I take Ambien to sleep. Definitely not all the time, but I’d say I take it once a week at least, twice at most. I suffer from anxiety-induced, chronic insomnia (Yes, it’s just as much of a bitch as it sounds) and though I’ve been working on other ways to quell my anxiety and sleep again, I need the occasional pill to calm my chaotic mind.
You hear horror stories about things people have done while on Ambien. If you dig deep enough into Internet forums, you’ll read about some guy who grabbed his keys, hopped into his car, took a trip to the drugstore and came home in one piece.
Some other guy probably called his fiancée and told her their wedding is off while on the drug, then had no idea what the f*ck she was talking about when she confronted him the next day in tears asking what it was she’d done. People are always buying weird sh*t and having no memory of it until, like, 15 Barbie doll heads show up on their doorstep.
I am not impervious to such idiocy. I have done some pretty weird sh*t on Ambien.
The first time I ever took the smallest dose of it, I found myself sitting in bed and singing a Christmas carol to my sister and brother-in-law over the phone. I did remember my magnanimous serenade the following morning, but not without the help of my sister endlessly poking fun at me.
I also recall feeling buzzed, almost as if I'd just had two margaritas (no more, no less) and kind of wishing I could go through life with that slight edge. But that's besides the point.
A more recent experience freaked me out even more than my little Christmas miracle episode did. I had been tossing and turning all night because of a piece I was scheduled to write the next day. I could not turn my damn brain off. I was wide awake at 3 am formulating different authorly plans of attack, when I decided it was about time to take a sleeping aid. I popped an Ambien, fell asleep, and the next thing I remember is waking up when my alarm went off at 6:30 am.
Rookie mistake, Sheena. I hadn’t given the Ambien enough time to do its thang, so I woke up still drugged, only I didn’t know I was still drugged.
So I went about my morning acting like everything was cool, when it was totally not. It was shower time, but it was also leg-shaving day (ugh), so I got into the shower and started shaving my legs.
Something strange happened mid-thigh, though: I began to talk to myself. Like, have a dialogue with me and myself. Before I knew it, my fingers and toes turned all prune-y because I'd spent way too long in that shower having a conversation with myself about god-knows-what.
Sure, I'm a writer, so I'll admit I come with a pretty decent side of crazy. But I swear to you that I don't talk to myself on the reg. Like, that's uncalled for.
Luckily enough, I sobered up on my train ride over from home to work. But when I finally got to work, my little shower episode felt like nothing more than a weird dream.
In the moment, being drugged up on that thing was probably one of the scariest experiences I've had. It kind of felt like some weird twilight zone, or like drinking a sh*t ton of hard liquor, blacking out and having your friends tell you the next day what exactly happened.
Friends of mine recall having uncanny experiences with the drug, too. My one friend, Leila*, remembers this one time she popped the pill with her roommate from her freshman year in college:
"I was lying in my bed, which felt like a hug because I had a Tempur-Pedic and she was like literally freaking out. She kept saying she could see these bees or something swarming the lamppost outside. None of this was happening. I was kind of scared because her head kept getting bigger and bigger and I was seeing all these purple spots all over everything. So, I made her fuck off and tell me a story. And then I fell asleep and slept for 10 hours straight. I felt very refreshed the next day."
My other friend, Jenny*, had an even freakier night on the drug:
"I was in the wild throes of my youth, and my friend and I stayed up on it, even though I just planned on going to sleep. The next thing I know, the two of us busted out the ouija board from her basement. IT GOT REALLY DARK. We started asking our dead relatives really personal questions -- like "did you cheat on Grandma?" type of shit. It was super trippy. When I woke up, I couldn't remember if it was a dream or not, until I saw the ouija board out."
Finally, there's my own mother, who is a token binge-eater on this godforsaken drug:
"I woke up one morning after taking Ambien and found my pantry a mess: opened cookie boxes, crumbs all over the place. I didn't realize how much I ate until I saw that and made the connection with why my stomach felt so funny."
In retrospect, I realize just how funny it is that I'm capable of being that odd. I guess the scariest sh*t makes for the greatest stories.
STILL, I’m no medical professional, but I do feel it’s my moral obligation to include the following PSA: If you’re going to take this drug, just be smart about it. Don’t be an ass-hat like me. Make sure you take it early enough in the night that you have a solid eight hours to sleep with it in your system.
Also, make sure you aren’t a sleepwalker by nature, as this drug can aggravate some tendencies you may already have. Don't pop it like it's candy unless your doctor gave you the green light to do so. Finally, keep your phone OUT of sight. Drunk calling is a thing, but so is drug calling (and singing).
I’ve been around the block with this sh*t, so I've got you guys.
*Name has been changed.