Marta’s Story: Recovering from benzodiazepine addiction

bzacuteHere is a benzo story from the excellent Recovery Road website.

‘My benzo story started over 26 years ago with a panic attack. I was a very active person, I had 2 beautiful children, a good hubby.  Life was good, my children had just started school, I was sad about it, I didn’t want to let them go, but I had to of course. I worked when I wanted to so that was good and I had a very busy social life.

I suddenly started getting panic attacks. They were frightening and I thought I was about to die. I went to my GP and was given 60 diazepam 2 mg pills. She said take one, twice a day.

I took one 2 mg pill a day, my panic attacks stopped and I got on with life. I was grateful that the med was stopping further panic attacks.  At no point did my doctor warn me of any dangers, I thought it was okay to keep taking them,  and in the early days it stopped my fear of another panic attack.

Looking back over the years I did have bouts of depression, became more anxious and had other complaints – stuff I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I passed them off as me getting older. I thought it was just me, and that’s how I was. I know better today. Life could have been so much better for me had I not have been given these drugs.

About 7 years ago the panic attacks started again but far worse than before, awful anxiety, I could not function.  My doctor increased my dose and it went up and up until I was taking 20 mgs a day.

I started getting very depressed, crying all day, my doctor added A/D mirtazapine to the mix. I was a complete mess, in a lot of pain, I thought my mind had been taken over by aliens, voices in my head, I thought I was going mad and I soon lost the will to live.

I became housebound. I could not wash myself or dress myself. I was so sick my husband had to give up his job of 30 years, to take care of me. I was frightened of everything, I had many physical symptoms, and experiencing some terrifying weird stuff, moving objects, floor moving,  I would get electric shocks when the phone rang or the doorbell.  (I didn’t know at the time I was in  tolerance  to the medication).

Eventually  I was terrified to open my front door (agoraphobia). Soon after I was bedridden and couldn’t walk unaided.  I pretty much had every symptom in the Ashton Manual. I honestly wanted to die. I thought of ways I could end my life. The only thing that stopped me was my weakness. I had no strength and so was powerless to carry out my plans.

Doctors sent me for various tests. I would pump myself up with extra doses to get me in the car to go get tests done.  I had endoscopies, x-rays, bloods, scans – all my tests came back negative. I just got worse and worse with no diagnosis.

I wondered what the hell was wrong with me. I asked the doctor if it could possibly be the meds.  She laughed as if I was mad and said, “How could it be the meds?” She said it was all in my head.

I was too weak to argue, and what was worse for me was when my family and friends told me to pull myself together. My family’s reaction convinced me it was in my head. I was doing this to myself.  I agreed to having visits from a primary mental health team  whose idea of getting rid of the repetitive thoughts in my head, was to pull on an elastic band on my wrist.

One day I dragged myself onto the computer. God only knows were I got the strength from.  I did a search on diazepam. I did not know that my meds belonged to a group called  benzodiazepines… when I typed benzodiazepine that’s when I accidentally found Benzo Island. It was a support forum and I could not believe how my story was so common.

People like me with the same complaints! It was sad but also a huge RELIEF to me. I could hardly see with the floods of tears in my eyes… I wasn’t going mad. It wasn’t all in my head.  I managed to type a few words they seemed to understand.

I was so overwhelmed at these wonderful angels. The fact that they believed me was amazing to me!!! Kept telling me, “When you safely taper off this drug, I promise you life will get better”.

I didn’t really believe that I would ever get better, I was so sick, I was convinced I was dying… slowly… Anyway I did what they suggested me to do. I followed Prof Ashton’s manual and started my taper.

I did 10% cuts until I got to 6mgs, 10% at this stage was dreadful so I then did 5% cuts. I was dry cutting. It was hard cutting the pills. I used a razor blade, ended up with powder most of the time. It probably wasn’t anywhere near accurate so I wouldn’t advise it, but I did what I could until I was free.

I did notice very early that the depression lifted. I was never a depressive person before benzos. I realised that it was the diazepam causing the depression.

I have to say as awful as it was, I was so grateful at six months to actually be sitting downstairs.  Then at 8 months standing unaided, not for long but it was a good sign. At twelve months I was doing  better. I still had a way to go but I was happy to settle for the little things I was able to do. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops and would have gladly accepted it if it never got any better.

My emotions had been flat for a long time. I lost that feel-good feeling. I felt so guilty when my daughter would give me a gift… I felt nothing inside. I was emotionally dead.  A day in recovery I will always remember is my husband popping his head round the door and saying something funny to me, as he did often but normally he would get a blank look from dead eyes.

This day I laughed, a proper laugh, not a fake smile, that would hurt after a while. This was a genuine real laugh, my eyes were running with hysterical tears of laughter. My husband stared at me his eyes filling up… oh my God it had been a long time since I laughed like that.  I knew from that day I was going to heal and my husband knew  his wife was coming back.

It was a struggle to get out again, I had no support from anyone else. I did it bit by bit. Sitting right by the door for 5 minutes, then walking to the gate…. to the lamp post… end of the road.  One day I felt well enough to wash the car. It started to rain halfway through, but I stayed out and finished it. My neighbours must have thought I was mad. I felt wonderful that day!!! Lol.

Then finally, after many weeks, I made it to the local shop and bought something… WOW!!.  I had no idea about prices; it was weird getting money out and paying.  The supermarket was terrifying. I went with hubby but would run out to sit in the car, until I was able to cope with it.

Life does get better and we do recover from benzo hell. Be as patient as you can. It’s just a matter of time. You will get your life back.