My husband Todd and I are quite happily married. Our fights can be dramatic (because let’s face it, I’m dramatic) but tend to be rare, brief and usually end with laughter at his expense. However, like most couples we have our share of ongoing disagreements ranging from the mild (the toilet seat, the inappropriate comments I make about Dolvett Quince during The Biggest Loser) to the serious. Specifically, Todd’s drug addiction. That’s right people; my husband is a drug addict. And his drug of choice… is Ambien (what? I told you I’m dramatic).
If you’ve never tried this prescription sleeping pill, I don’t recommend it for the same reason I don’t recommend trying crystal meth. Namely, drugs are bad and hard to stop because the feeling is friggin’ amazing, although it does appear that Ambien isn’t quite as hard on your complexion. I first tried it when I traveled to Africa and needed to adjust to the time difference fast or risk sleeping through my once-in-a-lifetime safari. Sure, I could have done it the “natural way”- forcing myself to wake up at 8am even though I was dead tired, perhaps rubbing my bare feet on the ground, but (a) I had seen how the bare feet thing turned out for Bruce Willis in Die Hard and (b) I hate waking up when I’m sleepy. It sucks.
So I opted for the pharmaceutical option, the hot new sleeping pill on the market. Drug name: zolpidem tartrate. Street name: Ambien. It was awesome. A few minutes after ingesting this magical little pill I started tripping and thought the flight attendant was Dolly Parton and my seatmate a giraffe, but as soon as I closed my eyes I fell into a deep and glorious sleep that lasted for a good portion of my 18-hour flight. Ever since then I’ve kept Ambien on hand for cross-country travel and those occasions when I have an ungodly call time and need to go to bed earlier than my grandparents. I use it maybe a dozen times a year.
Todd, however, is a different story. He loves this stuff. I mean loves it like a fat kid loves cake, like Whitney Houston loved crack… too soon? Anyway, the point is that he needs it and takes it a little more than I would like. In his defense, he has a sometimes-stressful job as a production designer and often has trouble falling asleep. He lies in bed and worries about the things we all worry about- how will I afford that car repair/ rent/ fill-in-the-blank, is my company downsizing, and who’s going to win this season of The Bachelor? This kind of circular thinking can be a problem if he has to be up to coordinate the flowers on set with Beyonce’s dress before most people even roll over.
None-the-less, it’s become one of the things we argue about. I get mad if I think he’s taking it too often, or if he’s broken our agreement to let me know before he’s going to push-off (yes, I know drug-terminology, I’ve seen “Requiem for a Dream”, and sweet Lord do I wish I hadn’t. That scene. That one scene. You know the one). When he doesn’t tell before he takes it, trouble ensues. And last night, that’s exactly what happened.
I had just arrived home from a Kombucha brewing class at a hippy coffee shop with the kind of clientele who believes 9/11 was in inside job, and was looking forward to some QT and dinner with my boo. And by quality time and dinner, I mean watching Mindy Kaling while eating chips and guac from Chipotle. “What’s it gonna be, Walking Dead, New Girl…?” I trailed, remote poised.
“Up to you, mom- I mean- hon.” Todd replied. “I have to go bed as soon as I’m finished eating.”
“Did you just call me mom?! Have you taken an Ambien?” I asked suspiciously.
“No! Why do you ask?” He looked at me with shock and maybe even a little hurt in his eyes. Oh he was smooth. Every adept addict knows the drill: deny, deny, deny and demand proof. So I did what any good wife would do and let it go, even offering to clean up after dinner by painstakingly squashing our take-out sacks into the trashcan, valiantly separating out the recyclables. Todd gave me a grateful hug and then started to talk about god-knows-what because holy crap was he high. “Todd!” I exclaimed, noting the far-away look in his eyes. “You took an Ambien!” After a couple of the requisite denials, he finally came clean.
That’s when with dread I remembered a vow I’d made in the heat of battle last time this happened: the next time he took an Ambien without telling me, I was sleeping on the couch. Well, crap. Crap, crap, double-crap. I didn’t want to sleep on the couch. I was a princess! I shouldn’t be forced to sleep on a pea, much less on a couch from Al’s Discount Furniture! Even more frighteningly, it was 40 degrees outside and we have single-pain windows. My husband may have been a junkie, but at least he was a warm-body. I suddenly realized I was using the same logic employed by Lindsay Lohan’s lovers and decided to stand my ground. “That’s it,” I resolved. “I’m sleeping on the couch.”
“Nooooo!” Todd wailed. “Please don’t. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again, I promise!” Apparently he remembered that it costs roughly one million dollars to keep our bedroom warm at night with our crappy “central heat”, and knew he too would be freezing without me. His whining continued as he spouted all the standard addict stuff, “If you loved me you wouldn’t deny me a warm place to sleep. For crying out loud, I’m family!” Luckily there had been an Intervention marathon on A&E last weekend so I was prepared. I knew I couldn’t continue enabling his dangerous behavior. This had to stop. There was no way I was going back on my word. That is, until he said the magic words.
“If you’ll sleep with me I’ll unload the dishwasher for a week!” I stopped in my tracks, slowly turning to face him while protectively holding my pillow and other couch-fixins in my arms. “You’ll unload the dishwasher… for a whole week? As in seven days from today?” He nodded slowly, the full implications of his promise sinking in. “The whole dishwasher? Including all the stuff you claim not to know how to put away, even though I know good and well you do?” We’d both long despised dealing with the Tupperware and mixing bowls, though I’d never really understood why. Todd usually got away with it by looking as puzzled as Lady Gaga in Banana Republic and claiming he had no idea where they went, despite the fact that there are less than a dozen cabinets in our entire kitchen.
I had no choice but to relent. As I snuggled into my favorite spot on his shoulder in our cozy bed that night, I silently made my own justifications. Yes, my husband is a drug addict caught in a web of lies and deceit. But as long as I don’t have to put away the Tupperware, I’m kind of okay with it.