Blood Orange Night: My Journey to the Edge of Madness

While experiencing the excruciating pain of withdrawal from doctor-prescribed benzodiazepines, Melissa Bond wakes from a nightmare of "trash and carnivals and blood." She knows, as she snuggles her firstborn, that rather than "stand in horror at the shore of my own suffering," she must "keep my eye trained on the beautiful." In her propulsive, poetic memoir, Blood Orange Night, Bond narrates her experience in harrowing detail, determined to speak for "others like me slipping into the dark" of addiction to prescribed drugs.

Bond--expecting her second baby and the mother of an infant with Down syndrome--develops severe insomnia, for months "the night rising and growing pale" as she sleeps only two or three hours. She is prescribed Ambien CR, but her insomnia persists. Exhausted and caring for two babies, she sees the man she calls "Dr. Amazing," a physician who offers her Ativan, which he describes as "an incredible drug." She shares in non-linear chapters the early relief but horrific repercussions: as the doctor increases her dosage over a year, her body begins a terrifying automatic withdrawal. Still, she believes she should follow doctor's orders, and she knows that abruptly quitting Ativan could be fatal. "Everything feels like it's on fire," she writes in despair.

At last she finds a board-certified addictionologist. Love for her children drives her perseverance through a year and a half of withdrawal treatment, during which she feels like "an evaporating woman." It is a comfort to realize from the memoir's opening that Bond has survived. This doesn't ameliorate the horror of her story, told with a journalist's commitment to fact and a poet's touch. --Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

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