Despite my wish to be in all ways different than Dustin Diamond, yesterday I tried taking a "weight loss supplement." Not Zantrex-3, mind you. (That shit's expensive!) No, on a whim I picked up some green tea and hoodia extract pills. (They were cheap.) What the heck, I thought. Green tea's good for you. A little hoodia, a little guarana, some chromium...I'll give it a shot.
The results? Blecch. A little jittery, a little nauseous...not a good time. I had to eat some crackers just to calm my stomach down. I didn't lose control of my bowels or anything (just say no to Alli!), but it wasn't fun.
Maybe I'm too old for "stimulants," natural or otherwise. Didn't it used to be fun? Didn't I enjoy a little "buzz," back in the day? I remember in college, taking a couple of Dexatrim and warning my roommates to stand back--I was going to clean the house, and I was going to clean the house quickly.
I had a friend years ago who actually had prescription spee..."appetite suppressants," and she used to share them with me sometimes. I remember actually kind of liking that buzzy feeling of focus. I never had my own prescription spee..."appetite suppressants," though I did try unsuccessfully to get an appointment with her "doctor," who had a "weight loss clinic" like something out of a movie. Seriously, this old quack only accepted new patients on two specific mornings each year. You had to get through to the unlisted phone number, on that morning, with a referral from a current patient, or you were out of luck. (I didn't get through, and decided not to keep trying. The whole thing was a bit icky for my taste.) If you managed to get an appointment, you went in for an "exam," which my friend said consisted of allowing the doctor to pinch your inner arm flab and watch you jump up and down. If you were deemed overweight, you were given a prescription for the pills, which could only be filled at that clinic, one month's supply at a time. You picked up the pills at the front desk, and never saw the doctor again. No weigh-ins required. Can you believe that shit? That was years ago, but for all I know the place is still open. Lordy.
I really should know better when it comes to stimulants. Would you like to hear one more tale from my misspent youth? This is the story of the melting sinuses, and a cautionary tale if ever there was one.
Years ago, when I first moved to Tulsa, I lived for the first few months with BFF and his partner at the time....let's call him BFATT. (For Best Friend At the Time. I was quite convinced then that we would also be friends forever, but, alas, that did not come to pass. The fact that we didn't has no connection to the coming story, however. He moved, and we just lost touch.) BFATT had an older sister, and Sis was getting married. BFATT had not come out of the closet to his family, or anyone back in his hometown, and decided he needed a beard...I mean "date" for the wedding. I don't know who he thought he was fooling, since BFF was also invited to the wedding, and didn't take his own be..."date," but whatever. I happily agreed to be the beard, since they were Catholics with money, and those are generally the best kind of weddings to attend, in my opinion. Lots of food, lots of liquor.
So off we go to the wedding. It was a lovely, formal evening affair, followed by a catered reception. BFATT was off flitting around like the social butterfly he was, so BFF and I just kind of sat back and watched, since we didn't know anyone else in attendance. There was food, champagne, beer...and boredom. My god, it was boring. In an attempt to alleviate our boredom, BFATT approached us with an offer: the sister of the groom (a bridesmaid) and her fiance (an usher) were going out to the groom's van to do a little "crank"--did we want to join them? (Back then nobody called it "meth," and it was not all that common. We considered it less hardcore than cocaine (which I never did), and I'd only done it a couple of times previously. The groom always seemed to have a supply, but we didn't really think about WHY, though we should have. A few years later it turned out he was quite the little druglord, and Sis testified against him, post-divorce, at the trial that put him away.)
We were bored, we couldn't leave, and so we thought "what the heck," and out we went. We all got in the van and started looking for the stuff, which we had been told was inside somewhere. Bridesmaid called from the backseat, "here it is." She and Fiance lined it up on a little mirror, and started passing it around for snorting. (Important notes: nobody but Bridesmaid saw the bottle from whence it came. Bridesmaid was possibly the least experienced drug user in the wedding party. In fact, the four of us, Bridesmaid, Fiance, BFF and I were by far the least experienced drug users of the newly married couple's circle of friends. They were some party people.) I remember hearing Fiance say "this shit's like napalm," but didn't give it all that much thought, as I remembered it burning a bit the other two times I did it. Someone noticed that people were approaching the van to decorate it for the going-away later, so we hurriedly finished passing the mirror, with BFATT declining to partake, and we leapt out of the van and scattered.
Very soon after, I realized something was wrong. My nose was burning, my throat was burning, my eyes were watering...was I having an allergic reaction? I went inside to the bathroom and rinsed my eyes and mouth, and spat out as much as I could. Soon, though, other people came into the bathroom, including some children, and I thought it prudent to go outside. (I found out later they all thought I was drunk. Oh, if only.) It was like someone had turned on a spigot in my head--fluid was pouring from my eyes and nose, and I knew I was in trouble. BFATT came running up--thank god. "I need to go to the hospital," I said. "I know, I know," he replied in a panic. "It's happening to the others, too."
He corralled us to his car as Groom came rushing up in a frenzy. "What bottle was it from? WHAT BOTTLE WAS IT FROM? You dumb bitch,"...this directed at his sister..."what bottle was it from?" She described the bottle (which was definitely not your typical "drug bottle"), he ordered BFATT to get us to the hospital posthaste and tell them we had ingested....now here is where we all should have been paying a little closer attention. None of us quite remembered the same thing. Definitely not methamphetamines. "Mercuric chloride," maybe. We weren't sure. We still don't know. Groom had an auto body shop (as a cover for his meth lab, apparently), and it could have been ANYthing. Industrial chemicals, lye...you name it.
At any rate, off we rushed, and stormed into the emergency room--the best-dressed party they'd seen in a while, I'm sure. (It was really kind of funny. Formal dresses and tuxes...we looked great.) This was a small-town emergency room, and they weren't used to moving quickly, apparently. BFATT took charge: "I have four people here who have ingested mercuric chloride, and WE NEED HELP NOW!" Well, that got their attention. Soon there were doctors and nurses buzzing all over us. The police were called. The doctors really wanted to know exactly what they were dealing with, and BFATT and the police went in search of the bottle...which was missing, of course. The groom and his lovely friends had "misplaced" it, along with the actual drugs, and whatever else he was hiding in that van. They dummied up, naturally, and refused to talk at all. The police interviewed us at the hospital, one by one, and though none of us were lying when we said we didn't know anything about anything, the cops were frustrated. One of them finally said to me, "look, you haven't actually done anything illegal, we're not going to arrest you, we're just trying to get information." Sorry, Officer...I had none to give.
The doctors put it on the line for us: they didn't know what we had taken, or what the results might be. If it truly was "mercuric" anything, our kidneys might shortly start to fail, and if so we would die. They would treat the symptoms as they came up, and hope for the best. OH MY GOOD LORD!! I have never been so terrified in all my life. So they hovered around us, and watched as the first symptoms soon became apparent. We all had to pee. A lot. Over and over. Like racehorses. Our kidneys were working overtime, apparently. Good news, really, since they didn't seem to be shutting down.
At this point, I started to feel a shift in the attitudes of the ER staff. To be honest, when we came in they were less than sympathetic. Can't blame them, I guess--they thought we were some kind of hardened druggies, taking up space in their emergency room. But it became apparent to them after a few minutes that we were just dumb kids with really bad luck, and they started to feel sorry for us. One of the nurses was having trouble getting an IV in my hand, and started slapping my wrist to raise some blood vessels. "Keep going," I said, "I deserve at least a good slap on the wrist, don't you think?" She smiled at that, and the atmosphere got noticeably warmer from then.
At that point an ambulance brought in another patient, a large woman convinced she was having a heart attack, and screaming over and over, "I CAN'T BREATHE!" You could hear her all over the hospital--trust me, there was plenty of air going in and out of those lungs. She refused to let a male doctor examine her, and yelled and screamed and generally caused such a stir that all attention was diverted to her, and I was wheeled off to the side on my gurney, away from my friends. It was then that the second wave of symptoms began to arrive.
Leg cramps. Not just a little charley horse or two...these were incredibly intense leg cramps, that locked my legs up to the extent that they were actually lifting off the gurney of their own accord. I lay there, feet in the air, waving feebly in the direction of the doctors, trying to be polite and not make a stir of my own. Finally a nurse passed by, and I reached out and stopped her. "Umm...my legs are kind of cramping." She paused and tried to massage out the knots. "Wow," she said. "These are some cramps." I began to writhe on the gurney, and she ran to get one of the doctors, who ordered valium, and said "Yeah, it's happening to the others, too."
The fun, it never ends. I was still very panicky, even through the valium, and I kept trying to get the cute young doctor to tell me if I was going to die. I figured I had a right to know. "We certainly hope not, and we're doing all we can," he kept saying. "Come on, Doctor Joe," I pleaded, "just be straight with me." He looked around to make sure his supervisor wasn't looking, leaned down and whispered into my ear, "you're going to be fine." Aww...thanks, Doc. That's all I needed to hear.
Eventually they decided to admit us. Bridesmaid and Fiance were allowed to share a room, since they were engaged, but rules prohibited BFF and I from doing the same. "But we're roommates!" No dice.
I was there for four days. Four long, lonely days. They never did figure out what we took, but we all had basically the same weird symptoms. The peeing, the cramping, followed by major swelling under our chins. We all looked like we had goiters. I had complete blockage of my nasal passages--couldn't get one molecule of air to pass through there. "We've never seen such blockage," they said. "You may have sinus problems for the rest of your life." Nice. BFF, not having run to the restroom and gargled like I did immediately after, also had problems with his digestive tract. At least I was spared that.
Eventually all the symptoms cleared up, though BFF and I both dripped orange snot out of our noses for days. ORANGE SNOT! How gross is that? I had planned never to tell my parents, but I was forced to, since the doctors felt very strongly that I not stay in the house alone for a while, and BFATT was still dancing attendance on BFF, who lingered in the hospital for a few more days. So I sucked it up, and called them, and they came to get me and took me home with them for a few days. I have to give them credit, though...very few recriminations. I guess they figured I'd suffered enough. My mother merely said, "You know you're too accident prone to get away with doing drugs." Heh.
The moral of this story? Don't do drugs, kids. And if you do, be damn sure you know exactly what you're taking. LOOK AT THE BOTTLE FIRST. Or, you know, just have a bottle of beer instead. And then don't drive. Or you could end up like Paris Hilton. And really, who wants that?