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2-1/2 months free. Ready to tell my tale


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A quick backstory to start. For years I’ve had a heart arrhythmia. It is not afib or life threatening. Many have it but mine started getting more frequent and intense and I felt bad a great deal of the time. This significantly affected my sleep and general mental health. My family doctor felt my anxiety over these arrhythmia “storms” was causing a feedback loop – more arrhythmia causes more anxiety which causes more arrhythmia, etc. I had tried Ativan to assist in sleep previously, but I didn’t like it and rarely used it. After a particularly bad few months of arrhythmia my doctor suggested I try Xanax ER 2mg on a daily basis for a while. This the beginning of my benzo journey. At the time, I was unaware what I was getting into. My cardiologist gave me a warning about taking Xanax. He said it was highly addictive and did not recommend it, but I was so happy with the way I felt I just brushed it off and listened to my family doctor. My doctor initially recommend I stay on it no more than 4 month but after 4 months passed and I was moving into my busy season at work (which meant more stress) my doctor said I could extend it another 2 or 3 months. It was in this extended period that I began to develop tolerance withdrawal. I was getting severe hypnic jerks at night when trying to sleep and it would wake me when I did get to sleep. My nerves all day were on edge and I would jump at the smallest stimulus. I felt awful all the time. This is when I began to research benzos and started to vaguely realize what a rabbit hole I had ventured down.

 

I won’t provide a blow by blow of my eventual taper off of Xanax and I’m certainly not going to say it has been easy – far from it. However, once I started following the Ashton method, I was able to get off them in the recommended time frame and with tolerable discomfort. Some may say I tapered too quickly and I won’t argue, but I’ve never been a patient person.

 

When I got on this board for the first time and read some of the stories it really disheartened me to see how much some were struggling. I don’t want to diminish in any way those struggles. What I do want to do is say that the Ashton method can work just as planned for many. I wanted to present a success story on here where things went mostly right (albeit after a rocky start). I worked hard at it, and here were the keys to my success. Everybody’s path is different, but I hope this can help some who may be under similar circumstances to mine.

 

1. I found a doctor who supported me in the Ashton method. He tried initially switched me from Xanax to Ativan to taper but I just couldn’t handle the withdrawal between doses. I was miserable much of the time and I convinced him to allow me to switch to Valium. The Ashton/Valium taper may not work for everyone, and Valium takes some getting used to, but it was a godsend for me. Switching to Valium did cause me some nausea, fatigue and discomfort initially. However, once I got used to it, I felt much better on Valium.

2. I stayed mostly off the support boards and internet. Come to the boards when you really need help but, by and large, stay off them. Work the Ashton system and listen to your body. Pause if you need to. Many of the stories on these boards are from people who are having a particularly difficult time. It can happen. However, it can also discourage you when you are reading mostly worst-case scenarios all the time.

3. I made peace with a certain level of discomfort. I had foolishly tried to quit cold turkey in the beginning and then tapered far too quickly to start. I would not recommend that by any means. But one thing it did for me was it taught me what hard benzo withdrawal symptoms could feel like. I fell short of Grand Mal seizures and hospitalization, but I was truly a mess. This was beneficial when I was feeling mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms during the Ashton taper. I found mild or moderate discomfort often did not blow up into terrible withdrawal symptoms if I reduced my dose after a reasonable period as recommended by Ashton. In fact, there were times I felt better after making a jump I had been dreading. This can be tough to gauge, but it works hand in hand with other coping mechanisms. I often took comfort and strength from a specific passage in the Ashton Supplement that addresses “sticky patches”. It reads: “The truth is that one never 'stabilises' on a given dose of benzodiazepine. The dose may be stable but withdrawal symptoms are not. It is better to grit one's teeth and continue the withdrawal. True recovery cannot really start until the drug is out of the system.”

4. I stayed clear of all caffeine (even decaf which does still have caffeine), alcohol, sugar, and chocolate (which has both caffeine and sugar). Basically, I steered clear of anything that would stimulate my system. I also drank a lot of water. 

5. I exercised more, jogged, did strength training, yoga and went on long walks and hikes. If I started feeling the anxiety of withdrawal, I would try to do something that would engage me physically.

6. It was hard, but I tried to fight through and maintain my work schedule. I think it is better than sitting there stewing about your discomfort on a couch or in a bed. Books on anxiety all recommend engaging yourself during anxiety spells. This included going out and trying to maintain as normal a social schedule as possible. I used to go and have a few drinks every Saturday with some buddies. I made sure I still did this (without the alcohol) as much as possible, even though it was very difficult sometimes. I even went to a college football bowl game with a friend which turned out to be a complete overload of stimuli and I was miserable most of the time, but in retrospect I am glad that I tried.

7. I tried to not introduce any other medications or supplements into the equation. I know this isn’t always possible or recommended, but I wanted to be sure I knew where what I was feeling was coming from. For example, my doctor tried to put me on an anti-depressant after to assist the withdrawal process, but I refused. I read too many bad stories about getting hooked on those as well, not to mention the possible side effects. I wanted this fight to be between me and the benzo, nothing else if I could help it.

 

I assume most people got hooked on benzos to address anxiety or some other issue. Often that issue still needs addressed after you are free of the benzo and this is the case with me. I still struggle with mild insomnia and suspect I will continue to do so for some time. I still struggle with anxiety and I’m pretty disillusioned with health care providers (my family doctor in particular) who can prescribe these troubling drugs so casually and without fully disclosing the horrors that can await those who become addicted.

 

I’m so happy to be off benzos. I was lucky, I never was hooked on a high dose and my time on the drug was short compared to many. I was fortunate in many ways.

You can get through this. Be kind to yourself and listen to your body. It will take time to get off this drug. There is a balance to be found between determination and moving forward and knowing when to ease off if it becomes too much. Each person has to find that balance on their own.  You can get your life back. I wish everyone the best. Thanks to all on this board for being there for me!

 

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Hello, I want to congratulate and thank you for telling your story. Keep coming back and giving an update because if it helps one person it is so worth it. I for one am so grateful that you even took the time to let people know that healing is indeed happening.

 

I am so proud of you!  :thumbsup:

 

PG

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Congratulations! You are doing very well at only just over 2 months free -goes to show we are all different in our healing! I hope you continue to live in the freedom you are experiencing :)
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Congrats on the progress you've made. I want to thank you for posting this because I'm down to 5mg of Valium and have the exact same taper plan laid out that you did of dropping a half mg at a time and wondering if it's doable, so your post definitely gives me more hope.
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Great progress!  Thanks for sharing.

 

I too remember jumping at the smallest stimulus.  But now I am much more calm. 

 

I agree that you have to be ready to grit your teeth and tolerate the discomfort.  It’s a long and painfully dark tunnel you have to walk in order to get the drugs out of your system.  I’m glad I stuck it out.  I don’t want to have to do that again ever.

 

Your tips will be useful for many, thanks again for sharing.

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Great progress!  Thanks for sharing.

 

I too remember jumping at the smallest stimulus.  But now I am much more calm. 

 

I agree that you have to be ready to grit your teeth and tolerate the discomfort.  It’s a long and painfully dark tunnel you have to walk in order to get the drugs out of your system.  I’m glad I stuck it out.  I don’t want to have to do that again ever.

 

Your tips will be useful for many, thanks again for sharing.

 

Rsack, how long did it take you to be me calmer?

i am jumping at the smallest stimulus right now on my bad days

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You sound very similar to me and how I started taking benzos. The palpitations I got made me anxious and then the anxiety gave me palpitations. But by taking benzos all iv done is make my palpitations sooo much worse especially now that I'm tapering. why oh why. if only I could turn back time. Your story gives me hope though thank you for posting this! I also could not even read the Benzo sites before, when I realised about benzos and started looking up "success stories" I was like OMFG. wow. it made me ill. I was like wtf this can't be me. I still try not to look at much and just keep positive that we are all different and iv been on them relatively short period of time compared to a lot of people. x
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