Author Topic: 100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use  (Read 2179 times)

[Buddie]

100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use
« on: October 13, 2018, 07:14:27 pm »
It’s been 4 ½ years since I habituated and I am ready to share my success story, to pay it forward for all the success stories that helped me during my struggle.

At the time I was a 37-year-old married mom of 2 kids, then aged 4 and 1.5, with a job with a fairly high level of responsibility and visibility.  I have suffered from panic disorder since a young age, and took Zoloft for a few years when first diagnosed in my 20’s, but managed it without drugs in the interim.  When I switched jobs in early April 2014, I had a resurgence of my panic disorder.  I took Klonopin which I have always carried with me but rarely used.  I found that I needed it a few times the first week, and then found that my symptoms were getting worse between doses, like on weekends.  I decided to go back on Zoloft, thinking that my anxiety was getting worse (when really I was already withdrawing from the benzos).  I took .25 Zoloft for 2 weeks, and I began to feel very unwell with agitation and severe anxiety, and I thought the SSRI might be making things worse so on May 23 I stopped the Zoloft.

From my journals: “Woke up in night sweating and anxious 3 times.  Up at 6 AM pacing.  Cannot work.  Forcing bits of food.  Terrible anxiety coming in waves.  Bit of relief between the waves.  Got appt with Dr. at 10:45.  Trying to avoid Klonopin as it made me feel so low yesterday.”

“woke up again in the night and again this morning felt awful, anxious and agitated.  I can't bear to think about leaving the house, enjoying anything, responsibilities.   This has got to be one of the worst illnesses I have experienced...ugh.  I also overdid it with the Klonopin (took a whole tablet early this morning) and felt doped up, which I am not sure even helped the anxiety.  Hopefully this will be the last day of this. “

 “Had deep dive at 9:30 AM.  Took  ⅔ klonopin.  Called my husband, crying, feeling like it’s hard to imagine how i could ever feel better, feel so fragile and desperate. anxious and sad, feel like there’s nothing that can make me better but time but feel i can’t stand to go through it.  Talked to [husband] for 20 minutes, started to feel bit better.  Took walk for 25 minutes.  Still feeling very anxious and sad.  This is such a hard day, a hard time.  Forcing myself to eat bits of food, protein and carbs.  10:35 AM Trying to focus on a work task.  Waves of anxiety.  11:15 AM same.  panicky feelings about 1pm meeting coming up.  12:40 cancelled 1pm meeting and went home.  All afternoon felt exhausted, anxious.”

“½ klonopin midnight.   early AM same as yesterday. wakeups every hour.  klonopin has me feeling drugged.  exhausted.  still waves of anxiety and extremely low mood.  10:30 cried.”


You can see during this time I thought it was the SSRI and my natural anxiety causing all these problems.  In reality, after taking 15 doses (~.33 mg each) of Klonopin over 6 weeks in April-May 2014, I had habituated.  Actually, I believe I had habituated after the first three doses, experiencing withdrawal between pills.  At the time I was totally unaware of this, not having any clue about benzos risks, but, because I felt so “drugged” on the benzo, on May 28 I stopped the Klonopin altogether to see if I could get my life back together.

For the next five days I experienced the worst withdrawal symptoms, including severe insomnia, nightmares, night sweats, greatly increased anxiety, panic attacks, obsessions (especially about my health), poor concentration, hallucinations (I felt like the bed was moving at night), jaw and back pain, chest and throat tightness, tremor and shaking in my legs, tinnitus, GI symptoms, low appetite, palpitations, and menstrual changes.  I also experienced depression and agitation, I believe as a result of the aborted Zoloft onboard.    This was probably the worst week of my life; around the clock all I could do was worry.  I felt sick constantly; I could not work or take care of my children.  I didn’t sleep at all for several nights at a time.  When I finally slept, I awoke suddenly feeling the bed moving as if in an earthquake, my leg muscles twitching and shaking.  My jaw hurt and had to choke down food and water.  My husband had to take care of everything including me.  I landed in crisis mental health services and considered partial hospitalization.

You may be actively scanning this writing to figure out how long it took me to fully recover from this disaster; the answer is, about two years, including long stretches of wellness therein, which I look back on in 6-month chunks.

The First six months

After the first five days, the symptoms subsided enough for me to begin to rejoin the world a bit.  I remember doing crossword puzzles, which was about all I could handle concentration-wise, and it took me away from the pain for a little while.    I remember going on a family grocery shopping trip, and looking around in wonder at all the people feeling normal, and wondering how I could ever feel that way again.  I remember standing before dawn at my kitchen counter, choking down food, suddenly understanding for a moment how people commit suicide.  It was during this time that I began running each morning, trying to sweat away the anxiety, which worked better than anything else I tried.  I also worked in the garden, forcing myself to work in the dirt.

At 10 days, I returned to work.  For about 3 weeks, I experienced daily anxiety, especially in the mornings, physical symptoms, and obsessive worry.  I remember attending a conference during this time and enduring wave after wave of crippling anxiety at the conference location the entire day, only managing to appear as though I were learning and enjoying the event, and making it home and collapsing in my husband’s arms, exhausted.   During this time I learned many different coping mechanisms for functioning, while being miserable for a good part of the time.  For example, I discovered Tara Brach’s meditation podcasts, which greatly helped with calmness and focus, and I still use them.  The only other thing that did help was taking L-theanine, which seemed to reduce the morning anxiety, though some people say that even this can prolong recovery.   After the first 3 weeks back to work, the daily anxiety abated a bit, with a feeling more like uneasiness a lot of the time, and the physical symptoms improved quite a bit.

As this 6 months wore on, I began to have “normal” days with few or no symptoms.  But, I began to notice that “triggers” could bring back the symptoms quite strongly, even being traumatized by a news story or attempting a new herbal remedy.  I learned that avoiding all substances, including caffeine, alcohol, herbal remedies, MSG, and artificial ingredients was necessary to avoid withdrawal symptoms. During my time of withdrawal I began to understand that these things, which non-habituated people take to feel better, made me feel worse.  There were no safety nets, except the love of my family, exercise, meditation, and therapy.  At times during this period I had doubts my life would ever be the same, and I remember praying and wishing to have my own life back.

The second six months

One day, after two cups of black tea, I became convinced the doctor had terrible news to give me which was why the office hadn’t called me back about the test results; I remember crying and shaking in my therapist’s office.  As time went on, these setbacks would be shorter and the symptoms weaker.  After the panic episode about the test results (which were fine), I had a few days of symptoms and then entered a calm period of about 5 months where I was functioning quite well with few symptoms.  My anxiety was a “friend” who would visit, but throughout the experience I had learned to cope well with it.  My physical symptoms were there, but more annoying than painful.  During this time I began to see the “light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Then at about the 10th month, I fainted during an episode of real fear (I thought my child could not breathe during a bout of croup in the middle of the night).  This brought on more symptoms lasting a few days, and my mind had something new to obsess over--fainting, which is not a fun experience (especially the coming to part) and can be quite embarrassing.

At almost the one-year mark, I became very anxious during a family trip to a big city, and took a small dose of Ativan which had no effect on my anxiety, but proved to be fateful and informative.  For the next 3.5 weeks, I had a complete re-do of almost all the symptoms I had felt the previous May, though not quite as intense.  I didn’t sleep at all the first two nights, and the next few woke up sweating several times each night, and had a recurrence of the chest and throat tightness, lack of appetite, etc.  It was like re-living the worse nightmare of my life, except in the end I was grateful to understand that it was the benzos, not the SSRI, that caused the vast majority of the withdrawal symptoms I’d been experiencing for nearly a year.

The third six months

After this period, I was back to having many normal days for the most part.  I still had anxiety from time to time and noticed that anxiety tended to coincide with slight dizziness, which would make the anxiety worse worrying about fainting.  I felt that I was in a “trial period” for getting my life back and began to feel a very strong sense of optimism that I would fully recover.  Exercise had become a welcome and enjoyable routine that felt protective against symptoms.    I began to feel a bit like a proud warrior.

Near the end of this period I had a near-fainting episode after a bout of diarrhea, in which I was carried out of my office on a stretcher.  I checked out fine at the hospital and after a sonogram of my heart, my doctor said the episode was a result of a vagal reaction.  This was just about the most embarrassing and worst-case thing I’d spent the past year worrying about, and it happened, which was kind of freeing in a way that I’ve come to think of some of the worst moments of my ordeal.  I had the expected uptick of symptoms for the next few weeks, with the worst resolving after a few days and mostly leaving me with the very-familiar uneasy feeling accompanying any traumatic episode.

The fourth six months

This brings us to about the 18-month mark, where generally speaking I think of as the end of my major withdrawal episodes and a return to a mostly-normal life, with the anxiety I was used to prior to my habituation.  From my journal:“much lower anxiety, bowel nearly back to normal, good mood.  Back to that sense of periodic “uneasiness” and feeling “close to the edge” of anxiety--thinking about illness, having agoraphobic feelings, etc.”  I still had what I thought of as the minor symptoms--occasional creeping uneasiness, tinnitus, numbness, and palpitations, which would come and go, but felt familiar enough to not cause too much discomfort. 

Afterward

After three years, the last few regular symptoms--tinnitus and a roving numbness above my eyes in the brow area--finally went away.  Around this time I also experienced a traumatic event that did not cause withdrawal symptoms, so I was sure that I was 100% well. 

I still have a persistent “chemo-phobia” or fear of all kinds of medicines and substances; for example, I tried to wait out a urinary tract infection before taking antibiotics, probably making things worse. 

While at the time I felt that my suffering was a waste, and I regularly berated myself for using a sledgehammer drug to kill a fly of a problem, I now feel that I gained much from the experience.  Diet, exercise, and routine are now of critical importance to me, and I feel they are protective against anxiety and other health problems.  I also feel more confident that I can manage my anxiety, because I dealt with extended, intense anxiety without medication, and I lived through the worst things I always used to worry about.  I feel that these skills and experience will actually improve my life in the long run, so I have great gratitude for having the opportunity to learn them.

I hope this last bit is some comfort to someone reading this.  Thank you for reading my story and best wishes to anyone coping with the aftermath of benzodiazepene habituation.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2018, 08:13:28 pm by [Buddie] »
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: 100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2018, 07:56:01 pm »
Wonderful success story. I am completing 9 months of a Cold turkey from klonopin and I am experiencing the same things you were in the second 6 months. It seems like the least little thing hits me in the pit of my stomach and yesterday I felt like I was falling to pieces all because I thought something had happened to my brother next door. My system felt stronger than that a week ago and now it seems like the least little thing traumatizes me. Thanks for your story and happy you are healed.

PG
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: 100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2018, 08:03:14 pm »
Thank you for your reply and for reading my post.  Those symptom episodes are the worst and can drag on forever.  They get shorter and less intense though.  And I carry with me valuable skills and habits as a result of the work I put in.  Good luck to you and best wishes.
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: 100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2018, 10:08:47 pm »
Dear Lmc,
   This is a well written tribute to your strength and dedication! Congratulations on your returned health. Your account of using benzodiazepines emphasizes the fact that some people have immediate physiological dependence. I doubt it is as rare as thought. I too used them intermittently and became dependent. I hope the work benzodiazepine advocates are doing will help inform the medical community of this very serious risk.

   So happy for your healing Lmc. Thank you for bringing this very encouraging success story to us today. It is a day of sunshine! Enjoy your beautiful life.

With compassion,

[...]  :smitten:
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: 100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2018, 11:17:23 pm »
Thank you, [...]!  Yes, it was the furthest thing from my imagination that this could happen.  Had I been warned that it was even a remote possibility, I would have been more cautious.  Because of this, I wrote an open letter to every medical provider I saw during this period and included a copy of this story.
Thank you for taking the time to read and to reply.  Best wishes.
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: 100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2018, 10:55:18 am »
Thanks so much for posting your success story. I too am a short-term user and I became dependent after less than 2 weeks of use. I am almost 2 years out and my last remaining symptom is insomnia. I hope that with more time, it will go away just like your tinnitus went away. Could I ask how your sleep is now? Did it go back to normal?
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: 100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2018, 03:22:51 pm »
Dear Lmc,
    I think an open letter to our medical providers is an excellent idea. I've been thinking of doing the same. I simply quit going to my prescribing doc after she told me my symptoms were not related to benzodiazepines. She has no idea how her prescription practice changed my life. I've often wondered how many of her patients are being told the same and how many have received new prescriptions.  Also mailing to other providers seen throughout tapering and recovery is important as well. Thank you for the idea. If we all did this perhaps we'd start a small wave of change...we can hope!

Warmly,
[...]
   
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: 100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2018, 07:00:23 pm »
. Could I ask how your sleep is now? Did it go back to normal?

Yes, my sleep is 100% back to normal.  Like many other posters in Success Stories my health is better than it was before habituation and recovery.  I wish the same for you and have no reason to believe it's not going to happen.  It might be tomorrow.  Best wishes.
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: 100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2018, 07:07:17 pm »
Thank you for your wonderful success story!
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.

[Buddie]

Re: 100% recovered from benzo habituation after short-term use
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2018, 08:09:57 pm »
Hello [...],
Congratulations and I am so very happy for your complete healing! Thank you so very much for taking time to write and share your success story. It  gives me hope and inspiration to never give up and have faith that I will also attain full healing when the right time comes.

Regarding the open letter you sent your medical providers. Is this something you can share to us ( a blank copy)? I would like to do the same thing down the road for future doctor appointments. If not, it is okay too and understand.

May you continue to have joy, peace and wellness that you well deserved.

Blessings!

[...]
Suggestions, opinions and/or advice provided by the author of this post should not be regarded as medical advice; nor should it substitute for professional medical care. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your medication. Please read our Community Policy Documents board for further information.