Benzo withdrawal for fun and profit


It slices, it dices, it makes mincemeat of your brain. And by ‘your’, I mean mine.

Lorazepam. Powerful, seductive, addictive. It also works miracles. It did for me, anyway. My Dr prescribed it about 2 years ago for insomnia. Over time, I developed a tolerance and had to slowly increase my dosage to achieve the same results.

As an adult child of alcoholics and having been exposed in a bad-touch-uncle kind of way to drug users over the years, I have a wary relationship with mind-altering substances. As a bipolar person, I will cut anyone who considers how funny it would be to take my lamotrigine from me. Trust me, I can tell if you even think it. Drug-dar. Violently protective. Perhaps I should up my dosage. But, I digress… which is something you should get used to.

Back to the point – that upping my dosage to achieve the same results thing. I did it under instruction from my Dr. I’d started with 1/2 a pill and had worked my way up to 4 whole ones. They’re teen-tiny but still. On the verge of yet another increase, it occurs to me that there may be no end in sight. I don’t want to need them. Like those tortilla chips coated in lime dust and fresh salsa. Don’t bring it into my house or it’s dinner. The sad thing is, I always run out of salsa before the bag is empty. What the correlation is between the deadly lime crack / salsa combo and lorazepam… I’ve lost myself.

When lost, I hit the googles. Interweb searches quickly fill me in on how life devastating it is to take benzodiazepines for more than a few months and I’m coming up on a couple years. Suspicions of doom, gloom, and psychosis lurk in the horror novel corners of my brain. Helpful articles describe the painstaking, equally horrid and drawn out process for titrating off. Sounds like a plan. Let’s do it. Here’s how it goes…

Down from 4 to 3 1/2… no big deal! I can keep this up for the chat room suggested 2 weeks before another 1/2 pill decrease.

Night two. Sleep? What’s that?

Night three. The googles say I should replace the decreased med with something over the counter. Ibuprofen PM doesn’t interact, so I’m sucking that little blue pill down like a man with a Viagra prescription and an expense account on an out of town business trip.

Night four. I have achieved dopey, frustrated, insomnia. The noise in my head is reaching a fever pitch. But, not just any noise. Music. One song. Loudly. The worst earworm you can imagine. I pretend that the white noise sleep app on my iPad helps.

Night five, the paranoia sets in. This is so ugly, I won’t admit to it.

Day six before night six. I’m terrified of the radio. I cannot listen to uptempo songs I know or one will haunt me until around forever o’clock in the morning. I start loudly singing Mama Cass’s version of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” throughout the day.

Day something, not quite 2 weeks in … I’ve lost the ability to count or feel my tongue …. I have a regular check-in appointment with my Dr. and tell him what I’ve started. He doesn’t physically assault me but does capital A-Adamantly explain that the googles will lie to you. Although delighted with my Mama Cass song choice, he’s speaking slowly and using small words because I’m obviously a naive idiot and should be treated thus. My brain and long stare concurs and I’m too whacked out to take umbrage.

Since my Dr. has met me before (read: knows I am an active participant and decision maker in my health care (read: a pain in the butt)) he prescribes a non-addictive anti-depressant to help me ween off the lorazepam.

Fast forward to today. Particularly appropriate since my vision sometimes looks like I’m jumping into hyperspace. In 3 days, I go down to 2 1/2 pills. The anti-depressant called Tori Spelling or something is helping and I don’t need it every night. The last 2 nights in a row have been good quality sleep. I still hear music in my head (currently “Go Ask Alice”) but some people I work with confessed that similar noisy brain conditions happen to them but they don’t admit it in polite company.

Don’t want to sound crazy, you know. Bless them.

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April 21, 2010

I don’t believe I’m alone in the ‘getting up at 3am and reading until I can fall back asleep’ phenomena. What’s your ritual?


Partial insomnia does weird things to my head.

I manage to sleep, but am so used to waking up sometime between 2 and 4 am that I’ve gotten into the habit of pre-arranging the sofa so, when I get up during the night, it’s easy to plop down and read for an hour or so.  After I start to nod, I crawl back in bed and kind of sleep the rest of the night.

It’s the trees.  I wake up with a start, to the clear thought of ‘I need to do that specific thing.’  Rarely does the forest wake me up.  I can’t recall a time when my eyes spring open from the thought, ‘that’s a fascinating overall direction we’re heading.’

I don’t believe I’m alone in this phenomenon.

I do believe that this is a day where I’d better decide on my attitude or it will be decided for me and it won’t be pretty.  I should err on the side of kindness because it’s not my natural inclination today.

Significantly,

Susan Scot Fry

Update…  Apparently — according to comments via facebook — I’m waaaay not alone in this.  I do still feel like I’ve somehow brought it on myself, though.  I’m not meditating enough.  I’m not exercising enough.  I’m not eating right.  I’m growing old.  All of these things are true, of course.