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Jackie's Success Story
"I feel better than I have in years"
I can't start this story without first thanking Professor Ashton for her hard years of research and the Manual, Ray for his incredible website, friendship and support, and the members of benzo.org.uk forum. A special thanks to my wonderful husband who never once wavered in his continual support and care of me. Thanks also to James, my best benzo tapering buddy. You made this so much easier for me. A big thanks to my parents and sister who believed in me throughout this ordeal. And last but certainly not least, to my doctor who allowed me to make the switch to Valium and supported me all the way through it.
I was in severe tolerance withdrawal on Xanax when I found Ray's website and the benzo.org.uk support board. During that time I was diagnosed with IBS and Fibromyalgia. I was tested for MS, Lupus, and heart problems as well as many other illnesses. I had no idea what was wrong with me until I found Ray's website. I was very, very sick and had been that way for 3 long years. It was quite a relief to discover that what had been wrong with me all of that time was from the Xanax and that there was a way to wellness.
I was first put on Xanax in 1987 after a scare with cancer that started panic attacks. My prescription was for 2mg, but I can't remember ever taking more than 1.5mgs. In 1991, I tapered off of that over a 6 week period with no problems. However in retrospect, I must have had withdrawal and not realized it, because I was back on the Xanax in less than 6 months. From 1992 on I was on the Xanax non stop, but over the years gradually reduced my dose to 0.5mg once a day without really thinking about it. A year later the tolerance set in.
I learned of the Ashton protocol and took the info to my doctor. We had a good chat about it and he was happy to let me try the Valium taper.
I started my crossover from 0.5mg to 10mg of Valium on June 2, 2002 and took my first Valium cut on June 29th. I made a 1 mg cut the first time, it was too much and so I started making 0.5mg cuts. I cut every week to 10 days until I hit 2mg. In the early days, some of my symptoms left only to be replaced by new ones.
The withdrawal symptoms got to be very bad so when I hit the 2mg mark I slowed down to 0.5mg every 2 weeks. This helped tremendously with the withdrawal symptoms and I started to feel alive again for the first time in several years.
I felt strange during the crossover and early cuts and had a fair amount of anxiety. I also continued to have the IBS symptoms and dizziness that had plagued me for the last 3 years.
But the worst time was between 6mg and 3mg. I had every symptom possible short of a seizure or hallucinations. The depression and the dizziness were by far the worst symptoms for me. I lost a lot of weight, food just did not appeal to me. My days were spent in the house and mostly in bed. I never went out except to my monthly doctor appointments.
When I hit 2.5mg, things finally started to improve. And they have continued to improve to this day. My anxiety level is way down, the IBS symptoms are all but gone. I rarely have any problems with my digestive system now.
I have been benzo free since January 10th, 2003. I am left with some pretty bad upper back/lower neck pain and I do still have some dizziness. I have other symptoms that come and go, but they are manageable, I am functioning again! I do all of the chores I used to, I am starting to get geared up to go back to my work. I go places with my husband or friends again. I am cooking meals for my husband, who has been the one taking care of us all this time.
But best of all, I don't have those constant rebound panic attacks that I had all of those years while on Xanax. In spite of the symptoms I have left, I feel better than I have in years.
About the only thing I can't do is drive... I am saving even trying it for when the dizziness is gone. The day I get back into my truck and zip to the store will be the day I know I am totally and completely benzo free. And it is just around the corner!
A very big part of my recovery is due to the benzo.org.uk support forum. I will continue on as moderator and administrator there. It helps me tremendously to know that I might have helped someone else through my own experiences. And certainly the support I receive there has been key to my well being. I thank Ray for the opportunity he has given me to help others and myself at the same time.
January 31, 2003
Update: 6 months off
I'd like to be able to say it has all been smooth sailing, but unfortunately it hasn't. Except for some debilitating headaches, most of the symptoms I have experienced have not been too harsh. Many things have come and gone this last 6 months. I have had a lot of very bad neck and shoulder pain. The dizziness continued. I had many emotional upsets and some depression as well. But I was finally out of bed and trying to get my health back.
The first thing I did was to start walking. More like crawling to begin with, but I know this was a huge part of my recovery process. I want to thank my dear friend Diane, who not only helped me with so many things during my taper, but who literally saved me by crawling, and then walking, with me. Every day, rain, shine and snow, she showed up to get me out and moving. And she still does.
I also started concentrating on my diet, doing my best to eat right instead of eating all of the junk food that I started craving at the end of my taper.
I'm just over 6 months off now, and while I am still working at controlling the headaches, I do feel like I have my life back. I'm driving again. The anxiety and depression has lifted. The dizziness is a very rare thing now, and never very bad. I have both the energy and desire to be alive again. My husband and I have done some travelling again and I am back to my work on a part time basis. I am so thankful for each day now, life is very, very good.
July 23, 2003
Update: 9 months off
Things aren't as good as they were at 6 months off. I am absolutely better off than I was during tolerance and while tapering, but I am having difficulties driving again and have many bouts of dizziness. The headaches are much better but I do still occasionally have them bad enough to literally bring me to my knees. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a daze with time rapidly hurling by me. I'm really not quite here all of the time. I am sure I am experiencing some low grade depression.
Update: 14½ months off
The nine to twelve month off range was incredibly difficult. I developed some new symptoms and had an increase in others, mostly of the physical pain variety. I was convinced during that time that I would never get well, that I was permanently stuck with those awful symptoms.
My legs quit working properly. Very uncoordinated, like I am plodding and plopping as I walk, with lots of knee burning and overall leg stiffness.
The pain in my neck and shoulders increased, sometimes so painful that I could not move my neck.
Memory and cognitive functions decreased and the dizziness became very intense.
At 11 months off I decided to give another go at tapering the trazodone. I didn't really feel ready but had told myself that by the time a year free hit, I would be tapering.
I have had some bad times tapering the trazodone. But at a year off I started to experience some small windows. These windows are continuing to increase in both length and quality. The interim times can be quite awful still, although I'm quite sure that this is a result of the anti-depressant taper.
Even though my legs still aren't working right, a lot of the pain has diminished this last month. I ride an exercise bike several days a week, I go fast on it but cant use very much resistance. My husband and I have started riding our bikes on nice days, which aren't happening very often yet. I was able to spend time yesterday working in the garden.
I still don't drive. I do have many times now that I am not dizzy, but I'm not confident yet that I may not get hit with an attack of dizziness behind the wheel. But I can go anywhere with my husband these days and I also ride a special bus to get myself back and forth from appointments. These appointments are the first thing I have done by myself in several years.
Anxiety level is quite low and depression has been non existent recently. I still can't think clearly at times and feel like I am sort of floating my way through the days. But it's not really an uncomfortable feeling so I don't worry about it much.
For the first time in 4 years I don't feel like every little thing is a struggle. I am able to do most of my chores most of the time. I am very lucky that I have a low stress environment in which to live and heal.
I think the biggest relief for me has been the improvement in the dizziness. As many of you know, that has been my longest, most unrelenting symptom. Four years of non stop dizziness (with the exception of about 5 minutes twice last summer). I do still feel some light dizziness from time to time now, but is has been several weeks since I've had a bad bout of it and I've had many windows free of it. My vision has also cleared for the most part too.
March 27, 2004
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