Success Stories

We love sharing success stories. If you have one that you would like to share with us, please send it to: info@recovery-road.org and we will add it here.

BENZODIAZEPINES

Annie’s Story

Although each recovery process is unique, it is good to hear when someone in protracted withdrawal has had a breakthrough. Annie had terrible burning sensations, obsessive thoughts and insomnia which all surfaced  during her taper more than three years ago. She never had a ‘window’ of clarity and all these symptoms had been relentless. I recently received an email from her. Here is what she wrote (shared with kind permission):

I gave up on ever being able to sleep properly again. Never had more than 2 hrs since coming off Klonopin 3 ½ years ago. I was always agitated. I had two awful thoughts that stayed with me the whole time. I felt I would have them forever. The burning was so intense all I could do sometimes was lie in the tub in cool water. It would make it bearable for a while. I cried every day. Monday I noticed the thoughts were gone, now the burning is gone and last night I slept for more than 7 hours.

I am crying now but this time it is not because I am scared or sad. I feel like this is a rebirth. It is taking time to sink in. This is a miracle. I refused psychiatric treatment because I knew it had to be withdrawal. I was taking Klonopin for anxiety and they told me the anxiety came back and this is why I was having the thoughts. When my doctor said maybe I have OCD I was scared. Now my mind is quiet for the first time in years. I am in shock. This is awesome.”

This is wonderful news for all of us! Thank you Annie. If, like Annie, you have been waiting perhaps with no ‘windows’ or signs that your recovery is progressing, I hope this has helped to allay your fears.  The nervous system needs time to recover and I guess for us, it’s all about patience.  Sometimes I swear that those of us who have been ‘given’ the withdrawal challenge have signed up for extreme lessons in patience!

Tim’s Breakthrough

Tim is now in his third year of withdrawal. One of his symptoms was a constant buzz in his head. He described it as feeling like two drill bits on either side of his head were drilling into his temples. He felt as if his nerves were ‘jumping’ inside his head. Like Annie, he has had a remarkable breakthrough. This is what he wrote (shared with kind permission):

…my head was quiet and it continued to be quiet until this morning. If I were to characterize it, I would say something like “usually the benzo symptoms feel like they are in the driver’s seat of the car and I’m in the back seat. For perhaps the first time in a long, long time, I was in the driver’s seat and the benzo symptoms were in the back seat”…”

This is welcome and wonderful news — more reassurance for anyone who has had bizarre symptoms for a prolonged period. Pardon the cliché but there really is a light at the end of the tunnel!

As his symptoms persisted, Tim devised a wise, effective coping strategy which he has permitted me to pass on.

I’ve learned recently to not bring my expectations to the table regarding recovery. And I will continue with the steady focus of being the champion, despite whatever life may bring to me. But I am encouraged and find I’m watching with great interest to see what comes next. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a window, rather than a wave. But I’m hoping that I see a door opening before me — and that I can walk right through it to the other side! Whatever happens, God will give strength to deal with the situation.”

Tim has poignantly articulated how just a change in approach and attitude can make a positive difference to the way in which one copes with the recovery process. Thank you Tim, for this profound insight.

Charlotta’s Story

Charlotta was put on 0.5 mg Xanax three times (tid) daily. It was prescribed for bereavement-related anxiety. She quickly developed a tolerance (when more of the drug is needed to be effective) and the dosage was increased. This kept happening over a period of 6 years until she was taking 8 mg daily. Her withdrawal problems began during these periods of tolerance and she thought she had developed a serious psychological problem.

When her doctor stopped increasing the dose and tolerance withdrawal once again set in, she got her husband to check her into a mental health institution. They stopped her medication without tapering. What Charlotte experienced during the cold-turkey detox would be too disturbing for me to write here. As you can imagine, it was extremely traumatic for her. She was faced with every conceivable symptom and more. It was only after her discharge when her husband found the Ashton Manual online, that they realised the source of her all problems.

When Charlotta first started writing to me, she was 2 and ½ years off. She was experiencing nausea, blurred vision, severe head pressure, head pain, confusion, dizziness, fatigue, restless legs at night, tinnitus, constant muscle spasms in her leg, constipation, benzo belly, burning pains in her leg that would come and go, stiff and painful neck with a burning spine, memory problems, repetitive thoughts, understanding conversations, itchy rash and withdrawal induced depression.

Most of these symptoms came in waves but some were constant. Around 34 months off she noticed that some were beginning to lessen in intensity. This was short-lived, however, and she was hit with a very intense wave of severe symptoms. She described it as worse than any of the previous waves had been.

I was relieved to have received another email soon after the 3-year mark saying that the restless legs, repetitive thoughts and muscle spasms had stopped suddenly. She was, at last, able to sleep for more than two hours each night. Other symptoms persisted but she was beginning to feel much better. At 38 months off more symptoms disappeared and she was left with just blurred vision, dizziness and the itchy rash.

A few months later, at approx. 41 months off, Charlotta emailed to say that apart from the odd symptom surfacing for very short periods, she felt completely healed. Although she was thrown and very discouraged by the severe wave, she kept telling herself that her healing was taking place. This was difficult with the withdrawal induced depression but she could not allow herself to give up hope. She kept telling herself that she had already been through so much, her situation could only improve.

Charlotta’s final email brought tears to my eyes. She sounded so ecstatic. After more than three years of terrible insomnia she was enjoying many hours of sound, refreshing sleep. The silence after the tinnitus was, according to her, “like heaven”. Being symptom free and back in charge of her life was a joy for her. She even joked about her husband not being able to stop celebrating the return of his beloved wife. The best thing for Charlotta was knowing that she did not have permanent damage which was her greatest fear during the whole journey.

I love Charlotta’s story. At the time of our email exchanges I was still having waves of symptoms and so found her last few emails very encouraging. Like me, she and her husband absolutely adore Professor Ashton. They strongly believe Charlotta would have been misdiagnosed and given inappropriate treatment had her husband not found the Ashton Manual.

I hope that you, too, will find this story reassuring in some way. As you know, the recovery process is unique and Charlotte’s unfolded according to her schedule. But just being reminded that we do heal should bring new moments of hope. As Charlotta said in her final email, “There is no way that I have permanent brain damage! My life after benzos is the coolest ever - nothing sucks and everything is great. I deserve a special medal!”

Seren’s Story

Seren was nineteen when she was first prescribed lorazepam (Ativan) for panic attacks. She quickly developed tolerance and the dosage was periodically increased until she was on 10 mg daily.

After eleven years on the drug, Seren began to feel much worse than when she initially took it. She experienced cognitive and other problems and, as she said, “was in a total mess.” Her doctor was reluctant to help her discontinue the drug and she decided to taper off without his assistance. She tapered off over a two month period. She was worried about missing work, was not aware of the Ashton or any other method, and just wanted to be benzo free.

Seren had a very intense withdrawal with just about every symptom conceivable. She refers to is as ‘true benzo hell’. When she wrote to the Helpline she was on her third year off and was very frustrated and quite depressed at what she felt was slow progress. She was still experiencing terrible brain fog, muscle pain with burning, insomnia, high anxiety, mood swings and a host of other problems. She felt that her worst symptom was the terrible feeling of impending doom.

Most of her family and friends were no longer interested in her ‘drama’ which they felt was self-inflicted. Seren said that on many occasions she felt like giving up and was worried that she would sink into a deep depression or give in to the suicidal repetitive thoughts she was having at the time.

Thankfully, in early 2008 she stumbled upon the old “Lights In My Windows” website and for the first time in years, began to feel encouraged. She started doing the diaphragmatic breathing technique and kept taking to herself positively. She wasn’t keen on affirmations but found that positively talking herself through the symptoms had stirred something deep inside her. A will to survive her nightmare was ignited.

A few months later, Seren experienced her first ‘window’ of clarity. She was overjoyed but also quite tentative and still unsure of her recovery. It was a brief window and another wave soon came crashing. This setback threw her off-course; she said it almost broke her completely.

It was also at that time that Seren became more determined than ever to survive. She felt that letting go of the process was important and made the decision to totally surrender. That way, she would be allowing her recovery to unfold in its own time. She started to observe her symptoms without becoming upset. Though they persisted for a few more months, this new attitude made the experience a lot less unpleasant that it had  previously been.

By late 2008 Seren’s symptoms started disappearing. She wrote that she had not wanted to say anything in case they returned. After being four months symptom-free she felt ready to celebrate her recovery.  She still has the occasional re-emergence of the odd symptom but nothing worthy of concern.

Seren is now in her mid-thirties. She lost a lot of her prime years to Ativan but is relieved that that chapter of her life is over. She is happy to be given another change and is carving a new life for herself. What has been her biggest blessing is that since her recovery, she has had no panic episodes or any return of the pre-existing anxiety. She has been using all the coping techniques she learned during withdrawal to cope with her underlying condition and has no intentions of ever again taking medication for anxiety.

This is truly a success story. Thank you Seren, you are a remarkable woman and an inspiration. Like all benzo survivors, you deserve a medal!

ANTIDEPRESSANTS

PAINKILLERS

Search