The 99th Mile: When Benzo Withdrawal Meets Parenthood

Melissa Bond
16
2094

This is how it started: Pregnancy. Now, you may guess that a hormonal tsunami could turn my body into wreckage and you’d be right. I’m not the first woman to get pummeled by the swift waters of pregnancy and I won’t be the last. What you might not guess is that despite knowing this, a doctor specializing in these particular imbalances would proffer benzodiazepines as a cure for hormone induced insomnia. You might also be surprised that my first script would be written for an amount usually reserved for those having grand mal seizures. This particular doctor’s reasons boiled down to a simple point: These drugs, he stated at our first meeting, are amazing.

Now, just to clarify, I didn’t get to the benzos until after the pregnancy. I started taking them exactly three months after my daughter was born. This was when, in a state of somnambulant pathos, I entered Dr. Amazing’s office. The insomnia had lasted through my pregnancy and into the dreamtime of caring for a new baby. I was at the height of female vulnerability: I was caring for both Cassius, my eighteen month old graced with a genetic roll of the dice called Down Syndrome, and my three month old daughter who carries the normal number of chromosomes. I’d slept maybe 3-4 hours a night for over a year. Cassius still couldn’t walk and required weekly physical and occupational therapy. I was supposed to be in a milky, post birthing joy but I was approaching sleep psychosis. Add to this my post-partum hormonal cocktail and you’ve got a perfect recipe for medical compliance. I walked into Dr. Amazing’s office so crushed, so tired that I wanted to ram my head through a wall, and sure that this doctor would know how to deal with a new mother’s hormonal ululations. I left with a prescription for 2mg of Ativan, having been convinced that the drugs were benign and that my hormones were better left to their own devices. With time, he told me, your hormones will regulate themselves. At that point, because of my desperation, I overlooked my typical habit of researching whatever drug might be offered. Dr. Amazing had promised that I would sleep and that the drugs were not very addictive.

When you want to get off them, it’ll be like getting off coffee, he’d said.
I can do coffee, I thought. Ativan it is.

Regulation of my hormones did come, as did extreme dependence. By the time my daughter was nine months old, I was swallowing 6mg of Ativan nightly, doctor recommended. And while I’ve chronicled my spiral into a benzo inferno in previous posts, what I haven’t ventured to explore is how my dependence and withdrawal intersected with being a mother. And this, to be sure, was one of the most crushing aspects of being dependent on those bitter pills. At the time my children needed me the most, I was waging a war for what I felt was my very life.

Tracking the timeline is difficult even now. I experienced profound cognitive disability, as if I’d wandered into the Irish moors and could only slog from swamp to swamp, cloaked in a fog thick enough to swallow light. What I do know is that I received my first script of Ativan in January of 2010. By July of that year I was up to 6mg of Ativan a night. I took this amount, a powerhouse sedative for my slight five- foot frame, for fourteen months. I’m not sure when the withdrawal tolerance set in (withdrawal symptoms arising from the fact that the person has reached tolerance to the medication, often occurring in just weeks), but I remember 2011 only as a time of fatigue coupled with bouts of fury and utter despair.

In February of 2012, I found a family practice doctor who happened to specialize in benzodiazepine withdrawal. We decided that I’d take the next three months to prepare for what would likely be a year long process. Or more. Shortly thereafter I met with a therapist and Sage Man who did not beat around the bush. We discussed the lack of cultural support for any detox that doesn’t meet the time allotted by insurance companies. We discussed the fact that I could be highly unstable during this period, never knowing exactly when my teeth would stop aching, when rage would come, or black hole depression, suicidal ideation, panic attacks, jelly legs, confusion or a malaise that I’d only read about in dark novels of the French symbolist era. It seemed impossible. I was completely dependent on these drugs – not to make me feel good, not even to make me feel normal, but to keep me from hitting a William Burroughs stride that would make even that surly gentleman raise his eyebrow.

Sage Man offered an out of the box proposal: Find friends to stay with. For three months … maybe more. At first this seemed ludicrous. I had toddlers in diapers. I had a baby with special needs. His sage-ness seemed in question. Then he leaned forward. His eyes were that kind of blue reserved for deep glaciers.

You need a refuge, he said. If you don’t find one, your marriage may not survive and your children may feel your instability. They won’t understand it, but it could be a seed of fear that lodges inside of them.

He talked for a long time and the more he talked, the more I understood. My instability on all counts was too hard for everyone, myself included. We needed help and I needed a place to go to be as sick as I really was. This was the first paradigm shift that we needed for me to begin my path back to health. The second was a space-time paradigm shift. Nothing would go the speed I wanted or anticipated. Period.

I’ve broken down my withdrawal experience into three components: The Place You’ve Got When There’s Nothing Left to Lose; Partial Re-Entry; The 99th Mile.

The place you’ve got when there’s nothing left to lose should feel good. It should feel as close to home as you can find. It should be a refuge. For me, it was the home of friends who were just a few miles from my home. And the possibility of staying there only came after I’d made the paradigm shift. I could leave. It was better to leave than to stay in my strained marriage, trying desperately to appear normal, sobbing in the car and terrified that my children would know something was wrong. I could leave. I needed to leave. Jed and Elso are open, immensely hospitable people and Jed is a doctor. If something scary happened, he wouldn’t freak out. They’re buoyant and solid on all counts. I was incredibly lucky. Chase and I asked and they said yes. It was as surprisingly simple as that.

And while I lucked out, it isn’t always this simple. Kind-hearted friends don’t always live just a few miles away. What I want to offer is that this kind of withdrawal doesn’t fit any of the in-and-out detoxes so prevalent in our culture. There’s simply nothing like it and by and large we haven’t met that complexity yet. We have to piece together some way to find safety and structure during a process that doesn’t garner much public support. If you’re single, it may be a bit easier. If you’re a parent, the complexity has the potential to amplify exponentially. Sometimes you’ll find what will feel like the most perfect solution given the circumstances. Sometimes you’ll scrap together pieces that feel held together with chicken wire and bubble gum. It’s likely that there will be many phases, some offering greater ease than others. The challenge is in meeting each phase with what’s realistically possible. Phase one was, for me, as close to perfect as I could imagine. Phase three (I’ll get to that later), has felt like a crawl through the mud. I’ve adjusted and adjusted again. There’s no clear path. We have to bushwhack and meet reality with as much creativity and pragmatism as possible. None of it’s easy, but all of it’s necessary.

In the few months it took to set up my home away from home, I continually took Cassius (4) and Jonquille (3) to Jed and Elsa’s house. They met the dogs, Chocolat and Apricot. They played with the teddy bear in what would be my room. We had dinner a few times. In essence, I brought my friends and their home into my children’s world in a very tangible way.

When I made the move, in May of 2012, Chase and I had brought in his mother and had put the kids in daycare. Everything was set. I knew that there was no way to gauge what my withdrawal process would be like. What I did know was that my kids wouldn’t be subjected to it. I planned on being home morning and evening if I could. If I couldn’t, Chase and my mother-in-law could give Cassius and Jonquille the love they needed and I could writhe in my own little corner of the universe.

I stayed at Jed and Elsa’s house for just over six months. In that time, I switched to an equivalent dose of Valium (6mg Ativan = approximately 60mg Valium), tapered down to 5mg Valium and saw my kids everyday. The withdrawals were brutal. I woke at 6am to get to my house by the time the kids woke. I made pancakes. I drove the kids to daycare and then I walked as long and hard as I could to plug some happy chemicals into my brain. I cried daily. Jed and Elsa hugged me often and left me alone when I needed to be alone. Chase and his mother worked around one another, but there was a shared sense of purpose: stability. At night, we all ate together and Chase and I would read Cat in the Hat to the kids. Everything seemed to be working fine until Jonquille began waking multiple times at night. We tried night-lights. We tried superhero stickers. We tried monster spray and sentries and fairy godmothers. Finally, one night as I was putting her to bed, she looked at me with her big, teary, cinnamon girl eyes and asked why I left every night. My heart skipped an anguished mother beat. Benzo sadness surged up. I forced my eyes to steady and told her that I was just a little bit sick, but that I felt so much better when I went up to Jed and Elsa’s house. It took a few talks and another few visits to my room, but soon thereafter, Jonquille began sleeping through the night.

Partial re-entry happened before I was ready. I wanted to be done, but I wasn’t done. I’d hit a wall of insomnia that forced me to hold my taper for a month. Then two things happened that forced the first of many shifts. The first shift was the departure of Chase’s mother. She had her own life and had given us a good portion of it. After six months, she left to help her own mother in Kentucky. Our second surprise shift was a heartbreaker: Cassius was kicked out of daycare. We had thought he’d been doing fine but this wasn’t the case at all. People with Down Syndrome can have some difficulties with what’s called sensory integration. Too much stimulation (think gaggles of children bouncing off one another), and they go into fight or flight. Cassius had been running himself into walls, pounding his little towhead with fisted hands. The kind folks at the daycare were at their wits end. They simply didn’t know what to do. As someone who’d experienced over a year of withdrawals, I more than understood. Cassius was done. He needed out. And now.

I moved back to my house and slept on a couch in the office. I was too sensitive to sleep next to anyone, my neural wiring so over heated that the slightest movement or noise would wake me. After six months, I was still far from done. My perfect situation had changed. I was full-time mama again. The next few months can be likened to one of those indoor, carnival bumper car rides. You get in and there’s nowhere to drive but into other cars. I managed to drop two more milligrams before the stress of full-time caretaking got to me. I stopped sleeping. Again. I was looking, as a friend said, “eating-disorder thin.” Chase did his best to heft more of the parenting but as the one who’d become the sole breadwinner, his time was limited. And, truth be told, he had compassion burnout. We both did. I was as sick of this iatrogenic illness as he was, but it didn’t matter. We were in a no exit situation, in a boat with the waters rising. I held my taper again. Every night, it seemed we sat on the couch talking about how long the rest of the withdrawal could take and how we could do it. The added difficulty was the knowledge that even when I got to point zero, my brain would require an unknown number of months to completely up regulate. Our no exit had no known ending. Both of us worked to take one day at a time. I worked to take one minute at a time. I’d often drive Cassius one-hour north to a hot springs that was nearly deserted. We’d float, watching the mist rise over the water, and I’d cry on the way up and on the way back. The car, at this stage in the game, had become my place of refugThe 99th mile is a reference to the last mile of a 100-mile ultramarathon. Years ago, as a magazine editor I’d written about people who were insane for running. I’d read the section of Dean Karnazes’s book Ultramarathon Man where he describes hitting a wall of pain at mile 99 of the Western States Endurance Run. That last mile was on pavement. Karnazes’s legs were nearly useless, so he crawled up the middle of a dark road. He collapsed in front of an oncoming car, and what happened afterward can only be described in mythic terms. The car screeched to a halt. Karnazes, defeated and slumped on warm asphalt, began growling. He describes it as if he awakened out of a dream. Karnazes jumped up, shook his arms and legs wildly, growling and shouting, “I can!” He ran past the startled couple in the car and when the pain came, he leaned in. He hunted it down. His beliefs about himself, his entire history, were erased in that moment. From that point on, nothing in his life would ever be the same.

I’m currently in the last mile of a one hundred mile race to save my life and become the mother that I want to be. I’ve tried twice to drop from 3mg of Valium to 2mg of Valium and each time I’ve been bruised and shaken by days and days of insomnia. My body during these times feels like it’s filled with broken glass. I’ve talked with my doctor over and again and with each setback we decide to go slower. And there’s no other choice. Some days I’m on my knees, holding Cassius’s hand as we go to the car to take him to speech therapy. I’m on my knees to pick a sobbing Jonquille off the floor because Cassius isn’t handing over her little lion, Simba. I’m on my knees laughing because Jonquille makes little faces just like mine and every night she pulls up my shirt to say she wants “a little bit of sugar” before she zooms in for the tickle kill. I’m on my knees, slumped but I’ll never give up. And when the pain comes, I try to lean in. Because I will make it. I may have to crawl every inch on my hands and knees but I’ll get there. I’ll get there so I can go to every dance recital and every Special Olympics event there is. I’ll get there because an injustice like this will not take my life and my vitality. I won’t let it. And most importantly, it won’t take from me the experience of mothering my incredible children.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for sharing your amazing story. It saddens me to hear so many stories of people who have been prescribed drugs which resulted in situations where the addiction and withdrawal were far worse than the original problem that the drug was supposed to treat.

    I was also prescribed Ativan for insomnia and am glad that I was reading Robert Whitaker’s book at the time. Fortunately I quit taking it before I developed severe addiction. I would rather have an occasional sleepless night than the terrible side effects I experienced with Ativan.

    I wish you and your family well, Melissa. Please take good care of yourself.

    • melissa, i feel for you, but i’m pretty sure there are easier ways of getting off benzos. i was on anywhere from 6-10 milligrams of ativan when i went into rehab. they were able to get be off them rather successfully in a month. all they so is put you on seraquel, a non-narcotic knock out drug that will allow you to sleep while they titrate you down to nothing in a months time. after that i had to take seraquel for a little while but i gradually got off it and was fine. i guess everyone is different . . . and your situation seemed pretty tough. anyhow, glad you’re out of the woods!

  2. I have spent the past two years withdrawing from a 4mg a day Ativan habit that lasted 12 years. I seem “stuck” at half a milligram. It is just awful, these days when I wonder if I’ll ever be free of it. My heart goes out to you going through this with two young children. The bright side, though? You’ll remember their childhoods.

  3. My mother was one of the many victims of Ativan. When she was prescribed those pills to help her get over my father’s sudden death, she was told that it was this marvellous non-addictive drug. Stopping it was like stopping taking aspirine. Actually the doctor believed his own story at the time. My mother spent the ten last years of her life trying to get off it but never made it completly. She found it impossible to get off the last 1 mg of it. Ativan spoilt her life and turned her into a gibbering wreck and, as a consequence, it turned also my life up side down and had a lasting effect on my children. The doctor blamed her and not the Ativan for all the withdrawal effects. I found it difficult to grasp that doctors were prescribing medication you could not come off again.

  4. Kudos to one brave lady!

    When I was discharged from the state hospital I left with a big, fat prescription of ativan. I ran out and couldn’t afford to refill it so went on with my life without it. I wasn’t to the point of being addicted.

    After reading about your experiences I’m so much more aware of how lucky I was because I was poor. The psychiatrist on my case in the hospital did not inform me of the dangers of this toxic drug but just told me to take it. And he’s considered to be one of the really “good” psychiatrists!

  5. I saw some of my life in your story but my eventual decision to get off benzos forever or stay on them until I die will involve pure withdrawal hell. I have been taking Xanax and Klonopin for 6 years. At a very high dosage. In 2009 I went to an outpatient center that helped me reduce my addictive behaviors like buying 2mg Xanax bars from the “streets” ( friends and their parents) and reduce my Xanax intake from 4-8 mg a day to 0.5 a day. However I am now on 4mg of Klonopin and will go through withdrawals but I wonder if I have been withdrawing all this time- I ran out of meds on Sunday might and did not call the clinician until yesterday. I have been through 3 acute withdrawals which scared the hell out me.

    I have a severely autistic child and I always think I could never go through the withdrawal hell and be a functioning parent. And to dispel mythos about “addicts” I was a psychology mayor when I started taking benzos. I am graduating with my Masters in the fall and have a 4.0 GPA- I drive an SUV bake cookies and care for my three children all while looking “normal”.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing. My story is so similar. For severe insomnia post partum, in 2010 I was hospitalized for 4 weeks and prescribed anti-depressants, seroquel, zopiclone and of course 4 mg of ativan and 1 mg of klonopin (clonazapam).

    The way you described so eloquently being at your most vulnerable as both a woman and a mother and how it made you the perfect candidate for compliance really struck me, I was the exact same. I was at the end of my physical and psychological rope, literally losing my mind from no sleep, my normally reserved and pill-phobic self long gone. I could not even grasp or read a sentence, much less research the mounds of drugs they were pumping me with. My doctor didn’t say withdrawal would be like coffee, but she did say I would be in a much stronger better place to do it. And she also said 4 mg ativan and 1 mg klonopin would take 2 months to withdraw from. As we all know, if you are actually able to do it in 2 months, the fun will not stop there.

    My timeline is very similar to yours as well – my daughter born May 2010, I was in the hospital by July 2010. Fully drugged up by Sept 2010. Starting withdrawing from 4 mg ativan in Dec. 2010. It took me a year. Then another year for the other drugs, and finally my greatest beast of all – this 1 mg of klonopin, which was given so matter of factly as a pdoc “afterthought” that maybe it would help with late night wakings. She actually prescribed 2 mg, but I only took 1 mg, I was coming out of my fog of insomnia by then and starting to question things. I should have taken none.

    Everything you have described, the benzo dogs (yes, I live with them daily, they are my biggest fight), the Existential Cafe, wow, great words, I just know you have been there too. Places you never thought your mind and soul could go. And how you are just so trapped in it. Utterly trapped in your own mind. After 3 long years of various withdrawals, even though I am not young at 40 years old, I often wonder who I really was before all this, I at times feel like I forget my real self. The benzo has cut so deep to the core of my mind, in the thick of it I have trouble recognizing where it ends and where I begin, we are so intertwined right now. And you can’t stop withdrawing, you can’t keep taking it. Forced into this road at just about the worst time in your life, when so many people need you to be strong and stable for their own wellbeing. It’s an almost impossible task and takes so much strength. And while I am succeeding in withdrawing, I feel like a constant failure that I just cannot be the person I once was right now, and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

    The intersect of motherhood and withdrawal as the extra crushing burden. Yes. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how I brought my little girl into the world, only to give her this semi-damaged mother, just hanging by a thread some days, trying so hard to have her not see, trying to not let my mental confusion, my lack of being able to remember anything, my benzo dogs, my too frequent visits to the existential cafe, rob me and her of the joys of raising her. It is so so hard. And I am a work at home mother, with job demands, no daycare, she is with me full time. I am tapering super slow to try to be functional. I am now down to 0.5 mg of klonopin after a year of withdrawing. And I likely have more than a year to go. Any faster and I am just too psychologically unbalanced to not have my whole family unravel. I have a 12 year old boy too who just can’t understand, and a husband who tries the best he can to support, but some days are just too much for both of us.

    There are many horrible benzo stories out there, but yours touched me because, like mine, it stemmed from post partum insomnia. Hormones. And to have to make the decision to try and help yourself while dealing with very young children, well, while each of our roads are unique, just know there is somebody else out there who understands a little of what you are going through.

  7. MELISSA – Here is a snippet I posted on these forums to another doctor about this stuff. Contact me!!! I am super sensitive and found out a few keys to success, including a mathematical equation for what is in your system, how fast in terms of MG you are deceasing over a period of time, how long it takes for a constant dose to stabilize in your body (so youll know if your body is receptive to it) and so forth. You said how 3 to 2 MGs was too much. You may need to go from 3- 2.5MG…or…depending on how long ago your last period was of feeling ok….you might need something different. I’d love to know how you are doing and what has been done with your medicine since THE LAST DOSE you were at where you felt good (you went througha stage where you drop huge chunks and were fine…only to get low and realize it was too fast. I had the same problem… except it was percentage wise not dose wise (so instead of dropping from 60MG valium to 5MG quickly, I went from 7.5MG down to 1MG too quickly and had to restabilize at 3MG) [email protected] Contact me! ..and enjoy the crappy grammar, paragraphing, sentence structure, and typos below. 🙂

    You are right Doctor! Someone needs to do more comprehensive studies of people coming off meds (Benzos more specifically for me). The approach in my opinion should ALWAYS be slow and should almost always involve switching over to Valium.

    The problem is most clinical phychs don’t even know everything they need to know about the drugs period. I’ve had dodctors tell me clonazepam is longer acting than Valium, i’ve had them tell me the closer you get to being off the meds, the faster you can go, i’ve had doctors tell me that my dose wasn’t even a theraputic dose and I must stop cold turkey…..all were wrong. I ended up, with the help of the Ashtons manual and analyzing my own withdraws…..coming up with my OWN plan on how to get off the meds and then presented it to a doctor that let me do it….and it has been working.

    Here’s a SMALL in a nutshell version of my story:
    I get an appendectomy (emergency of course)with no history of Anxiety and I have no worries of the surgery. I send my family home to sleep while it happens. I have an uncaught reaction to neostigmine/droperidol (that wasn’t caught until much later with a HR up to 150, but that’s a different story) but what happens next is the ride of my life…

    After the heart rate issue I decline pain meds after the dose they gave me upon waking up until about 10 hours later where I get a little nervous about not being able to fill a pain prescription since it is getting dark. I think nothing of it. That night I have crazy night sweats, I wake up and can’t sleep, im so tired I could die, my heart begins racing for now reason, I feel like a mental case, etc.

    I go the to the ER and get prescribed Ativan, which at first mildly helps (enough to sleep) the next day the same and another trip to the ER where they give me a benadryl drip that fixed the first problem stated above with the neostigmine. My heart rate goes below 100 for the first time and I sleep. I wake up and it is back, I take my now prescribed hydroxyzine but to no avail. Just makes me tired, but all I can do is walk 10 miles a day and cry, etc.

    I see a behavioral therapist and they say to take the Ativan regularly….for the first time my symptoms calm down. Then a doctor tells me to quit taking them on the spot because they are dangerous (this is about a week later) after the 5 half lives of ativan my body temp drops to 96 degrees, im am sweating and shaking like crazy, and 15 other symptoms. I take more ativan.

    The next day I see the mental health clinic, she prescribes clonazepam since it is the longest acting (not really) and even 1/4 MG 2-3x/day makes it so I can barely see, but i still have tons of symptoms. I drop my own dose, and she says I have adjustmental anxiety and I need to accept it and refers me off base to intensive outpatient therapy.

    I ask the doctor if he ever heard of The Dr. Ashton. He had not so I showed him where to look and said that’s the plan I need to follow.

    I seen a lady post on benzobuddies.com the same thing happened to her right after a surgery. A year later she looked in her records and found they gave her 2MG of Midazolam during anesthesia…..a benzo. I went and looked at my records and behold, hand written in a corner, it states I was given 2MG Versed (midazolam)

    So, one dose shut me down. I have a hyper-sensitivty benzos. We tranfered over to 7.5M/day of Valium and went down to 7MG after a week, then 6,5,4,3,2,1 in one week intervals….. We were going to go slower, but I had a really good spell of feeling great between 5mg-2mg that we kept on with it……BAD choice. at 1 MG it came punishing back. I eventually had to go back up to 3MG/day and stabilize. I am now staying steady at least 3 weeks per .5MG drop of valium. At the end of three weeks is the exact point where a single dose taken over three weeks, is steady in your system. In fact I worked out the mathematics on it. I did it by how much of an original dose is in the body during every day…days 1-21.

    Sorry this is choppy, but there’s tooo much to write in order to make it correct and to have all the information. I’m just trying to get the basics out. I drop down to 2MG this saturday.

    The point is thatsome people’s brains shut down very quick when this is active in their system and it takes them a very long time to being to function normally. Most people CAN come off these drugs if changed over to Valium and decrease at a very slow rate. You should NEVER go down if you haven’t felt pretty dang good for at least a few weeks.

    If it takes you 6-8 weeks to go down .5MG of Valium a day, then do it. Screw the quick mode. The more times you fail, the harder it can be mentally. Over and over again during withdraws I have to remind myself it IS the meds talking. I went from just barely stabilizing on 7.5MG of valium a day, to stabilizing the same on 2.5….when done slowly and properly.

    BTW, I don’t just get the list of common withdraw symptoms I get well over half of the uncommon ones, simultaneously.

    The moral is this, not one medical doctor had the right plan or even knew what the heck was going on. Most didn’t even care to look at all my medical documents, compare how many symptoms I had compared to anxiety patients, etc. Had I not did my own research, pushed my own plan, and got results, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

    Even one of my doctors (the one who let me do it my way when I presented Dr. Ashtons research, and was overall responsible for me getting on the proper path because of said reasons) takes benzos for anxiety himself and didn’t know all the things I know and i’m just a regular Joe with no medical degree.

    I plan on writing a book, getting more research done, and hopefully having someone publish what happened to em and how I got off.

    The solution to getting off a benzo?

    Get on Valium—-Get stabilized—–decrease in small increments——–wait until any new withdraw symptoms dissipate——wait a couple more weeks after that, AT LEAST——-lower in a small increment again—–REPEAT.

    The fact is, that your Brain has a threshold I have found for how much of a decrease in medicine (most likely a percentage vs a MG amount during certain phases) that you can go before X symptoms appear….i get physical symptoms first, then mental ones. So, by the time you get real bad, you are most likely at least 3 weeks or X doses too far into the hole. At that point you need to go up in order to get stable. Each time you go too fast, you end up having to backtrack and it will just take longer. It could take some people a couple years to fully come off this crap.

    I used mathematical calculatations in conjunction with my symptoms to guide me where I need to go up to (in terms of medicaine) when we went too fast. I determined how many weeks (or doses) it took to get really bad. I then went to the mathematical point at which I should have been good and then sat there for 3 weeks before coming down slowly.

    This is just the tip.

  8. My key to “success” so far – I have successfully withdrawn from 4 mg ativan 2 years ago and am currently at 0.5 mg klonopin having withdrawn from 1 mg total – is liquid titration. If I didn’t have that, I NEVER would have succeeded and continued to be successful.

    For klonopin for example, I currently dissolve one 0.25 mg pill (the lowest pill dose available) in 100 ml of water every night, let sit until dissolved, mix well, and immediately remove 2.5 ml increments at a time and drink the rest. So I am withdrawing from 0.625 mg (almost 1/160th of a 1 mg pill) at any one time. I hold this drop for 4-5 days depending on how I feel, and then I do it again, and again and again, at about that rate give or take.

    As you can imagine, there would be no way in the world I could cut a pill into a 1/160th of a portion, and that seems to be the maximum I can drop at any one time and really maintain my functionality. Even if I drop double that at one time (1/80th of a pill), I start to get deeply depressed, anxious, aggressive, irritable, and my moods really swing. Even at this low a dose drop, it is definitely not easy, but at least I do have good days and bad, not just all bad.

    But what I prefer about this method is there is fairly instant feedback about dose drops and how you feel. With ativan, because it was an even shorter half life, it was even easier to know when you drop too much, I would drop, I would stabilize from that drop within 4 days max, and I would be fully clear to drop again if I felt good. With clonazapam, because of it’s longer half life of closer to 2 weeks it seems, I have been caught dropping too much in a row on occasion and only “feeling” it 2-3 weeks later – when I am in real trouble. And I really don’t like to updose, so I just hold in utter misery.

    It has taken 1 year to drop 0.5 mg of klonopin, and it will take me another year to drop the other 0.5 mg. With ativan, it took me one year to drop 4 mg, but I was only on the drug for about 8 weeks, and I was taking klonopin while dropping ativan. My doctor thinks I am a freak of nature for not being able to get off it all within a month or so, she claims I am the only person in 30 years of her practice not to just quick withdraw. Well, I assure you, if her other patients did it in a month or 2, they would be dealing with unacknowledged intolerable symptoms for months or years later. Symptoms that I am sure my doctor would just re-prescribe a new benzo or an antidepressant…not realizing they were withdrawal symptoms…and so the cycle continues.

    I am very familiar with Dr. Ashton methods as that was the basis for my liquid drop. But I am scared to use valium for 2 reasons. First, the 1/2 life is SO long, I don’t want to be caught over dropping and only feeling it 3 weeks later and doing updose corrections and so forth. That is too long for me to wait to see what my reaction is to the drop. I know it is removed slowly from your system, but still, I just like to drop more frequently I guess, but slowwwwly. With liquid dropping at 1/160 of a pill every few days, I am dropping very slowly, kind of valium-esque. And also, I have heard that Valium can cause depression more than klonopin or ativan. I did not have much depression with ativan during dropping (more anxiety) but klonopin for me is terrible for depression. If depression is somehow correlated to half life, I would not like to switch to an even longer half life benzo. I have a harder time handling deep depression than anxiety, depression is insidious and gets deep into your soul in a way that anxiety cannot, at least for me.

    And before all of the post partum insomnia I had in 2010 and all of these drugs, I had never had a mental health issue in my life, no anxiety or depression ever. Very even keel and mentally healthy (as much as any of us are). It’s not like I have a baseline anxiety or depression problem peeking through.

  9. Hi Melissa,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am moved and saddened by all that you have been through. I found your site because I am researching for my boyfriend who is on ativan and knows that he is addicted and needs to get off. I wonder if you or anyone who may be reading your site is familiar with The Alternative to Meds Center in Sedona, Arizona? We are exploring it as an option, however it is a big investment.

    Thank you

  10. Melissa: thank-you for sharing your personal journey so thoughtfully. You have a refreshingly positive and strong perspective which have been contagious to me. It is because of writers like you that I began tapering off after only (thank the Lord) 71 days of benzo use. I am on my first week drug free, and struggling through an intense withdrawal. After 2 weeks with nearly no sleep, God carries me through the nights, and my little son carries me through the days. I would love to know how you are, and if you were able to establish sleep without medication.
    Lots of love to you and your family.

  11. I like this story. Barely anyone understands. I was taking prohormones in 2005 before they were illegal. I was also at lawschool. Because of stopping prohormones which are basically steroids n stress from lawschool I could not sleep. I was given 4 Mgs of Ativan.
    I tried going back to lawschool in a different state where the doctor switched me to Xanax. I ended up taking 6 Mgs a night. I tried a detox facility and went down to 1 mg of Klonopin and 200 Mgs of trazodone. I went back and got a Masters degree and got married. Now I have finally found a doctor who will do a valium taper. I was never able to get below 1 mg of Klonopin at .5 Mgs. The doctor kept telling me it was willpower which made me feel weak because it just could not be done. Finally they sent me to a psychiatrist, I know this system I didn’t go. The best I could do was find a doctor to give me the 1 mg of Klonopin and 200 Mgs of trazodone saying I “have a neurotransmitter off.” My wife I supportive but how can you explain this withdrawal to someone who doesn’t know who hasn’t felt it. Anyway I finally found a doctor 2.5 hours away that uses the ashton method. I live in southern New Jersey and no one will even listen to my story or about the Ashton manual or even take me I. As a patient. The original doctor wouldn’t do it because I switched to Xanax. I didn’t know the doctor in Michigan told me to take Xanax, “it works better her said.” Now I am treated like an addict like I did something wrong. I just did what these doctors said to do. I have done the research and now realize these medications should be illegal. Anyway I have found a doctor outside of New York. I take the 2.5 hour trip there and then back once a month. I came off all the trazodone and switched to 20 Mgs of valium which was tough in itself. My next appointment is July 28. I am scared I just hope I can stay same enough to hold my marriage together because no one really understands what it is like. I went from 6 Mgs of Xanax to 1 mg of Klonopin and tried going off the Klonopin before, the worst experience of my life. I hope this works out I try and have my wife read this. I have her sleep on the futon and me in the bed. She doesn’t understand that I have to be I a separate bed because my body is convulsing with pain. It did this coming off the trazodone and it did this just switching to the valium from the Klonopin. I wish there was some way to prove to people this is real and people coming off of these meds aren’t crazy but there’s only the Aston manual and no one seems to respect it because it’s from Britain. How could Britain no compared to us lol! I hope u made it off wish me luck my mind is set on this. I have taken benzos since 2006 I wish I could go back knowing what I know now but my mind is set on this I will not stop till I come off or die trying.

  12. I resonate with all of this Ativan has robbed me of everything. For the last 16 months I have had terror/fear/ suicidal feelings/looping intrusive thoughts and agoraphobia on this drug not to mention the horrendous dental pain which has destroyed my teeth and given me tmj.

    I am on 1.9mg- I switched to liquid at one point thinking it was the only way off but for my pysch. doc to refuse to prescribe me it again. The horrifying sxs cross over nearly killed me and I had the same problem going back to the tablets. Now I am trying to get off the tablets with scales but the slightest drop brings about horrific withdrawals.