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Blood Orange Night
A Memoir of Insomnia, Motherhood, and Benzos
Table of Contents
About The Book
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 regularly.
Following her doctor’s orders, Melissa takes the pills night after night until her body begins to shut down. Only when she collapses while holding her daughter does Melissa learn that her doctor—like so many others—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. “Propulsive, poetic” (Shelf Awareness), and immersive, this “vivid chronicle of suffering” (Kirkus Reviews) and redemption shines a light on the prescription benzodiazepine epidemic as it reaches a crisis point in this country.
First the light sinks to shadows; then the light is eaten.
Have you felt this? Have you been in this room?
What does one do with nights when there is no fleshy velvet of sleep?
It happened to me, quick as a shot and out of nowhere.
I don’t know how many days it’s been since I’ve slept. Two? Four?
IT’S WINTER, AND SNOW IS hunched like odd animals on the trees, when I receive the email from ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. One of the producers found my mama turned benzo withdrawal blogs. I’m amazed I’ve been able to write because of the sickness—the shivering of my eyes in their sockets, the muscles flickering like butterfly wings. Reading becomes impossible until I do the needed thing to beat the symptoms back. But still I write. I must. I don’t need eyes to tap, tap, tap the black squares on the computer keyboard.
Sometimes I think if I can tell the story, I’ll survive. Also, I’m pissed. For me—for others like me slipping into the dark. I try to write with technical and scientific accuracy to modulate my fury. I want people to understand this isn’t anomalous. I cite the medical literature. It’s all there, I say. Just look. There’s a mountain of us who have been buried with this sickness; a continent. I don’t know if this works. All I know is I’ve been writing about this thing that’s happened and now ABC wants to talk to me.
The producer is from New York. Her name is Naria or Narnia and I imagine her with red hair, fiery and ready to dig in. “I found your blogs,” she says. “We want to come to Salt Lake City to interview you.” She asks if I’m willing to tell my story on national television. I pause. Jesus. Diane Sawyer. She’s a legend, a high-ranking news journalist once suspected of being Deep Throat, the informant who leaked information to Bob Woodward in the Watergate scandal. When Diane became the first female correspondent on 60 Minutes, I was in high school. I watched the show every Sunday on the floor of my mother’s bedroom. The TV was stuffed at the end of my mom’s bed and my brother and I had a six-foot swath of carpet on which to deposit ourselves for what we called “tube time.” Watching Diane, I felt a doe-eyed feminist ardor I feel to this day.
My children are asleep downstairs.
My girl is three and my boy is four and I’ve had the sickness since before my girl was born. I don’t know where my husband is, but I know he won’t like it when I tell him they want me to be on national television. My sickness has taken him to the brink. I have no tumor to point to, no lab results over which we can cry together and show friends and family, no known story of what is happening to me. There is only the fire I tell him is in my head. There is the pain and my ribs poking out like railroad ties. He’s tired and the fear has eclipsed him, turning everything between us to shadows. I don’t blame him for this, but the wall between us aches. And now ABC. Now Diane Sawyer.
How can I say no?
When I was young, Diane interviewed Saddam Hussein and the Clintons. She got into North Korea when no one was allowed into North Korea. This woman has heft. She has moxie. Yes, yes, Diane. My God! How can I even hold the fact they want to talk to me without melting into a wild but teary euphoria?
This story’s tricky, and so much news has become a social narcotic. News as candy; news as sensational distraction. And it’s this machine of sensationalism that has me nervous and uncertain in the face of Diane and her producers. I want to tell this Naria or Narnia that I’ll consider being interviewed, but I won’t prostitute my sickness to the media’s love of McNugget news bites.
I’m cynical right now. It’s part of the sickness. Forgive me.
My son makes his “hoo hoo” sound from his crib downstairs. His Down syndrome has made us all more tender than we could imagine. How will being on national television affect my family? How can I protect them? I must ask Narnia why they want to interview me. I will not agree to an interview if I’m to be their prime-time pity sandwich. Because this is so much more than my story. This is the story of millions of people just like me. I just happen to have survived. I just happen to be upright.
I write the producer, terrified.
Yes, I say. I’ll do what I can.
- Publisher: Gallery Books (August 1, 2023)
- Length: 304 pages
- ISBN13: 9781982188283
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Raves and Reviews
“In this raw and captivating debut, journalist Bond chronicles her volatile descent into a benzodiazepine addiction... 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.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“A harrowing memoir about a class of drugs as dangerous as opioids… Bond’s sharp critique of big pharma and the broken American health care system sounds an urgent alarm. A vivid chronicle of suffering.”
“Bond's story, with lines like ‘the blood orange night turns red and screams through my eyes,’ is an eloquent cautionary tale.”
“A 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.”
“Deeply personal insight into the ongoing benzodiazepine epidemic.”
“In her propulsive, poetic memoir, Blood Orange Night, Bond narrates her experience in harrowing detail… Told with a journalist's commitment to fact and a poet's touch.”
“An engaging testament to the powers of self-advocacy and resilience written with lyrical clarity and heart. This cautionary tale will help many understand how prescription drug dependency can happen and the strength and courage required to overcome it. Highly recommended.”
“There is a line in this evocative memoir that I will not forget, for it so perfectly sums up the effect that benzodiazepines have had on millions of lives: ‘Benzos are the thief that steals everything you own a piece at a time.' In Blood Orange Night, Melissa Bond writes of the thief that crept into her life with the narrative skills of a fine novelist.”
—Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic and Mad in America
“Blood Orange Night is a beautifully written and exceptionally moving firsthand account of Melissa Bond’s struggle with addiction to benzodiazepines. It should be read by anyone considering taking or prescribing medication for insomnia.”
—Irving Kirsch, PhD, author of The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth
“This is the best-written and most immersive personal story on benzos that I have read. Melissa Bond summarizes the benzodiazepine crisis that is invisibly growing in the shadow of the opioids when she writes: ‘Benzos dismantle the brain over time. Instead of a swift and sudden death by overdose, there is a slow slide into disability.’ Immersed in her deeply personal story and peppered with pulsating prose, Blood Orange Night shows the terrifying but not uncommon consequences of using these drugs long-term as prescribed.”
—Bernard Silvernail, Co-founder and President, The Alliance for Benzodiazepine Best Practices
“Blood Orange Night has it all: sex, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, brutal addiction that’s not addiction, and outright beauty (not necessarily in that order). There’s also a hilarious kiddo with Down Syndrome lighting the book from the inside, but he’s just the cherry on top of a magnificent cake of a book. If we were at a dinner party together and you asked me about it, I’d tell you to get the thing; get this book now and devour it. It’s that good.”
—Stephanie Wilder Taylor, author of Sippy Cups are not for Chardonnay
“With the unblinking eye of a journalist and the highly attuned heart of a poet, Melissa Bond brilliantly lays out the abyss prescribed benzodiazepine tranquilizers opened in her life…Blood Orange Night cuts to the bone. Here, truly, is hell on earth, and I can’t help but be awed by the strength and perseverance Bond manifested to emerge intact for her own sake and for that of her children.”
—Matt Samet, author of Death Grip
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High Resolution Images
- Book Cover Image (jpg): Blood Orange Night Trade Paperback 9781982188283
- Author Photo (jpg): Melissa Bond Photograph by Josh Blumental(0.1 MB)
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