The Waiting Room


I really hate sitting in these waiting rooms; all the chairs look the same, with the same dread-locked pattern of melancholy blues and manic reds. The paintings are abstract in that they are not so much art as they are void of art. They sit stagnant on the yellow walls and watch the patients tap their feet, one two three four, the dance of the mentally ill.

I am alone in the waiting room today, save for a large woman who eyes me suspiciously. I am always nervous before the appointments and so I feign asthma and use my inhaler. It doesn’t much work for anxiety, but it calms my nerves just thinking it might. I finger the magazines for a minute but quickly stand up. I cannot sit still here. I walk to reception and use the alcohol based sanitizer. I wonder if my Doctor will think I smell like alcohol. I wonder if I will have to explain I have just used the pungent sanitizer in the waiting room.

She is five minutes late and so I read the billboard. Apparently “The Mood Swing Orchestra” needs guitarists and singers. No experience required. I wonder how one can have an orchestra with people who cannot sing and people who cannot play guitar. I am guessing that if you’re crazy enough you don’t really need to play the guitar: maybe you can just cradle it in your arms and smile at the crowd; Thorazine buzzing throughout your brain.

A large poster screams at me, “YOU CAN QUIT SMOKING.” I laugh under my breath – if you have arrived at this clinic quitting smoking is likely at the bottom of your to-do list. Brushing your teeth is a good place to start.

A sign is taped to the reception window: “ANY VIOLENT OR DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOR WILL BE PERSECUTED.” The patients at this clinic are usually on so many medications they can hardly walk never mind exhibit any abuse. Furthermore, I question if they understand what persecuted really means. It sounds close to executed.

Opiates & Little Lies

Ten Years Ago

I can’t think of anything that makes me more excited than a bottle of fun prescription drugs. Fun is the key word. It doesn’t take a lot to get them—a period of time has to pass since the last prescription, or I can be creative. I can tell my Doctor that the barometric weather changes have caused a surge in my migraines. I haven’t really had a migraine in months but I do take a lot of Advil.

He looks at me and confers. Yes, it has been rather ugly outside, have you looked up migraine triggers? I tell him I have not and feign shock when he tells me that aspartame, a staple in my fucked up diet, could be causing these. In my life, not having drugs is a trigger.

He asks me when I last had a prescription for Demerol. Seven, maybe eight months I tell him. He does not bother flipping a few pages and checking his notes. Just to be sure, I tell him I am out of asthma inhalers and my skin has been breaking out. This, I believe, deters from the absolute fact that I am sitting in his tired office for one reason: Drugs.

He grabs the special pink prescription pad reserved for drugs of abuse and a pen. But before the ink hits the beautiful script I tell him that the Demerol is giving me nausea. In fact, it often makes me vomit.

Doctor (dealer) hums and haws, looks toward the ceiling, and then asks me if a drug closely related to morphine might be a good idea? My heart starts to race but I express concern. I ask him, is this drug habit forming? He chuckles and tells me that he cannot believe the amount of people who come in, people my age, feigning pain and asking for drugs like this. How awful I whisper, how sad, it’s a good thing you can figure out which ones are really in pain. He tells me it’s obvious and he can tell from a mile away. And I decide what a great actress I am again. So great that it may kill me.

He tells me, still smiling while writing the glorious script, that I need not worry about it. I am not like those people my age who lie. I walk out of his office, thanking him (for his ignorance), and beeline it to the pharmacy. Sometimes, the pharmacy feels like home. They bottle drugs like the meals I don’t make; they have comfortable chairs and scented candles I can buy. They are home.


Eight Years Ago

At some point, every addict has a realization. Whether or not they wake up in a hospital bed or decide they have found god. Whatever. We realize that we can’t stop. The control that drugs once gave us, the feeling of careless bliss, is gone.

I realize that Ritalin is no different than cocaine was in my life, only it is free, bottled by an educated hand and placed in a bag for me to take home. Sometimes, when I’ve been up for a couple of days I read my own book. The one about recovery. The one which left readers with some semblance that I had recovered. And I had, for a while, I really tried.

I skip to the middle and read about my own addiction but it feels like someone else. I should have learned from everything in that fucking book, but instead I fumble through the days writing articles about recovery – something I am clearly not excelling at.

Who the hell snorts pills?


Ten Years Ago

Forty pills in a bottle. I count them when they are fresh and new; they are white and they remind me that I am in control. Prescribed pills. I take them as I should, as the bottle screams: take one table every four hours up to four times a day. Demerol is prescribed for moderate to severe pain. Sometimes, when my world burns to shit, I hurt. My head hurts; my brain hurts. Depression. The bottle sits in the closet. I obsess over it – just one. And then two. And then never again.

Demerol makes you feel like you are floating, sort of like Valium, but a hell of a lot better. Floating and despondent. And I like floating. I can sit still – and I can recognize the pattern. The addict in me, having become complacent, is invading my life. Again.

 Fear interrupts the floating and I hide the bottle in the back of my closet where I can find it but I promise myself it will stay. I just cannot throw it away. Maybe I’ll break my ankle one day…maybe. You cannot rule these things out. You just cannot. You need reasons for the reasons.

The bottle lives in the closet for a few weeks. I feel triumphant. The pills, they don’t control me, no, I am in control. I am perfectly fine. I am utterly sober. I promise, I am. If my secret lives in my closet it does not exist. And either do I.

On Having Loved and Lost and Why I Don’t Give a Shit

It is easier to forget everything Before when your feet are solid and standing in Now. But still. I think of my first love often. I was 18, my eye-liner dark and my lips red. He was blonde haired, baggy jeaned, and blue eyed. It was that silly, infamous, feeling of first love. We would stay up nights listening to The Doors, sketching in bed, our legs tangled and bare. For five years we battled our love before we let it go. I picture him now; older but still beautiful with his high cheekbones and soft though worked hands. First love is special.

My second love, tall and lanky and certainly impressionable, was smart and addicted to his fancy blue prelude and video games. He was like play-dough – shifting under my watchful eye. But love just the same. A shared home; shared pets. His desire for me to slow down and my desire for him to speed up. It ended with few tears; mutual, as much as these things can be. He is married now and his wife is stunning, blonde and beautiful and his two daughters smile brightly. I am nothing if not happy for him.

My third love, like my first, was quick to fall and five years to last. He talked quickly, walked even faster, and constantly pissed me off. We shared the same taste in music and the same sexual proclivities. We would frequent video stores; the kind with sectioned off areas where you could rent silly videos like Pirates of the Caribbean but the cast was all nude. Johnny Depp would have been unimpressed.

We claimed sobriety together and traveled the United States: spending time in cabins in Mount Baker; drinking, running in the rain, hiking, snowboarding. We went to many concerts and even more hockey games. We loved deeply. We hated equally. I miss him still – though never enough.

Nine years later I remain unattached. I suppose it will stay that way. I am not missing anything for I have had love, in three different ways and with three different people, throughout my 35 years.

I have my daughter now; a different kind of love, the kind you never forget, the kind you must protect. The rest is bullshit at this point.