How I Slew the Benzo Beast and What I Learned in the Process

Freedom by Matheus Lotero

Freedom by Matheus Lotero

The nightmare is over.  I have won my battle with the beast.  I took my last dose of Temazepam, a benzodiazepine sleeping medication, on Sunday, April 13th, 2014.  I will not be going back.

In case you are one of the many people who don’t know what benzodiazepines are, I need only say two words: Valium and Xanax.  Most people know what those are.  Some are even aware of the fact that they are both notoriously addictive and incredibly difficult to come off of.  All benzodiazepines work in generally the same way, and all are highly addictive including my beast, Temazepam.  (Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms)

I spoke a little of my struggle with Temazepam in my story.  I want to share some of my journal entries from the past two years to show you where I’ve been and how much has changed since I first began to taper from my medication.

The Early Days

I started writing in my journal while in the hospital for depression.  I spent a couple of weeks recovering from the hospital stay and allowing myself to sleep on the full dose of medication.  I soon realized, however, that the medication was making me very ill.  I would wake up in the mornings and feel like I had the flu.  By the afternoon I was a bundle of nerves, although so tired I could barely get out of bed.  I knew I had to taper, and I wanted off as quickly as possible.  So I made a few mistakes in the beginning.  Please forgive the incoherence of some of these entries.  I was in deep misery and did not have all my faculties.

March 17, 2012

Tomorrow I get out of the hospital.  I am absolutely grief-stricken that I was not helped here.  I’m now on a benzo again and terribly frightened.  This is what it took to convince them that drugs don’t work for me. A miserable week getting sick on drug after drug.  My hell has only just begun.

March 26, 2012, 30 mgs

I’m so sad for what my family has lost, what more they will lose when I get off this drug.  Tonight I start my taper.  I have no idea what to expect.  I’m trying to stay positive, but I’m starting to realize it might take much longer than I thought if I don’t want to be horrendously ill.  Patience will be vital, even lifesaving in this case.

 March 30, 2012, 28 mgs

Doc wants me to rapid taper which would basically feel like cold turkey…Today was very bad.  I’m frightened.  Withdrawal hasn’t let up much and it’s already near bedtime.  I should not have made that last cut.  It was much too fast a taper plan.

April 1, 2012, 28 mgs

Extreme suffering today despite holding my dose.  2 hours sleep last night.  Severe depression/anxiety, burning muscles, nausea, sore, swollen mouth and tongue.  Pain and enervation everywhere.

April 4, 2012, 28 mgs

Not more than 2 hours sleep last night…Been a horrid day.  Tapering too fast was a huge mistake.  I keep going back and forth between severe anxiety and crushingly painful depression.  Jenny came today at just the right time.  Jehovah always knows when we’ve had enough.

April 14, 2012, 28 mgs

MISERY!  Throat is gagging, body burning.  Only 4 hours sleep.  Kids coming soon and I won’t be able to love on them…I’m in so much misery.  Throat and stomach feel sandpapered.  Chest is so tight.  Coughing and gagging.  Head pain was outrageous last night.  So screwed…Burning all over body.  Head pressure, blurry vision.  Feels like I drank acid.  Can’t stop twitching even though I’m dang tired.

 

That was the result of trying to come off my medication too quickly.  2 mgs in 2 days.  That would have had me off within two months, and probably right back in the hospital. Although I understood that tapering was the reason for my misery, I still wanted off.  I didn’t even consider staying on the medication.  I slowed my taper rate way down to a doable 10% of my current dose per month.  I had also heard that spreading out my dose throughout the day would help me to taper with less suffering.  It took me a while to muster the courage to do it, as I was fearful that taking any from my night-time dose would cause even more sleep problems.  As it turned out, just the opposite was the case.  Spreading my dose out was one of the best things I did during the whole taper.

 April 26, 2012, 27.5 mgs

I started taking med during the morning yesterday.  I did it again today and will take another 2 mgs this afternoon.  I don’t like the feeling, but it’s better than intense withdrawal.  I slept okay last night despite being short 2 1/2 mgs of med.  I’m doing okay this morning.  Just slight nausea and wooziness.  I hope this helps me come down at a more reasonable rate…Some numbness and anxiety creeping.  Ear pain, some jaw pain.  Not too bad.  Getting some laundry done and did some dishes.  Cooking lunch now.

May 15, 2012, 25.5 mgs

Woke up feeling really good today…It’s been a relatively great day.  I got a lot of laundry and housework done, spent some time in the sun, never felt any anxiety or depression and physical symptoms are somewhat milder.

May 17, 2012

Just kept falling asleep in the morning.  I felt pretty good today.  I have some energy, no depression.  Tiny bit of anxiety, but I try not to think too much.

 

My menstrual cycle seemed to make things much worse.  I usually had a few good days during the month like the ones above.  But I usually took a dive right before my period.  I notice now that I did a lot of pep talking when I felt that bad.  I think it really helped me to heal.

May 19, 2012, 25 mgs

The cottonwoods are blooming and I’m crying remembering the day last year when James and I drove out to Granger to the dinosaur park and to show him my mail route.  The cottonwoods were shedding so much it seemed like it was snowing.  It was beautiful and I was so strong and vibrant.  I will be that me again.

June 16, 2012, 22 mgs

I was up at 4:00, too hungry to go back to sleep so I had to get up and eat.  I finally got maybe another hour of sleep after that.  I had to say my affirmations for a long time before I could get out of bed.  So many scary intrusive thoughts.  I will have to work hard at staying in the moment today.

The pain in my ear, neck and throat is bad tonight.  It’s so tense.  It’s been a challenge to keep from worrying.  It’s all just a sign my brain is trying to readjust and heal.  I will heal.  I am getting better.  Remember the woman who detoxed from her medication and was seizing and had every other conceivable symptom.  She was reinstated and slow tapered.  She only had mild symptoms the whole taper and remained relatively well after.  She felt completely healed within one year of her last dose.  That will be me.  And even if not, I accept all that my body must do to heal itself.  I will help it as far as I can and I will not fear.   There is nothing to fear with Jehovah on my side.

 

The Long Hard Slog

By August, I was feeling much better, although I was still experiencing steep hills and valleys in my level of suffering.  I had continuously used positive thinking, journaling, affirmations, and certain relaxation techniques to help me through the withdrawals, and those things really began to make a difference.

August 1, 2012, 20 mgs

“God gave us, not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love, and of soundness of mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

I’ve been feeling sort of invincible lately, like I can handle anything.  Maybe if I’m super careful and slow with my taper my suffering will remain minimal.  Today was very good.  I took a long walk this morning on the canal road.  There were some ripe blackberries and the wind was nice and cool.  I didn’t even feel overly tired after, and it was a long walk.

You can heal from any kind of mental illness.  I will not go crazy.  I will keep getting better and better.

I had to continually adjust my taper rate.  If I started to get into a continual pattern of crashing and then having to hold the taper, I knew it was time to slow it down.  It was not hard to do, as I was diluting my medication in carefully measured water and making tiny daily cuts.  All I needed to do in order to slow my rate was to make smaller cuts or increase the intervals between cuts.

September 20, 2012, 17.50 mgs

I’ve officially decided to cut my taper rate in half.  So now instead of crashing and holding all the time, I’ll just steadily take 1/2 ml every other day instead of every day.

I’m functional enough now to get meals, keep the house reasonably clean, pick up the boys after school and see to their homework.  I still get frightened and depressed.  And I’m tired to death of this never-ending taper, but I feel fortunate to be sleeping every night and be mentally and emotionally present for the boys.

Keeping my mind on positive things has been absolutely essential.  My emotions have been so fragile throughout this taper that even the slightest bit of negativity or scary news would send my into a tailspin.

November 15, 2012, 14.75 mgs

I felt really stable today – emotionally anyway.  Until I read a disturbing article about Candida.  I hate that word so much – the other C word.  I need to stay away from information about infections and disorders, it does me no good.  Positivity is life.

November 19, 2012

I just destroyed my mood by tormenting myself with tragic You Tube videos.  I don’t know what possessed me.  Then, right in the midst of that, my son handed me a letter from school about a boy from his class who has cancer.  Good way to destroy an evening.  They are not us.  We are fine.  We have nothing to fear because not even death can defeat us if we remain faithful.  I am so terribly raw right now.

 

I believe it was because of my extreme sensitivity that I continually came to understand important things about life during the past two years.  I also became very angry about certain things.   One day, I went looking for a place to walk by the river, which turned out to be very difficult.  I finally did find a place, although I found out later that I had been trespassing.  I had a wonderful walk, but it also made me think about the things that make me angry about how the earth is being ruined.

December 6, 2012

I hate what this world has become.  How despicable that the very thing that Jehovah carefully designed as our perfect home of delight and beauty has been made into a toxic wasteland.  This valley should be teeming with birds and coyotes, elk and cougars, beaver and porcupine.  It should be covered in sage and bunchgrass with desert lupine, sunflowers, phlox, desert parsley, and astragalus.  the river should run free and clear and be full of trout and bass that wouldn’t make you sick to eat it.

I feel like the whole world is a minefield of dangerous chemicals from which there is no escape.  I feel as helpless as an Oklahoma farm wife watching with dread as another black dust storm rolls across the prairie, slamming into the house and filthing everything in its path including the small and vulnerable lungs of her children.  There is no shutting it out.  Life must go on even if pneumonia is the result.

The extreme greed and utter disregard for other humans displayed by the mega-corporations that are responsible for destroying so much of the earth, including our valley, is stupefying.  It makes me sick that human beings are capable of it.

 

At one point in my taper, I took a huge nosedive.  I still am not sure why it happened.  I guess maybe I tapered too quickly.  But I was frightened.  I thought I would never be able to get completely off the pills.

June 3, 2013, 6.75 mgs

I discovered on Saturday night that I really haven’t tapered anything at all since 7.5 mgs.  I hadn’t accounted for evaporation.  I’m so sick.  Saturday and Sunday I  started using a covered jar and dividing up my dose ahead of time, which effectively caused me to drop from 7.5 to 6.75 mgs in one night.  I don’t know what I thought was going to happen – that my body would just forgive me and behave accordingly?  Did I think I could ignore the evaporation thing and maybe it would be okay?  Well it’s not.

June 5, 2013 6.75 mgs

This too shall pass!  I will follow the program (The Effortless Sleep Method) and hold until I’m stable again.  I sleep so well, there is no reason to fear.  I’ve done amazingly well throughout this entire taper.  If I can overcome what I’ve already been through, I think I can weather a difficult week like this…

I need to make allowances for the possibility of feeling bad.  I’ve been holding myself to a very high standard: total functionality.  And I’ve mostly achieved it.  But I’m feeling extreme fear right now about letting my family down again – extreme.  The fear would go if I could just let go of the absolute need to feel stable at all times.  ACCEPTANCE is the key to the least amount of suffering.  My boys are not babies anymore, they can do things for themselves. It’s good for them to feel the need to care for themselves and others.

I simply tapered a little too quickly and now my system is very hypersensitive.  It will pass if I hold and accept whatever symptoms come to me.

I’m going back to 7 mgs…

I struggled along like that for another week and a half before I got brave a tried a homeopathic remedy for the insomnia.  I had stopped taking all supplements because of my hypersensitivity, and I was afraid to try anything.  But I did it, and that’s what saved the taper, I believe.

June 16, 2013

I’m so depressed I don’t even know what to write.  I feel like it’s the end of life as I knew it, bad as it was.  It was at least tolerable.  And most importantly, I was able to be a halfway decent mom.  Poor **** keeps begging me to go camping as if nothing could ever be fun without me.  It’s breaking my heart.

I’m almost always nauseated and everything I eat goes right through me.  I can’t seem to tolerate food in any form.

I’m pretty sure I will be taking a dose of Phosphorous tomorrow morning.

June 17, 2013

I feel like my adrenals and stomach are blasted all to #$%^&.  I can’t seem to eat any meat without reacting.  It’s Monday morning and I have to get brave and take my remedy or I might never get off the poison.  (took Phosphorous 30c)

2:30

The brain fog isn’t so bad anymore and I don’t feel like dying, that’s certainly progress.  I’ve been able to take an interest in things.  I’m very weak and heavy and get head rushes when I get up, but if the mental symptoms improve, I’m happy.

June 18, 2013

Nausea: gone

Diarrhea: much improved

Mood: volatile, but much improved

Energy: better, but on the edge of exhaustion

A few days later I had to take another dose at a much higher potency, and it helped immensely.  I have since relied on Phosphorous to help me through the rest of my taper, and I believe I owe much of my stability to it.

I was not the only one who had a bad couple of years.  I lost 4 friends and two Grandmothers in death.  Most of them to cancer.  I usually call cancer the “C word” because I’ve always had such a terrible fear of it.  Well, I had to face that fear.  I had to look it right in the face and stare it down.  I had to love my Grandma, who had lung cancer, right up until that terrible beast took her life.  And I did it.  I think I loved her well.  I hope she felt that I did.

August 24, 2013, 6 mgs

Grandma died last night.

August 25, 2013

I was very, very tired and depressed this morning.  Suppressed grief.  I’m frightened at the intensity of it.  I was afraid to acknowledge it.  It made me sick.  I read an article about grief and how trying to appear strong is not healthy.  A woman who was a doctor commented that she would let herself cry at the very beginning, but after that she would push it all down in an attempt to remain strong for others.  It made her sick.  So I deliberately took my Grandma’s picture and forced myself to look at it and remember.  And sure enough, the torrent of violent emotions surfaced and nearly overwhelmed me.  But once I recovered I did feel better.  It is a relief, but it is also extremely exhausting.

This is what I wrote for my Grandma in the days following her death:   Pioneer Shoes

Two months later my other Grandma, who had been suffering from the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, and who I had been very close to all my life, died quite suddenly from pneumonia.  I don’t have what I wrote during the week that I stayed with my mother after it happened.  This is what I wrote after I came home:

October 20, 2013, 4 mgs

“Our problems are no match for Jehovah.  Our extremities are his opportunities.” – Member of Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gilead Graduation

This has been one of the worst and best weeks of my life.  Worst because Grandma died and I miss her terribly, and because my mother is devastated.  Best because Jehovah gave me the strength of Samson so I would be able to do the seemingly impossible.  I stayed with mom all week and took care of her in spite of my own illness and sleep deprivation, endured large amounts of chemicals because of our numerous visitors and other reasons, and actually made it through all of Grandma’s memorial and reception dinner without leaving once…and I made it.  I’m okay.  Just understandably exhausted and very sad.

October 21, 2013 4 mgs

I don’t have any Grandmas.  Not even one…I’m so terribly tired.  I’m getting by on pure holy spirit I think.

And as if all that were not enough, five days later my dog died.

October 25, 2013 4 mgs

Elsie got hit and died today.  If I wasn’t living this I would never believe the amount of heartache and drama that have been my life for the past two years.  It’s actually surreal.  I have so much to cry about that half the time I don’t know which thing I’m grieving, or if it’s all of it.  It’s been feeling like something has been pressing on my chest and my insides are raw.  And sometimes I’m completely numb and in dumb despair.  Sometimes I even forget and start to enjoy myself, but then another storm hits.  Nothing helps. Nothing chases away the dull, heavy ache.  Oh Jehovah God help me!

The Home Stretch

I started writing on this blog, Sound as a Crystal, in November 2013, the month after my Grandma died.  It has helped me heal in so many ways.  During the past six months, I have experienced more healing than I had in all the year and a half before it.  I don’t know how much of that has to do with the self expression and how much has to do with the fact that I’ve been taking less and less medication, but I’m happy.

Sometime in early November I started to practice oil pulling.  I had already been using my remedy, Phosphorous, on a regular basis.  I had also been using bentonite clay packs to relieve some of my inflammation.  These practices seemed to have a very beneficial effect.

November 11, 2013, 3.5 mgs

I feel good.  It’s a little window.  I didn’t expect ever to feel good while detoxing, but behold!  It does work.  I am making some progress.  I continue to OP (oil pull) every day as well as use clay poultices.  This morning I took an Epsom salt bath.  I expected to crash from that at some point, but I did not.

In spite of all the good things I was doing for myself, I continued to struggle with negative thinking at times.  I had and still have terrible chemical sensitivities which prevented me from doing many things.  No parties.  No malls.  Even driving has been a challenge.  All this caused a lot of social tension.  (Read more:  Behind the Mask)

December 12, 2013, 2.75 mgs

I’m so terribly self-conscious now, and am suffering from such low self-esteem that I just have to chalk it up to benzos.  It’s so extreme.  It’s not me.  I know one of the symptoms listed for benzo withdrawal is low self-esteem.  I just don’t remember feeling this way at any time before I took any pills.  I think the heightened sensitivity unmasks fears and vulnerabilities that we usually keep well-guarded.  And the more this happens the lower goes my sense of self-worth because looking at myself through someone else’s eyes I see a neurotic.  I hate that word – neurotic.  It’s a dismissive and derogatory word.  Saying “she’s just neurotic” pretty much devalues anything she might have to say.  Aldous Huxley felt that neuroticism is a normal, healthy reaction to a world gone mad.  Maybe I agree, but I still hate the word.

This Spring has been wonderful.  I started taking daily walks again, which has strengthened me.  Many of my most troubling symptoms have fallen away. And now I am off my medication.  The thing I have strived after for two long years is accomplished.  I am now free to heal without the medication continually pushing back against my efforts.  My most recent effort to heal involves the use of the Gupta Program, which is designed to help those with CFS, Fibromyalgia, and MCS to heal.  It seems to be helping me already, as the next journal entry will illustrate:

April 14, 2014, .25 mgs

Yesterday was amazing.  I went to my parents anniversary party.  Once people started arriving I started to get really nervous and shaky.  But I took my niece for a walk by the lake for a while and when we got back, I was fine.  I was fine for the rest of the evening – no shakes or headache.  It was amazing!  It was surreal!  I got to really enjoy myself in a big group of friends.

I was teary and so very thankful yesterday.  I could hardly believe I had made it.

April 15, 2014

I’m officially medication free as of last night.  I’ve waited two long, terrible years for this.  I can finally move forward and heal more quickly and completely – no poison mucking me up.

So, if you’ve bravely slogged your way to the end of this, congratulations.  And if you are in a situation similar to the one I have been in, take courage.  We do heal.  The body and brain are amazingly resilient.  But we have to pay attention when it speaks.  We have to help it along a little.  Thoughts matter.  They matter so much.  Love God.  Love yourself.  Love everyone.  Be good to the earth and it’s creatures.  You will heal too.

Simplicity of Wellness

 

Photo under Creative Commons 2.0 license

 

 

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5 thoughts on “How I Slew the Benzo Beast and What I Learned in the Process

  1. Pingback: Metamorphosis | Sound as a Crystal

  2. Pingback: Hills and Valleys | Sound as a Crystal

  3. I am so happy for you!!!!You are soooo strong. I just wish i could hug you and tell you in person. I love your closing paragraph. Sometimes accomplishing the seemingly unbeatable leaves us aware of our own power and strength that we would of never known existed, if it weren’t for such” beasts”. It’s a terrible process and so easy to be swallowed whole by, but in the end it reveals a beautiful thing that will never be taken for granted, the power of our own spirit to live, if we let it be made into a process of growth. Reading your story reminds me of beasts I have overcome and that I can keep going. We are all much stronger than we give ourselves credit. Thank you for sharing your honest process!

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