Monday 13th June 2011

by Megan Beth Koester

“This study will examine the effect of two medications, called naltrexone and varenicline, on craving for cigarettes and alcohol.”

“The common side effects of varenicline include: nausea.”

I’m kneeling on the floor, vomiting. I’ve taken this medication for eight days; only now, however, has it made me do this. I heave. I cough. I wonder if the fact that I’m vomiting is negating the fact that I took the medication, thus rendering the whole experience utterly pointless. I ruminate on the existence of God. At this moment, the answer’s clear – God is either completely nonexistent or the most absentee of parents. There is but one set of footprints on this particular piece of sand, and it is because I am utterly alone on this journey. I heave again.

It’s the next morning; once again I’ve taken a dose of medication and once again I am vomiting. The lack of serenity that is currently characterizing my digestive tract does not bode well for the experiment I am about to undergo. I must eat something to settle my system, but as I’ve spent the last twenty minutes retching out the last thing I consumed I haven’t the time for a proper meal. Enter: the vending machine. Said vending machine only accepts exact change; as such I can only afford a bran muffin. The muffin is disquietingly cold and exquisitely bland; it is, by far, the driest thing I have ever tasted. Its consistency is tantamount to Squand.*

*Squand is a novelty sand that can’t get wet, see, made for the amusement of children. I am not a child, though. I am a grown-ass woman. A grown-ass woman who is about to consume the equivalent to 2-3 standard alcoholic drinks in a clinical setting.

“Once the questionnaires are completed you will be asked to consume the equivalent to 2-3 standard alcoholic drinks. After consuming the alcoholic beverages, you will fill out forms regarding the effects of the alcohol and your urge to smoke a cigarette and to drink.”

The muffin, albeit terrible, has bolstered my spirits somewhat; I am now ready to drink in a room adjacent to that of the college coeds who will be leading me on this fantastic voyage. The coeds’ alpha female brings me a glass of white wine and informs me that I will be drinking one of these every five minutes; a stopwatch next to me will count down the amount of time I have to consume each glass. The pressure’s on; I am told, however, not to “chug it all within the first thirty seconds.” I briefly consider chugging it all within the first thirty seconds. As soon as she leaves the room, I take my first drink and dispose of that fanciful notion.

It tastes awful. The combination of its low quality and my already acid-charred larynx sets my throat afire. It has, however, been thoughtfully chilled (a nice touch). I hear the alpha female talk to a subordinate in the other room – she brags that the offending liquid is “the cheapest wine you can buy.” Her cohort giggles with perverse delight. I look at the stopwatch, look at the glass, and look at the one-way mirror in front of me. They form an uninviting trifecta. I take my last sip of wine as the stopwatch hits the five minute mark. The alpha female returns with a test tube; it’s filled with the same amount of liquid I just consumed. She pours it in my glass and smiles. I weakly return her smile. Bottoms up.

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