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.”