Last week my mom called to report that Kerry Kennedy had been arrested for driving under the influence…of Ambien.  I am not sure if she was telling me this because:

a. she knows I take Ambien periodically, or

b. Irish-Catholics love to talk about the Kennedys like they are distant cousins. (“Did you hear what that Kerry did?  You know, one of Bobby’s younger ones, the one who used to be married to Cuomo?”)

Either way, Kennedy’s Ambien-induced accident involving a tractor trailer was nothing short of alarming, and not the first reported Ambien-related incident.  Of course, I have never driven a car after taking an Ambien.  At least I don’t think I have….

Herein lies the problem with Ambien. It’s like prescription roofies for the 30-something suburban set.  You wake up in the morning thinking you finally got a solid 7 hours, until bits and pieces of the previous night’s adventures slowly make their way into your consciousness…kind of like the morning after $1 Corona Night at the local bar in college.  One clue leads to another.  All it takes is one key memory and then all of a sudden it all comes flooding back to you. Somehow the trail of Kit Kat wrappers leads you to: “OMG. Was I texting Mary about lawn gnomes?”

Which then uncovers the Totally 80’s party that was held in your bedroom:

I’ve never been a great sleeper, and have worked at improving my “sleep hygiene.” But now, with a house that is not selling, a husband starting a new job, two kids in full summer psychosis and 12 days until we leave for our rental in MA….ain’t no amount of lavendar baths or restorative yoga poses gonna knock the following thoughts out of my head:

What should I do tomorrow – pack or clean?  What if I take everything out of the closets and then someone calls for a showing?  Is Phil here or in Boston this week?  Who can recommend a pediatrician?  Do I do their wellness checks here or up there?  Does the rental have beach towels?  Do we have twin sheets?  Did I leave Phoebe’s Crocks at the Feeneys’?  What if Phil’s job doesn’t work out?  Will i need to go back to work?  Did my teaching license expire?  How do I get certified in Massachusetts? Don’t you need a Masters? Oh wait- I have a Masters.  Does that expire?  Why can’t I picture the washer and dryer in the rental….was it downstairs?  THERE IS A WASHER AND DRYER….RIGHT? Holy sh*t is it really 2:30? 3:30? 4:30? I guess I will just get up.

After a week of this routine, I was getting desperate.  I called my doctor, who wrote me a prescription for Ambien.  This is what the prescription pamphlet says:

Ambien (Zolpidem tartrate): Ambien is used to treat insomnia.  It works by slowing activity in the brain to allow sleep.  May cause drowsiness, dizziness, difficulty keeping balance, changes in appetite, unusual dreams, diarrhea, and heartburn.  Do not drive a car or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of Ambien.

This is what it SHOULD say: Ambien is a party-for-one masquerading as a sleep aid.  It works by shutting down the part of your brain called “Consequences” and activating the part of the brain known as “Crazy Gremlin.” May cause unexplained bruises, promiscuous behavior, mysterious purchases from Pottery Barn, nudity, and weight gain due to the copious and unapologetic consumption of Peanut Butter Capt’n Crunch.  May cause Mr. Snuffleupagus to suddenly appear in your bathtub. Do not drive, answer email, text the priest who performed your wedding, shop online for an industrial juicer and/or meat dehydrator, search your freezer for ice cream or frozen cigarettes, or shave..umm…YOUR LEGS.  Do not engage in conversation with your hand, foot, or anyone dressed as a Storm Trooper.

The prescription info also says, “Take immediately before bed.” It SHOULD say: “Take IN bed, after securing all windows and refrigerator doors, and strapping your arms and legs down with iron restraints.”

Why is this necessary, you ask?

Here is a typical evening on Ambien:  You follow the directions and take it “before bed.” As you brushing your teeth, the bubbles in the sink suddenly began to morph into the face of Jerry Garcia, and he looks very angry.  Or is he whistling?  It’s hard to tell.  All you know is the owl outside is saying “Where’s James? Where’s James?”  Who the Hell is James?  There’s no one here but me and Jerry!    Then the owl (or maybe it was Jerry?) tells you to go downstairs, bust out the tub of frozen Cool-Whip and order Bacon Genies for everyone on your Christmas list.  Because who doesn’t need a drying rack for cured, processed meat?

The NY Times covered this topic in the article Sleep Medication: Mother’s Little Helper, and claims that 84% of women suffer from insomnia.  One woman is quoted as saying, “I’m pretty sure I wake up at 3 AM because, subconsciously, I know I’ll have this time to myself.”

My theory is that the Crazy Ambien Gremlin is actually the repressed part of the self…it takes everything you want to do but don’t, magnifies it by 500 and then says: “I Am Going To Do Whatever I Want”…but like the Tasmanian Devil on crack.  Maybe one reason we can’t sleep (in addition to thinking we can control future events by worrying about them) is that we crave some time to ourselves while we are still awake.  Maybe we just want an hour to do whatever we want, without needing to be drugged into it.  Although…

It might not be as fun without the lawn gnomes. 

* All Ambien Walrus cartoons courtesy of Drew at Toothpaste for Dinner.



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