My Recovery From Benzos Amy
I never saw myself as an addict. I drank and occasionally dabbled in other things, but it was never a problem. I come from a family of people who drink and use drugs, so I guess for me it was normal to use.
After I got married and had a couple kids I noticed I was struggling with anxiety. I was constantly worried something bad was going to happen to my husband or my kids. I had experienced a lot of death in my life at an early age, so that may have had something to do with it.
I had panic attacks so bad I couldn’t drive. At that point, I went to see a doctor. He diagnosed me with anxiety disorder and prescribed me Xanax. They worked like a charm. I was able to take a Xanax every day, and then take more as needed if I found myself having a panic attack. I was also advised to seek therapy, go to grief counseling and was given a pamphlet on strategies for coping with anxiety. I went back to the doctor a month later and told him the medication was working great, and that I was in the process of getting counseling.
The Medication Worked, So Why Change Anything?
I did follow up with a few therapy appointments, but I didn’t really feel like I got anything out of them. I didn’t go to the grief support group, because I didn’t like the idea of being open in front of strangers, especially about such painful things. I tried some of the breathing techniques that were suggested, when I thought about it. But really, things were fine, because the medication worked.
My doctor continued prescribing me the Xanax and I continued taking them. I saw him every three months and we talked for a few minutes and I walked out with a new prescription.
After a while, I started to run out of my prescription before the month was up. It wasn’t a big deal, really. When that happened, I would just buy some from someone else, or get some Ativan or Valium. Eventually I realized that I was addicted to Xanax and that running out of my prescription was not normal.
Then I Got Cut Off
After I had been on the medication for a year, my doctor suggested that I wean off of them. He felt that I was at risk for abusing them, that I had been on them for too long and that I needed to try therapy again for my anxiety. I flew into a rage and couldn’t believe he was accusing me of abusing my medication.
Over the next year I just bought and traded other drugs for my pills. I didn’t see a problem with it. They were a medication that I needed.
Then things started to change. My anxiety seemed to actually get worse, not better. I was having panic attacks again, especially if I thought I couldn’t get my pills. I started yelling at my family. I started feeling paranoid about what my husband was doing when he wasn’t home and I began to start fights with him and anyone else who crossed my path.
The Downward Spiral
I also stopped taking care of myself. I would forget to shower for a couple of days. I grew forgetful and was having a hard time taking care of my kids. At this point, my family stepped in and insisted that I quit. My family confronted me on my abuse of benzos. They told me I had common signs of benzos abuse— I was slurring my speech,I would nod out in the middle of conversations, I would blackout and not know where I was.
What they didn’t know was that quitting benzos abruptly could cause severe health problems. My husband and parents tried to keep me in the house but I got so sick that they took me to the ER. There they learned that a person can actually have seizures and other health complications when they abruptly quit benzos.
I went from the hospital to a medical detox facility where they helped me wean off the drugs. This wasn’t easy, but also wasn’t as bad as I thought! I was so relieved that I was going to be free of this addiction. Even though I never thought of it that way.
Because of the way medications like Xanax work in the brain, it took some time to really feel like myself. I still had anxiety, and I felt depressed. But this time, I did something about it besides just pop a pill. I finally went to grief counseling, and I began learning ways to cope with anxiety. I began practicing yoga and meditation, and got lots of support from friends and family. Part of my problem was trying to do to much on my own, and not talking about my fears with anyone. In recovery, I learned to do that.
I strongly encourage anyone who finds themselves running out of meds before the month is up takes a hard look at what’s going on with them. Life can get out of control pretty quickly, and prescription drugs are no joke.