When You Know You’re An Addict

This is my doctor.

My doctor won’t prescribe me any more Ambien.

She says I could wake up wearing nothing but a smile while driving my car the wrong direction down the Pacific Coast Highway, because that’s the kind of shit that happens when you’re on Ambien.

I’ve used Ambien prophylactically for the last three years. because I love Sleep. She can be as elusive as the virgin Homecoming Queen giving you blue balls in the back of a Ford Explorer.

She can be as cruel as a prison guard who’s initially kind and gives you what you need, only to splash you in the face with a bucket of ice cold water at 3 a.m. singing endless renditions of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.

She is that mirage in the desert that keeps slipping further away the faster you run toward it.

Sleep evades me when I’m excited, sad, nervous, anxious, worried, hormonal, manic, stressed out and having arguments in my head with people who aren’t there, but were mean to me earlier in the day.

I’ve resented Sleep, because of her whimsically cruel nature.

But I turned the tide in my duels with Sleep when Ambien rode into my life.

  • She was the Chewbacca to my Han Solo.
  • The Tonto to my Lone Ranger.
  • The Goose to my Maverick.

But now that Ambien is gone again, I’m as vulnerable as Tom Hanks without Wilson.

Here’s the way you know that your prescription drug relationship has gone from recreational use to addiction.

You find yourself of a sleepless two a.m. in the guest bathroom rifling through your visiting, elderly mother’s make-up kit, dumping all the contents on the tiled floor where they rattle and roll, because you’re in search of her Ambien.

You see a prescription bottle you think might be it, but it’s labelled Zolpidem Tartrate.

You ferry your mom’s prescription bottle over to the computer and type in Zolpidem Tartrate –– yes!

There it is. The generic term for Ambien.

Furtively, shamelessly you pop the top of your mom’s meds when what to your wondering, addict-hazed eyes should appear?

Just four. tiny. pills. (and four tiny reindeer.)

“You can’t take one of your mom’s last Ambien!” the angel on my right shoulder cries.

“Just take one, she’s mostly blind now and won’t notice,” whispers the devil on my left shoulder.

“You don’t need that pill, just go do some Kundalini yoga in the bathroom followed by a rigorous round of Kegels. That’ll knock you out,” the angel coaxes.

“If you don’t steal this Ambien, you won’t fall asleep until the Apocalypse and you’ll be the one who set it in motion,” the devil threatens.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that life isn’t black and white.

So, I cut one of my mom’s pills in half and swallow it dry. Then I put everything back just the way I found it, wiping down counter tops for finger prints, flushing the toilet for good measure, chastising myself for not wearing a shower cap in order not to leave any forensic hair-strand evidence behind.

Ah, the heck with it. Let the consequences be what they may!

I fear not what the morrow brings, because tonight I’m scuttling off to bed to make love with that gorgeous, selfish bitch Sleep once more.

Aha! One of the main sources of my insomnia lays right next to me! She may look harmless, but don't be fooled.
Aha! One of the main sources of my insomnia lays right next to me! She may look harmless, but don’t be fooled.

31 thoughts on “When You Know You’re An Addict”

  1. Hmmm…I’ve been close to that before.

    Melatonin (we make less of it as we continue our journey to becoming grown ups) – however that also can have side effects over long periods of time.

    What ultimately worked for me: a lifestyle change of no screens 1 hour before bed and almost no desserts (I eat my dessert before dinner ;)).

    Good luck!

  2. Do something that makes you physically tired. Quit drinking coffee. Relax for an hour before bedtime. The spot in your brain that makes you fall asleep is right above the center of the roof of your mouth. Sometimes just mentally focusing on that spot makes me yawn. Is your bed & pillow comfy? Down pillows work best for me … Is the air fresh in the sleeping room? A little on the cool side makes it cozy to snuggle in the blankets & fall asleep.

    And I did want to say, if you keep having all these cosmetic procedures, your good fine husband will be looking a lot older than you because he is still his natural self …

    1. It’s funny you say that Carolyn. A few years ago my mother-in-law said that at all of her Santa Barbara gatherings the wives look twenty years younger than their husbands thanks to all of the plastic surgery. I hadn’t thought that would apply to me, but you’re probably right. The good news is my husband keeps getting better looking as he gets older (also, he might be reading this)

  3. I’m 47 and this year I battled insomnia as well. This year has been more challenging because I am also premenopausal too. I finally went to the doctor becuase I was miserable and discovered my blood pressure was a bit high. My doctor perscribed me a very low dose of blood pressure med. called atenolol. She said I should take it at night it will help lower my blood pressure and help me sleep! It’s been a month and it has worked!!!

  4. Meredith in SA

    I use deep breathing. Lay on your back. Soften your upper palate, breathe in and out through the nose. Try to focus more on expanding and contracting your belly than your ribcage. Count in to 5 and out to 7. It works!

    Also, turn the clock so you can’t see it. Time = anxiety

    1. Hi Mer — will try. Had insomnia last night so I forced myself to get up and hold the plank position on the floor until my stomach was shaking and strangely, just after that, I fell right to sleep. Hm.

  5. Drink too much wine and put in a good dvd. That only works for about four hours of sleep so you’ll wake up around 2:00. But then you can watch the movie in peace and quiet.

  6. Wow! So well written! Will you hate me if I say ‘therapy’? I have to admit I’ve used Advil pm more times than I’d like to stop the noise in my head and get to sleep (because me on sleep-dep is never a good thing; just saying.)

    I know that time is an issue, but for the overstimulated crowd (like me with ideas, to-d lists and conversations firing 24/7 in my brain) it must be a priority to slow it down, and get into a calming routine hours before bed. Of course dealing with my sleep apnea helps too.

    Again, as at the beginning, figuring out the why and deciding to do something about it is probably a more effective plan than pills, supplements or anything. You are so worth a great night’s sleep!

    1. Hey Carolyn — I’m sure that’s excellent advice. I’m impatient, which is probably why I’m such an insomniac.

  7. Shannon! Come and see me for a session…no charge! Hypnosis works wonders and I have helped many of my patients with this., Happy to do it for you…please call me xoxo

  8. I’ve totally been there and done that so well that I could have written this. If I were not so sleepy.

    Personally, I think that all doctors and insurance companies need to recognize that Ambien addiction is better/healthier than chronic sleep deprivation. When I started taking it and read my husband the potential side effects that included sleep-walking, sleep-talking, sleep eating and sleep sex and tried to make him promise to wake me if any of those happened he said that I was gonna be out of luck if I expected him to wake me from sleep-sexing.

    I can live with that.

    1. I used Ambien off and on for three years and never had any side effects except for woolly-Mammoth type snoring and verbal sparring with an unknown frenemy whilst asleep.

  9. Ibuprofen PM! Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) I react to the pain meds prescribed for the Spanish fractures like the black beauties that helped me through college. It’s great for getting work done during the day, but hell to pay at night. After about three nights of virtually NO sleep, on top of jet lag (I was a delightful person! Just ask the un-husband) I stopped taking pain meds after 3 PM and dosed the I-PM around ten. Have been sleeping like a baby ever since.
    Sweet dreams!

  10. Lots of good suggestions here, but wanted to share a product that two friends with life-long insomnia problems said is making them sleep like babies:


    Although I sometimes have issues with sleep (light sleeper, trouble getting to sleep, waking up too early, etc.), I can usually manage without aids, but I keep meaning to order this and try it. (My husband is a terrible insomniac so I also want to get some for him!)

    I’ve also heard that a regular bedtime routine is essential — including going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time — because your body’s natural bio-rhythms are a huge part of sleep. No blue light 2 hrs before bed, the same bedtime rituals, no caffeine after noon, and a magnesium supplement may help — most of us are deficient.

    Sleep is so important to everything else – hope you find a non-pharmaceutical solution really soon!

    1. The thing I’m most guilty of is watching tv before bed or being on the computer. Back before all these gadgets I read before bed each night and never had a problem dozing off.

  11. I’ve used 10 mgs. of Melatonin for years and it works. I haven’t ever had side effects from it. At least not that I’m aware of.

  12. From middle school through midway through my freshman year of college (when I started seeing a psychiatrist) I would sleep about three hours a night. Five on a good night. I didn’t see a problem with my sleeping habits, but according to everyone else they were less than ideal.

    She had me try dozens of things for sleep, but none of them worked for more than a week until I tried Remeron (mirtazapine).
    By then we had given up on trying to get me to sleep – I was taking it as an AD but it has a side effect of sleepiness (although it also makes you hungry). I think it’s way better than trazodone, which is more commonly used. And it’s supposed to be nonaddictive.

    It’s nice because, while it takes an hourish to start working, it feels as if you’re getting tired naturally (I think that’s why it’s nonaddictive).

    It is supposed to increase the effects of alcohol, but then so does Ambien. I would recommend it. It can be taken as needed or every night as an AD. It has helped me fall asleep and stay asleep.
    I’m still half convinced I’m falling asleep by myself – but seeing as if I take it early I can fall asleep around two and if I don’t it’s closer to five or six it’s probably the drug.

    This sounds more like a commercial more than anything else. Oops.
    Hope I helped at least.

    1. Cassie thanks so much for the recommendation. I just spoke with my neighbor about Ambien and he told me a truly tragic story. He had a friend who worked for the airlines flying in and out of Hong Kong with crazy time changes so he used Ambien. Apparently he awoke one night, confused by the Ambien, and walked right of his 34th floor balcony to his death. This story has definitely curbed my enthusiasm to go back on Ambien.

  13. Shannon I know being on my computer before bed totally stimulates my brain and makes it much harder for me to sleep. I often get trapped (reading blogs like yours etc) and before I know it even though I was very exhausted and on my way to bed when I stopped to just do one last check of Facebook, email etc it’s much later and my early night has turned into a late one because when I get into bed I NOW CANT SLEEP!! However if I continue as intended…into bed with my book… I never get enough read because I fall asleep so quickly and I sleep much more soundly! I have banned electronics before bed for my children too because I KNOW they are bad news for a good nights sleep. Television on the other hand is not really a problem. Hope you get it sorted.

  14. OK, what works for me is one ativan. It all started with menopause. so now I take one generic ativan under my tongue and it seems to work. It aint’ easy is it? But stealing your mother’s meds?????

  15. Ok, things that help me sleep. Eating something
    right before bed. I know, who wants to go to sleep on food? Well, turns out your body needs energy to sleep well. I was in the habit of cutting off food at 4 pm. That doesn’t work. If I wake early, I put a tsp of sugar under my tongue and, let it dissolve naturally. I go back to sleep. Now, this won’t be
    the case for all of course.

    Vitamin D is a big one. If you aren’t supplementing D try it out. I take a large dose. 10,000 IU 3xwk.
    Taking D has helped with many chronic issues, fatigue,
    depression, insomnia, mood swings etc…

    Sleep well.

  16. I should mention that should you supplement
    with vitamin D in large doses, it is recommended
    to add vitamin K2. Otherwise, the excess D wastes
    your vitamin A.

    I don’t do well with the K2 so I kind of ignore
    this advice. Yet, A is very important. I might try
    adding in A, and see how I fare.

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