Thrills, Chills, Spills...

There are two activities at my company that I enjoy in particular.  The first one is the Phishing Emails.  Once a month or so, the internet department sends out a scam e mail to try and fool you into clicking it.  If you suspect it's a scam, there's a button in Outlook you hit to mark it - and if you're correct, you get a pop-up thanking you for remaining vigilant.  If you just delete it, that's fine too.  But woe be unto you if you open the file, click the link, etc.  You get a pop-up telling you that you were fooled and to be more careful.  And your manager gets a report.  And then they come and remind you to be careful.  And if you do it twice within a year, you retake the spam training.

The thing about it is, they are diabolical with the e mails.  They aren't your typical Nigerian Prince needs money or your bank account needs you to create a new password.  They're usually topical, and fairly believable, and they appeal to your emotions.  In my nine months, I've managed to find most of them.  One of them got me.  It was at Halloween - a photo contest for pets in costumes.  DAMMIT!  November was a Black Friday discount on computers to employees. Over the Summer?  Free Eclipse Glasses.  The one we got two days ago was a drawing for Super Bowl tickets.

Anyway, I'm hyper-vigilant about them especially since I got zinged in October.

The second thing is that every week on the company intranet site, they have a Quiz or Survey.  The surveys are things like "What's Your New Year's Resolution"  and the tests are typically about some article that has been posted that week.  I do pretty well on them.   I chose wrong this week, but it's the question that I think merits discussing.

The question asked approximately how many Tennesseans have an opioid addiction.  The answer is 69,100.   That's startling.  That's a lot of people.  The population of the state is 6.6 million, but 69,100 people is a lot of damn people.

But here's the thing, folks.  I get it.  I really, really get it.  Taking pills is about the easiest method of taking drugs.  Injecting things into your veins?  Dicey?  Smoking...anything - well, that's scary, and honestly, I have never operated a bong, or crack pipe.  I've never rolled a joint.  I have trouble using Afrin, so cocaine?  Nah.  LSD and Shrooms - what if you go crazy forever?

When I was 21, I had my wisdom teeth out. It was over Spring Break of my Junior Year at UGA.  They were all in, and all impacted.  They had to break a few of them to get them out.  One of them had grown in sideways.   They had me kind of sedated and twilighty.  When it was over, Dad got me a shake, I think -  and filled my prescription for hydrocodone. 

And I went home and took a pill and went to bed.  And I slept soundly, and all of the things I had been worried about at school faded into a blur.   I was worried, as it happens about a philanthropy event I had to put together, and I just couldn't get it rolling, and I honestly didn't care.  And I was worried about finding an internship, and I was puzzling over where to live my last year of school.  I knew that my room was going to get taken out from under me, because I wasn't an officer in my sorority, and my current roommate hated me and had decided to room with a totally different sister.  And I didn't have anyone else to room with, and fuck all of them anyway. 

So what I did was drink milkshakes and take my pills and spend much of Spring Break doped up on my parents' couch.  I got off pills long enough to get a haircut, buy a dress, and interview for an internship doing media with the Democratic Party of Georgia.  I did not get that internship.  Possibly because of the large bruise on my left jaw/face, but more likely because I wasn't really all that sharp.  Sharp enough to drive to downtown Atlanta (probably).  I was sharp enough to stop and get a shake at The Varsity, then get home, and put on a nightgown and take another pill. 

I remember meeting a friend at Chili's, and so I had to be alert enough to do that.  I feel pretty sure I didn't eat. 

Several days before I was to go back to school, Mom took my pills.  She said I didn't need them any more.  I protested, "But I'm in paaaaaaaiiiiin!"  She told me that I could use Advil for whatever pain I had left.

I managed to hang on to three pills.  I had them put aside for some reason, and I didn't feel the need to hand them over to Mom.  They were red.  I remember keeping them, and knowing that I had them in case I had what I called a "red pill day", when I would need to escape from whatever shit reality I was dealing with.  I had been taking Prozac, but it was not making me feel as good as when I first started.  But the truth is, I managed.  I got an internship at WAGA-TV.  I took a class where I met Matt.  We didn't start dating for a few years, but every relationship starts somewhere.  I got through the philanthropy event, and it was terrible.  But I got through it.  I managed to survive my final quarter in the sorority house, and it was terrible.  But I got through it.  I found a room in a four person apartment with one sorority sister, her friend, and a girl we didn't know.  That came with its own problems, and it was terrible, but I got through it. 

Hello darkness, my old friend.

I think I may have taken one of the pills.  I don't know what I did with the others.  But I got through everything without red pills. 

But man, I get it.  One quick gulp and your problems blur and you feel good, and safe and loose.

The other small voyage into pills was during Dad's heart surgery and subsequent recovery.  Mom had a small cache of Soma.  It's a muscle relaxer that has a propensity for addiction.  Every weekend, when I came down, I'd take one to sleep.  And it worked perfectly.  I was out for eight hours, and awake the next morning with no hangover like I get with Benadryl or NyQuil.  Thankfully, there were just a few of them, and no refills.

So, yeah.  Pills.  I get it.  Boy, do I ever get it. 

That said, I think that there are legit reasons to use strong painkillers.  For pain.  Recreationally?  Well...I don't know.  Maybe more petting zoos, and bubble baths and disco music.

I don't know what the solution is.  I don't even know why I felt compelled to share this, but I think it's important to know that it can happen to anyone.  Most people don't set out to abuse their meds.  I didn't.  But I got through it.

That's all.



Mum saved you from addiction. Your reaction was the classic early stage psychological-dependence addict's typical response. Thank mum. From all of us, your friends, as well.

Pets in costumes? You fell for that?!?
ae said…
She absolutely saved me from addiction. Three of my four grandparents were alcoholics, so my addiction chances are high.
Christopher said…
You’ve hit on something very important here: people don’t intend to become addicts. With opioids, though, the very nature of their biochemistry means a person taking them pretty quickly becomes dependent on them just to feel normal. They alter the brain’s receptors so eventually not taking them causes pain. Your mother was very smart, but obviously there’s no single simple solution to both deal with the current opioid crisis and to prevent it from recurring.