Benzo’s: one hero’s story

I have shared a lot of info on benzo’s and how things can go wrong if you use them too often. PLease read the following blogs starting with The bad side of benzos, then More on benzo addiction and finally Good riddance to benzo dependence. Today I’m sharing one man’s story of how he overcame his benzo dependence. BE ENCOURAGED!

benzo-valium

“I’ve had problems with anxiety for my entire life. When I was
diagnosed with bipolar, I was also diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety
Disorder (GAD). Later I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive
Disorder (OCD). I also have panic attacks, but I don’t quite meet the
criteria for Panic Disorder. I don’t meet those requirements since the
worry about future panic attacks does not cause me trouble in the
present.
Based on these diagnoses, my first (well second, the first retired
shortly after I met him) psychiatrist prescribed a benzodiazepine
(tranquilizer). There are many benzos, the one she put me on was
Klonopin, or clonazepam, which is the generic name.
I was instructed to take it PRN (as needed), and I did so. I took it
maybe 3 or 4 times a week and it was a wonderful med. Since I didn’t
take it all the time, there was no problem with withdrawals.
The I went inpatient for the first time. They told me that I should
take the Klonopin every time the prescription allowed. After all, I
was anxious and in an unfamiliar place, so why not? I was naive about
benzos at the time, so I didn’t refuse this.
Then I got out of the hospital and tried to go back to taking the
Klonopin PRN. That did not work. I had withdrawals whenever I skipped
a dose. Nasty withdrawals that got worse fast if I held off a dose. I
didn’t like this, but I did have anxiety, so I should be taking an
anxiety med, shouldn’t I? So I just kept taking it.
Eventually I was at the maximum dose and
it still kept getting less and less effective.
What to do? She switched me to Xanax, or alprazolam. That was great at
first, it was effective. But again, tolerance built up. At some point
it too was ineffective. But I could not stop taking it. This irked me
greatly.
At some point another problem became evident. My mind was slower and
cloudier than it normally was. My mother said that, “The sparkle is
gone from your eyes.” My mental life just wasn’t what it used to
be. That irked me even more than the withdrawals.
What to do? I couldn’t stop taking it, but I had to. So I went to my
psychiatrist and asked what I could do. This was a new Dr. and he said
that he preferred his clients not to use benzos for exactly the same
reason that I didn’t want to be taking it.
We came up with a plan to titrate (slowly change) off the Xanax. It
would take six weeks. It was miserable. I couldn’t sleep, I had the
shakes, and it felt like my skeleton was trying to crawl out of my
body. And then I hit the first week when I took none. The misery went
up massively.
benzo-withdrawal-symptoms
It took another six weeks of no Xanax before I started feeling close
to normal again. I still couldn’t sleep. Three months and I was off
the Xanax, but I still couldn’t sleep. Normally I sleep well, I’m one
of the lucky people with bipolar who only has sleep problems during
mania. Not anymore.
I complained about this, and was put on Remeron, or
mirtazapine. Remeron is an antidepressant that causes such drowsiness
that it is used as a sleeping pill. I’ve never known anyone to take it
as an antidepressant, it’s just too sedating. It only sort of worked
and gave me horrible hangovers. I could sleep a little at night, but
then in the day I couldn’t stay awake.
After about nine months, my life started coming together. I could
sleep, the “sparkle” was back and I was thinking clearly. Was it worth
getting off the benzos? I think so, but it was not easy.
Would I ever take a benzo again? Never on a regular basis, but maybe
for a one-time event like dental work. It’s not really an issue around
here though, doctors, even psychiatrists are so scared of the DEA that
they will not prescribe benzos (and will only prescribe pain meds for
very short periods of time, even after surgery). This happened after a
local clinic was shut down for over prescribing meds that could be
(and were being) abused. Everyone who worked there, not just the
medical staff, went to prison. It seems that they were all in on
it. They were an extreme case, they really were supporting drug abuse,
but now everyone is paying the price. Worst off were their legitimate
patients who saw them for non-drug-abuse purposes. No local doctor or
clinic would take them Even in nearby cities. They were pariahs. It’s
like they were radioactive. It was a very big clinic too, lots of
people were affected. One person I know had to keep going to the ER to
get prescriptions for her insulin. That stigma and discrimination has
passed and those patients can find doctors now, but still no benzos
and pain meds for only a short period of time”
benzo-chill
I want to thank Mr benzo-free from America for sharing his story. It is very brave! I’m looking for more stories, comment or message us if you feel like sharing. You don’t have to be benzo-free, just share your experience with us. It can be short or long.
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