Tag Archives: DXM

One Year Later


A year ago I was back in the psych ward.  Fifty one pills of Lorazepam taken during a blurry three hour window and a 911 call from my roommate at the time effectuated my return.  And I was angry.  Angry to be back there less than six months after my first stint, angry because I felt like no one was listening to me, and angry because I felt like no one believed me.  And even though I wouldn’t admit it, I was probably angry at myself.

Looking back, it’s amazing how near-sighted I was.  The 911 call that my roommate placed probably saved my life.  But that was the last thing I was going to admit back in April of 2013.  Kicking and screaming all the way to the hospital, I was convinced she was the crazy one.  But in the year that’s elapsed since I took that ambulance ride, a lot of details about that night have come into a sharper focus.  A few months ago, when I was still in rehab, I remembered a detail about that night that night that my denial had conveniently suppressed.  When the cops came into my apartment to escort me to the ambulance I was in my bedroom, ready to call it a night.  My roommate and I had gotten into a screaming fight and I was ready to surrender to sleep and forget about it all.  On my nightstand there was a bottle of Nyquil waiting for me.  Not my preferred brand of cough syrup at the time, I preferred Robitussin because, unlike Nyquil, there usually wasn’t any alcohol added to it.  But that night all I had was the Nyquil.

When the police walked in I was sitting up in bed, in the dark, with the bottle in my hand.  And had I drained that bottle, as was my habit at the time, I probably wouldn’t be here today to write about it.  The dose of Lorazepam I took, fifty one milligrams, is pretty close to lethal by itself.  But add alcohol to the mix, like the alcohol in the Nyquil, and I probably never would have woken up.

Thank God my roommate cared enough about me to make that call.  She told me that she had decided she’d rather lose my friendship than lose me.  There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m where I am today because of the courage and strength of the people in my life that cared enough about me to save my life even if it hurt my feelings.  A relationship can always be mended in the light of day but I might not have made it to dawn if she hadn’t picked up the phone to make one the hardest phone calls of her life.

It’s strange to be able to look back on this night with the clarity of five months sobriety.  So many things in my life have changed, a lot of things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to, and I lost a lot of good friends along the way.  But now I can look back on that night and be grateful for all the ways that I was saved. 

Looking back is certainly bittersweet, like a lot of things that have come with my sobriety.  The year between April 15, 2013 and April 15, 2014 hasn’t been an easy one.  And there are still a lot of things in my life that I have to make right.  For now, all I can do is pay it forward, and thank the people in my life who were stronger than me, by staying sober—one day at a time.




Boredom is Dangerous

I cannot handle boredom.  It’s one of the reasons I’m on Vyvanse, a wonder drug that turns my boredom into productivity without the twitchy Adderall side effects. Boredom is also one of my drug triggers– it makes me want to use.  And, most dangerous of all, boredom gives me bad ideas. And my bad ideas are generally very bad.  I.e., weekend long benders, getting unwarranted tattoos or piercings, visiting ex-boyfriends, and, the subject of today’s post, hooking up with a notoriously bad-idea guy friend.

He’d been hounding me since we first met at the beginning of my 2nd year of law school.  He was a transfer.  He was obnoxious, kind of sexist, and had a way of pissing everyone off just by existing.  Charming, right?  For some stupid reason, (perhaps the product of another bored day) I was friends with him.  He was overly sensitive and occasionally spread shit about me– kid could not keep his mouth shut– but I’d usually forgive him, get over it, and we’d go back to our dysfunctional friendship.  We fought on a regular basis but this was never truly injurious to our stupid friendship.

Sometimes I felt bad for him.  He didn’t realize that most people didn’t like him.  And he tried too hard– especially to be liked, and especially by girls.  Despite being somewhat attractive and mildly fun when you got to know him, his terrible girl-getting strategies meant that most girls just thought he was creepy.  And he hated being called creepy.  Even though he was pretty creepy at times.

Why I was friends with him is a mystery, but all of it is certainly attributable to some form of my bad judgment.  At the beginning of every semester he would try to hook up with me.  And I would quickly rebuff his advances.  This didn’t really damage our relationship, and maybe that was one of the many red flags I should have noticed.

But at the beginning of our last semester of law school, his efforts to hook up with me took a serious turn.  Usually, after I said no a few times he would stop.  But this time, it was not so easy to shake him off.  I think he was determined to get me to hook up with him before graduation.  He redoubled his efforts and wouldn’t be turned away.  He started to get angry when I scorned his advances, leaving me drunk and angry voicemails.  His texts got explicit.  And so we fought a lot.  And I spent a lot of time and energy thinking of new ways to say “no fucking way”.

But over spring break I got bored.  And this boredom proved to be deadly.  No one was in town,  the Werewolf and I had been taking a break from each other, and all I had to occupy myself with was cough syrup.  I did manage to do some pretty crazy art– my gravatar is a product of that spring break cough syrup binge.  But at the time of the deadly and injurious boredom, I was trying to resist the cough syrup and behave myself.  Which resulted in immense boredom.

On this fateful day, he was being especially persistent.  And, for once, I listened to that little voice in my head that said “why not.”  And so we hooked up.  Not something I’m proud of and it was certainly not something I told many of my friends.  It was a terrible move and I knew that I would be subject to some harsh criticism and heavy judgment– and bewilderment– by disclosing my stupidity.

The nature of this bad decision was a problem.  We made plans to see each other after the spring formal– aka law school prom.  This was about two weeks away.  Again, my reasons for agreeing to this and willfully consenting are still a mystery to me.  All I can blame it on was the crushing boredom that animated my life that spring break.

In the big scheme of things, this bad decision– I had made worse– shouldn’t have been a big deal.  But it became a very big deal.  It created the perfect storm, a storm that would erupt with my temper at the end of my law school prom.  A storm that would land me back in the hospital.  And a storm that cost me some very good friends.

You could say that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  And, in a way, it was.  Although it was not a great decision, true to the form of my boredom-induced decisions, it shouldn’t have been a life-ruiner.  He wasn’t someone I would get attached to; it was something to be ashamed of– and that should have been it.  But that wasn’t it.  That straw broke the careful, shaky, and precarious balance of my sanity and drug use.  And when it broke, it wasn’t pretty.

But that’s what boredom does to me.  It just makes things ugly.



I had it down to a science. I knew what stores sold it, whether they sold a generic, whether they sold it in soft-gel form, and whether there was a self-checkout I could use.

I knew the differences between brands and knew flavors I could tolerate. I learned to avoid the extended release formulas unless I wanted to double it up with the ordinary, old fashioned release kinds.

I knew which ones had extra ingredients like acetaminophen, guaifenesin, and sudafed. I preferred my DXM unadulterated.

I even knew what doses I needed to take to get to my desired high. And I knew the differences between the high plateaus.

I had whittled my cough syrup use down to a fine art.

I didn’t go back to cough syrup right away. After my release from the crazy house, I was sincere in my sobriety. I met with my drug counselor and made a plan. I worked with my therapist to develop coping mechanisms to get me through the drug cravings. And most importantly, I announced my new sobriety to my friends and the Werewolf.

The last bit was the hardest part; it made me squirm. Announcing my sobriety meant accountability. My friends were invited to act as watch dogs, policing me and keeping me from the ever-dangerous relapse. I hated being watched like this under any circumstances, and their lectures became more than tiresome.

Telling the Werewolf was the worst of all. It meant that our benders would be over: a thing of the past to day dream about nostalgically in sticky classrooms, sober.

I was never “completely” sober though. I worked with my therapist and together we developed a realistic plan to start me on the road to the old fashioned, strict, and– in my mind– boring sobriety.

So for me, “sobriety” meant I was allowed to occasionally smoke weed, drink in moderation, and take any pill I was prescribed (which included high doses of benzos, amphetamines, and opioids). This was clearly at odds with the common conception of “sobriety”.

For me, sobriety was ugly. It meant abstention from the hard drugs I was doing: the molly, ecstasy, morphine, vicodin, and– most importantly– my beloved DXM, conveniently and legally available at your local drug store.

Even though I was still allowed to associate with my minor vices, going “sober” was hard. The drug cravings were hard to ride out. I often had to sit at the table with my hands tucked under my thighs, watching the seconds pass on the 15 minute timer. If the craving didn’t abate in those 15 minutes, the timer was reset and the rhythmic tic tocs resumed.

I really did want to go sober. I missed my drugs but, during those the first few weeks after my hospitalization, I was able to get through my cravings by reminding myself of how awful my hospital stay had been– and how easily I could end up back there. Especially if I backslid my way into DXM.

DXM is a double-edged sword for people dealing with mental illness. Not only does DXM nullify the effects of mood stabilization drugs, it goes farther than that– DXM actually magnifies the problems of mental illness, digging you deeper into your diagnosis each time you use.

And as time passed, I started to forget why being sober was so important. The memory and shame of my hospitalization began to fade away, as did my convictions. Why was going sober so important? After all, I was high functioning even when I was using. But, most damning of alI, I was bored. Boredom will always be a trigger for me. And DXM whisked me away from that unbearable, self destructive boredom.

The days rolled by and my convictions slowly began to fade away. Three short months after my release, I was back on the cough syrup wagon with no end in sight.

I started to backslide.

Cough Syrup

Cough syrup was the greatest. It was relatively cheap, legal, and easy to get. I didn’t have to wait for townies to sell the Werewolf and I morphine or go to my super sketchy drug dealer’s house. I just drove to CVS. At first I was careful to be discrete with my purchases. I made sure to convincingly cough at the check-out and bought cough drops at the same time. I rotated between drug stores so the cashiers wouldn’t start to recognize me. It took awhile for me to muster the courage to buy two bottles at the same time. I would go to two different stores if I needed two bottles. I was also scared that someone would question me. Didn’t you get this last time? Two bottles? You know there’s abuse potential for this, don’t you? The only thing I ever got asked was for my id. And that was rare. Towards the end I was comfortable enough to boldly buy three at once, defiant and ready to snap at anyone who dared to comment.

Ironically, I had never tried cough syrup until one of my innocent, not-even-pot-smoking friends gave me the idea. Moreover, she would be horrified if she knew that she was the reason I got into cough syrup. I started to feel sick in a class that we had together and she offered me her cough syrup from when she was sick earlier that week. “Be careful, it made me really loopy.” Instantly, I was interested. I asked her what kind it was and I started scouring the internet for info about getting high on it. It turned out that you couldn’t really get high off the kind she had, there wasn’t any DXM in it. However, I quickly learned about Robitussin and was glad to find that they make it in capsule form now. The first time I got high off of it (I really was sick that time) it took me less than a whole bottle (~300 mgs) to get high. And I loved the high. I’ve never found anything dirty about it and at the time I was fascinated by how high it got me, something that was so easy– and legal– to get. I had a new drug in my arsenal.

My friends hated it. At this point, I had already started to hide some of my drug use from them. They all knew I was a stoner but not all of them knew that I was involved with anything harder– and the ones that did certainly didn’t want to hear about it. I learned how to hide it from them. How to overcome the outward forgetfulness that often stopped me in the middle of a sentence, unable to finish, or even remember, what I’d been saying. I was more cognizant of keeping my eyes alert but not too wide. I avoided talking at length to mask how out of it I was. And I definitely avoided standing. I’m a magnet for the floor when I’m on that stuff. I was so high one time that I fell down and as soon I was on the ground I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how I’d gotten there.

I started the binge around Monday or Tuesday of fall break, when we had a full week off of school. I usually (tried) to devote the time to studying and outlining for finals. I had gone to visit the Ex and that hadn’t gone well– although I did a considerable amount of molly while I was there. I left in a bad mood and was back in town by early afternoon. I think I just started smoking when I got home, even though it wasn’t even five o’clock. I was in fuck-it mode. I popped some lorazepam and got a bottle or two of cough gels. Hell, I even had a cocktail or two and I wasn’t even drinking then. I got high all by myself and had a fabulous time. I woke up the next morning and had my hands into the stash by noon.

This was not good for my physical or mental health. DXM interferes with mood medication and exacerbates mental illness– a double whammy for me. By Thursday evening my friends were concerned. I was crying for no reason, fucked up all the time and I struggled to keep myself upright when I peeled myself off the couch to walk across the room.

I checked into inpatient treatment for depression that Friday evening, still high as a kite from ingesting copious amounts of DXM, and crying like my dog had just died. And, I soon found out, it was not at all like I had imagined/hoped it would be.

Falling in the Fall

The Werewolf and I slowly started to wear each other out with drugs. But that part comes later. After a semester full of freedom and binges I came home for summer for the first time in years. I did not adjust well.

In some repressed part of my personality lies a control freak. This monster had a full revival when I came home after my second year of law. It had been years since I’d lived at home. Suddenly, I was sharing a bathroom again. I didn’t have control over the thermostat. My mom was washing my clothes because she didn’t have time to interrupt the constant cycling of laundry to let me sneak my clothes in on my own. Well, the control freak burst from me violently within days of my return to my roots. I was unhappy and uncomfortable living at home, I was surrounded by people who knew the girl who left home six years ago, not the girl standing in front of them six years later. I had forgotten what it’s like to live somewhere where you actually did have to look nice to go to Walmart because you’ll certainly see at least two people you know each time you go. I had forgotten what it’s like living in a small town on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

My brain rebelled. I panicked. I gave myself a day to panic and to frantically try to re-plan my career, to get out of the South even though it was where I thought I wanted to be. Going through the exercise soothed my anxiety. It gave me a few days to assure myself that I was doing something to control my future, that I was in control. I.was.in.control. After a few days passed I began to adjust, I started to relax, and I started to remember why I wanted come back to the South.

I only had to do six weeks at my parent’s house before I moved to the New Orleans area for my second summer job. My life was instantly better. I had freedom and control over my domain. I had a cool roommate, who owned the house and kept it immaculate. I got along well with his girlfriend, a family friend. My panic abated.

Weeks earlier I had gone to visit my friend in Baton Rouge. I couldn’t get any drugs, not even weed, and I freaked. I got too drunk, then I became psychotically frustrated at our inability to procure drugs. I didn’t want to be drinking, I wanted to be high. In my drunkenness I let myself get upset by something menial and the uncontrollable crying began. I called the stupid crisis center aat my school because I desperately wanted to talk to my counselor. He wasn’t on duty. I was clearly in distress, unable to stop crying long enough to be understood, but the crisis line was not able to provide any help. I gave myself a few scratches and eventually passed out.

But that changed once I moved to New Orleans. I had access to some drugs and I was busy at work. I started training for the Chicago marathon, with an aggressive new goal looming. This was the beginning of the downward spiral that would end with my first hospitalization. Confident my old knee injuries were healed, and forgetting about my substantial back injury, I changed shoes and my stride as I began to train for the marathon. As time went on my back got worse and worse. It got so bad that I had to see the chiropractor 3 times a week. Eventually, and inevitably, I burst into tears during one of those meetings because I frustrated didn’t understand why my back wasn’t getting better. I’m 24 years old, I kept thinking, I shouldn’t be having these problems. My chiropractor stopped what he was doing and sat down.

“You have to stop running.”

I initially thought that this was not an option. After all, I’d been training all summer and, now back at school, the race was within my reach. But my back never got better. So I stopped running. I didn’t even show up to the marathon. My mood took a decidedly sharp turn towards what would become a debilitating depression. I stopped running but my back kept getting worse. It was painfully uncomfortable sitting through classes. My back constantly hurt. The hurt ranged from a constant dull, achy pain to an intense, sharp pain that accompanied every left footed step. I was constantly in pain and my back wasn’t responding to treatment. I had to stop working out because everything I did hurt my back. Without the exercise endorphins, I sank deeper into my depression. I started sleeping 13 hours a night. I took long and unnecessary naps during the day. If I missed just one dose of my bipolar medicine I would be prone to random crying jags, set off by nothing at all.

This scared me. I felt crazier and started to worry about my sanity in earnest. During one particularly bad crying jag, brought on by folding towels, I started to wonder if I should I think about inpatient treatment. At the start of my third year of law school I’d been functionally “kicked out” of counseling. I was told that I needed more help than they could give me, ie needed therapy more than once a two weeks. They sent me off with a reference, leaving me to my own devices to find a new psychiatrist. Upon discharging me they “highly recommended” outpatient rehab for my substance abuse. I declined.

But getting kicked out of counseling made me feel crazier. The crying jags didn’t go away. I was sleeping too much and had no energy to go to class and take care of my work. Every time I started crying for no reason, I thought more seriously about a brief jaunt in inpatient treatment. I sunk down deeper into my depression. The Werewolf wanted to take a break from drugs and me. I was on my own and this made it worse.

Then I discovered the substance that would break the levee, causing my depression to breach and drown the last bit of sanity that I was holding unto. DXM broke the levee. My depression and my crazy drowned my sanity. The DXM nagged the little sanity I had left.

And then the levee broke.

And then I checked myself into inpatient treatment.

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