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The Ugly Truth


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So, this will be long, but I really want to get all the details in.  I’ve withdrawn twice from Ativan (Lorazepam), the second time because of my own stupidity and addictive nature.  But there is hope!  There is much, much hope!


I married a farmer when I was 42 years old.  I loved him; I still love him.  But I was not prepared for what life would be like as a farmer.  And when you marry a farmer, you become a farmer.


I started doing the books for the farm, but I wasn’t good at it.  I’d miss things like due dates for bills, paying taxes, reporting.  I didn’t grow up on a farm.  Dealing with the financial numbers involved in farming was frightening and daunting for me, and this created a recipe for unmanageability. I was stressed beyond what I had ever been before, and I needed help.


I went to our doctor and told him how stressed I was.  He introduced me to Ativan.  At first, I was to take it just as needed, but it didn’t seem to help…at all.  (When I remember this, it amazes me, considering how “effective” it eventually became.)  So, my doctor blithely told me, “You know, you can take up to 3mg of that a day, right?”  I didn’t take all three every day, but I always took one or two.


Not right away, but eventually, Ativan did wonderful things for me.  I was calm.  I could sleep (Lord, could I sleep).  I wasn’t any better at doing the books, but I didn’t worry so much about it.  My husband was pleased, too.  He praised our doctor for finding something that truly helped me.


But it didn’t last.  Within just a few months, I was taking the full 3mg a day and still having tolerance withdrawal.  I didn’t know that’s what it was, though.  All I knew was that I felt crazy anxiety any time I’d get more than a few hours from a dose.  Then I couldn’t sleep.  One night, I was so desperate to sleep that I started drinking wine.  I hadn’t touched a drink in over 5 years.  But that night, I drank an entire bottle of wine, and I still couldn’t sleep.


The next morning, my husband was heading south to pick up a load of pigs, and I decided to go with him.  Now I know that, because of the alcohol, I was kindling, but at the time, I just thought I was going crazy, or dying, or both.  It was awful.  As we traveled back north, I told my husband we needed to stop at the hospital we were about to reach, and I needed to go to the ER.


That was the first of many doctor and hospital visits.  Slowly, I came to realize that it was the benzo causing an overload of the very problems I originally took it to combat.  I did some searches, and I found Benzo Buddies, and I began to read about myself.


You’ve all been there, I know.  I remember one time, sitting at a restaurant with my husband.  I was so anxious, I couldn’t sit still, but we had just refilled a prescription.  I took 1mg.  My husband watched as, over the next 20 minutes, my hands stopped shaking, I was able to relax, my breathing leveled out.  Ativan made it feel like everything would be all right…for a while.


I was hospitalized for benzo addiction three times.  Going through the admission process for each of them was awful.  I would enter so full of anxiety, pain, etc.  It’s indescribable.  The first two places I was admitted to immediately administered Ativan.  Each time, the Ativan convinced me initially that I didn’t need it, and eventually, that I couldn’t live without it.  NUTS!  Of course, it is.  Finally, the third place I ended up realized what was happening.  I told them that tapering would never work for me.  I had to CT, or I’d never get past it.  They agreed to let me try.


I got through an entire week without Ativan there in the hospital, and when I was discharged, I was still in incredible withdrawal pain.  I’d lost SO much weight by then, none of my clothes fit.  I’m normally a size 12, but I was wearing 4’s that hung on me.  Funny, my whole adult life, I’ve wanted to wear a single-digit size.  This was NOT the way to do it.


I had been going to Celebrate Recovery, a faith-based 12-Step program.  But I finally started taking it seriously.  I listened to the Holy Spirit, Who told me that I was going to feel really rotten for a good while, but if I stayed the course, I would come out of it.


I don’t like talking about time where benzo withdrawal is concerned.  It is truly a unique journey for everyone who goes through it.  Tell someone outside of withdrawal that it can take two or three months to start feeling better, and they might say, “That’s not so bad.”  Tell someone amid it that it can take two or three weeks…,”How the HELL can I take this for another day, let alone weeks!”  But I will say that as soon as I just accepted that I was going to feel crappy until I didn’t, I really started healing.

I would go out in the morning and walk around the farm with our dogs.  But what I was really doing was waiting; waiting for the fear to subside; waiting to not be aware every SECOND of every MINUTE of every HOUR of every DAY of how miserable I was.  I’d see a neighbor going out to get her mail, and I’d be so envious that she could accomplish that task without a thought about how scary it was or how bad she felt.


I’ve been asked by those who have not experienced benzo withdrawal how it feels.  How to describe it?  Imagine that you’ve had a PET scan to see if you have cancer.  You know that the results of that test might mean a HUGE change in your life, but you must wait for the results.  Now imagine that anxiety times 1,000; and you never get the results.  You’re just left in limbo, waiting to know, anxious beyond reason.  And any kind of negative news gets multiplied.  A story on the evening news about wildfires in the west led me to believe that the world was coming to an end because of climate change.  A shooting meant that the world wasn’t necessarily coming to an end, but what hope was there if this is now the “new normal”?  It was exhausting!


Then one day, some friends came by to pick sweet corn.  After they picked their fill, we sat on a picnic table to chat.  I listened mostly, because it was just too hard to talk and think at the same time.  But about 20 minutes into the visit, I realized that for a short time, I wasn’t thinking about how I felt.  I had to take a few minutes to think, “Did I really forget for a while how sick I feel?”  It was nice, but it was brief.  That night I went to bed just as ill as always.  At that time, the only way I could sleep was by taking Seroquel.  I did manage to sleep, but it wasn’t a nice, peaceful way to drift off.  It was a crash.  And, wow, did I gain weight!  Probably 20 lbs. in the first month I took it, which was okay, since I had gotten so thin.  But then it was too much.  My body was suddenly so soft, I could barely stand it.


Then the anxiety started to lift later in the day.  By bedtime, I would be practically anxiety-free.  The only anxiety I would have at this time would be the edginess from fearing the anxiety would come back full-blown.  Mornings were rough.  But little by little, the anxiety would lift earlier and earlier.  My favorite times would be when I would wake up in the middle of the night, and I’d have to use the bathroom.  The drowsiness would remain even after my trip to the head; I’d crawl back in bed feeling so warm and cozy next to my husband.


Then, I started waking up without anxiety.  It was amazing!  I was so grateful to everyone who helped me.  This included the Celebrate Recovery group I went to faithfully on Tuesday and Friday nights, my children, my best friend, my dear sweet patient husband.  And most of all, my Lord, my Savior, my Jesus.


I kept going to CR, working the steps, giving my testimony.  There were a lot of hard things happening, and one of them was the sale of our farm.  But we did finally sell it!  We signed a purchase agreement in September of 2015.  This was also when I celebrated my 1-year anniversary from Ativan!  I gave a big testimony that night.  I really did believe that it was all behind me.  But I’m an addict.  There is just no escaping this fact.


In August of 2016, I was camping with family, and I had a terrible case of the summer flu.  I felt horrible, and I couldn’t really enjoy our grandkids because, besides being sick, I was slogging through a miserable bout of insomnia.  I was desperate to get some sleep.  My husband had a prescription for Ativan to use if/when he felt himself going into A-fib, and I thought, “Just one won’t hurt.  I can get some sleep and then enjoy the family.”  And I did.  But I really enjoyed the feeling I got from Ativan.  I felt secure, confident, relaxed.  I began to sneak pills from his bottle.  Each time, I told myself it was the last time.  I’d be sure to quit before it became an issue.  But it was already an issue.


A few weeks later, my husband noticed that there were some pills missing.  It was nearly two years since I’d gone through the misery of withdrawal, and he couldn’t imagine that I was taking them again.  But I confessed, and I hoped that that was the end of it.


But it wasn’t.  At first, I just took the pills at will, because my husband trusted me so much, he didn’t consider hiding them.  Then, when he realized I was still taking them, he hid them…but he was really bad at it😊.  He would hide them in the most obvious places.  And when he realized that his hiding places were found out, he hid them in better places.


A bit of advice to those out there who have not struggled with addition – never underestimate the determination of an addict to find their drug if they know it’s around somewhere.


My husband and I began a cycle that went round and round over probably an entire year.  He would hide the pills.  I would find them, take one (or five) and tell myself this was the last time.  Eventually, he would miss the pills.  He’d yell at me.  I’d cry and promise never to do it again.  An amazing fact is that every time, I truly meant that I would never do it again.  But I always did!


As we all know that it does, eventually Ativan made me feel so much worse.  I knew I needed to stop (again), but this time, I knew how bad it would be.  I spent a week in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital.  One of the psychiatrists there told me I could not possibly be experiencing withdrawals from Ativan, because, by this time, it was “all out of my system.”  How can there still be doctors who don’t realize that it isn’t having the drug in your system that does it, it’s the damage it does to your brain’s ability to produce its own GABA after the drug is gone?


How bad was it?  I looked that psychiatrist in the eye and asked him, “Am I dead?  Have I gone to hell?”  I really feared that that was what was happening!


So, again, I had to CT from Ativan.  Since we all knew what was going on, my husband and children were super supportive.  This time I counted the days, and it was a full 27 days of 24/7 agony before I experienced the tiniest window.  I also entered an Intensive Outpatient Program.  It was every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 am to noon.  It was a 90-minute drive one-way, and my husband could not take me.  I had to do it myself.  At first, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to, but I concentrated on staying in the moment.  While I wasn’t driving there, I would not let myself dwell on what was coming.  Then, when I got in the car, I concentrated on driving as safely as possible, staying at or below the posted speed limit.  I went to this over the next six weeks, and the group therapy sessions were wonderful.  To be able to speak freely about what was going on, and to have others listen without judgement or advice was so freeing!


At the end of the six weeks, my counselor told me that she had never seen such a dramatic turn-around.  I went from being totally withdrawn (because I was just trying to concentrate on not freaking out), wearing my hair pulled back and under a hat, no make-up, no smile, no personality, etc. to a chatty gal who actually looked human (oh, the wonders of cosmetics😊).


It has been 243 days as of today.  I still have some anxiety, ringing in my ears, and an odd feeling in my throat at times.  The only seemingly lasting symptom (and it may not even be a symptom of benzo WD) is that my singing voice is nowhere near as strong as it used to be.  I miss being able to let loose vocally, but it may come back…someday.  Everything else continues to get better, so why not that?  I’m choosing hope.


My first benzo WD wasn’t really anyone’s fault.  My doctor didn’t know, even if he should have.  I don’t believe he ever would have prescribed something that he knew would make me so sick.  My second WD was my fault entirely.  I knew the dangers; I knew that I was susceptible to this terrible experience.  Yet I chose to roll the dice with my health and think that I could stay ahead of the damage.  I could not!


I suppose I should offer some advice at this point.  Some say clean eating, exercise, don’t exercise, lots of water, etc.  I’ve felt awful taking all this advice and awful doing the polar opposite.  The only true healer is time, time, time.  How much?  I’m sorry to say, I don’t know.  Just know that it probably won’t take you as long as the worst-case scenarios you’ve seen on this site.  Know also, that it probably will take longer than a day or two.  Hold on, though.  Find a way to distract if you can.  I took walks and watched movies.  I could not read or talk on the phone, but I could have visitors.  Mostly, I just listened to them chat with each other.  Concentrating on their conversations helped keep the song lyrics from running over and over in my head (I forgot to mention that one…all day, every day, some song would be stuck).


I don’t profess to be any wiser than anyone else, but here’s some general life advice I’d like to give –

• Forgive your parents!  Right here, right now, forgive them.  Because you deserve to live your life without the baggage of unmet expectations from your childhood, and with very few exceptions, our parents did the best they could.  Besides, if we forgive them, then we can hope that one day, our children will forgive us.

• Think carefully about your future.  Some say that life is short; that you could walk out the door one morning and get hit by a bus; and you should live each day as if it were your last.  But the truth is, life can be looooong; and you probably will not get hit by a bus; but you will have to live with the choices you make for the next 40, 50 or 60 years (this is paraphrased from Chris Rock’s I Think I Love My Wife).

• Finally, seek God.  He is not a phantom, a myth, or a fantasy.  He is real, and He loves you more than you can imagine.


Well, that’s it, Buddies.  I hope this helps in some way, but if it doesn’t, please know that I am praying for all of you!


In Christ, Hortonhearsawho!


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Thank you for sharing your story with us, I too had to accept responsibility for taking these drugs knowing I had no business doing so due to my past alcohol use but I took them anyway.  We're the exception here because most of our members don't have addiction issues but it warms my heart to know you found your way out too.  :smitten: 
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Thanks, Pamster!  One of the mantras I have to use from Celebrate Recovery when it comes to any kind of mind-altering substance is, "Some can; I can't!" 
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Thank you for posting your story Horton, I am at day 9 of a C/T and really suffering, this gives me a tiny ray of hope.  God Bless.  Holly
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1Laoch, stay the course!  One of the lies of benzo withdrawal is that it tells you that you're going to feel the way you do forever...you WON'T!  I know how hard it is to believe me, but you truly won't.


God bless,


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It's so interesting about the singing voice. I've noticed the exact same thing with myself and I can't take anymore high pitched notes either, I was reading about it and figured it's probably the Vagus nerve thats damaged by benzos  that's causing this.  :'( glad you are healed otherwise. Please stay away from them evil pills!
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Thank you for sharing this inspiring and encouraging story of recovery from benzos.  Wow, I recognized so much of my own experience in your descriptions. The body's ability to heal is miraculous and like you I'm grateful everyday that the worst nightmare of withdrawal is behind me.  So glad for you.


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I've even gone to a laryngologist to see if there's anything that can be done.  Apparently, not, but I'm interested in your theory about the vagus nerve.  I see more research in my future :).

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  • 3 weeks later...


      Thank you for your sharing. I guess we all go through a different experience of what we'll feel when tapering based on how our lives are.

I personally am at the end of my rope, Alprazolam, 7 years and I've found every excuse in the world to not quit. I don't abuse the drug, take it as prescribed but the irony it abuses you! I was encouraged by Pamster to read success stories to find a new beginning and you certainly is. God bless. :smitten:

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