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Success After 10 Years


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I usually like to keep it really light when disclosing any personal stories, but I feel it is important that the following experience brings bring attention to the silent drug epidemic around the world: benzodiazepines. I went through ten years of hell with these drugs in total, and the last two years of that time was spent getting off of them. I am proud to say I'm finally done. If making someone I know aware of the dangers of these drugs and lack of education in primary care about them is helpful, then sharing this incredibly painful and personal experience is worth it.

 

Reflecting back, I remember when I first started experiencing anxiety during my first year of college. I made an appointment with my primary care doctor. After two appointments, I was prescribed klonopin. With hindsight always being twenty-twenty, I now know that it was not ok for someone to prescribe this as a first-line medication to a nineteen-and-a-half-year-old suffering from anxiety without discussing any other non-medication based alternatives. Despite working in healthcare and my mother being a medical doctor, I was incredibly uneducated as a patient about the consequences of taking this drug. From my experience as a patient prescribed and tapered off this drug for a decade, I have learned that this drug should not be a go to solution for anxiety management, especially in primary care. It should be used sparingly, in the emergency room, inpatient psychiatric facilities, or for sedation prior to a medical procedure. Additionally, I feel this medication being prescribed by primary care on a "PRN" basis is incredibly risky, as the temptation for immediate anxiety relief is very enticing when you experience continuous panic attacks that seem to last forever. These risks and my perspective of when to use these drugs may seem obvious to people who have never experienced crippling anxiety, but when you are told about an instant fix as a patient, it's hard to resist accepting an ongoing yet temporary solution.

 

I will be the first to say that the immediate relief one experiences from taking these drugs is unfortunately incredible. It makes everything go away. However, as I learned the hard way, addiction can develop in only a few weeks. Multiply those few weeks by several years, and you get the idea of how dependent my body and psyche became on these pills, just to get out of the house in the morning, to function throughout the day, then fall asleep at night. It became a cycle which seemed so perfect that it seemed okay to overlook how destructive it was to my emotional and physical wellbeing. As is the case with any addiction, I required stronger and more frequent doses to maintain these false feelings of comfort, as my body developed a tolerance to these drugs during the years I was taking them.

 

Some other things happened to me about three years ago, which I won't go into detail about, but from those events, it became clinically indicated for me to stop staking these pills. My doctor at the time cut me off with an abrupt taper. I say "cut me off," because that's part of the cycle. Your doctor is your dealer. Shortly after I was cut off, I experienced back-to-back grand mal seizures, even though I had no prior neurological issues. If you look closely at my left eyebrow and at the bottom of my chin, you can see the reminders of these events that I see daily, although I do not remember seizing on the pavement where I collapsed. That was just the start of what would be a long two-year process to get off of this poison.

 

In the aftermath of the initial medical complications I experienced from being tapered to quickly, I was fortunate to find a specialist who had knowledge of the dangers of these drugs, and was trained in managing a safe taper, to help me avoid having more seizers and other medical consequences. Slowly, I began to reduce the dose I was taking, to try and learn to live with and manage my anxiety in a way that didn't involve addictive drugs. I will admit that like any addict, I absolutely did not want to stop when I started. The withdrawal alone was terrifying, and those feelings of terror didn't even factor in how overwhelmed I felt when thinking about how I would figure out managing my underlying anxiety without these drugs. The reason I feel the taper lasted for two years was due to how long I had been taking them - almost eight years. It was so challenging to manage the physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms while simultaneously trying to maintain some form of order in my life. However, as I progressed, I began to notice that I was finally feeling connected back to reality. I began to understand why I was doing all of this hard work. I was feeling human again, little by little. Since benzodiazepine withdrawal is "non-linear," there were a lot of ups and downs and bumps along the way. I am still working on figuring out a balance to my life, but I am off the pills, and I am finally learning how to manage my anxiety in a way I wish knew was possible when I started this journey in my first year of college.

 

If you have read this far, I want to thank all of the people who have supported me through this hell to see me through to where I'm at today. While I am distraught that a lack of information and education about the dangers of these drugs in primary care got me here, I am thrilled that I made it. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my parents and best friend, for putting up with me during all of this time, and doing their best to understand how hard it was for me, and helping me pull through when I thought I wasn't strong enough to do so on my own, and when I couldn't even use words to describe how I horrible was feeling. I would also like to note that the intent of sharing the details of this experience is not to bring attention to myself. Rather, I implore whomever is reading this to know it is okay to ask as many questions about treatment options with your doctor as you need to until you are well informed about the risks and benefits of each option. Knowledge is power, especially about your own health. To any others who may be suffering in silence: recovery is possible, I am proof of that. You are not alone.

 

 

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Hello benxiety!

 

We are very glad that you found us! Congratulations on being benzo free! That is quite the journey. Many of our members have been down the same road. Please consider sharing your story in our Success Story board.

 

I would also like to suggest that you do some research on the various boards. You will find many knowledgeable members who will support your efforts to remain benzo free. I have enclosed a few links below that may help you. Check them out!

 

Wishing you the very best!

Bella  :smitten:

 

 

 

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