The death of Heath Ledger stirred up my own mental images on drug abuse. His death just validates the fact that prescription medications are as lethal as any narcotics when taken without reserve.
I myself have gone through the pains and hurdles of a life controlled by these substances. It was not easy and it was not pretty. People tend to think that those who fall to this periphery are faulty and weak. The fact of the matter is, prior to one being sucked into this deadly habit, most individuals are just as strong as anyone. All individuals go through a roller coaster ride throughout their lives. When one is down, he is down. But when one is down and offered the easy way to to go back up, most individuals would take it. When the opportunity to go back up presents itself at your weakest and lowest, human instinct is to grab a life saver, not knowing that that life saver could one day become the lethal ride.
It is sad that most of us do not understand the darkness of depression. It will hurt more when people closest to you will tell you to "GET OVER IT...". Don't they know that everyone wants to get over pain? The question is how. If we know how, then we might not have to make decisions, just stride up ahead...then you'll be ok. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
I most certainly did not intend to be dependent on any form of substance. Let alone be addicted to any. I was pretty opinionated and a strong willed individual. Unfortunately, I went through an impediment and the 'cure' presented itself so willingly with the help of a physician. I thought I was doing the right thing and I thought I'm entrusting my mental health to a professional. Yes, he was a professional, but the moment i started feeling he was no longer helping me but the medication is, then I opted to self medicate. Yes, all I needed was his signature on a piece of paper saying I should be able to obtain 125 Rohypnols (Flunitrazepam), every couple of months, then every month, then every couple of weeks, then every week. That's all it took. All of a sudden it does not work anymore, so I decided to increase the dosage, and increased it, and increased it and increased it....
Rohypnol is called the date-rape-drug because it is so strong, 10 times as potent as Valium, it knocks you down completely. It is used to spike up drinks in clubs with the usual intent of raping a woman without her remembering anything. If you try and force yourself to be awake for a while, you won't be able to remember anything you did while awake. They use this drug to sedate patients prior to surgery. Rohypnol has never been approved for sale in the United States, but are regularly smuggled through mail usually from Latin America. Some crush the pills and snort it to feel the effects quickly. I wanted it slow and easy, because it then allows me to go in a hypnotic state slowly and longer before it knocks me down completely.
I got to a point where Rohypnol doesn't work wonders anymore, so I went back, and asked for something else. I started on a new one, but the fact is Rohypnol is the strongest Benzo there is available, so when it stopped working, I added it on top of the new weaker one such as stilnox, diazepam, and all the others. This process just went on and on and on, until I realised, I was already taking three different kinds of benzodiazepines as well as three other anti-depressants. When those did not work, topped it up with a couple bottles of red wine, did lots of tricks in my brain.
The doctor soon noticed the dependency, so he started regulating the prescriptions. But that was easily fixed. Boy, I love shopping, but this was the shopping I hated the most, DOCTOR SHOPPING. I went to another Doctor and another and another. Between five Doctors, they didn't notice my abuse of these drugs... But I noticed it my self.
I was not me. I went to work not knowing why I was there. I called people and did not know I called them. I drove to places I did not know I went. I did things far too impossible for me to do, and spoke of things I do not normally speak of. It was a bizarre world to be in. Imagine living a life where you do not have control of your own mental state...It is not a good world to be in.
Nothing seemed to matter unless I've had my hit.
This living went on for I think Three years, I am not sure exactly how long it went because I have no recollection of when it exactly started and when it stopped. I just got to days where I'd wake up in the middle of the night with my brain banging up my skull. Literally, throbbing inside the skull and I could hear it. I'd wake up because I'd stopped breathing. I'd wake up because I was palpitating like a drum played by Gene Simmons. I'd wake up because I thought I was awake. I walked, not knowing I was awake, and I'd awake not knowing that my brain was still asleep. My nose was constantly bleeding, for reasons unbeknownst to me then. No word could explain the state that I went through over the years other than grotesque.
The thing is, most of these people who died of overdose did not intend to die. They intended to have a hit. When one does not work, you add on top of it. and another. and another. It's the chasing of that high that kills.
I might have been blessed, and God probably really loves me. He woke me up slowly, and with the tiny bit of sanity left in me, made me realise that I have far too much to live for. I have way better things to do and my mind is destined for something useful. I am sure, had it gone on for another year longer, then I'd also be found dead on over dose. With presumptions of suicide up in the air.
Those were the deepest and darkest days of my life. I did not know how to get back up. I tried to stop the medications, but then I'd medicate and replace it with something else...Alcohol. Just like any form of addiction, you stop one, but move to another.
I went to work every day, most probably smelling like a drunk from the previous night's binge. Before midday, I'd start shaking and craving for that high again. I hated those tremors in my body. I hated it so bad. So I always ended up going home before 4:21, in a hurry to buy that nice red wine from the bottle shop. Before dusk comes, I would have reached that hiatus and filled it in with a sham superficial appearance induced by the dynamism of alcohol. Then I'd collapse either in bed or on the couch. This happened day after day after day. I'd truly say, it was luck that saved me from loosing my job.
It was not as if one day I woke up and with the snap of St. Peters finger, I stopped and changed for good.
It was a long, arduous and will-testing road. Substance addiction is a formidable foe. If you can avoid it, do so without ambivalence.
When it happened to me, I had no one. My family, the only people who probably loves me unconditionally, are thousands of miles away. They did not know the full extent of the problem, nor did I intend to let them know. I did not even know how deep the problem was. My husband did not understand. My friends turned around. What's worst is they speculated, some disseminated wrong information about what is happening, and one even went as far as concocting lies about me. How some friends love making other people's misery as their form of regalement, is beyond the moral values that I've been taught. So honestly, I can not understand and explain where other people's values stand. Other than the fact that narrow mindedness does exist in humanity, then it is not for me to question how other people act, how other people talk, and how other people treat other people. It's fascinating how friends can rob salt to injury. Now that I have my mind back...I realise how powerful my mind can be. It's capable of so many things. It's even capable of forgiving without reservation. It is that power that gives me the leverage, because it allows me to understand.
What happened to my son during those days? Nothing. That is exactly what happened. Nothing. He grew up without my full and indubitable attention. He grew up missing out on the abounding support that he should have had from his Mum, to use up his full potential during those three years. It was wrong. So wrong. And I hope to God that one day, I will somehow find the way to forgive my self for that temporary inability. Now, I have sworn to my self that any opportunity, any activities that he would want to take on, he will have my undivided attention and support.
The light started coming through the dark tunnel as it became bumpier. The worst it became, the more I realised I had to get out of that twisted world. I was even told that I went to a party one time with lipstick all over my face and apparetly, I was drooling. You could jus imagine what an ugly site it was. One day I woke up again not able to breath. I was literally gasping for air. The more I gasp, the stronger the shaking becomes and the bigger the throb and the louder the banging is in my brain. I thought I lived to tell the tale of my drowning incident when I was younger, but i will not be able to live to protect my son from drugs or from any form of harm. while I was lying on the bed trying so hard to breath, I begged God for another chance. I knew then I needed to do something.
First, I accepted that there is a problem in me. I went to a doctor, known as the drug dealer. He is called so because most of the druggies go to him when they want to quit. First he regulates the drugs that you take, gives you something else to medicate the trembling and shaking and sweating as a result of withdrawal. If you stick to the program, you will slowly but surely be off the hook in no time. Sounds easy???? Not so. Most of these people ends up going back to the old habits. One relapse...that's all it takes, and you're back to square one.
Anyway, I got a referral from, guess who... the physician who first introduced me to this drug!!! Then I went to the 'drug dealer', asked him for help. I opted to be admitted in the hospital, that way, I will be away from temptations. So I had a detox for over two weeks. Prior to the detox program, I attended several relaxation classes in over a month in a substance abuse centre in the hospital here in Darwin. There, a nurse called Maree, a specialist in this field, looked after me. She is an angel. She was with me all the way, offered support and a shoulder to lean on when the going gets too tough. She offered encouragement when I wanted to pullout. Back then, I did not think too much of her. But now, I haven't seen her for I think five years, and I feel she was an angel sent to me. I can't remember her surname, I don't know where she is, but if I see her, I can never forget her face. She was God-sent.
When the detox program started, they can't take me off the Rohypnol straight there and then because the dosage that I was taking was beyond funny. If I was to stop all of a sudden, I might have seizure, which almost happened, because when I was attending those relaxation classes, I attempted to stop taking the drug many times. I wanted it out of my system so badly. My blood pressure went so low. So I had to come off it slowly under the supervision of the 'drug dealer'... Sorry but I don't want to put his name in here... All I can say is I was in 'GOODHANDS'. As I've said, hes not really a drug dealer, he regulates the drugs for those who want to stop and sets a proper program for proper withdrawal. (Thanks God, there's one like him)
During those two weeks, I had vitamin needles morning, midday and nightfall. All the vitamins I needed to nourish me. I became so agitated, so anxious, had tremors and tension, anxiety of all levels, paranoia and lethargy. All the nasty feelings involved in withdrawal...
Came two weeks, and I had to go home. I've never had alcohol for two weeks, the longest I've been off it in years. I thought I was fine. I was excited to go home. When I got home, the reality of it all struck me like a wild gush of wind. It was overwhelming. I was not ready. I went straight to the liquor store, bought a a bottle...that was at 10:00AM, I was released from he hospital at 9:00 AM. I gulped it down from the bottle like a thirsty desert traveler. My husband was at work, my son at school. I was alone. That was the mistake. I should never have been released alone on my own. The one true friend that I have, Ate RC was there. I rang her up and told her of what just happened. She tucked me in bed, literally, and told me to sleep it off.
When I woke up. I thought to my self, I'm not going to be beaten. Everything is not going to waste. My persistence should be stronger than the impulses, and my resolve should be as strong as my purpose.
The determination in me persisted.
Over the next few months , my system's let go of the nasty withdrawal symptoms, such as trembling and anxiety. I've learned that when I'm on my lowest, I should not take the easy way back up. It will be painful and hard, but I will get back up. If I choose to take the easy way back up, then the road ahead will be dimmer. I've learned to manage my own fears and weaknesses. I realised that no matter how anxious I become, nothing bad happens. So I let it pass.
One year passed, then two, then three.....Then I'm free. I've learned when to drink alcohol, and when to stop. Right now, I hate drinking alcohol. Gives me a hang over. During my alcoholic years, I've never had hang overs...I can have two bottle of red wine a night or a bottle of vodka and wake up the following morning and go to work as if nothing happened.
The craving for Benzos went down the drain. Something I would not try and pick up once again. In the first year or so, I've noticed my memory was so bad. I forget so easily. My cognitive ability frittered a bit. I had to get people to explain to me two or three times (specially at work) before I fully comprehend. These were just few of the small things I've noticed my self.
Where I am right now is the biggest achievement Ive ever done in my lifetime for my self. I got my confidence back. I got my memory and my brain back. I got me back.
I was not going to share this story to anyone, although my family and friends knew of what went on during those years, they did not know the depth of the problem. It was not something I'd boldly announce to people, because there is nothing to it that was grand. Today, the only pride that I got out of that experience is the fact that I got out of it completely intact, sane, and strong and with confidence striding up ahead to better my self as an individual.
When I heard of Heath Ledger's death on sleeping tablets...it made me sick to my stomach. Another talent gone, wasted. I do not know him personally. But the fact is, when we go and watch their film, we become, in our own little way, get enmeshed in their lives in the tiny world of movies and televisions. I was driving to work when I heard of his death over the radio. When I got to work, I could not shake it off my mind, because although they did not announce the cause of his death the first day, how it sounded is very familiar to me already. He was asleep, did not wake up. Rung a lot of bells in my mind. When they made more information available to the public and I heard of the sleeping tablets, I prayed and thanked God once again that I took the path that i did.
It's sad to see people go because of drug abuse. His death more because I actually like his films, specially the 'BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN'.
We've seen the deaths of Marilyn Monroe, John Belushi, Elvis Presley, Anna Nicole Smith, River Phoenix. We've witnessed how the enigmatic Bobby Fischer slowly disintegrated with substance abuse. His slow decline was embarrassing and scandalous. He said things he might not have meant. It's a slow and agonising death, because it does not only destroy you physically, emotionally and mentally, but socially as well. If you don't die with over dose, you die with illness induced by these chemicals.
So who do you think is next? Britney Spears?
At the rate she's going, it's inevitable. I just hope that she will want to stop. Because if people force you to stop, the likelihood of success is so deficient. She herself will have to want to stop. If she's ready, and wants to stop so badly, she can do it. But if she is not ready, then no one can help her.
I was listening to a local FM radio station here in Darwin and they have declared that day a 'Britney-free' zone. The radio announcer went on saying, she's so happy with what's happening to Britney right now. She said she loves seeing Britney fall, and that it gives her pleasure to see Britney go down the drain, or something to that effect. How can one hope something like that for another individual??? I don't like Britney as a singer myself. But I would want to see her live. I don't want another person dying with drugs. Famous nor not, I don't enjoy watching anyone-ANYONE go through what I've gone through because it's an awful awful feeling to be on that shoes. I could never hope for it to happen even to the worst of my enemies...not that I have one.
I am sharing my story not to make excuses, but to show you the dangers of prescription drugs. Although they are drugs prescribed by doctors, it does not mean they are safe. When taken indiscriminately, they can just be as addictive and as lethal. I am not the authority to speak about substance abuse, let alone do wonders in the world, but I can speak through experience.
We all have something in our past that we are not so proud of, this is mine. But If in my lifetime, I can change one, even just one life for the better, then it was not all in vain. If by sharing my story, I can touch one soul, then I can say there is something in it that I could be proud of. Hence, I can say that those dark days I've gone through, happened for a reason...and as I always say, happened for a reason, reason worthy of living....