Give me that pill!

What is your drug of choice?  There is a reason I never really got into drugs- illegal or prescription.  Somewhat like Woody Allen’s attitude in Annie Hall:

Alvy Singer: (As Annie is trying to get him to smoke weed) Yeah, grass, right? The illusion that it will make a white woman more like Billie Holiday.

Annie Hall: Well, have you ever made love high?

Alvy Singer: Me? No. I – I, you know, If I have grass or alcohol or anything, I get unbearably wonderful. I get too, too wonderful for words. I don’t know why you have to get high every time we make love.

Annie Hall: It relaxes me.

Alvy Singer: You have to be artificially relaxed before we can go to bed?

Annie Hall: Well, what’s the difference anyway?

Alvy Singer: Well, I’ll give you a shot of sodium pentothal. You can sleep through it.

Annie Hall: Oh come on. Look who’s talking. You’ve been seeing a psychiatrist for 15 years. You should smoke some of this. You’d be off the couch in no time.

 [Later in the film Alvy is asked to try cocaine]

Alvy Singer: I don’t want to put a wad of white powder in my nose. There’s the nasal membrane…

Annie Hall: You never want to try anything new, Alvy.

Alvy Singer: How can you say that? Whose idea was it? I said that you, I and that girl from your acting class should sleep together in a threesome.

Alvy’s sex fantasies aside, drugs just seemed like more trouble than they were worth.  What little experimentation I did in my Mesozoic era taught me one important thing- drugs are never as fun as they are a complete, mostly negative distortion of perception; something I was not too keen to repeat (although the fuzzy, laugh enabling feeling from a glass of wine can be cathartic).  Coming down from various drugs after surgeries and caesarians just made me headachy and afflicted with nausea.  Why people want to take those drugs is beyond me.

But. 

Right now I am on a strong dose of prednisone for a truly horrifying case of hives.  Hives that prove no vacation is a real one unless someone gets sick (at least it wasn’t one of the kids vomiting in a hotel bed this time).

Husband confirmed tonight (he found the bite holes) what I suspected at 35,000 ft in a crowded airplane.  A spider had found its way to my hairline on the back of my neck and bitten me during the last night in our B&B.  My immune system went into over-drive, and I started feeling hard lumps on my scalp that were forming down my body as the plane ride went on. Of COURSE when asked, flight attendants had no Benadryl handy for such a common problem (what?  No official form I could quickly sign saying I was aware, no liability, etc. then give me the damned Benadryl!).  So I looked like a poorly stitched, scratching Bride of Frankenstein when we landed, and had to wait in the heat while someone brought the wheel chair for my father that had been requested five hours earlier.  A mob of people were waiting for a flight to L.A., and thankfully, by the sheer grace of one observant woman (who was pushing a small child in a stroller while waiting) I got some Benadryl.  She reached into the emergency zipper on her mom bag (mine is still woefully under packed, and Benadryl will become a staple now) and drew out two small pills and gave them to Husband, who was standing near her.  He passed them on to me and in a panic I ran down the hall for a bottle of water and took them while in line to pay.  At that point I could not move my neck from the swelling and hoped the fabulous B would at least stop the mutation (over the next hour, it stopped the swelling in my neck.  It did not stop the formation of hives down to my toes).  When I got back to the family, the LA plane had boarded and I did not get a chance to thank the mysterious wonder woman.  If anyone knows her, thank her for me.  This all happened on Memorial Day, and she was flying out of D.C. (and always carry Benadryl- you never know when someone might need it!).  I passed out on our connection (I mumbled to Husband, “is this what Beany-drill does?” and he laughed, saying yes), and I fell into bed once we got home.

Upon waking, it was all so much worse.

My doctor (the office is over an hour away) fit me in, and chuckled that I had a classic case of hives.  She told me it could be caused by anything- even though I had never had such hives before (my virulent reactions to poison sumac and ivy were not quite the same thing).  So I got a small dose of doxycycline (in case it was a bite from a tick or spider), and the magic drug Prednisone.  My father says it is the only drug he was ever tempted to be addicted to, but for the liver damage and other side effects.  He says I’ll feel like a teenager by Friday.  I hope not, I did not enjoy feeling like a teenager.  My favorite years were my early 30’s. Where is the drug that will make me feel like that again?.

I finished my entire New Yorker, and was chatty tonight with husband who kept falling asleep.  I asked, “Is this what steroids do to you?  Are they a stimulant?  I did not have any coffee today. . .Ohhh! Look!  The redness is subsiding and the welts are going down, it must be working. . .”

Husband grunted a laugh, saying, “Yes.  They are a stimulant.  I am going to sleep.”

That’s usually a variation of MY line.

The histamines are being blocked, and the steroids are doing what ever they do, and instead of lumpy, tired and grumpy, I feel rested and wakeful, and cognitively alert.  Yep- this is a drug I could get used to (but for the liver damage and all that. This is NOT, by the way, how I felt as a teenager.  Closer to how I felt in my 30’s).  We’ll see if it gets me through tomorrow and the unseasonably high heat, a parent teacher conference, and a play date at our house with my sons friend- among the usual work of unpacking and getting back into a routine. 

Oh, yeah, and through a monster case of hives.

Drug Zombies

The zombie movie has become a form in itself.  We can all think of a zombie film or two; the undead taking over and a small band of non-zombies trying to survive.  Zombies are the haunted faces of people who once were, but are no more.  As if whatever personalities, or souls they had have gone and all that is left is ravaged flesh and a sort of animal impulse.

 I read (this information is all from a recent investigative piece in the L.A. Times) that there has been a dramatic rise in the use of heroin in the U.S.  The DEA claims to have been shocked by a phenomenon of the drug business that modeled itself on pizza delivery.  Small, local franchises are left to their own devices (no interference from bosses up the supply chain) and make door-to-door deliveries in small amounts.  Drivers are coached on how to dress “middle class”, and drive safely in innocuous cars.  The nationwide phenomenon was largely successful due to the target market they so smartly chose:  non-urban white people.  When one very successful entrepreneur was interviewed, he said, “It worked great- we didn’t get robbed or have any trouble.”  Street level dealers are taught to hang out a block from rehab centers where people addicted to oxycodone and methamphetamines gather and sell them on the quality (Mexican heroin has been found to be quite a bit stronger and less “cut” than the Afghanistanian and Pakistanian competitors) and cheapness of the drug (compared to buying prescription drugs by the pill off the street).

 What has this left us with?  Well, layer this new wave of drug addiction on to a rising unemployment rate and abysmal economy (especially in rural areas), the complete failure of the “war on drugs”, and we have a zombie problem.  I am not making light of addiction.  I am trying to sort through what I have seen in the last several years in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina (as well as other places).  Midsized and small villages have been becoming ghost towns for the past 30 years as Wal-Tar-K’s helped kill downtowns, and major industries left.  On a recent trip to a pretty typical town of about 40,000 people in Virginia, the number of street people milling around on a weekday afternoon struck me.  Young and old, black, white, and latin, male and female.  These people were in shabby clothes, with unkempt hair; they loitered around the thrift stores, around the homeless shelters, churches, and the graveyard.  They did not get on busses (I checked back later to see how many were still there) but seem to spend most of their day just hanging out.  I spoke to a few local people I knew and was told that the drug problem had gotten so bad it was not safe to go out at night in many parts of the town.  Whether this is true or not, it is clear that a confluence of problems is hitting these mid-sized and small towns, and drugs of several types are part of the mix.

 I grew up in a rural region that was poor.  I spent much of my adult life living in large urban areas.  I have seen low level drug activity as part of both cultural milieus, and certainly have seen the traditional form of addiction to alcohol going strong.  But what I am seeing now scares me so much more than anything did before.  Truly, it feels like I am driving around in some zombie film, so many unoccupied buildings, so much decay, and so many people living bottomed-out lives in so many regions of this country.  This picture seems to be a taboo subject with our local, state, and federal politicians.   In a way, I can’t blame them.  To talk about it would only upset the apple cart they try to construct, and spread more fear and despair.  But to not talk about it changes nothing, and only allows the complex problems that are behind the zombification to grow. 

 I am still surprised, still shocked when I drive to towns in my region and see the overwhelming number of people stuck in time and place, human artifacts of decay.  A few have cardboard signs and sit at street corners.  Most just mill about.  I have never had a particularly addictive personality, but like depression, I know anyone can fall.  I fear for my kids, my friends, my community, and my country.  What is happening people? 

 The guns and running solution in zombie films will not help us, nor does objectifying those who are sinking (which seems to be the popular opinion of GOP leaders).  Like a viewer at a zombie movie, I do not ask who will save us; I do not ask who is to blame.  I only ask, what will happen next? But without the thrill of a horror film resolved, or the comfort of knowing it’s just make-believe, can we simply sit and watch?