not all bad in the end I tell myself. The sense of accomplishment as I make it through another day without valium is massive. I'm not quite in a mindset where I can calm my thoughts enough to appreciate it fully, but that will come and I can't fucking wait. In six months the oppressive side effects should have fully dissipated, and in one year I will have regained any mental or cognitive function lost during the last two years, and will essentially be 'me' again. At least as much as anybody can truly be themselves. 

So congratulations to myself, because what I've done/am doing is not easy, and I'm proud of me. Near the end of this road now, I'll be getting on a much better road, and if you asked me where it goes I'd tell you "Anywhere."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Big City Drug Deals

You know what sucks? Buying drugs. Now now, we're not here to discuss the morality or dangers of drugs, or the ethics of buying or selling them, we're here because I wanted to tell a story. Should I not tell this story because it involves some R-Rated subject matter? Or would that just be pandering. You're an adult, you can choose to do what you want and read what you please. Here, lets get if over with, ready, reaaaaady, I've done drugs before. Still here? Ok then, proceed. Regardless of how you may feel personally, there's no disputing the fact that lots and lots of people enjoy doing drugs, but I'm pretty confidant about saying there's probably nobody who likes buying them. It's typically a nervous, dark, shady type transaction that goes on, often involving nervous, dark, shady type people. It can I suppose be no big thing for some persons because they know their supplier intimately, but this either means you hang out with drug dealers or you do enough drugs to know them well. Either way is not perhaps the best position to have put yourself in. Also, I won't deny that it can, at TIMES, be a somewhat exciting experience, something that will get your blood pumping as you enter a world probably quite different and a little bit more dangerous then the one you live in day to day. The allure of a pill or powder or plant that will take away the burdens of social anxiety and lift you up and set you on a nice comfortable cloud for a few hours, well that is high enough for many people to deal with the negatives of buying. Here's a story that encompasses three aspects of the drug buy; the good, the bad, and the surreal.

It all happened on my birthday one year, in a large city, with which I was largely unfamiliar. I had been there before, several times in fact, but mostly stuck to bars and poolhouses, hadn't really taken the time to wrap my head around my greater surroundings. The city was close to where I was living at the time, and myself and a couple of friends had driven in and gotten a motel room for the night to celebrate. Allow me to set the mood for you. Our motel was in one of the dingiest, dirtiest little holes in the city, a fact we weren't privy to until after arriving and observing the plethora of lowlifes and hookers hanging out in our parking lot. This of course did absolutely nothing to deter us, if anything it just raised our heart rates a little bit and made us want to drink faster. That's the trick see, you bring a whole mini bar with you in your bag and mix drinks for yourselves in the motel room for a few hours, then take a cab downtown to the cluster of bars and upscale strip joints. I digress. We had decided on the way into the city that afternoon that today was a special day, my birthday, and just going into the city and getting roaring drunk and carousing with our friends wasn't enough. We were going to need some drugs, not no marijuana either, we had that, we needed some REAL drugs, some party-all-night-with-a-smile-cemented-to-your-face drugs. We weren't the kind of people who do those kinds of substances often, and it was a special occasion, so it seemed like a good idea.

 Problem was we didn't know anybody in this particular city to get drugs from, and it's something we were only comfortable doing with somebody we had been connected with. Buying drugs from complete strangers is hard for one, because it's hard to find said stranger, and dangerous, you don't know what the fuck is going to be mixed in with whatever they give you, if it's even real, if they are going to turn out to be a cop, or a psycho. No, we needed somebody who'd been vouched for who could hook us up with something of premium quality for a fair market value price. So we called a friend we trusted back in our town, somebody who had lived for a good while in the big city and would know about such things. He said he'd make a call and get back to us straight away, and within an hour he called back. "She'll meet with you. But she's paranoid, so here's what I told her, which she'll expect to hear you say..." He proceeded to explain to us that this was somebody he very much trusted to be on the level, and to hook us up with exactly what we were looking for. However, he said, she was paranoid, and intensely so, only agreeing to meet with us after our friend told her that we had grown up together (we hadn't) and that he'd known us for over ten years (nope) and that we could be trusted (of course), so she consented based on that voucher. When I arrived at her place, he said, I had to tell her about my friend, where we went to school together, and where we grew up. This was all sounding like a lot of work at this point, but we were already starting to feel the thrill of the buy not to mention the desire for what she was selling, so we moved forward. We got her name (fake) and number (real) from him and called her up. She spoke to us on the phone for probably 15 seconds, confirming who was calling and that there were only two of us coming, and then giving us an address and hanging up abruptly. Ok, whatever, drug dealers are weird, let's go. One of my friends and I hopped in the car leaving the others in the motel room to drink, plugged the address into the trusty GPS, and off we went.

 We arrived at our destination about fifteen minutes later and circled a large dark building a few times looking for her place before we realized we were already there. The large dark creepy building towering above us contained penthouse apartments, and that was apparently our where we needed to be. We walked into the lobby and my first thought was Holy Shit we're in the Shining hotel. Old carpet and dismal lighting, a front desk with nobody behind it, a light flickering off and on, some kind of string music playing somewhere, almost inaudible. We exchanged a look to confirm the other person was equally uncomfortable, swiftly confirmed it, and moved to the elevators. Way up there, above the twenty-something floor, was the penthouse floor, containing the penthouse suite, and so we hit that button marked P and began our ascent. What seemed like an hour or two later the elevator rumbled to a stop and the doors jerked open suddenly. We were standing facing a doorway. A doorway at the end of a scary-ass hallway that seemed about half as long as a football field, nearly pitch black, with a single light above the door at the end. I was almost surprised at the lack of a monstrous wave of blood rushing towards us. As we stepped out we realized there were other doors, down the sides of the hallway, and as we walked past these dark inlets two of the doors proved open a crack, shutting just as we walked by, mumbling voices behind them. Unnerved and walking quite close together, we made it to the final door, took a second to compose ourselves, and knocked. Almost immediately the door was yanked open to the chain, a shadowy dark haired woman peering out from the crack. Right away she quizzed us on the questions we'd been told about by our mutual friend, and we both spoke at once, stepping on each others sentences in a stammering effort to prove we were who we were supposed to be. The door closed, and for a split second I thought it was over, that she hadn't bought it and our quest had ended, but no, it opened right back up again, just enough for us to turn almost sideways and step through the archway and into the apartment.

 The first thing we were struck by was the light, after being in that dim and depressing lobby followed by the Hellway we'd just walked through, we apparently hadn't expected the place to be so well lit. It was almost luminescent. The second thing that hit us after our eyes adjusted was the realization that this women was gorgeous, long thick hair, pristine white skin and striking features, as tall as I am (6') lifted by her reverse skyscraper high heels. She turned and motioned us to follow her through the entryway and into her apartment, which was dazzling to say the least. High vaulted ceilings, giant windows overlooking the city lights, artful cubicle style rooms to each side of us, and then we were in the living room. Expensive art adorned the walls and fine furniture the floors, and sitting on a gorgeous white suede couch was a very well dressed man. He looked exactly, and I do mean exactly, like the character Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler) from Californication. If you don't know who that is google him and then come back, I'll wait. She introduced him to us as a friend, they were going to go out that night. He didn't bother to get up to greet us, but quickly engaged us in small talk about our night and whatnot while his lady friend disappeared into a bedroom. This guy was smooth too, speaking with a lackadaisical confidence that betrayed the importance and severity of the man behind the Charlie Runkle exterior. At some point our conversation turns to where we might be headed that night, and we mention a classy strip joint we'd read about and were going to check out. Oh, he says, that's where *the female drug dealer* dances, he tells us casually. We again exchange quick looks, as if by making eye contact with the other we could be sure we were indeed on this plane of reality still. Our drug dealer for the night was a stripper. Who lived in an apartment that was obviously anything but modestly priced, steep enough that it seemed unlikely our dancer/dealer friend was paying for it all by herself. Who knows though, she was involved in two industries where the right people can make a lot of money. I have my suspicions that her male companion wasn't a just a harmless stockbroker or something of the sort, but we never did find out. After a couple awkward minutes of bullshitting with Mr. Armani, she reappeared with what we'd come for, money traded hands, we gave the usual goodbye pleasantries and were escorted out. I don't think we spoke walking back down the hallway, too busy listening for doors closing, and it wasn't until the elevator opened to the lobby that I realized I was holding my breath. I don't know if this accurately conveys the deep strangeness and unsettling aspects of this tale, but I've tried. We later that night saw Charlie Runkle out at a club with our new friend, and after saying hi to them outside we watched him take three completely different, equally gorgeous and unattainable women under his arms like he owned the world, and walk away in the night. We live in completely different worlds, but at times we overlap and interconnect, and its always a trip, always something new, something strange. Sometimes more then others.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Winter Musings

Ay it's past midnight, which would mean it's now the first day of November in this year of our Lord Two Thousand and Eleven. The month of Thanksgiving. It just makes me think of time gone by. A year ago this time I was living in a van in various parking lots around Breckinridge Colorado with Stephen and Erik. It was bitter cold to the point that we would go to bed in the van wrapped in four to five layers of clothing, sleeping bags, and blankets on top of those. We still woke up in the night bitter and shivering. I remember one day about two weeks into our van livin', and tempers were flaring, edges were being reached, boundaries pushed, and my solution became to not talk for an entire day. I did it too, relaying any important information to my van mates by typing on my phone and holding it up, but otherwise I was completely silent and non participatory. At times it was an annoyance to them, but they got used to it and it ended up being quite the zen day for me. All that aside I'm thinking about this stuff right now because of the change between last year and this. The van we lived in is now in the process of being sold and taken away, and as much as it may have sucked at times, living in that thing for three weeks in such an extreme environment was a trip, and an experience I wouldn't trade. It bonded the three of us in a way, there's no denying that. Colorado, last winter, actually the start of this very online scribbling endeavor, it all seems so far away. Not so much the scribbling, he says as he scribbles. The winter though, the thrill of picking up and just blowing town, taking off for somewhere you've never been because you can, and because you want to get in some world class skiing. Moving across the country, uprooting everything and packing up some cars with some close and true amigos, and hitting the road. It was all so desperately exhilarating and spontaneous, the future constantly and excitingly unpredictable, something new around every bend in ever road. So many mountains and lifts and ski runs we could have rode there for a decade and not have tracked every summit and dropped every cornice, hit every run and memorized every back alley tree shoot. I miss coming home from work at the fuckin' corporate bookstore to my roommates, all six of them, watching tv, reading, cooking, drinking, doing whatever. I miss having family dinners with Stephen and Erik and Garrett and Colleen and Amanda. I miss jamming all of us in a car to mob to Vail or Keystone or wherever we felt like riding that day. I miss packing a car full of 6 or 7 of us and rolling out to the bars in Frisco or Breck, getting way too drunk and typically starting a dance party somewhere. Well, mostly I watched, but there was more then a time or two when I would break out my dancin' shoes, and usually after enough drinks that I would feel it necessary to dance somewhere like on a table or the bar perhaps. Don't know why I'm thinking about this so much. It's not that this winter won't be great, or won't live up to last year. It's a different time. Different isn't anymore a bad thing than it is a good thing. It just is. Still. I love my friends I have now and the life I'm working on making for myself, but there will always be things I miss. I'll always remember fondly a lot of things about the good ol' 970 and the six months I spent there in '10-'11. That is all. For now.