January 28, 2009

Side Effects May Include...

My fiancé Preppy had a friend in from out of town, so a group of us headed out to a pub to toast her visit. The liquor we managed to stockpile at our recent engagement “stock the bar” party has kept the two of us close to home of late, so being out in the world was a lovely change of pace.
“Gimme your shot glasses,” our friend Janet instructed after we’d all done a round. She pulled a bottle of Jagermeister from her purse, and passed overflowing shots to the table.
I can’t do that anymore.
At some point in my mid-twenties my reaction to shots of that sticky sweet evil licorice liquor abruptly changed. It went from being a guaranteed night of delighted debauchery to a guaranteed night of blubbering and hugging the toilet. But I’ve made my peace with it- I had fun while it lasted, at least according to the vague, fuzzy memories I have of those nights.
But everybody else was doing it. So, okay, one shot. Or four. Preppy reminded me that I haven’t drank much since I started taking meds for my ADD, and I should be careful. I dismissed this. I felt fine.
Time and experience eventually reveals what kind of drunk you are. I am not a mean drunk, for which I am grateful. I am a sappy, silly, chatty drunk, which is fairly benign by comparison. As long as I’ve got a ride home, it’s not a big deal. But sitting in the pub that night, I was feeling neither sappy nor silly. I was feeling concerned.
I was becoming increasingly certain that Janet wanted to sleep with my fiancé.
As I watched the two of them laughing and hugging, I wondered how I’d never seen this before. My guard must’ve been down because she was a girl. But just because he’s not attracted to females doesn’t mean a female wouldn’t make a move. I realized, sitting there fuming, that I must be able to spot the warning signs now thanks to the magic pills. I couldn’t focus on these little details before, because of all the bright, shiny objects distracting me. Fuming, I did another shot and considered what else I might have been missing.
Preppy works retail, and has to do a lot of overnights at his job. But what if... WHAT IF… All those times he said he was doing overnights he actually had this whole other life I didn’t know about? What if while I’m on the road he’s living it up, having a blast? And here I’ve been looking like an idiot, feeling awful because I thought he was working so hard?
I decided not to say anything, to keep my own counsel here because I’m so much more perceptive than I ever was before. I could talk to my sister about it, except… I realized when I call her for advice, she’s secretly mocking me. Sitting at home with her little perfect family, her little perfect life, making fun of her faggy brother and all his faggy problems. I thought I had this amazing support system, but the more mulled it over, I realized I was totally alone in this world.
Why had I never seen this before?
At this point, I’ll go ahead and note that the most common side effects of mixing my new drug with excessive alcohol consumption are paranoia, anxiety, and psychotic episodes. But I did not consider that at the time. Nor did I think about it in the three hours that followed, after we’d returned home. I was enraged. I revealed everything I’d figured out to my very confused fiancé. I knew I sounded insane, and he certainly reinforced that point. He suggested this might be a drug/alcohol thing, but I dismissed it, because everything I was saying made so much sense in my head. I felt it so deeply. It had to be true. When I was too tired to scream anymore, I fell asleep.
The next morning, I remembered every word I’d said. I. Was. Mortified. I called my aunt, a doctor.
“I had the strangest experience last night,” I said. “We went out and had a lot to drink…”
“Oh no,” she said. “You shouldn’t do that on your meds. Did you go crazy?”
It’s an odd feeling, knowing I’ve surrendered my brain to a drug. In the last few weeks I’ve experienced so many of the intended results; it stands to reason that I’d also experience the worst-case scenario side effects. I never believed that would happen to me. I thought I would have more control, and be able to spot trouble before it hit. Never mind that the whole reason I started taking the drug was because I thought I was maintaining a level of control I didn’t actually have.
A major step in improving yourself is establishing boundaries. That night I learned a very clear one for me is when the bottle of Jager comes out of a purse. But beyond that, the harder lesson that has nothing to do with the medicine or the booze is that sometimes the people who love you can see you more clearly than you see yourself, and you have to learn to trust that.
They don’t make a pill for that one.