Well friends, If you recall I announced last week that I'd had a recent breakthrough and had started writing my book again. What I did not mention is that I've been struggling with an addiction that has crept up on me in the last year or so. It's an addiction to a perscribed drug called Ritalin. It was perscribed over a decade ago by my original ID doctor and seemed to work off and on. If taken in moderation it helped balance the erratic zigs and zags in my attention span or rather the LACK of said. I always noticed that I would work for several days before it seemed to build in my system and begin to act like the speed that it actually is. I learned to moderate the dosage myself, often taking LESS than the perscribed amount .
In the last year and a half since beginning hiv meds, I have had less and less physical activity . I'm also home most of the time since my partner and I got our house about 4 1/2 years ago…Our schedule is a late one and I find myself staying up late per his schedule and getting up early. This is my choice as I could go back to bed but don't want to feel like a total slacker.
Here's the thing…I learned from a friends children that the high school kids were crushing their Ritalin and snorting it …When taken this way, the drug ceases to act like the modifier is is supposed to be and the effects become closer to that of cocaine or crystal meth…not that I would know what those are like! ( A -HEM!)
The Ritalin began to affect my sleep which by the way has never been what you could call normal . I've had sleep disorders since childhood , either only sleeping a few hours or not being able to wake up. I can go from sitting up watching a movie to asleep and instantly into a REM cycle, skipping all the "ramping" stages of sleep one normally goes through before dreaming. These never last long enough for me to be truly rested and then when It is time for sleep, I'm usually wide awake.
Over the last year and a half, it crept into every facet of my life as I gradually got onto the merry-go-round of Ritalin and sleeping pills. The Ritalin to stay awake and function, and a good sleeping pill (also Perscription) to knock myself out…The next day, coffee and Ritalin to clear the cobwebs and function and so on….
Now it wasn't like I was in danger if becoming another Heath Ledger or Michael Jackson. ….right? Well no*immediately* I told myself…. But there have been nights that I have so desperately wanted to turn off the chatter in my head that I would have happily plundered Michael J's medicine chest for his Profofal if given the opportunity.
Nearly anyone knows that sleep deprivation in itself will make a person crazy, but what is lesser known is why…Besides the rest your body needs in order to repair itself, the brain needs to re-calibrate at the end of the day…This involves those wonderful REM cycles commonly known as "dreaming"…Yepp, without the ability to dream, we would all be crazier than we already are!
When I was at the point of choosing a hiv regimen i quickly excluded Atrippla because it contains Sustiva…I figured that between all the crazy that runs in my family and my long history of difficulty achieving a solid nights sleep, that it wouldn't be a good idea! Actually I think I told my doctor " Thanks doc, but I'm halfway to Crazy Town and I don't need a bus pass!" He agreed but then continued to happily perscribe my Ritailn and sleep meds…By the way, addicts have wonderful way of mastering "normal" for their doctors . You guys out there KNOW what I mean…On the other end of the spectrum, give me 10 minutes with a shrink and I can have her white-haired and CLAWING for a perscription pad! It's all how you work it….Again you know who you are…
Alright…it's been a very hard thing to admit but there it is : I have an addiction to my perscription meds…Ritalin is, by the way, SPEED and speed was like mothers milk to me growing up. I self-medicated on her diet pills most of the way through school and thus probably mapped my brain for future addiction to the stuff. Being terribly ADD, it actually helped me perform closer to "normal" at a time before Ritalin hit the market and they began turning our kids into (legal) Speed addicts.
In the past year a friend of mine commented that the Ritalin wasn't helping me to focus, it was just making me " go in disorganized circles only a lot faster." Nice. I saw it and my partner saw it although he knows me well enough to know that I had to get to the point where I said "enough".
The sticky part comes where I stop…I'm on disability and have been for awhile now…Those of you who know anything about that also know that the bureaucrats are loath to "give" someone that status if they have ever had a substance abuse problem. So that instantly marked out the possibility of entering some sort of rehab or even counseling program. I have to do this the hard way and I'm doing it close to the same way I quit smoking 15 years ago: Cold Turkey.
It might sound funny to those of you who were addicted to crack cocaine or crystal meth but this has been REALLY hard. My body has become accustomed to operating on this drug for over a decade! My "narcolepsy" as my partner calls it has kicked back in and I fall asleep at the most inappropriate times for instance at a movie that I've waited months to see.
In the last several months I've watched my face age mainly due to lack of adequate sleep and my moods have gone downhill from my usual optimistic self…OK let me correct myself here….I struggle to BE and optimistic person but I had began to slide into the realm of gloom more often than not. Winter has never been my season and it's too easy to slide into depression during the best of those months.
Well the good news is that this marks the end of a week without the Ritalin and guess what? I have begun to have dreams again! Scientists say that we all dream but not all of us remember them…I remember having the most lucid and vivid dreams whenever I was able to achieve even a brief RAM state but that had eluded me for a long time. Until this week that is. Aright, given some of them have been kind of disturbing dreams but none the less , I'm dreaming again …My brain is trying to sort the day out as it should while I'm sleeping.
Now I just have to deal with being around people again…but not on Ritalin. I hate to admit it but I had also become accustomed to everyday function on the stuff from going to the Post office to the grocery store to having the guts to get into the thick of Atlanta traffic during rush hour ( which is by the way, a cluster-F*** at any time on a GOOD day and only second to LA in commute time).
Will miss my Ritalin? Damn right I will ! Like anything we've become accustomed to using as a crutch, I will probably limp for awhile without it. But I'm determined to get along without it. I lost a dear friend to crystal meth addiction a couple of years ago but his addiction was "illegal". Mine has been harder to admit because it was a perscribed substance.. But my body has been telling me that if I want to live ANY sort of a normal lifespan I have to keep my blood pressure from SPEWING out of my ears and get some normal sleep. Otherwise, as Janice Joplin put it : " I'm not just burning the candle at both ends, I'm taking a F****** blowtorch to the middle!".
It's not really the way I want to go out folks. Dealing with oncoming decrepitude and hiv is a plate full in itself don't you think? I know that artists are supposed to suffer, but I think my childhood and my family earned me those stripes already. Enough is ENOUGH.
Thanks for listening…..Now I have to go make a HUGE pot of coffee. This frekin book isn't going to write itself!
Rant Over, Loki out