Laurie’s sleep problems began when she was 28 years old. Between her grueling work schedule and her social life, she found herself crawling into bed late while panicking about getting up early. Her anxiety about not being able to sleep became a self-fulfilling prophecy; eventually, she found herself staying awake for days at a time. “During those endless stretches of time, I watched TV, called friends in California, whimpered, wept, beat my pillow, flipped through tabloids, and surfed the Internet,” she says. “I didn’t write though I am a writer—I wasn’t capable of forming thoughts, much less sentences.”
Ambien changed that. “[F]or the first time in years, I fell asleep instantly, wash in the kind of deep, dreamy slumber I hadn’t experienced since childhood,” she remembers. The feeling was so intoxicating that she soon began taking higher doses, running out of pills early, and doctor shopping. But even as she found herself slumped over on airplanes while flight attendants checked her breathing, even as she had sex she couldn’t remember the next day, even as she fell asleep in bathtubs and began having panic attacks at work events, she told no one about her sleeping pill addiction. Not even her therapist. Her fear of returning to a life of insomnia was greater than her fear of public humiliation, being left by her boyfriend, or even drowning. She told herself the stories all addicts tell themselves; it’s not so bad, it’s better than the alternative, I need it.
Sleeping pill addiction often doesn’t get the recognition so many other forms of substance abuse do, but it can be a powerful and heartbreaking condition. By understanding the dangers of sleeping pill addiction and honestly examining your own sleeping pill use, you can gain deeper insight into why choosing the right treatment is critical to protecting your emotional and physical health.