Columns | Better Living Through Chemistry

Me, My Father, and Our Pills

It no longer seemed as important to control the sequence of steps inside a round-bottomed flask as it was to look at my life and build a future worth living.

This is Better Living Through Chemistry, a column by Ariana Remmel on how atoms and molecules can help us explore our lives.


The respite was short.

A few months later, my mother called in the middle of my workday. She was driving Dad to a rehab facility, she said, sounding angry and exhausted. He would be treated for the opioid addiction he had been struggling with, unknown to us, for well over a year.

Instead, I was surrounded by the broken fragments of my life.

Pills had only ever helped me. It seemed unfathomable that a prescription could have stolen my father from me. 

Searching for relief from my burdens, I took weekend trips to go scuba diving along the canyons of the Pacific coast. Yet even buoyed by the caress of marine saltwater, I imagined myself sinking down to the inky darkness of the deep sea. I worried that my dependence on medications to keep me from doing the unthinkable meant that perhaps my life was not worth living after all.