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July 12, 2009 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Coffee, Tea, or Tranquilizers?

Title borrowed from this very infamous book.

Someone once told me that the difference between a run-of-the-mill fear and a phobia is, a phobia will prevent you from doing something.  I don’t know if this is true, because the same person who doled out this knowledge said that you can overdose on iron if you eat too much spinach. 

I have lots of little fears:  kidnappers, carbon monoxide, Carrot Top.  Just one “big” fear.  My big fear/phobia is flying.  I know I have written about this before so I will spare you the details on the many attempts I have made to “cure” myself. 

A long time ago I was interviewing for this job that involved a lot of international travel.  Crazy flights were involved.  One day you’d be on one continent, and the next week you might be on this whole ‘nother continent.  It sounded awesome.  The interviewer asked me how I felt about travel.  “I love to travel,” I said.  “I hate flying though.”  The interviewer turned a bit peaked, and leaned forward.  “Me too,” he said, very seriously.  “I have to take pills.”

My eyes got big.  “Pills?  You can take pills for flying?”  I was dumbfounded.  I had not yet entered the Big Leagues of Prescription Medication (BLPM).  “Are the legal?” I whispered.

“Oh of course,” he laughed.  Then he said something in Russian. 

“How do you get them?”

“Ask your doctor,” he said.  “Doctors do that kind of thing all the time.”


The next time I scheduled a flight, I called the doctors office.  The flight was a DC-Seattle non-stop 6 hour dealy over Christmas.  I was a nervous wreck just thinking about it. 

“What can I say the appointment is for?” the receptionist asked.

“I just have to talk to a doctor about something,” I said.


Sigh.  “I was hoping to get some kind of relax-pill for flying.”

“For crying?”

“For flying.”

“Um, okay.”  The receptionist must have wrote this down.  After a few minutes she told me the date and time for my appointment. 

I went to my appointment, and the doctor came in to the room.  “So you’re not a flyer, eh?”

“Nope,” I said. 

“Let’s see…” He whipped out a prescription pad.  “We could do Valium, Xanax…” he started naming lots of -iums and -apams and -ines.  “How do you do on Valium?”

“I have never taken it,” I said. 

“What about other benzos?  You take anything besides Valium?”

“I take Motrin,” I said.  “That’s about it.  Oh, and Flintstones vitamins.”

“I love Flintstones,” he said.

“Me too.”

“Tell you what,” he said, writing something down.  “I’m going to give you a scrip for Lorazepam.  Ever hear of that?  Ativan?”

I shook my head.  I was a pill virgin.  

“It should do the trick,” he said.


I sat in front of my gate at Dulles Airport, watching the clock.  The bottle specifically said to take ONE HOUR prior to boarding the flight.  I did some (poor) calculations in my head and at the moment deemed correct, I popped a pill.  I drank some water…back then you could take water bottles wherever you wanted to. 

I waited to die, certain that I had probably just accidentally OD’d due to some careless mix-up at the pharmacy.  I was cool with that…for it was better than getting on the plane. 

Suddenly I felt like this:


I had a window seat.  I distinctly remember leaning my face against the window.  “Hey, there’s the wing,” I thought.  Then I had a movie play in my head.  I often have movies play in my head of things that have not yet happened.  The best way I can describe this type of OCD is a Choose Your Own Adventure book…I am always playing out the possibilities of what could happen next.  In this movie, the wing burst into flames and fell off the plane. 

A funny thing happened.  I giggled.  That would totally suck if the wing fell off, I thought.  But no panic.  No vertigo-dive.  Just a sigh.  I was able to watch the movie on the plane.  It was the best flight ever.

Of course I have no idea what the movie was, or if I met anyone on the flight, or if I was attacked in the bathroom during the flight.  But I don’t care.


I have a flight on Wednesday.  I know, I know, millions of people have a flight on Wednesday.  I have no idea how many of them are as nerve-wracked as I am. 

I won’t be nerve-wracked on Wednesday though, because at approximately 2:12 I will be making my life better through chemicals.



Leave a Comment
  1. David / Jul 26 2009 6:29 am

    Hope you have good flights maleesha. It’s always a little surprising when former Marines confess their fears …

    Saw Carrot Top live 5 years ago. He was funny as shit (as he kept saying), but disgusting, pathetic, loud (unnecessary pyrotechnics in the show), and yes, fearful.

  2. smalltownsmalltimes / Jul 16 2009 5:25 am

    OMG, I hate to fly. It’s one of the reasons I finally left my career – my boss wanted me to take over some international business and I couldn’t do it. So I quit. That’s right. I quit.

    I’ve taken xanax. It worked for a while.

    Now that I don’t work and have to show up sober and meetings, I just get really drunk (though I’ve only flown once in 8 years).

    Wherever you are — it’s Thursday so I know you got there safely. Hope it was a good flight.

  3. msmollie / Jul 15 2009 3:49 pm

    I nominated you for an award and tagged you in a meme. Visit my blog once you’ve come down from the pills 😉

  4. bluesuit12 / Jul 13 2009 12:39 pm

    I liked the Carrottop reference as well – something’s just not right about him. Hmm, the only part about flying I don’t like is the security. I kind of like the turbulence, it’s like being on a ride. But I hope you have fun on your trip and that the pills do their job for you!

  5. morethananelectrician / Jul 13 2009 9:37 am

    You had me at your fear of Carrottop!!!!

    You have a problem on your hands if you start scheduling flights just so you can take some “flight pills.”

  6. crisitunity / Jul 13 2009 5:27 am

    I am not phobic, but I hate to fly. I get a terrible kind of airsickness that makes me feel nauseous in my head instead of in my stomach. The sound of the air system also mixes perfectly with my hearing loss and means that I can’t hear what people are saying to me if they’re speaking in a normal tone.

    Wish I had Ativan on my side. I’m flying four times in the next two weeks.


  7. Mike / Jul 13 2009 4:37 am

    I get a little anxious when flying, but it’s manageable, but, then, I haven’t been on a plane since 2002.

    My anxiety which requires pills is whenever I have to have dental work. I take a pill the night before — Xanax — and then another one an hour before the appointment. With the Xanax, gas and Novocaine, I’m not feeling any anxiety when the dentist is working.

  8. Ian / Jul 12 2009 10:23 pm


    Where ya headed?


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