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Overdose: Help Your Therapist Help You

Accidental overdose can be prevented by helping your helping professionals help you.

I clearly recall my first two experiences with a therapist.  My first experience was with an older, kindly gentleman.  I’d been afraid of my anger one day when I’d shaken my six year old son who had just lit a candle and placed it underneath our infant daughter’s bed.  I met with Al for a few sessions when he concluded that I was a fine parent and really had just needed someone to talk to.  Immediately following our final therapy session, I went home, took three five milligram valium (about which he’d known nothing) and wrote Al an overly enthusiastic letter about my success with implementing the information I’d just finished reading in a self-help book I’d recently purchased at the local drug store.  Little did Al know, I could barely remember what I’d read.

My second experience was just a few years later.  I’d been living a nightmare in a bad marriage and had experienced thoughts of ending my life.  Out of genuine fear that I might be tempted to act upon these thoughts, I decided to seek professional help.  I intuitively realized that the levels of hopelessness and despair to which my mood had been plummeting rendered me in some very real danger.

I searched the yellow pages and found a wonderful therapist.  He was attentive, supportive and validating.  Lord knows, I’d desperately needed to find all three qualities in a hurry.  When he suggested an antidepressant medication, I knew that he’d recognized the severity of my emotional state.  When he recommended ongoing therapy adding, “I don’t want you brought in here on a slab” for the first time in years, I felt my heart fill with hope.  (My hope stemmed from the fact that I knew he’d not only heard, but fully realized my cry for help.)  This validation was to carry me through the coming year at a time when I believe I very well might have otherwise reached the end of my rope.

Sadly, there existed a dangerously intrusive element about which I hadn’t told my therapist.  That cunning and baffling saboteur was my (as yet undiagnosed) alcoholism and addiction to prescription drugs.  Little did he know (and little did I know it mattered) that each evening as I’d ingest my antidepressant, I’d chase it with anywhere from one to four vodka gimlets.  Then, of course, were the ongoing prescriptions for Fiorinal I was ingesting every four hours without fail for chronic headaches along with the occasional valium pill for anxiety. 

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