Author Topic: My retrospective guide out of the Benzo hell hole. Read if you need support !!!  (Read 3684 times)

[Buddie]

My Roadmap out of the Benzo Hell. A Retrospective summary.

Dear buddies. It's been a long time and that's a good thing. Coincidentally the time passed after I started working on my problem now, is almost the same, as the amount of time my problem existed when I first came onto benzo buddies. Who doesnít like a bit of symmetry? This is my succes story on how I beat my  benzo problems and anxiety. And the tips I wish I would have had when I was 25.  I now speak 2 new language (a total of 4), Moved to another country, Started my own business, keep achieving new athetlic goals and pushing my boundaries. I found the love of my life, have a beautifull dog, and I'm enjoying life. There is sunshine after the rain, and it can be great.

Looking back at my personal journey I noticed there were several steps and realisations on the way, that I think might be helpful. I was also in doubt if I should post it at all, since there are already so many great tips, and stories here. Also Iím quite the scatterbrain, so Iím hoping this will be halfway Coherent. Please bear with me :)

Some of you who are reading this are going through the darkest periods of your life, Iíve been there, my hope is I can contribute a little bit in helping anybody through this. Iím sure with the support on this forum and your hard work, you will come out stronger than you ever imagined. I know I did. If youíre interested you can check my posts and see what I wrote 6 years ago. It's not even the tip of the iceberg, and I'm always open for PMs. to elaborate or discuss things.


Step 1. Problem Identification.
Realising there is a problem, and deciding to fix it. There are a lot of tapering schedules on this website, so step one would be either starting with one of those, or quitting altogether if this is possible for you.

Step 2. Identifying emotions/coping mechanisms.
Physical withdrawal vs. Emotional withdrawal.
I would like to make a distinction between anxiety, as a tension, a stress, negative thought patterns, uncomfortable body sensations, and panic attacks.

Panic attacks usually follow anxiety, but have a very pronounced tipping point, where anxiety becomes panic and a full adrenaline reaction takes place. Itís also important to realise in my opinion, that your recovery runs into two parallels. Iím not a psychologist, these are my own experiences, but I think they can be broadly applied. Apart from the chemical process of the withdrawal syndrome, and your body trying to find a new Ďbalanceí. Is also the psychological and emotional recovery.

The anxiety medication filled a hole: Coping with certain emotions and stress. Although this is not a physical addiction, it is in my opinion a big part of a full recovery and reducing the post withdrawal syndrome. After the medication, and a couple months later when the central nervous system starts to become Ďnormalí again, there is still a lot of work to be done. The problems that were avoided or paused by the medication will come back at you stronger than before. Just quitting medication will not fill this hole. Meaning that you will still be pushed into full anxiety and panic attacks even if you are completely off of your meds for multiple months and the body is already back to its normal self.

You will have to find something else that can put your mind at ease,
Try a form of light cardio exercise where you get sweaty and start huffing and puffing, on a comfortable level. This has scientifically proven to reduce anxiety levels and promote feelings of well being. This is a process and it takes time. Just like it did to form an addiction, it takes time to form healthy habits. I can not stress this enough. Stick. with. it. Progress will follow and this is such a vital part of recovery. Humans are made to move and exercise. A sedentary lifestyle indoors is going to exacerbate anxiety.


Anxiety: I did not understand this at the time so I wasnít able to address this back then, I only learned this a lot later in life. But I think this would have been a very good second step. Rationally we know anxiety isnít a real danger, emotionally we do not. I had all sorts of behaviours to try to comfort myself (touching my neck or face for example). Those behaviours are in my opinion a form of coping (and also confirming the reality of the threat, by taking defensive action or avoiding actions, you make the threat real, after all, there is nothing to fear, but fear itself). I wanted to not feel anxiety, anxiety is bad. If I touch my neck or massage my neck muscles this will relax me and make me feel more pleasant. Essentially I was trying to calm myself so I did not have to experience the anxiety.

Not trying to experience anxiety is like not thinking about a pink elephant. Itís only going to come at you harder the more you avoid it. What helped me a lot was allowing the anxiety to be, realising itís a feeling that canít hurt me. Easier said than done, I know this sounds impossible. The key here I think is experiencing enough so that it is challenging for you, but not so much that it's overwhelming and it turns into a panic attack, and your fears are confirmed yet again.

I think a lot of people can relate to this, that we become scared of fear itself. This gives substance and credibility to the anxiety, it makes it a real thing. A thing needed to be avoided at all costs. Just dealing with anxiety is already too much to put in this post, I read a book about it that I thought was extremely informative. It's called The Dare Response : The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop panic attacks. By Barry Mc Donagh. This will help you a lot if youíre far into the post withdrawal syndrome and you are still dealing with a lot of anxiety or panic attacks.

It is always better to be in the Ďattacking, chasingí mindset than in the Ďrunning, flightí mindset. After you gradually expose yourself to a level of anxiety that you're half comfortable with, and do so repeatedly. Eventually you will start to build a tolerance for it.
Essential here is that itís not too overwhelming, but challenging. Because if you feel like youíre losing control and itís too much to handle you confirm your fears: That you must fear fear. You want to do it gradually so that you can overcome small levels of anxiety, and experience success with it. Slowly becoming more comfortable with this sensation. Eventually if you grasp this concept you might apply it in a bigger context. When anxiety creeps up on you, you can defy it : ĎCome on then, anxiety, give me your best shot, show me the worst thoughts that you can come up with, make me faint, try meí. Instead of running away from the anxiety, you are taking control of it and will realise it's just a paper tiger. I wanted to add this in here even though it's described a lot better in the book. Just so this guide is as comprehensive as possible.

Panic attacks: One of my primary reasons to be scared of fear were panic attacks. This almost out of body experience, the dissociative losing control feeling, the feeling of not being able to breathe and losing any control. On a daily basis. It really limited my ability to function in everyday life.

Besides tapering, I also analysed how a panic attack works. I simply googled it.
It follows roughly this pattern:

Anxiety builds up
Breathing can become shallow, or anxiety becomes more intense.
often these two things [...] unnoticed.
Tipping point.
Because of shallow breathing you are exhaling too much Co2, the changing Co2 levels trick your body into thinking that you canít breathe. Note: Although you have the sensation that you cannot breathe in, the problem usually lies with propperly breathing out. You cannot breathe, because you are breathing superficial, and youíre lungs are already 80% full. This is why you cannot fill them back up. Focus on breathing slowly, and focus on breathing out properly.

The symptoms of co2 levels changing rapidy, and a panic attack, are almost identical to a heart attack. No wonder we freak out about them.  Iím not quite sure if there are other triggers apart from breathing. I assume if anxiety increases this would perhaps only cause a very fast heart rate, maybe without the shallow breathing. Maybe the fast heart rate would already be enough to trigger a panic attack. Bottom line : Intense anxiety can cause terrifying harmless symptoms. Here Adrenaline usually kicks in involuntarily, which you canít really stop.

It is when those symptoms present, that you are 100% certain that you are in fact dying or this time it's actually real. Because of those weird feelings. The adrenaline makes this even more terrifying and intensifies all of the symptoms. Now You are even more convinced, more adrenaline is released, etc. etc. etc. This cycle continues until you eventually get exhausted, or distracted enough to break this loop. For me a shower usually works wonders.
https://www.jyi.org/2007-november/2007/11/10/new-insight-into-panic-attacks-carbon-dioxide-is-the-culprit#:~:text=These%20results%20imply%20that%20neuronal,symptoms%20that%20resemble%20panic%20attacks.


The fix:  Your survival rate for panic attacks up until this point is 100%. Do not let them convince you otherwise.


You cannot stop the initial flood of adrenaline that stops you in your tracks. You can however control your response to thŗt initial flood. Once your body floods itself with adrenaline you have a choice: Youíre dying for the 2000th time, or, youíre just freaking out about something and youíre gonna take it easy, relax, try to control your breathing: 4 - 4 - 4 -4
Four seconds in, hold four seconds, four seconds out, empty 4 seconds. Continue this cycle for a minute or 2. If you prefer to do 6 seconds in and  6 seconds out, this is fine, see what works for you. The controlled breathing will force your body to understand that you are not in a life threatening situation and that everything will be fine in 2 minutes. Tell yourself Ď This is a panic attack, I've had a 1000 of them, focus on your breathing, donít let it take control. If you are able to do this for just 2 minutes. You interrupt the cycle and the panic attack evaporates into thin air.

In the beginning this will not work, this might work 30% of the time. But every single time it works, It shows you that you can take control of these panic attacks.

In short: Knowledge is power. Inform yourself about your reactions, like you did by coming onto this forum, inform yourself about anxiety, panic attacks, maybe consider going to a psychologist that is experienced in anxiety.

Step 3. Transcending your dependence and leaving it behind you.
So when all is well you did the following: You understand your anxiety and are able to cope with it. People feel anxious all the time, you just feel REALLY anxious because youíre not used to it anymore (And probably dealt with it wrong, thats how it becomes worse, like a REAL threat). Allow and accept it as a part of you, donít be afraid of it. See it as a long companion that stops by every now and then to tease you.

You understand panic attacks, and know how to interrupt them and stop them from spiraling out of control.

You established good habits to make yourself more resistant to stress. Probably avoid caffeine, make sure you sleep well. Exercise in moderation or as much as you can tolerate. Be careful, overdoing exercising may provoke anxiety. But  if you exercise 2 or 3 times a week, you will definitely start feeling more relaxed.

One reason for this is the physiological effect on your body, all your muscles tense up with jogging, your heart rate increases, and when youíre done, all muscles relax. Your mind relaxes, also some endorphins and other chemicals are released that make you feel better. 

Another reason would be pushing your limits. It's uncomfortable to start working out. Especially if you have never done it before. You might feel like people are looking at you and or you might feel weird. You might feel like you canít do this and want to [...] home. But if you stick to this, just like you stuck to your tapering plan. You are increasing your tolerance to stress and anxiety. It will force you to have success experiences. I would highly recommend downloading Strava, or any other recording app on your phone or smart watch to track your runs, no matter how humble, no matter how little you ran. Youíre still beating everybody sitting on the couch :). Tracking your runs with strava allows you to see your progress, this can be a huge confidence booster.

And a simple trick about social anxiety or agoraphobia: If you feel like everybody is watching you, the solution is not to look at the floor and try to be invisible while dieing inside. The solution is to look at the people that you think are watching at you. And see that they are just busy with their own problems :)

If you did all of the above, stick with it and try to improve on all the aspects of it. I feel confident in saying that you will become a more stable person, in control of their anxiety.

I am sure I projected a lot of my own problems onto everybody here, and that I generalized too many things. As said at the beginning of this post, I'm a huge scatterbrain. I do think there is a lot of useful information here that I know helped me a lot. I guess this is the post I probably would have needed to read myself when I was 25. Iím hoping there are other people out there that are able to relate to my story and my solutions. I hope this will help someone to get better. Iím hoping people that relate will respond here and we can share some thoughts. I know how bad some people are feeling now, but also know, if you challenge yourself and you manage to fight through this. You will have achieved a lot, I feel like I'm stronger and more determined because of what I went through. Most people donít have to deal with it. If you can fight through these problems, and work hard on yourself, you will learn that you can push your limits further than you ever imagined. People overestimate what they can do in a year, but you have no idea what you can achieve in 5 years, with consistent effort every day, step bey step. 

I managed to accomplish more things than I ever would have hoped to achieve 6 years ago. And Iím not showing any signs of slowing down. Full steam ahead, and enjoying life, and taking care of myself as best I can. Yes I have a tendency towards depression. Not every day is a good day. But when itís a good day Iím there to enjoy it. And I hope you will be too.

All the best and good luck during your recovery buddies.

« Last Edit: July 14, 2021, 07:19:01 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]

Thank you for taking the time to post this.   I am at the beginning of my taper and will read this again and 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]

Thank you for the post! 🙏🏼
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]

Thank you for taking the time to post this.   I am at the beginning of my taper and will read this again and again.

Hello [...]!

Congratulations on the best decision of your life! It's going to be a challenge but you will get through this. Step by step.

Just don't worry if you take a few steps back or if you have a bad experience again. I'm not sure i elaborated on this in the post, but process is most definitely not linear :) It's more like the stock market (assuming that always goes up eventually).

Those are part of the process and what actually make you stronger. I had plenty of setbacks. 
That just means its time for a tactical retreat & regroup, And get back out there  ::)
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]

Thank you for the post, did you ever feel anxiety would never leave. I don't have panic attacks more extreme anxiety relating to thinking may have harmed others. Just after 2 and half years loosing hope a bit. It doeswax and wane a bit, but nothing seems to stop my brain thinking crazy thoughts, really draining.
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]

Thank you for the post, did you ever feel anxiety would never leave. I don't have panic attacks more extreme anxiety relating to thinking may have harmed others. Just after 2 and half years loosing hope a bit. It doeswax and wane a bit, but nothing seems to stop my brain thinking crazy thoughts, really draining.

Hi [...],
edit: Forgot to answer your question: Yes I definitely felt like anxiety would never leave me. And in a certain sense it never did, I still have Anxieties. But now they might be mild annoyances that quickly fade when I [...] for a jog or do something else to relax me.

Thanks for reading my story. Since your worries and thoughts circulate around a very specific topic I think this might be very different from my personal anxieties. Mine were more in terms of hypochondria, feeling like there is some physically wrong with me because of weird sensations. I will always be susceptible for anxiety, I tend to be very demanding of myself. If I do not live up to my own expectations I have tendency to talk myself down and get into negative thought patterns. Which can also cause anxiety. A different kind. I think that's a bit more similar to what you are experiencing. For me accepting the fact that I'm just a human being and trying my best, helps a lot. Imagine somebody else than you would be feeling exactly like you feel now. Now imagine this person would be a close friend of yours. Would you still be so harsh? Or would you be able to forgive this person? 

This is definitely something you should probably talk to with a psychologist. They can help you understand where those thoughts are coming from, and maybe gain new insight in why they keep coming back. 2.5 years is a very long time.

The book I recommended in the post might also be of help to you, it's not just about panic attacks, it's also very much about anxiety. There are very clear strategies on how to deal with those thoughts, also compulsive thoughts etc.

I hope you will be doing better soon. But Reach out for help if you feel like you are no longer progressing.
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]

I've seen a psychologist had several sessions, think because my symptoms are purely caused by withdrawal, never had any before, didn't really help. I seem be having rapid cycling recently. Get couple days it's just about manageable, then today when everything seems black and hopeless again.
For me the anti depressants actually made things worse, only been about 13 months off them, so guess the horrible withdrawal at moment could be from them. Was so deflated as they seem help so many people, but seemed have paradoxical effect on me. Just get deflated when progress is so slow.
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]

I've seen a psychologist had several sessions, think because my symptoms are purely caused by withdrawal, never had any before, didn't really help. I seem be having rapid cycling recently. Get couple days it's just about manageable, then today when everything seems black and hopeless again.
For me the anti depressants actually made things worse, only been about 13 months off them, so guess the horrible withdrawal at moment could be from them. Was so deflated as they seem help so many people, but seemed have paradoxical effect on me. Just get deflated when progress is so slow.

So there is a lot of information missing for me to make some suggestions. If I understand correctly you used a form of benzodiazepine  for 12 years, and stopped for 2.5 years. You tried ssri, without success. Skip ahead 2.5 years and we are in the present, without seeing any progress. The psychologist didn't help.

My questions :

What have you been doing in the last 2.5 years proactively to try to reduce your anxiety, yourself (no medications or treatments)?

What did the psychologist think the problem was, or suggested you work on?

Why are you certain this is the withdrawal syndrome?

What triggers your anxiety, and what reduces it ?



I think those are very important questions. Also in everyday life, I can totally relate, to sometimes having a really shitty day where I just feel sluggish and just a bit off. I think everybody has those. I just think if you're not satisfied with your progress or your level of functioning, those bad days just hit you 10 times as hard.

Between all the options described in my first post, enough sleeping, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, eating healthy and exercising regularly, which one of those points would be your weak point, if any?

Ssri's , and a psychologist, and a wait and see approach to your recovery all share one thing: They are external solutions.

(I'm just trying to reflect something to you and see if this is something that resonates with you. From my own experience in the medical field ( Not a doctor or a psychologist, but I do write treatment plans etc. In part also for depressed people, although this is definitely not my focus and would not claim to be an expert on the topic.)

If you assume that the withdrawal syndrome is the problem, waiting would be the solution. What I mentioned in my story that is very important, is the parallel recovery taking place with your own emotions and coping strategies, (and lifestyle).  Are you engaging with challenging situations, structurally and strategically, with a 'plan' so to speak.  Do you know what your weak points are and what you would like to work on?

If you compare yourself now, with 2 months ago, has there been any progress?

It has been my experience that people who 'own' the problem, and work actively towards its resolution, generally do better compared to their more passive counter parts.

I hope this might give you some ideas, and I'm very interested to hear the answers to those questions.

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]

I took zop sporadically for about 9 years, then when husband nearly died started very low dose every night as couldn't sleep. When found out [...] was retiring tried cutting out odd days for couple months as feared they'd stop the meds. That's when the intrusive thoughts started mildly.. When [...]  retired made me [...] cold turkey, the longer I was off the worse it got. After about 8 months in desperation tried SSRI's but they made things lot worse, struggled on for 6 months feeling ghastly then weaned off them.
Re trying to help, tried psychologist, counselling, CBT, exposure therapy, various hobbies, mindfulness, yoga, calming breathing, self help books, meditation. Saw psychiatrist just prescribed mega dose duloxetine sent me bouncing off ceiling.
My mother treated me very badly One psych thought was PTSD from emotional abuse by her. Some things  have eased, in acute was crying every day, , severe depression, now just get that the odd day but the intrusive thoughts always there.. Physical symptoms mainly gone.
Never had anything before stopping the meds, and the thoughts of harming people seem very common, so it has got to be withdrawal. No triggers just whenever we're out get this fear may have hurt people, short of never going out, little I can do. It didn't ease during lockdown just felt more anxious when I did eventually [...] out. Seems some of us with extreme symptoms just take long time to improve. But I have no doubt this is withdrawal, too much of a coincidence I never experienced it before. Just read Brighter Days lasted 2.5 - 3 years
« Last Edit: July 14, 2021, 04:21:01 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]

I took zop sporadically for about 9 years, then when husband nearly died started very low dose every night as couldn't sleep. When found out [...] was retiring tried cutting out odd days for couple months as feared they'd stop the meds. That's when the intrusive thoughts started mildly.. When [...]  retired made me [...] cold turkey, the longer I was off the worse it got. After about 8 months in desperation tried SSRI's but they made things lot worse, struggled on for 6 months feeling ghastly then weaned off them.
Re trying to help, tried psychologist, counselling, CBT, exposure therapy, various hobbies, mindfulness, yoga, calming breathing, self help books, meditation. Saw psychiatrist just prescribed mega dose duloxetine sent me bouncing off ceiling.
My mother treated me very badly One psych thought was PTSD from emotional abuse by her. Some things  have eased, in acute was crying every day, , severe depression, now just get that the odd day but the intrusive thoughts always there.. Physical symptoms mainly gone.
Never had anything before stopping the meds, and the thoughts of harming people seem very common, so it has got to be withdrawal. No triggers just whenever we're out get this fear may have hurt people, short of never going out, little I can do. It didn't ease during lockdown just felt more anxious when I did eventually [...] out. Seems some of us with extreme symptoms just take long time to improve. But I have no doubt this is withdrawal, too much of a coincidence I never experienced it before. Just read Brighter Days lasted 2.5 - 3 years



That's horrible and I can see why you would get very depressed by this. And you defintily already tried a lot. I didn't see exercise yet though! I could really REALLY recommend trying to pick up jogging. I know you probably might hate it, and in the beginning i'm not going to lie it sucks. But if this gives you some peace of mind ? It relaxes you, gets out your nervous energy, will improve your mood, physiologically also make you more resistant to stressors ( anxiety?!!?!) :)  From all the hobbies you described you didn't mention heavy exercise, as in cardio. ( I understand yoga is also a form of exercise but this is definitely different).

Secondly I noticed that you said your symptoms got worse by staying inside all the time. There is a common logic that applies to a lot of these type of problems : If you can provoke your symptoms, you can also make them better. Just do the opposite :)
It would seem if you would make a habbit of going outside more and just allow the thoughts to be there, ofcourse without acting on them! Compulsive thoughts become more compulsive if you compulsively try to surpress them. From what I gather a good way to deal with them is to just let them be, not being bothered or disturbed by them. Just observing them and letting them be.

Try to nail the basics, good sleep, exercise, no processed foods or foods that spike your blood sugar, avoiding caffeine and alcohol.  Absolutely pick up sports, for sure. Depending on your age and fitness I would make a target of being able to run 10 km in one [...]. taking anywhere between 40 minutes and 1:30.  Just work towards this goal. I'm almost certain if you reach this goal you will at least feel more balanced or relaxed. This is also supported by science.

3.2.1. Runners Versus Non-Running Comparisons
Sixteen of the 47 studies directly compared measures of mental health in runners and non-running comparisons [29,33,36,37,40,41,42,45,46,47,57,61,62,63,64,73]. They found that runners had lower depression and anxiety [33,36,37,40,41,45,46,47,62], lower stress [64], higher psychological well-being [63,73], and better mood [29] compared to sedentary controls. In these studies, there was no evidence of increased prevalence of eating psychopathology in non-elite runners [42,57,61].

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7663387/


I also wouldn't be a 100% sure about this being purely withdrawal. The significant impact it has on your psychology, of being medicated for 9 years. Especially with the trauma and all the other things going on. This would be hard to deal with for a person without this medication problem. Let alone in withdrawal:) I think it would be safe to say, that in your 9 years of being medicated, you stopped learning how to deal with certain things surpressed by the medication.  I'm not even going to pretend to understand that, but I think it's almost a fact that, using medication as a crutch for 9 years, will have a significant impact on your ability to cope with stress and anxiety. I would just strongly advise to exercise and make sure you get all those basic conditions in order. To give you the best possible chance of a quick recovery.  If you are well rested and exercise a lot,  make a habbit of going outside ( since staying inside makes it worse).

But look on the bright side :) You have already been healing and are on the righ track. Just actively participate in your recovery and stay positive! You can do this! You can just improve the foundation to build your recovery on, and take care of yourself!
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.