Note: The episode did not air as expected. ABC indicates it will air Tuesday, January 21.
Six weeks ago a producer from ABC World News with Diane Sawyer contacted me. “ABC wants to do a piece on addiction and prescription drugs,” she told me. “Would I agree to an interview?” I was not without reservations. I have a healthy disregard for much of mainstream news, but I also realize their reach and potency. The proposition was risky, but one which I decided to take. It’s a cliché, but one with truth: If one person can benefit, then it’s worth it. I said “yes.”
Last Friday the crew arrived. They’d given me an infrared camera to record my insomnia, which is not very newsworthy. It’s what’s left of my two-year crawl out of benzodiazepine dependence. I recorded night diaries on my iPhone which were sleepy and, in my mind, only telling in their gritty, somnambulant tenor.
Two cameramen set up lights. Cecilia Vega, the correspondent, sat in a chair across from me. Ned Berkowitz, the producer, drank bottle after bottle of Diet Coke and chewed his nails. We shot footage of me putting glittery high-tops on my daughter’s feet. We shot footage of me typing on my computer and running down the street. This is how the media works. She’s a mother, a writer, an athlete. And then, the medicine cabinet: she’s dependent on prescription pills.
I have many hopes for this two-minute (that’s right – a whopping two minutes) segment. My hope is that it will ring loud and long. My hope is that it will be a small fire that will gather other small fires and that the network will have phones ringing off the hook. My hope is that one person or a thousand or more will see it and say, “that’s me” or “that’s my brother” and they’ll call their doctor and demand to know more about the Ashton Manual. My hope is that this one blip in the media landscape will hit a sudden nerve and that it will start a ball of momentum toward more research, more education of providers and more societal support for those coming off these highly addictive drugs.
They’ve cut over four hours of interview into two minutes. May those two minutes have potency. May they reach the very people they need to reach. I wore blue, like the sky. May it be that big. Big as the sky and with wings.