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Professional working Mom of 3 - Used benzo's for over 15 years...finally free.


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Hi, all - am a married mom of 3 great kids (all under 12), who has a GREAT job & great family. My journey started out innocently enough - in mid-20's had a high-responsibility job where I developed a fear of public speaking & giving presentations to large groups (which I was required to do all the time.) Believe that came about after a panic attack in a college class when I had to give an impromptu speech. I did it, but had a terrible anxiety attack, and from there, it turned into a phobia of public speaking which I'd never had before then AT ALL. So to combat this, asked my doc to give me a sedative. Started out with small dose of Ativan, which I felt did not seem to work AT ALL. So I took a few times, then stopped. Yet the situation-specific anxiety would not stop. Did a lot of my own research and read that Xanax was good for this (along with propanolol - a beta blocker sometimes used by sharp-shooters or musicians - for any physical shaking symptoms.) So around 27 or 28 years old, doc wrote me a Xanax prescription. For 5 years, I would only use "as needed" for presentations and such. One bottle would easily last me a whole year.


Fast forward 10 years & 3 kids later, and found myself taking Xanax daily. (before the 3rd child, still only took it when needed for presentations and such, since much of the time was preggers or not real stressed out.) Once 3rd child came along, the stress of 3 small children, working full time in a high pressure job, and not taking time for myself to relax, have any "alone time" (hubby would rarely take all 3 kids anywhere) to even go get a haircut or go shopping by myself, started taking .5 Xanax daily at night. Then, moved on to adding .5 in the morning. Eventually, this turned into .5 morning, .5 lunchtime (because withdrawals would start) then maybe 1 mg at night - would pop in the car on the hour-long drive home (2 hour commute each day didn't help the stress.) Took it daily for about 2 years. (never more than 2 mg in any day though!) When I'd try to stop, would get these weird neuro symptoms & thought I had MS or some other neurological disease (but did not attribute it to Xanax, as I never considered myself "addicted" and wasn't aware of the withdrawal symptoms.) Plus, the symptoms would also start if I reduced the daily total dose in any way, ie - missed a dose or took less. Toward the end, I saw I was getting the neuro symptoms even when I was on the dosage - thinking my body was wanting more to achieve the same affect after so many years. CT Scans & all other tests indicated nothing was wrong with me. Finally, I noticed the correlation, and asked doc if it could be withdrawals & he said no way on such a low dose. WRONG. Asked my neuro doc and she said "you know, I never thought of that, but I bet you're right - that's probably absolutely what it is!"


First big withdraw was when I tried to quit cold turkey - week of hell! stayed awake for 3 days straight, muscle spasms all over, hypersensitivity to ANY noise, extreme irritability, crazy crying, kept thinking spiders were crawling on me & felt like I could see them out of the corner of my eye (and would smack "them" off me!), additional auditory & visual hallucinations, numbness in face/tongue, couldn't think/talk, EXTREME pain in arms & legs, so would rub them constantly, sweats, shakes, nausea/vomiting, etc. - truly felt like was dying. Tylenol PM did help me eventually get to sleep after those 3 days, but a strong sleep aid like Ambien probably would have helped at least knock me out. Did also drink alcohol to try and counter some of the effects, but didn't do a whole lot.


The second 2 times (and again, never took more than 2 mg per day - maybe a few times 4 mg but it was rare - I did some reading & asked my doc to switch the xanax to klonopin. Since I very much prefer the effects of xanax to klonopin, I would take the klonopin long enough to avoid the horrific withdrawals, then because I didn't really like them, I'd just stop. Most folks say Valium is even better, because it lasts even longer. Asked for that the 3rd time, but doc said since Klon worked last time, we'd go that route again. It worked. Will NEVER touch a Xan again & the Klon remains in the medicine cabinet untouched for almost a year.


Each time, I basically did the detox by myself, while not missing any work & taking care of 3 young kids, but would usually start on a Friday evening, so at least had the weekend to get through the worst. But I did tell a trusted co-worker when I was detoxing, and my husband, because it felt good to be honest and let someone know what I was going through & why I may seem irritable. Plus, by letting my husband know, he would help out with the kids at night, keep them quiet, and I'd stay on the couch at night so as not to bother him with my twitching, arm & leg rubbing and being up all night.


However, unless you have experienced withdrawals personally, you just cannot accurately describe the hell that they are, and how you truly feel you are dying and/or going insane. It helped me to read up on symptoms and know what was going to happen, so when I was experiencing them, I could tell myself "you are fine, this isn't real, you're not going crazy, this will soon pass, etc." I can't imagine people who this happens to that do NOT know it's coming and truly think they are going crazy. It's scary enough when you KNOW it's coming! And remember, this all happened to me on pretty low doses - long term use, but low doses. Cannot imagine what anyone taking more experiences.


Once off, I realized what a zombie I was for many years, and also realized how irritated with the kids I would become as my dose was wearing off. Also, you will notice, your memory will come back, especially your long term memory. Along with your emotions & feelings. So there was period of high emotional state (crying, etc.) during the week of withdrawal. Feels good to FEEL again though. I remember my oldest son (who was about 9) said something to me the first week I was off, and I responded to him with a big emotional laugh, smile & hug and he seemed very surprised at my reaction. (I think he thought I was drunk because it's been so long since he'd seen me react with genuine joy & happiness!) I realized that it had been turning off my ability to feel genuine emotion - joy or sadness. There were still lots of laughs beforehand & we were pretty much a normal family (but with a fully-functional addicted mom), but I realized I would have been a much more attentive, loving, involved mother had I never been on these things. Then, on the flip side, I do think that during some of the most stressful times, Xanax may have kept me from going off the deep-end, but I'll never know for sure.


For anyone wishing and/or attempting to get get off these things, I wish you the best of luck & want you to know that you CAN do it and your life will be SO much better. It always starts off innocently enough, but it's just too easy to "wake up" 5-10 (or for many 15-20) years later and realize you can't remember and/or have lost the last few years of your life.


I now warn everyone who ever mentions benzos about their dangers. It is truly unbelievable how frequently docs prescribe these things & that they rarely warn people about how incredibly addictive they are. Scary thing is, I still miss the feeling of being on Xanax. No worries, no anxiety, etc. But I have to remind myself of what else it takes away and the hell that I went through to get off them.


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Wow I wish I could write like that ! Congratulations on being free, I am free too and feeling better now than the last 6 years I was on the benzo Ativan, just goes to show you that benzos are poison when taken long term. I am happy for you.
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Wow, your story gives me hope!  I have only been on Ativan for almost four months and my dose is.75 mg a day.  Like you, I am a mom of three beautiful children and feel that I am ruining our family because of this medication and my fear of the withdrawal effects.  How did you feel after you were done tapering.  I have read so many horror stories of the hell they go through for many months once they take their last dose.  Curious to hear from someone who doesn't have such horrific and lasting symptoms.  Thanks for sharing your story!!
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