TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — My Drug Abuse Problem

This is a cautionary tale. It involves drug abuse on my part, no less. Even though it was inadvertent and one time only. The drug in question here is a popular one, the sedative sold as Ambien.

After a surgery my doctor prescribed Ambien to help me sleep. I can attest that for me, it works like a charm. I wake up from a restful sleep, refreshed, ready to seize the day, more or less, with no side effects. When I take it correctly. Therein lies the rub.

Some people who have taken it report unexplained sleepwalking, sleep driving and performing other daily tasks like frying a batch of eggs for themselves while they are asleep, waking up in the morning without any knowledge of doing it.

I never did any of that. Until one morning. The morning I mistakenly took an Ambien instead of my usual blood pressure pill — just before work. That morning, Ginny had left the house before me for an appointment and was unavailable to monitor my movements.

Unaware I was Ambiened-up, I proceeded to drive myself to work. Thank God, I didn’t hit something like a tree, or worse, a young pedestrian on his or her way to school. And by thank God, I sincerely mean thank God.

By the time I arrived at work, I knew what I had done. But my modus operandi on Ambien I found out that day is simply to pretend everything is fine.

I was barely in the door when a co-worker said, “Are you all right?” I snapped back, “I’M FINE!”

Now at my desk, I didn’t feel sleepy. It’s just that from time to time I would “black out,” more or less, for periods of time ranging, I’m guessing, from a few seconds to something like the better part of a minute.

A day or two earlier, I had promised buddy Rob Kupec that I would be part of a radio trivia game he was hosting at the time on WDAY. Ambien or not, a promise is a promise. On the phone with Rob and one of his listeners, I remember being asked about every OTHER question on the air. Interestingly enough, my radio partner and I correctly answered four out of five of them, good enough for him to win a prize.

Later, when Ginny called, I asked, “What’d I say?” She said, “You were fine.”

Like a remorseful alcoholic, I spent much of the next morning making the rounds of the building, apologizing to colleagues for my “unusual” behavior the day before. I was especially concerned about what Rob would say about the radio thing. “You were fine,” he said.

When I recounted the episode to my doctor in his office a few days later, he, too, seemed less concerned about about my radio guest shot but very much concerned about my driving.  He said something like, “I think now is a good time for you to come off the Ambien.”

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Terry Dullum

Terry Dullum recently completed a nearly 40-year career as anchor, producer and reporter with WDAZ-TV in Grand Forks.  He was part of a newsroom that won a national Edward R. Murrow Award and an Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Award. He was the anchor and producer of WDAZ News @5.  More than eight hundred episodes of his popular video essay series, The Dullum File, aired on WDAZ and WDAY-TV in Fargo. A North Dakota native and a graduate of the University of North Dakota, he is also a popular speaker and emcee.

3 thoughts on “TERRY DULLUM: The Dullum File — My Drug Abuse Problem”

  1. Hi Terry,
    I always enjoy your Unheralded.fish articles. I am sending you this because KMAV AM in Mayville, ND will be celebrating 50 years on the air on October 20th of this year. I know you worked at KMAV early in your career and Austin Kramer talked about you in the interview I did with him. I am working on doing interviews with KMAV employees from the past. I came to KMAV in 1993 when it was purchased by R & J Broadcasting. Our family purchased the stations in 2008. We plan to hopefully have an open house in April of 2018 as that would be 25 years for us here in Mayville and 4o years for me in radio.
    I would like to do an interview with you before 10-20-17. We can do it over the phone. If you have time please give a day, time and number I can call you at to record an interview.

    Thank you,

    Dan Keating
    KMAV-FM / KMSR-AM (we changed the AM call letters)
    Mayville, ND

    1. Hi, Dan… Thanks for your message. I worked for your station twice… for a few weeks just before I went into the Army in 1970 and for about 9 months after I got out in 1972. I’d be happy to talk with you. I’m pretty free between now and October 20. If you want to give me a call or message me we could set a time on fairly short notice, I would think. My cell is 1-701-610-1542. My e-mail is terrydullum@gmail.com. Terry

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