Brain on Fire meets High Achiever in this “page-turner memoir chronicling a woman’s accidental descent into prescription benzodiazepine dependence—and the life-threatening impacts of long-term use—that chills to the bone” (Nylon).
As Melissa Bond raises her infant daughter and a special-needs one-year-old son, she suffers from unbearable insomnia, sleeping an hour or less each night. She loses her job as a journalist (a casualty of the 2008 recession), and her relationship with her husband grows distant. Her doctor casually prescribes benzodiazepines—a family of drugs that includes Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan—and increases her dosage on a regular basis.
Following her doctor’s orders, Melissa takes the pills night after night; her body begins to shut down and she collapses while holding her infant daughter. Only then does Melissa learn that her doctor—like many doctors—has over-prescribed the medication and quitting cold turkey could lead to psychosis or fatal seizures. Benzodiazepine addiction is not well studied, and few experts know how to help Melissa as she begins the months-long process of tapering off the pills without suffering debilitating, potentially deadly consequences.
Each page thrums with the heartbeat of Melissa’s struggle—how many hours has she slept? How many weeks old are her babies? How many milligrams has she taken? Her propulsive writing crescendos to a fever pitch as she fights for her health and her ability to care for her children. Lyrical and immersive, Blood Orange Night shines a light on the prescription benzodiazepine epidemic as it reaches a crisis point in this country.
In this raw and captivating debut, journalist Bond chronicles her volatile descent into a benzodiazepine addiction. During her pregnancy with her second child, Chloe, Bond developed extreme insomnia, sometimes sleeping as little as an hour a night. Struggling, simultaneously, to care for an infant with Down syndrome, she relied on Ambien to help her sleep, until she met "Dr. Amazing," who, after Chloe's birth in 2010, prescribed Ativan, a benzodiazepine. " Take these,' my doctor told me," Bond recalls. "Frantic for sleep, I took them month after month, my mouth wide-open like a hungry carp." After her doctor began ratcheting up her doses, Bond realized she was in the grip of a full-blown addiction: "I was simply following my doctor's orders. I was in a free fall." In lucid flashbacks one particularly haunting scene sees her blacking out while driving with her children in the car she details the hellish recovery process ("a year and a half clawing in the underworld") that counted her marriage among its casualties. Pairing her unsparing candor with the same deep compassion she finds in the physician who helped her level out, Bond's narrative casts a burning light onto the hazards of overprescribing and the threat it poses to vulnerable people. This cautionary tale stuns.