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LETTERS FROM WAKE ROBIN FARM

Another Drug-Pushing Pharmaceutical TV Commercial

I was completely disgusted when I saw my first TV ad for a new drug called Movantik a few months back. It featured a woman of my general demographic who admitted to struggling with constipation due to her doctor-prescribed opioids. Great! First the drug companies convince the doctors they needn’t worry about addiction in prescribing opioid painkillers to their patients, then, once the patients are hooked, they’re right there to sell them another drug to deal with the side effects. But see, she’s a nice lady. Clearly not an addict. Nice people can take opioid painkillers. You got that message, right?

AstraZeneca’s newest commercial is equally insidious. It’s entitled “Frank’s Moment,” meaning the moment this completely healthy-looking construction foreman—ACTOR PORTRAYAL flashes briefly on the screen—gets the enlightening news from his doctor that his problem with OIC—Opioid-Induced Constipation—can be fixed simply by popping another pill! Yay for modern medicine!

The cynicism of the drug companies and these ad copywriters is breathtaking. They know that a huge percentage of middle-aged men who wind up on opioid painkillers arrive in this predicament by way of lower back pain, something that’s extremely common, especially among construction workers prone to “throwing their backs out.” So Frank’s world, the exposed floors, two-by-fours and staircases of a substantial new house going up, is familiar to them.

Please note though, that Frank is the boss. He’s not carrying anything heavier than his laptop. He’s in a position of power. He points people here and there. But, hey, look what a stand-up guy he is, taking a coffee break with his underlings. Also—this is important—he’s ridiculously goodlooking and fit. Actor Mike McGowan, playing “Frank,” delivers his lines to perfection. Sure, these words flash briefly on the screen: OPIOIDS SHOULD BE USED RESPONSIBLY AND ONLY WHEN PRESCRIBED BY A DOCTOR. But anyone with half-a-brain can see that if a great guy like Frank has no problem taking narcotics on a daily basis, who are they to go beating up on themselves? Nobody’s calling our Frank an addict, right? Hard to picture him going home to a wife who nags him with her concern about his prescribed drugs.

Appealing, affable Frank displays winning comic timing, the way he winces in acknowledgment of the bad puns he has no choice but to deliver, inviting his TV-watching buddies to bond over the essentially embarrassing nature of constipation.

Stop! I can’t take it! Because, people, this is not about constipation. It’s about addiction, which is way more than embarrassing. It’s deadly. An ad like this is quite simply enabling; it tells the viewer that as long as their doctor is still writing their prescriptions, they’re safe.

But they’re not. Opioids are not a good solution for chronic pain, and Frank does not represent the reality of a guy taking opioids long-term. The real guys get fat. Or they waste away. What they don’t do is stay as fit and cheerful as Frank. They go on disability and withdraw from life. Through a phenomenon called Hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain) opioids eventually make their pain worse until their sole daily goal is making sure they continue to get their drugs. These are the guys who eventually contribute to the statistical uptick in deaths among white, middle-aged men in America.

Finally, here’s the real capper about this new wonder drug. Guess what one of the listed side effects is? Symptoms of opioid withdrawal! Isn’t that rich? In an effort to go to the bathroom oftener, you may experience sweating, chills, anxiety, irritability, nausea and stomach pain. Hey, here’s an idea: Why not just bite the bullet, get yourself through the horrors of withdrawal to come out drug free rather than suffering with these symptoms as you continue to layer on even more prescriptions?

I could go on, but I wrote a whole book—Accidental Addict—to explain how I lived through this myself and why I have the feelings I do on the subject. I’m starting to hear from people who’ve read it and who see parts of their own stories or their loved ones’ in mine. Please check it out.

Save yourself. Save somebody you love.

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Thank you to the marchers!

To anyone reading this who went on one of the marches yesterday, thank you! To show up in Washington, D. C., when it was first announced sounded like a great idea to me. And then, scaling back, I thought about traveling the two hours to Portland. In the end, I didn't do it. I stayed home.

But you all left your homes. You left your chairs in front of your computers, walked out the door, got on busses and showed up. You marched and raised your voices and refused to sit down and be nice girls.

I admire you so much, and I want to thank you for the inspiration and uplift the rest of us got from watching it all from afar. Read More 
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Happy Birthday Mary and Will (In Spite of the Inauguration!)

Thirty-one years ago, my darling twins first opened their eyes to the world in the early hours of January 20th. After nearly three years of infertility treatments and repeatedly failed cycles, I was too busy being thrilled with having finally won the big door prize of a boy AND a girl to even think about the date. In fact, it was years before it occurred to me that the Presidential Inauguration would always fall, for better or worse, on our kids’ birthday.

Eight years ago, the Obamas made it a great gift. This year? Ugh. I won’t even say his name. Instead, let me celebrate something that’s going right, two lovely young people walking this earth and making it a better place with their presence, Mary at the Reed College Book Store in Portland, Will at 10 Barrel Brewing in Bend.

At Cowboy Dancing recently, my husband and I learned the steps to a dance called El Paso, executed to a song by Jeff Carson. The first time I caught the lyrics they made me choke up, so happy and relieved was I to finally have recovered and reclaimed myself and to be out there dancing with my own sweet husband. The words seem appropriate here, now, as well:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Mary and Will.

Wherever you go, whatever you do
Don’t ever forget there’s someone who believes in you
When you’re lost and weary, follow your heart
‘Cause you have a gift, you’re one of a kind,
God put you on this earth so you could shine.
You don’t have to be afraid of the dark.

There will be days and there will be doubts;
There will be those who lie and let you down,
When you just have to rise above it all.
Over the tears, over the pain
Look for the rainbow in the pourin’ rain
Like a ray of sun at the crack of dawn.

Shine on!
Light up the world with your love
With faith and desire, you can build a fire
Shine on!
And let your dreams keep burning strong
Oh, shine on.

There’s a star in every one of us,
Just waiting to be born
Take a chance, dance the dance.
It’s what you’ve waited for.
Shine on!

So, keep on shining, Mary and Will.
Shine on, all of us. Let’s see if we can let love prevail.

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In the Wake of the Disheartening Presidential Election

I have always loved this quote:

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”
¯ E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Nowhere in my life has this sentiment had more application than to my dear friend, award-winning writer Theresa Nelson, who took the time from her mother's bedside to pass on this encouragement from E.B. White. Although written in an earlier dark time, the inspiration is welcome once again, and since I am at a loss myself and have no heart to even write the name of the President Elect, I will borrow and share these words, which are apparently making the rounds in the children's book world.

In 1973, E.B White wrote the following reply to a man asking White's opinion on what he perceived as the bleak future for the human race.

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

Sincerely,
E. B. White  Read More 
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Post-Election

Words fail me.
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Presidential Debate Day Rant

I don’t usually get into politics here, but on this day of the final presidential debate, I feel like speaking up. To maintain some connection with literature, here’s a nursery rhyme that, while reading to my grandson, reminded me of a certain despicable person:

Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry;
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.

I thought I had disliked politicians in the past, but the loathing I bear for Donald Trump makes what I felt for Richard Nixon, for example, seem, in retrospect, more like benign disapproval. (He did go to China, after all.)

This isn’t even about politics anymore. It’s about being a man. About being a decent human being. This crybaby’s not fit to be allowed on the same playground as the rest of us. He’s the very epitome of the kind of guy I would have nothing to do with in college. I would never date a frat rat, but likening Donald Trump to members of a fraternity is not fair to them, just as calling him childish is not fair to children, just as calling the appalling trash that comes out of his mouth “locker room talk” is not fair to athletes.

Seriously, he’s in a horrid little class by himself. And most people I associate with seem to agree on this. Unfortunately, it also seems fashionable to follow the expression of such sentiments with a pouty, “But I don’t like Hillary either.”

As if there’s any comparison!

So I want to state for the record that I like Hillary Clinton. I love that her classmates voted her the first student speaker at their commencement and predicted, in writing, she’d be the first female President of the United States.

And I identify with her. Just a year after she took an argumentative tone with Wellesley’s administration in that standing-ovation speech, I myself got into a verbal spat with John Howard, the President of Lewis & Clark College. A handful of top freshmen had been invited to an honorary dinner where we sat around a big round table with this guy. At some point I made the remark that for me, the high cost of tuition at this spendy private school (My parents could hardly scrape together that one year’s tuition, and were relieved when I elected to transfer to the more budget friendly U of O) would be something of a waste if I didn’t do something other than become a housewife. In this spring of 1970 I had no idea what that would be; I just knew I had a horror of 100% housewifery, thanks to having just read The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan. (Oh, good, another literature connection!)

President Howard asked how women expected to get along with their next door neighbors if they didn’t take classes in international relations, and another girl who’d also apparently earned stellar grades sniffed that she just couldn’t see any higher calling in life than marriage and motherhood. I cannot recall the rest of the exchange, but I’ll never forget President Howard’s closing argument:

“Frankly, I just couldn’t ever imagine being married to someone as unfeminine as you.”

Say WHAT? His personal assessment of me as wife material had WHAT to do with this debate?

Storming back to the dorm, I came upon the guy I’d recently been dating, sprawled on the lawn in his usual 501 jeans. In a huff, I dropped down to my side on the grass beside him and propped my cheek on my hand.

“So,” I said. “Do YOU think I’m unfeminine?”

My future husband clearly did not see any problems along these lines. The rest, as they say, is history.

I’m pretty sure its memories like this that make Trump’s comments push my outrage buttons. No, I was never groped (and THANK YOU, all of you who were and are now speaking up) but I’ve had to endure this nasty business of men trying to take us down by letting us know how unattractive they consider us smart girls. Like we’d even consider for one minute getting in bed with idiots like you, Donald!

So, yeah, I’ll be rooting for Hillary big time tonight. Trump’s over-the-top vocabulary of outrageous hyperbole is so limited, during the last debate I was thinking what a great drinking game it would be if we all did shots each time he used a certain word or phrase—disaster, tremendous, I’ll be honest about this. (Right—liar, liar, pants on fire.) Trouble is, select any one word and the whole country would be passed out drunk in the first five minutes.

I guess folks at the Wall Street Journal thought better of this idea too, and this morning ran a series of stress-relieving yoga poses we could all do instead.

Well, I already did my yoga first thing as usual, so, instead, I’ll be doing the handstitching on my grandson’s new quilt. The one I made him before he was born with Chinese children flying kites didn’t really do it for him, turns out. He wants John Deere tractors. This kid’s daddy was savvy enough at the age of ten to draw horns on a picture of Donald Trump and paste it in a scrapbook. Not yet three, our grandson has been spared the worst of Trump, obviously, and is simply relieved to be reassured this man lives all the way across the country from us.

He piped up a reference to Hillary Clinton yesterday as “that other grandmother.”

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The Return of an Old Friend Bearing Memories








The first good thing about going public with my story of inadvertent addiction to prescribed drugs in Accidental Addict was reconnecting with my childhood friend, Kathy Hendrix Burke. She’d moved to California after high school and we had all but lost touch until she read my website and contacted me.

We began a feverish catch-up correspondence, and it took no time at all to be reminded of why we’d hit it off so well in seventh grade. We still love all the same things! She sent a picture of herself dressed for a wedding, and her embroidered shawl was just like what I’d worn at my son’s wedding. Turns out we both both like the Johnny Was line of boho tunics and sweaters. She’s also into real estate and remodeling houses, favoring, as I do, craftsman style. We each consider choosing colors to be our strong point.

When she started writing about the dolls she’d outfitted with trunks of handsewn clothes and donated to charity, my husband was suspicious. “Are you sure this person isn’t stalking you? Have you written blog posts about all your doll projects?” No, I hadn’t. I agreed it was uncanny, but assured Herb my long-lost friend was for real.

Kathy and I agreed our fixation about dolls with trunks of clothes must have come from our mutual favorite childhood novel, A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, in which Sara Crewe’s wealthy father, returning to India, parks her in a stuffy school for girls with a doll and extravagant wardrobe as solace. I remember discussing with Kathy in high school how much fun it would be if our school would put on the theatrical version. Kathy generously allowed me the part of Sara in this fantasy since she wanted to be Sara’s loyal friend in poverty, the little cockney scullery maid, Becky. Of course neither of us dreamed I’d wind up with the last name Crew, and I must say here that I have always wished my husband’s family had that “e” on the end!

I wrote Kathy, though, that I had a vague memory of another book, a mystery, about a missing antique doll and trunk that had stayed lodged in my brain. I could still remember the descriptions of all the lovely miniature accessories which were reportedly in this trunk which the little girl longed to find somewhere on the family farm.

Kathy shot right back with an Esty listing. “Could this be it?” It was! The Wonderful Fashion Doll by Laura Bannon. Kathy remembered it too, as did a number of grown women posting wistfully on Amazon of the wish that this book be reprinted.

Well, nothing would do but for me to grab that rare copy so Kathy and I could share it and rediscover what had so captivated us when we were little. It was all there, the doll and trunk as I remembered it, but more, I was struck with the love of history and antiques the book conveyed. I would have first read it sitting in my parents brand new subdivision house with its boring sheetrock walls, and the scenes of pulling off seven layers of wallpaper to reveal stenciled walls beneath must have stuck with me since that’s what interests me now.

Of course, in the book, after chapters of suspense, false leads and disappointments, the little girl, Debby, ultimately finds the doll. Reporting on this book to my mother when I read it around the age of ten, she told me that her mother had been given a beautiful doll she named Lovey Mary (after a character in yet another book) and that the wardrobe sewn for the doll had won a prize in a contest and been displayed in a window in Meier & Frank in Portland where my grandmother grew up.

So where was Lovey Mary? Where were those beautiful clothes? Who knows? Not in my grandmother’s attic.

Thus one of my earliest lessons in an annoying truth: real life doesn't always live up to the books! My mother’s family weren’t savers, and she herself didn’t save one doll from her childhood. Probably why I’ve gone so far overboard in the other direction.

A few years ago, I tried to fix the longing to find Lovey Mary by researching what manufacture of doll she’d probably been and having as close a match as possible sent from a shop in New York City. I enjoyed the project, making several elegant dresses, for which my new Lovey Mary would of course need a trunk!

I hope I’ll find new excuses for more projects like this. Inside, you see, I’m still ten, with the thrilling hope of finding that long-lost doll lodged forever in my little girl heart.  Read More 
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Support From the Beyond

Two years before he died at the age of 83, my Uncle Bill distributed copies of a book called The Four Agreements among family members. Inside he pasted a typed note: I believe this book contains valuable truths clearly stated. My hope is that you will find it so. Wm. E. Welch 2001.

It struck me as a bit too new-agey for me at the time, and something that could have been summed up in a magazine article rather than stretched into even a short book. Still, it was sweet of my uncle, and the agreements, conveniently summed up on the fly leaf, made sense:

1) Be impeccable with your word
2) Don’t take anything personally
3) Don’t make assumptions
4) Always do your best

A few days ago I took it out to read again and, honestly, with that message inside, it felt like his steadying hand reaching from Beyond in comfort.

He was my father’s big brother, and I have a picture of the two of them on a fishing trip to Alaska which now hangs in our Kings Valley cabin. A few years after my father died at the too-young age of 73, I was cleaning and found the picture on a top shelf. I turned it over and in my father’s dashed-off but artistic hand was a documentation of the trip that concluded with this: Bill is a very neat guy who loves you just as I do—Dad

Wow. Who knew deep cleaning a house could be such an emotional experience?

My dad and my uncle were the two children of Fay Eleanor, the beloved grandmother known to us as Deedee. I last saw her on my wedding day in 1974. She died a month later, and my mother said the Portland relatives reported she’d left a To-Do list which had my name on it.

On one of the healing meditation CDs I’ve been listening to during my recovery from physician-prescribed drugs, Belleruth Naparstek encourages the imagining of an emotional support team of people who’ve loved you in the past, those who love you now, and those who will love you in the future. I always get a kick out of that, conjuring the people who don’t even know yet how they’re going to love the heck out of you!

Those who've been trying to keep loving me now might be a little worn out with all this, though, so I’m calling on my father, my uncle and my grandmother as three who loved me in the past, and each morning when I’m doing yoga and turn to a left side plank, I raise my right arm and find myself saluting the lovely portrait which I recently had framed—my beautiful grandmother as a young woman.

Check it out, Deedee, I think each time. I’m doing my best!  Read More 
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ACCIDENTAL ADDICT is available on Amazon

Please click here to view a two-and-a-half minute YouTube trailer for ACCIDENTAL ADDICT.
ADVANCED PRAISE FOR ACCIDENTAL ADDICT:

After telling in lucid prose how she become an Accidental Addict, Linda Crew provides a prescription that all of medicine should heed: “A doctor should never prescribe a drug without an understanding of what it takes to get off of that drug, and a willingness to help his patient accomplish this.” One hopes that everyone who prescribes benzodiazepines and opioid painkillers will read this compelling memoir.
Robert Whitaker, Anatomy of an Epidemic

Crew’s inspiring triumph over addiction and withdrawal is a lifeline for anyone struggling to recover from prescription painkillers or anti-anxiety medications…. a brutal eye-opener for bystander friends, family, and doctors at a loss for clarity and compassion who, inadvertently, reopen the dark, black hole of desperation. This bold memoir is a riveting roller coaster of devastating defeat, tenacious courage, and exhilarating joy, gratitude, and hope.
Gretchen Olson, Call Me Hope

I hope this timely book gets widely read. Linda Crew’s experience has been shared by millions of Americans and many have lost their lives. The medical community has accidentally created an epidemic of addiction by overprescribing narcotics, and now everyone, including prescribers, needs to know how easily these drugs can destroy lives.
Andrew Kolodny, MD—Executive Director, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing

Accidental Addict is an excruciatingly tender, necessary work, wonderfully written, so compelling, so honest. Incredibly personal and filled with love. The many, many people who don't even know this is happening to them will thank Linda Crew over and over.
Jane Kirkpatrick, Homestead

I found myself instantly drawn into her story, and her witty delivery kept me engaged. Definitely a wake-up call for all of us about the perils of painkiller and anti-anxiety medication use, and the way doctors have carelessly over-prescribed these drugs in the last few decades. A fascinating (and scary) read that won’t be easy to forget.
Margot Vance-Borland, LPC

Linda Crew clearly has a gift. Her memoir about the unrecognized epidemic of protracted withdrawal illnesses caused by benzodiazepines and other psychiatric drugs is written like a novel and, like a brilliant piece of fiction, gets under your skin…an important piece of literature that may help educate many.
Monica Cassani, author and editor of Beyond Meds, prize-winning web magazine

Linda Crew's Accidental Addict is a must read for all medical students across America, and physicians who treat pain will find this book very useful as they rethink the way they are prescribing narcotics....a superb book on an enormous medical issue of our time.
Mark Rampton, M.D., Family Physician at Corvallis Family Medicine

Addiction to prescribed medications, due to the actions of well-meaning medical professionals, has become alarmingly common across the country today. Linda Crew has written a compelling and bravely honest memoir of her struggle and recovery from the aftereffects of legally prescribed narcotic painkillers and benzodiazepines. Her voice is clear on their devastating impact, and her story is one that needs to be widely read and shared by both patients and providers.
Catherine Saeger, LICSW

If you believe that smart, strong, successful people who faithfully follow the rules, listen to their doctors, and have a solid and impressive support system of family and friends are not the “sorts of folks” who become addicted to prescription narcotics for post-surgical pain, then you’d best read Linda Crew’s Accidental Addict, a memoir that’s as harrowing, honest, and raw as it is timely. Crew writes with a ferocious energy, as though she’s determined to finish the book even as the walls of her own home are crashing down around her.
Rick Borsten, The Great Equalizer

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ACCIDENTAL ADDICT: a True Story of Pain and Healing....also Marriage, Real Estate, and Cowboy Dancing

I’m excited. I love crossing things off a To-Do list, and for almost four years now the only thing on it has been GET WELL. Now I’m crossing that off . FINALLY. I am so glad to be looking forward to a life that’s about more than struggling to recover from the nasty job opioid painkillers and the benzodiazepine Xanax did to my brain in conjunction with my total knee replacement surgery.

Maybe only someone who’s been through withdrawal from prescription drugs can fully understand what I mean by this, but that’s okay. I’m hoping my new book, ACCIDENTAL ADDICT, will help people understand what this long drawn out healing process entails. It's surely baffling to the loved ones of those in our situation.

More importantly, I hope people will read about my pharmaceutically-induced trainwreck and get the warning I never had. I like to picture somebody sitting in their doctor’s office being offered Xanax and going, “Are you kidding? You think I want to wind up like that woman in ACCIDENTAL ADDICT?”

ACCIDENTAL ADDICT: a True Story of Pain and Healing….also Marriage, Real Estate, and Cowboy Dancing. It’s gone to press—or however that should be put in the digital age—which is another huge item off my To-Do list!
To view a two-and-a-half minute YouTube book trailer,click here.

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