Today makes 3 years since my taper from Klonopin ended. I had previously Ct’d off Xanax twice and recovered within 10 days, it was my3rd time getting off a benzo that body-slammed me. I was suffering mentally and emotionally up until last Christmas, that was when I noticed that finally the constant angry, anxious and depressed feelings that had dogged my days that entire time had finally lifted. I am glad to report that although there are definite things in life that I have sadness, anger and regret about, I am able to feel them in appropriate ways and I am also able to choose not to think about them. I sleep pretty well most of the time but still have a couple of nights a week that I wake up and can’t return to sleep.
A few things I’d like to say about my recovery. I'm sorry this is so long, but I felt sure I have some worthwhile things to say. For one, like many of us, my doctor did not really know what she was doing when she drew up the taper plan. It is important to take charge of your recovery from the get-go. I tapered off 2mg of Klonopin in only 4 months, .2mg every 2 weeks, and it was too fast. That is definitely one factor, but of course there are no hard and fast rules in benzo recovery. Insist that you do a cross-over to Valium, and be sure to not rush your taper. There is nothing to be in a hurry about, I can promise you that.
I am a long-time marijuana smoker who lives in a state where medical MJ has not been legalized. It is possible there are strains of weed out there that could be helpful to us but these were not available to me. I found early on that in the day time it would often make me more anxious instead of relaxed. Sometimes in the evening it would help some, but I fear it did more harm than good. Honestly, your brain needs to heal and smoking weed or using any other drug cannot be helpful.
I know for sure just how miserable the early stages of recovery are, but it is vitally important to get some exercise no matter how shitty you feel, for general healing purposes as well as it is a help in sleeping. Once I was able, I was going for long bike rides to tire myself out and that would help me to sleep.
There are a few things you can eat in the middle of the night to help you get back to sleep when you have awoken feeling anxious. For a time I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before bed and ate it when I woke up at 230AM. That would usually get me a few more hours. I also drink cherry juice before bed regularly. For a while I ate dark chocolate at night, that is known to neutralize the stress hormone Cortisol. Eating a banana in the middle of the night can help. I went 5 months never sleeping more than 3 hours a day before I found out about eating the PB&J.Tapping, or the Emotional Freedom Technique, was very helpful to me at times. In fact, when I first discovered tapping, I took a big leap forward right away. After that, it was usually helpful to me at least a bit, more than anything else. It’s definitely something to add to your coping repertoire.The most important advice I can give anyone in benzo recovery is to always be aware that this is not you, ITS YOUR BRAIN AND CNS RECOVERING FROM BENZOS. Always be aware of that at least as intellectual knowledge. Where I made a bad mistake was in not just accepting that this was what was happening in my life.
Constant awareness, realization and acceptance of what is happening is so key, and I am sure my failure to accept my situation prolonged my suffering. I had a major disappointment the year before I got off benzos and wound up taking a crappy job that I hated in a bad situation. The thing to do was to realize my situation with benzos and accept it. Instead of brooding angrily, I should have said to myself “This is an unfortunate set of circumstances but I have no choice but to accept it and carry on” would have been best, but I made things worse by constantly putting pressure on myself to look for another job or be networking or something! I believe all this anguish I brought on myself prolonged my benzo suffering by not allowing my brain and CNS any peace at all. I should have done nothing but go to work and come home and just accept the situation for what it is and wait it out.
This awareness also means knowing that the incredible anger I was constantly burdened with was not to be acted on. I have spent much of the last 3 years brooding over things that happened to me as a child that were totally counter-productive to even think about now, although I could not stop these thoughts. What I could do, however, was NOT to act on this anger. The problem with this is that there were and are many things in my life I am angry about, but to act on any of these feeling s would have just been to hurt people who love me and who are already living in regret at their own actions. There were a few times I lost control of this, but mostly I kept it to myself.
Early on a read about how many marriages break up during benzo recovery and I made up my mind not to take this out on my wife. The good thing is I do not have any long-standing resentment toward her and so all of my brooding about the past did not include her. She had to put up with tons of my anger and dark moods, but I managed to not direct my anger at her and now we still have a happy marriage.
One other mistake I made was in trying to keep up normal social behavior. I was so desperate to get a different job I was always thinking of networking, but I was so miserable and so filled with social anxiety, none of this came to much. Many times I felt embarrassed about my inability to handle social situations, several times I felt like I “geeked out” and probably left the impression of “that guy is a doofus.” My advice is to make no effort at any kind of social life during benzo recovery, and if forced into a social situation you are uncomfortable with, minimize it the best you can and just focus on maintaining your dignity. I have said many times “better to have them think you are aloof than a fool.”
Along those same lines, I think I made a mistake in telling everyone I knew about this and asking for their understanding and all that crap. I am also a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict, and I can tell you people would love to hear about all the craziness of those drug problems and say “oh how wonderful you were able to beat that addiction” but as soon as you tell them about being chemically dependent on prescription drugs they go “eeeeewwww gross, you are a creep” and shut you off. If I had to do it over again, I would close ranks completely, telling only the people in my immediate circle. Fuck everyone else. You have to draw boundaries and know that very few people are going to care about you enough to roll on this. Think of it as finding out who your real friends are.
I was fortunate in that the things I have always loved in life I was usually still able to get some enjoyment out of. Not total joy, but at least some level of pleasure that made life worthwhile. I developed a mantra that I said to myself over and over “I lead a simple life; I enjoy music, baseball and my wife.” I hope that each person who reads this and is struggling will be able to find something in their lives that they can still enjoy.
Among the things to accept is that there is NOTHING that is going to easily make this situation better. No vitamin, no mineral, no drug, no nothing is going to solve this problem for you. The normal rules of life can be thrown out the window when it comes to benzo recovery. Try to eat right, not too much of this, not too much of that. Get some exercise, try not to put any pressure on yourself to have great achievements. Getting over benzos is a great achievement in itself. Always be aware that your brain and CNS have gone haywire, and that is the reason for your problems. Until they heal, on their own personal timetable, you are going to be miserable. Accept it. Try not to take your suffering out on those around you. The facebook groups are a wonderful source of help, just knowing that you are not alone. At more than 2 ½ years I was still in a state of suffering and seriously afraid this was just how my life was going to be from now on. I have made it through, and you can make it, too