Here is my benzo story:
I got my first valium prescription from my OB/GYN at the age of 21.
As a person who suffered from high anxiety I couldn't believe how great it made me feel. I took it sparingly over the next 6 months or so and then ran out. Sometime later, when I moved with my then-husband from New Mexico to California and for about a year or so afterward, I suffered some strange symptoms but never connected my illness to the valium. I realize now that I was suffering from benzo withdrawals, including derealization/depersonalization and panic attacks.
Over the next 20 years I repeated the cycle of taking valium occasionally on an as-needed basis for panic attacks and various anxiety-producing activities. Likewise over the years I suffered from bouts of chronic fatigue syndrome and other very strange illnesses. In May 1999 I got sick in all seriousness. My feet were on fire, my arms and legs were numb (some days I couldn't walk), I felt bad all the time, and I had no feelings of pleasure. The weekends were always the worst; they would find me lying on the sofa all day. Fortunately I was able to continue working.
During this two year period, I went from one doctor to the next and had every test possible. I was diagnosed with possible MS, myasthenia gravis, lupus, connective tissue, anxiety neurosis, IBS, toxoplasmosis, and chronic fatigue, to name just the ones I remember. And speaking of memory, I had severe cognitive difficulties. For example, I still have difficulty calculating time. Occasionally I will get completely disoriented as to where I am and everything seems to be unrecognizable. I still get waves of light behind my eyes.
It was during this time I developed an adverse reaction to valium and my doctor suggested that I take Ativan. I started taking 1 mg of Ativan every night and I thought it was helping me to cope better with my strange illness. I was aware that I could become addicted but thought that I would deal with it when I got better (isn't that ironic!). I did everything I could to get better including having my mercury fillings removed, going to a naturopath, the candida diet, etc. It was at the suggestion of my acupuncturist that I first cut back from 1 mg of Ativan to .5 mg. I didn't realize that a 50% cut was way too big and I went into severe withdrawal symptoms which prompted me to once again go onto the internet and research my symptoms. This time I hit the jackpot.
On 12/4/00 I found Ray Nimmo's website and that is when I discovered that it was the benzos making me sick. This news was too good to be true. With the information from Ray's site and the support of the Benzo group, I started a serious taper and took my last crumb of Ativan in the middle of February 2001. My taper lasted about 4.5 months. Initially my cuts were 50% going from 1 mg to .5 mg and then to .25 mg and from there I made my cuts into eights until I was taking just a sliver using the "squiggles" method.
I would say that the worst part of my benzo recovery lasted a good two years. The second year off of benzos was actually worse than the first and I could barely cope with how I felt and going to work every day. But slowly over the years I started to feel better. At the beginning of my fourth year off of benzos I started doing yoga on a regular basis (at least 3-4 times per week). During this time I was also taking care of a friend who was dying from breast cancer. Between the stress of being with her and dealing with the aftermath of her death and starting a vigorous yoga practice, I had a pretty bad set back and a lot of my benzo withdrawal symptoms came back. My yoga teacher told me that it was very common when starting a serious yoga practice that the body may detox from old illnesses. Not very scientific and purely anecdotal but four or five months after starting yoga, I began to notice that I felt much better than I ever have. My energy increased. My sleep became deeper. I gained much in the way of stamina and endurance. At the end of that summer, Jeff and I went on a rigorous trip to Europe (England, Poland and Germany) and I was able to do a lot, stay up long hours, and I had more energy than ever. Last year I finally gave up my addiction to coffee which has made me feel even better.
To this day I still suffer what I would call a "benzo episode" or "flare-ups" where I feel a particular way that is very reminiscent of my withdrawal days. I don't know that we ever really completely recover from benzos but I'm happy with how I feel most days and with what I have accomplished.
I will turn 50 next year and I feel that I am at a really great place in my life. I feel like my benzo ordeal is behind me and it does not permeate my every waking hour as it once did. Getting off of benzos has been the biggest challenge of my life and as they say, we donít find out who we are until when we face great adversity. We are strong, we are resilient, and we are survivors!
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website was not compiled by a doctor or anyone with medical training. The advice contained herein should not be substituted for the advice of a physician who is well-informed in the subject matter discussed. Before making any decisions about your health or treatment you should always confer with your physician and it is always assumed that you will do so.
Last updated 22 July 2015