Author Topic: Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)  (Read 3123 times)

[Buddie]

Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)
« on: March 31, 2019, 09:58:11 am »
Hi All!

Wow.. This is harder to begin than I had imagined..

I guess I don’t have to produce “the treatise on benzo withdrawal and recovery” here, so to try and keep it somewhat simple, I’ll just share some of my experience, and borrow the format of, “what it was like, what happened, and what it’s like now.”

Before I get into those things though, the main point, in me writing here, is to happily try and pay back some of the debt I owe BB, and to say, “Holy sh*t, it is absolutely possible to recover and live an incredible life after benzos!”, which is something I believed to be impossible, before discovering BB, about 5-6 months into my 7 month direct taper from Clonazepam.

A bit of background info:

In late July of 2015, at 46, I had a “moment of clarity” and realized the clonazepam was ruining my life, and making me into a pretty dim witted, apathetic, out of shape person.  It seemed I could no longer remember anything I read, and my teaching career, and many other things in life weren’t going too well for me anymore, and somehow, at that moment, I instinctively knew, in my very bones, that my current state was because of the benzos I’d been taking daily for about 8.5 years.

So, right then, I made the decision to get off of them, and began by not doing any research, and just going from 3.5mg per day to 1.0mg of clonazepam per day.  (After all, I was a “tough” person, I’d stopped using nicotine, marijuana and alcohol for good before, so how hard could it be to stop taking pills prescribed by a doctor, right?) whoa….

What happened from that completely uninformed, drastic first “cut”, was catastrophic for me at the time.  Things went bad quickly, I had my first true panic attack about 15 days into it, had some demonic hallucinations, and lost most of my working and long-term memory.  That August, I still didn’t have a full-time teaching job for the fall, and after that first cut, I wasn’t able to look for work anymore, or even find it within myself to try and “substitute teach”.  Luckily, I was able to get money from unemployment insurance for the next 6-7 months.

At that point, I tried going to the gym, to do something about being out of shape, but my heart would race so badly, I thought it was going to burst in my chest, so I figured it would be best to wait till my heart calmed down.  Also, my vision became very blurry, and I could no longer read the print on my TV screen, or decipher people’s faces beyond 20 feet. 

However, I did retain the sense to say to myself, “hmmm.. if my heart wasn’t a problem before the withdrawal, and my eyes were also okay, then, I have to believe they will all still be okay after I’m off the benzos”, and so I didn’t run around to lots of doctors, trying to find out what was “wrong”.

I’m going to skip most of the story of my dark days of tapering, and early recovery, and only highlight a few things, because we all know the bad stuff, all too well.  However, I want you to know that I really did go through lots of the same things as you are, so I’ll share some of the characteristics of benzo withdrawal which were especially scary for me.

The “depersonalization” and “disconnectedness” I felt was overwhelming.  I felt like I was about 5 feet away from my body at all times, or that my soul was somehow not occupying my body, and that I was watching myself try to talk, and controlling my movements with a wired remote control device, and this was quite disconcerting, and it all lasted many, many months.  The “windows” where I would feel in one piece, would show up just at my breaking point, and provide me with a bit of hope, but they’d vanish as quickly as they’d come, and I’d be back in the fog, and my soul would be “5 feet away” from my body again, day after day after day.

I remember though when I first felt “connected” to the earth around me again and was able to gain energy from what I saw in nature, and realizing, so sadly, that I hadn’t been “connected” for so, so long – and that, that had been my usual state of being, and how I’d been okay in the world previously.  But that innate mechanism had slowly been stripped away from me as I became dependent on taking benzos daily to live.  And I was angry, I mean, what a F’n crime, to have what made life worth living, taken away by medical people, and then having the same people categorically deny that anything like that was possible, let alone happening to you.

Another scary part of benzo withdrawal for me, was the memory loss.  I mean, I remember actually thinking, (for well over a year) “Great, there goes all of my education - completely out the window!!! Damn.. I really feel like a mentally challenged 6-year-old, but I'm inside of a 46-year-old body with semi adult responsibilities.  Good job idiot – you finally blew your mind!  What the f**k am I going to do now???”  If I were watching TV for a couple of hours, and then got up to go the bathroom and returned to the couch, and you’d asked me, “[...], what are we watching and what’s going on in the show?”  I couldn't have told you much of anything on most days.  It was that bad.

And what details I could remember, of my life, back then, felt like they weren’t actually “mine”.  Theose memories belonged to someone else now, and I was just some kind of imposter, trying in vain to claim my experiences as my own.

I guess one of the last things I’ll share about my dark days of tapering and early recovery, is about the irrational fear we get, which I know now, is only caused by the imbalance of the GABA and Glutamate systems in our brains.  I remember being “snug as a bug in a rug” during the winter, with the important bills paid, food in the house, and being warm, wrapped in blankets on the couch, with the TV on, watching it snow outside, and being just damn scared!  (One thing I was able to remember, was that I’d never been a “scared” person; I’d travelled Europe by myself, had been captain of my college lacrosse team, had sailed a 46’ yacht all around the Mediterranean with one other person, etc, etc..) 

Months later, after I’d joined BB, I remember reading one person’s post on BB, which really captured that constant fear caused by the imbalance of GABA and Glutamate, where the author said, “it was like being in a room with a tiger, 24 x 7”.  That metaphor and imagery really resonates with me, as I definitely experienced that for many, many months! 

So, what helped?  How did I get better?

When I was at my absolute worst, I mean, scared to death, I would just hunker down, and recite the Lord’s Prayer over and over again.  The fear would pass, every time, in usually about 30-40 minutes, when I was smart enough to do this, and ask for God’s help.

I read somewhere early on, that “suicidal ideation” was an effect of benzo withdrawal.  That made me realize what I was feeling sometimes was “par for the course” as for many months, during my taper, I would periodically believe that I was going to “go broke, become homeless, and then kill myself.”  However, after reading that, I just chalked those feelings up to irrational silliness.

I read Ashton’s Manual, and followed her advice of NEVER updosing, and going back to an original dose or a previous cut level.  It made no sense to me, I mean, why cover the same ground twice?  I’d make a cut, and listen to my body for when to do another cut.  Usually, it was within 10-14 days, although I held once for about a month.

I gave myself “permission” to be sick and take the time to heal.  Once I started reading about benzo withdrawal I knew it was going to be a long haul, so I allowed myself a “time out” from life, and put all of my previous hopes and dreams on the back burner, so to speak, and just took care of lizard brain things like, “food, clothing, and shelter.”

I began to go to lots of AA meetings, and made friends with the people there.  Although my current problem wasn’t alcohol, all that’s required to be in AA, is “a desire to stop drinking”, and I’ve never found more understanding people than those who are working a good program of recovery.  The meetings helped me to safely “re-integrate” into society.

Financially, being in education for many years, and then being out of work, and then running out of unemployment, I was seriously going broke, so to avoid my fear of “going broke, becoming homeless and then having to kill myself” becoming a reality, I took a predatory lender’s offer at 31%, and got $7,400 wired into my bank account.  Then I took out the cash and kept it safely in my house, so that I’d definitely have the money for rent and food for several months, while I was giving myself permission to “be sick and take the time to heal”.   Getting rid of major financial fear significantly helped me focus on my recovery.  I kind of chuckle about that loan now, as a friend in AA convinced me to go bankrupt later (because of an old tax problem), so I never did have to pay that predatory lender back.  Not my proudest moment, but hey..   

One school of thought on BB that I didn’t believe was from lots of people who would just seem to sit around, lament and say, something about “time” being the only thing that would help them recover.  I understand that time is certainly all important, and that there aren’t real shortcuts, however, I believe one must participate in their own recovery, and that “God helps those, who help themselves.” 

So, after I finally “jumped” from my last dose of Clonazepam on March 5th, 2016, and my heart began to calm down a couple of months later, I began to exercise like crazy, and I kept it up 5-7x / week for over 2 years.  I’d read about a book called, “Spark” somewhere on BB, where it said, “Hard, cardio exercise is like miracle grow for the brain.”  That statement was something I could clutch onto, like a life preserver, and as I reasoned back then, it made sense to do as much as I possibly could to help my brain recover.  I also figured, that “as long as my mind was mush”, I might as well work out, so that when I get my brain back, it will be inhabiting a body in top physical shape.  I believe the exercise helped me process lots of the “chemical anxiety” I was getting everyday from withdrawal, it helped my brain heal a bit faster, and after I would exercise, I would always feel much better for the [...] of that day.

Among all the other stuff we get from withdrawing from benzos, I had benzo belly, and would get all bloated up from food, so something I did to fight that was to eat better and have lots of probiotic smoothies.  Yet, to jumpstart that healing process, I used a product called, “Almased” which is a powdered meal replacement system, and a diet, which DRAMITICALLY reduces “bloat”.  Basically, for two weeks, you just use this stuff, mix it in water, and have it (and other liquids) for all of your meals.  It worked well for me, and in addition to reducing my “bloat”, I lost about 17 pounds, and it also jump-started my desire to cook again.

I’m at 3.5 pages now, and there is lots more to the story, however, I just had to have patience and humility to start again by doing work I knew I was overqualified for, in order to get back into a routine, and get some stability.  That part all took “TIME” (this – I – must – earn).

Eventually, with a daily job (back in education), and going to the gym hard, every day after school, I began to see lots of improvement.  I had to “fake it till I made it” more times than I’d like to admit, and there were many meetings at work, I attended, around a conference table, where I’d pray no one would ask me to speak as I would have no idea what was being talked about.  I remember one time, (before I was hired full time), while being a sub teacher in first grade, handing out work, and saying to myself, “wow, my brain can’t even do this work!”, but putting on my “game face” and running the classroom anyway.  One other thing, is that for a long time, simple household chores, like vacuuming a room, would seem like “climbing Mount Everest”, yet, in time, all of that stuff becomes easy again.

Getting back to life, after benzos, for me, took a ton of courage.  More courage, than I thought it would be possible to have.  And sadly, or lone-ely.., no one gives us any recognition for it.. Every day, back in, was difficult, but no one has time to care, except us, here at BB, and that is what is so, amazingly wonderful about Benzo Buddies, we get validation here, and we appreciate and respect each other’s journeys and trials.  I truly give BB lots of credit for how I am now – as if I had to do this recovery alone from benzos, I would not be as well off as I am now, physically, spiritually, mentally, etc..

I think there is a post by a member named, “milkyway” and he called his success story “life 2.0”, or something close to that – and for me, it was one of the most inspiring stories I ever read on BB, with such a strong message of hope, and also with the cold, hard fact that we will not get our old lives back, but our challenge and our opportuinity it to build a new life, forged out of what we know now, having escaped such a fate as one of being dependent on benzos.  It’s like that saying, “you can’t go home again, (to the past), as it’s not there anymore.”

I think, to truly heal, one has to accept that notion, and one has to have benzos completely out of their system.  For me, I didn’t heal for beans, while I was still tapering – although, I couldn’t accept that while I was tapering.  I suppose though, tapering, is the beginning of the healing process in benzo recovery.

At almost 2 years off of Benzos, I began to date again.  I was definitely out of practice, and it took a while to “warm up” socially.  Nowadays, dating seems to be almost all about using “dating apps”, but like finding a needle in a haystack, I met an incredibly beautiful, smart, understanding, and the perfect woman for me, and we hit it off.  Strangely, it was almost like we didn't have a choice in the matter.  What was different for me after benzos, was that, I wasn’t shy or scared anymore about letting her know how I felt about her.  I said to myself (and her), “what could I possibly be waiting for, my next lifetime?”  I was able to be 100% honest about everything with her, and told her all about the benzos, my finances, that I was sober, and of course how amazing I think she is… and last summer, (July 2018) at 2.3 years off of benzos, I moved to Chicago from Denver to live with her, (but being a smart and practical woman, she needed me to find a job first, so I worked hard at that, and found a great job teaching Physical Education at a nice K-8 school close by.) 

So, last August I was about to write my success story, here on BB, after being in Chicago a few weeks and really enjoying my new job at the school, the people I was working with, our relationship, and feeling like everything was great – BUT…

@#$%@#$%#$.. I got a tiny umbilical hernia, while I was cleaning out the gym at school (work), and a knucklehead, profiteer type of crap doctor, unbeknownst to me, put a 4” x 6” piece of plastic mesh inside of me, (that is “incompatible with human tissue”), and I ended up with all kinds of problems from that, as the plastic is seriously toxic.  I went into that operation on 9/10/18, thinking I was only getting a few stitches, and I’d be up and around in no time, (as I’d had two hernias before in my life that were super easy), but I discovered a whole other nasty area of medicine, like “Big Pharma” and that’s the “Medical Device Industry”  yikes.. So, after 4+ months of going through life uncertain again, with the nastiest, abdominal pains ever, all the time, I finally managed to get the huge piece of plastic removed from underneath my abdominal wall, by an “open mesh removal and abdominal wall reconstructive surgery”, or basically, being gutted like a fish!

That was on January 17th, 2019, and thank goodness that operation went as well as possible, and I don’t have anymore plastic inside of me.  I’m recovering well, although I have a real nice 7” vertical scar now, and my dreams of being a 50 year old underwear model have been crushed.  But, I’m back to work and although the hernia adventure put a bit of a strain on my relationship, all is still well, and in two weeks from today, I’m actually heading to Saint Lucia for a week long holiday to a small beach resort and spa with the woman I love, so that’s pretty good! 

I guess, to wrap it all up, after 3 years off, I think I’ve recovered as much as I ever will from Benzos.  (Yet, I do hope my tinnitus eventually goes away : ) All in all, I’ve lost some things, but I’ve also gained some things too.  Perhaps as a member named “lost dog” said in his success story, maybe I too, have gained the wisdom I’ve been seeking all of my life?

And again, as Milkyway said, we can’t rewind the tape and go back to our old selves, exactly – because those versions of ourselves, in the past, just do not exist anymore.  But if we’re smart, we can take what we have learned, and go about creating a new life for ourselves, and we can all have, a “Life 2.0”, which is exciting, fun, and one where we can be even more grateful for what we have.

Thanks so much to Benzo Buddies.org, Colin for creating this invaluable resource, and to all the other administrators who are so dedicated to helping us all find our way again. And of course, thanks to all of the members here, for all of your compassion and help, with a special shout out to my pen pal, Marigold!  This is a truly remarkable community, and may the Spirit of the Universe bless us all.

My high school quote was, "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" and somehow, it seems appropriate now, to wrap up this account.

[...]
« Last Edit: March 31, 2019, 05:24:54 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: Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2019, 11:52:22 am »
[...],  Thank you for coming back to share your story! This gives me a lot of hope. I’m 39 now and 7 months off benzos.  I lost my job and not sure if I’ll get back to where I was, still at 7 months. I work part time now and exercise every day that I can (often twice a day) and my body allows.  I’m still very much in the window wave pattern.  I was curious more about the timeline.  At what point post benzos did you feel you were back on track or realize you were going to be ok. What were the big markers for you? Congrats on finding the woman you love. That is also something I haven’t found and have not considered dating yet because of this situation. Thanks again so much and congrats on your life 2.0.
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: Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2019, 02:08:27 pm »
Hey, thanks!  I hadn't been on the forum much lately, but definitely had to contribute something, as there were so many times, all I could do, was to read the success stories..

I think you'll find it really helpful later on, that you're exercising so much now - really, I think that's one of the best things one can do in this situation.  I was back on track at about 21 months off, as that was when I felt well enough to start dating again.  After about 22 months, I felt like I was good to go again..

I had to take a job that I was overqualified for, in order to help myself get back into the regular swing of things, and somehow that led to getting back to where I had been.  I think being busy, is also good for us, as the distraction makes time pass quicker.  Push yourself as you're able to, and try to take some of the pressure off of yourself - at least that helped me. 
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: Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2019, 02:38:58 pm »
Wow just amazing! Thank you for sharing your story; in every word it’s inspirational. It gives me hope to see someone jumping off at .0625mg of K because that’s where I’m at right now and would love to jump in a week if I can.
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: Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2019, 02:40:23 pm »
Hey, thanks!  I hadn't been on the forum much lately, but definitely had to contribute something, as there were so many times, all I could do, was to read the success stories..

I think you'll find it really helpful later on, that you're exercising so much now - really, I think that's one of the best things one can do in this situation.  I was back on track at about 21 months off, as that was when I felt well enough to start dating again.  After about 22 months, I felt like I was good to go again..

I had to take a job that I was overqualified for, in order to help myself get back into the regular swing of things, and somehow that led to getting back to where I had been.  I think being busy, is also good for us, as the distraction makes time pass quicker.  Push yourself as you're able to, and try to take some of the pressure off of yourself - at least that helped me. 

This is so helpful and reaffirming.  7 months has been a long time for me and it’s hard to keep going sometimes. I see incremental improvements but I’ve been looking for bigger signs.  The success stories are good for sure.  Hard to keep finding motivation. Thanks again and congrats again!
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: Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2019, 03:00:31 pm »
Great stuff [...].. Well done..!!
All the best into the future...

:)
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: Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2019, 05:04:47 pm »
Thanks for coming back to share a beautifully written success story , [...] .
So well written ..... And encouraging .
I'm taking the slow track with my taper .... I don't feel so tough !
But I'm improving as I go so I guess I'll continue the path I've chosen

Congratulations on your success, and having a great attitude to the whole thing.... I'm happy for you that you can move on with your life !

All the best ,
[...]
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: Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2019, 05:25:34 pm »
Thank you so much for sharing your success story and HUGE congrats to you! Is the tinnitus the only symptom you have left? How is your sleep? I am almost 2.5 years out and still having windows and waves with my sleep, so just wondering if you had insomnia and if it got better? Thanks again and best wishes for life 2.0 !!
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: Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2019, 06:17:15 pm »
So great to read this!  Thanks for sharing now go enjoy your life  :) :)
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: Back from the Dead, and Back in Black (Life 2.0!)
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2019, 06:51:25 pm »
Hey my friend - its bringing tears in my eyes to read this, and you know that..

Please come into the protracted board so we can write a lot more.

I am so so so happy that the relationship worked out so wonderful - it was so brave to just do it and move to her and so on and I had my fingers so damn crossed for you. Of course its sad that the other shit happened but well - I am the master of shit in life so I can relate. By the way I think you might still be a model just find a good story for the scarf maybe something with pirates or a shark.

I am so proud of you.
Did you also taper the last med you were on when you left bb the last time?

Sending you a hug!
Marigold :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.