This very long piece is written by someone I am happy to call a friend. She started one of the withdrawal groups I’m in Benzo Recovery Naturally, a Yahoo group I’ve been part of for two years now. She has been one of my biggest inspirations and supports. If you need to withdraw from benzos I recommend her Yahoo group.
Cindy started her journey of recovery long before support on the internet was available. She felt around in the dark and suffered greatly for it. We are incredibly lucky that because of people like her we now have many resources for support and assistance.
Many people who read this site are mostly familiar with psych drugs other than benzos wreaking havoc with our bodies. But benzos all by themselves, often prescribed to people who are not considered “mentally ill,” will cause the body to degenerate over time and often psychiatric symptoms that were never there before emerge.
Cindy’s story is only one. I’ve seen all sorts of nightmares while participating in groups about how devastating just benzos can be. Some of us in the greater psych world don’t understand how destructive this class of drug alone can be.
Anyway, I don’t want to say more. This piece is so long that I recommend you print it out and read it over a few days. It’s an awesome story of strength and survival and faith and recovery. It can inspire anyone withdrawing from any substance. I hope you take the time to read it.
Last note: Cindy has been in complete recovery now for 9 years and reports the best health of her life.
This is My Recovery Story
Written by Cindy Samora
November of 2003
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Benzo Train To Hell
Part 3: Chasing Cures
Part 4: Recovery
Part 5: Post Recovery
If anyone had told me back in 1980 that going to a doctor for advice would result in half a lifetime of suffering and loss, I would have thought they were crazy. Unfortunately, as it turns out, they would have been right. Before I took Valium I had great respect for and faith in modern doctors and their “medicine”. It was faith misplaced and I got robbed! At times, I wish I could turn the clock back, regain the lost years and tears, get back my beloved career and all the respect I once had from peers, friends and family. I wish I could undo all the hell that taking a drug called “valium” has caused me. I can’t of course, so I look for the positive changes and personal growth that the long lasting nightmare brought about. Even the benzo cloud has a silver lining, believe it or not.
Blessings In Disguise
I wouldn’t have learned all the valuable lessons that I have learned because of my experience. I’d never have met all the wonderful people I’ve met on this benzo path and I certainly wouldn’t have the appreciation for my life and my good health that I now have. So, I try to think of my ordeal with Valium as my “cross to bear”, (we all have one I think) and as a blessing in disguise. As tragic as it was it has brought me to a better place as person and as a member of the human race and, it has given me a purpose for living, that of helping others with the same cross to bear.
In March of 1999, after 19 years invested in our medical system and our brainwashed, prescription pushing doctors, I walked away from “traditional” medicine feeling near death. I turned to a less popular and less understood type of medicine called…….. natural. What a concept! The results of that decision are so profound that I have never turned back again and I doubt that I ever will. I am extremely thankful to finally get the chance to share my recovery story. I hope it will be of some benefit to those of you who are now on the same frightening path.
Work is the yeast that raises the dough!
With great advice from a natural medicine practitioner, an OPEN mind, a lot of hard work and commitment on my part, some drastic changes in diet, a few tapes and books. I have completely recovered. In the process, I have learned enough about my body, about the food I eat and beverages I drink, about my energy, herbs and natural supplements to consistently maintain my good health with little more than occasional visits to my naturopathic practitioner. I do not take any prescription or over the counter drugs! Not for hormone replacement, high cholesterol, high blood pressure. Not for stomach disorders like acid reflux, IBS, Crohn’s, nor for depression, bi-polar disorder, pre-existing anxiety disorder, or anything else “they’ said I had that I didn’t and don’t have. I don’t even take OTC’s for colds, flu’s or headaches. I look for the root cause and address it, naturally.
I have been praying for the opportunity to share my story with you all for some time. My prayer has been answered. I finally have a computer at home again after over 2 years without one. Losing my connection to our benzo group and to the growing collection of information was painful for me even after my recovery because I remain passionate about our “cause”. My story spans a period of 19 years, and will be painful to tell but healing at the same time. It started when I was 25 and ended when I was 44. I am at this writing as recovered as I think I can ever be, in all ways except, financially. Recovering from those losses remains an issue. There just isn’t an easy way to make up for so much lost time and a lost career. But, at least now I have the good health to keep trying and I am, thankful for that. Dealing with too much stress continues to be problematic even after 4 and 1/2 years off benzos so I do all that I can to avoid it. I draw lines when needed to protect myself and my health. I take care of myself first, no matter who cries for my attention.There is a definite connection between stress and physical health depletion and I know that very well so I do what I have to to keep it at bay. There are however many ways a person can support their own immune health and lots of techniques for dealing with stress related (immune) disorders as I have learned from my own debilitating experience. Nothing is more stressful than benzodiazepine withdrawal, as most of you know, so the more you learn about the bodies stress response the better off you’ll be.
My story is not only long ( 19 total years on/off/on/off and up and down in dose of benzos) but it is also unique because it occurred through many interstate moves and involved over 100 doctors before it was over. I will share a bit of my pre-benzo history and benzo history before turning to the details of my unusual and extraordinary recovery. R-U-Ready?
In the 8 years I spent working as a hairstylist before my first tablet of valium was prescribed I was a bit of a hometown celebrity as a result of my hairstyling profession. My clientèle was the creme of the crop, so to speak, of my hometown socialites. I was surrounded by restaurant and hotel owners, musicians, artists, actors and such, both gay and straight, many of whom were using illegal drugs of all kinds. I was pressured to use them myself constantly. I refused to however because I was so happy and so high energy without taking any street drugs that I just had no interest. Social drinking was more than enough “partying” for me. Before benzo’s I owned a beautiful and successful hair salon in NYS. I was the president of my own corporation. I attended hundreds of hair and fashion shows in N.Y.C. and I produced many local shows of my own. I was a hair color representative and motivational speaker for several major hair product companies. I needed a clear head to keep up with all the things I loved to do, so I kept one despite the pressure from my peers to “party”. Point being, I don’t think I am “predisposed” to addiction as some in the medical community suggested I am, many times.
Riding The Benzo Train Straight to Hell!
In 1980 at age 25, I was put on “diazepam” to treat an eating disorder. 10 mgs daily. I was a new mother to my then 9 month old son, Michael. I had no appetite and when I tried to eat anything I gagged. In retrospect, I think my eating problem was a post-partum, hormonally induced one. Sadly however, at that time our doc’s were handing out Valium like it was candy to the majority of women patients for almost everything that ailed us. By the time I sought a second opinion, nearly 2 years later, my daily dose had been gradually increased to 80 mgs. per day! I still weighed only 92 pounds and still, I had no appetite. Oddly enough even while taking such huge doses of valium at such low weight I felt virtually unaffected by it. Despite that, I sought a second opinion for the original problem of my lost appetite because even at that high dose I wasn’t hungry, EVER. (things were so stressful in my life at that time it’s no wonder)
Doc #2 in the long line of doctors to come, decided to take me off the high dose of Valium immediately and totally, BEFORE I got hooked. Too late and too bad for me! His decision sent me into a near fatal, unsupervised, cold turkey nightmare that I still can’t believe didn’t kill me. It does show though that no matter how much we feel like we are going to die, or how much we think we cannot bear one more minute of suffering, the only thing that will kill us in withdrawal is our own decision to die. It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Don’t even think about it. I never really felt the valium as it was going in my body but I sure as hell felt it going out! It was torture! I was forced to endure indescribable suffering for an agonizing period of four months until eventually, my daily, tear-filled and desperate calls to his office, got his attention. He finally granted me an appointment to see him and that visit resulted in a prescription for 40 mg of Valium per day. I stabilized in record time even though my dose was only half the original amount of 80. It was remarkable how fast my whole body returned to a normal level of functioning and how fast all the crazy withdrawal symptoms ceased. (that first time anyway) I felt SO relieved. I resumed living and returned immediately to my much loved profession as a hair stylist believing “it” was all over. If only that had been true THEN.
I remained functional on the dose of 40 mg for nearly two years with no further discussions about it with my doctor. Just routine visits and routine prescriptions. In 1984 with my fiance and 5 yr. old son in tow, I moved south from New York to North Carolina. I never thought for a moment that a different doctor would give me such a hard time about my meds, but after I told him my story, doctor #3 decided he could only write me a script for 5 mg daily. Once again I began experiencing severe withdrawal and in record time I felt like I was on the Benzo train to hell all over again. I was forced to seek help from more and more doctors just to get enough Valium to make it through my days. Each of them treated me like I was an undesirable patient, like I was a junkie looking for a fix and each of them reminded me that HE was NOT the “original prescribing doctor” and therefore my problem with valium was not really his problem, now was it? Chasing doctor’s was time consuming, expensive and it was dangerous (criminal) seeing multiple doc’s for multiple scripts but, it was the only way I could remain functional and employed. I was always so surprised by the lack of compassion all those doctors displayed after hearing my story. I was scared to death, my life was out of control. I began living in constant fear of worse withdrawal at all times. I thought constantly about the need to stretch the few pills I had over the time frame expected of me until the next refill. I hated feeling afraid and I hated feeling like a drug addict. I hated doctor shopping most of all. It was so humiliating.
In 1985, three years already spent in benzo hell and barely functioning on low doses, I received an invitation to style hair in Alaska! My decision was based solely on my belief that the doctors there would be more “countrified”, more compassionate and more cooperative…..more generous about dispensing valium. I excepted the job and moved again, over 3000 miles “up north” with my fiance and my beautiful son Michael. Unfortunately by that time the US government was actively trying to limit the number of valium patients in a doctor’s practice, so even in Anchorage, Alaska, I just couldn’t get enough Valium to function normally. I began yet another downward spiral into benzo withdrawal hell and I simply didn’t have enough energy to doctor shop. I turned to the health food industry for the first time hoping they had some natural products, a little relief, maybe even……..a cure?
I was advised to take several different calming supplements, a variety of immune system products and various other products. It was a fiasco of guess work and very costly. Before long a new problem arose. I had a new symptom that scared me to death. I began to experience a growing sensation of skeletal rigidity that was ever more painful and made me feel like I literally couldn’t move until finally I woke up one fine day, paralyzed, from my neck down. That was one of the most frightening situations that arose on my path to wellness. At the time, no one had a clue what caused it. I was forced to leave Alaska, on a stretcher with an aid, with my son and without my fiance to live with relatives who could take care of me and my son. I had lived independently and supported myself from the age of 17. It was a devastating blow to lose my independence, my income, my mobility, my fiance whom I loved dearly and my ability to be a mother to my son. To have no idea what caused it or how long it would last was more than I could bear. Bed ridden and in a deep depression, I discontinued use of all my health store products and just laid in bed crying. I couldn’t even sleep. No Valium. The paralysis started to improve a little bit, day by day. Slowly but surely it faded away and I got back my mobility but, my nerves were on fire from the absence of valium. I was in full blown withdrawal all over again!
Many years later while watching PBS, I learned that one of the supplements I had consumed in large amounts from the Alaskan health food store, called L-tryptophan, had been contaminated during shipment. Thousands of other people who took it at the same time I had taken it also developed painful paralysis, some died. It was a situation that gave the US government reason to more tightly regulate the heath industry and nothing like that has ever happened again. L-tryptophan can only be obtained through a veterinarian (in the US). It is safely and routinely used for calming animals as well as humans because, when not contaminated, it is a beneficial product that naturally calms the nervous system. Turkey meat is a natural source of tryptophan and explains in part why we become so tired after our Thanksgiving celebration. (note Tryptophan is again available and safe for human consumption as of a few years ago)
Pill Pushers or Saints
In the little town I had moved to in rural Oklahoma, there was an old country doctor I visited just as soon as I could walk. He, it turned out, was interested in little more than pushing pills. At that point in my nightmare he was just what I needed and I was thrilled to find him. I was finally able to obtain enough valium to function normally and even managed, 2 months later, to go to work in a 5 star salon. He also gave me pain pills to help me endure the agony of what I was told was rheumatoid arthritis and sleeping pills to stop the insomnia that I had also developed. What a guy! I was thankful to have (at last) an opportunity to stockpile pills for the future. I had been so traumatized by new doctors and their harsh opinions regarding my situation that I wasn’t going to take any chances with the doctors in Chicago, where I headed next to reunite with my fiance. Despite the insistence of all the docs I had seen by then, that benzo withdrawal lasted only 28 days, I knew better. I began thinking about tapering myself gradually down from a dose of 40 mgs. per day. It seemed so logical to me. I knew it would take time and either a doctors cooperation and/or a lot of valium to succeed. I had no guideline, no Heather Ashton Manual, no information, no internet, no benzo friend in Boston nothing but guesses. I wasn’t sure how long to stay at each dose reduction but I really wanted to try that approach and thought I’d figure it out as I went along.
However, once I landed in Chicago I was faced with the same lack of compassion by each doctor I went to just as soon as the word “valium” came out of my mouth. I had my little stash of security in a bottle, my long term plan in place, my health back on track and my son and I were reunited with my fiance. In no time I had secured a position as the head colorist in a very upscale, suburban, North Shore, Salon. Life was SO great for a brief time there, we were all back together like a family and ever so happy. With no access to my “pill” doc, and a new doctor who thought he was a Saint, my stockpile began to run out long before I could ever try my own taper. I tried some crazy things to medicate myself while in Chicago and none of them worked (so I’ll keep that all to myself)
I felt everything slipping away all over again. I began to experience debilitating back and leg pain that made standing up for my job a virtual impossibility. There is no other way to do hair but standing. I also developed an allergic reaction to all the chemicals involved with the hairstyling business and eventually lost my ability to style hair altogether. (I cried about that loss for the first time ever, just this summer. I loved doing hair and most of the people I worked on loved the results of my work). I remain to this day highly sensitive to any styling products that are not natural. The slightest scent of hairspray makes me feel like my lungs are collapsing and I run for fresh air. I can never do hair, professionally, again. Twenty years, down the drain.
As time passed I became increasingly more chemically sensitive to everything I ate or drank, used personally or cleaned with and consequently, I became unable to function at all. I was practically a vegetable. I grew more convinced than ever that I was going to die from all the madness of benzo withdrawal. The roller coaster of fear, panic, sickness and insanity, unemployment and MCS takes a toll not only on us individually but also on all our relationships, one way or another. Eventually, too many problems in mine caused me to leave my fiance for good before we ever got married. I was such a complete mess, that no man could have dealt with me.
I headed to California to live with my sister, thinking that I might be able to find medical people there who could help me. “Hollywood Doctors, here I come!” The trip there nearly killed me, driving alone with an 8 year old child a distance of nearly 3000 miles, with severe bowel disorders, the shakes, the irrational fear and the loss of appetite that always accompanies my fear. I arrived on my last leg weighing in at 82 God awful pounds. My sister was horrified at the site of me wasting away to nothing. I updated her on the whole sad, ugly story and she immediately called her own doctors office, wanting to help. She was told to take me to the ER at once and sign me in to the mental health wing for serious treatment and benzo detox but I refused to go there knowing all too well, that I would be further drugged and fearing, I would never get out, as I’d heard had happened, to so many other people.
As I was traveling west with my son, I met a man who, despite my failing health and pathetic appearance, found me attractive in some way. He insisted on getting a phone number to reach me at later. I gave him my sisters number in California. He did call and he did fly to see me in L.A. the following week. I never felt more ashamed of my physical appearance than I did at that time and as I prepared to go to L.A.X. to pick him up I was literally disgusted with my image in the mirror. He didn’t seem too bothered about it and offered to help me put some meat on my poor bones. I explained to him that it was a nerve problem. He told me that due to his experience with the US military during Viet Nam and the Post Traumatic Stress he suffered from it, he was receiving high doses of VALIUM each month from the Veteran’s Hospital and he wasn’t taking even half of them. He told me that if that was what I needed he’d be happy to share. I thought he was an angel sent by God, the answer to my prayers. So I did the only logical thing I could do, I married him 6 weeks later in Las Vegas and moved with him to the New Mexico desert. I honestly thought (in my twisted benzo mind) that as long as I had enough valium I could make anything work with any man, even a marriage to a virtual stranger, who it turned out, was pretty crazy. I was SO wrong on that one but it shows how petrified I was to be without my damn valium.
It was a marriage from hell, with both of us dependent on Valium and little else in common. He used his valium dispensing power to control me and get from me what ever he wanted whenever he wanted it. Life got ugly in a hurry. Nine months and two suicide attempts into our marriage as I was trying to figure a way out, I got pregnant with my daughter. I gave birth to Cassi 18 months after the Vegas wedding. Thankfully, she’s nearly perfect in spite of the valium I took while pregnant with her. I left my husband when she was only 4 months old. My son Michael was 10. My two kids, and severe withdrawal (for the fourth time) were my traveling companions as I headed back east to my family, in total shame, feeling a complete failure. A far cry from the Cindy they had known BEFORE VALIUM.
My ex was my only source of meds at that time (1990) so leaving him with both kids was very frightening. From 1990 until 1992 I struggled through every aspect of my life on the small amounts he begrudgingly sent me each month. He knew I’d be unable to care for the kids without any and if that happened he’d end up with the kids. Eventually, I landed back in North Carolina where my dad was living apart from mom and sisters. He sincerely wanted to help me but like all our benzo family members he just didn’t know what to do, He was helpless and he hated it. Once he realized what I’d known already for years about dead ends with doctors and solutions, the frustration was more than he could handle. He was watching his once fabulous daughter come unglued. I felt like he just wanted me to take my problem and go away, but I was too sick, too tired and too broke to go anywhere. The one good thing or so I thought, about my increasing poverty, was that I did qualify for “medicaid” (government insurance). In no time at all I was being diagnosed by multiple specialists. I really thought with all that help, I was finally going to get my health, my nerves, my sanity and maybe even my career, back.
Doctors, Doctors and more Doctors
From 1992 -1997 I acquired my very own team of doctors and on it were :
A Psychopharmacologist……. a pharmacist/psychologist…my very own drug dispensing shrink! My appointments with him were usually less than ten minutes! But that afforded him enough time to write me prescriptions nearly every visit. After hearing my 12 year old valium story he initially put me on a cocktail of clonidine (for my non-existent heart problems) and paxil for my depression. It didn’t help. SSRI’s work completely different than CNS meds and tho they can prevent suicide in severely depressed people, they don’t address benzo withdrawal. He tried so many other combinations of meds I can’t remember and all, to no avail. Nothing was prescribed for the anxiety (aka withdrawal) which always became severe when I had no valium in my system. I began to feel like a complete lunatic all over AGAIN. Years later, I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and ordered to take Lithium. (Be careful about that diagnosis). Fortunately by that time I was surfing the net regularly for answers and explanations and I already knew that bi-polar wasn’t one of them so I never did take any damn Lithium. Just about the only drug I haven’t tried!
A Gastroenterologist…… “my stomach man” who said IBS and Crone’s disease were at least part of the problem along with Diverticulitis, Acid reflux and H-pilory. I suffered from severe gastro and bowel problems. I was prescribed multiple medications to treat it all. YOU name ‘m, I ‘ve taken ‘m, unsuccessfully across the board, and three that I complained about, have been recalled for causing liver failure and death. I endured a laperoscopy, a colonoscopy, an endoscopy and several barrium enemas in my quest for answers to my failing health. Boy, do I ever miss, all those fun times!
A Gynecologist……who wasn’t sure if it was my female organs or my stomach problems causing my grief but after a few hormone experiments failed, and after multiple tests and 11 visits to that clinic I was ordered a complete hysterectomy and assured I would finally be alright. I was told it was not about benzo’s at all. Well, it was about benzo’s and they do disrupt our hormonal balance male and female both. A hysterectomy was not the solution and resulted in a prescription for yet another drug in my system, a Hormone replacement drug and then another and another until I became “wicked witch Cindy” and drew the line. Then there were NONE! Ahhhh Ha ha haaaaa!
A Therapist …….who was actually quite helpful, a beautiful and caring woman who taught me to trust my intuition (even if it went against the doc’s). She was the first person to inform me that doctors aren’t GOD. Intuition, IS. She encouraged me to find some kind of spiritual connection not only to help me get through my crisis but to help me tap into the very intuition she was talking about. Her advice changed my life and led me to recovery. Just knowing she was there for me every week was so incredibly comforting. May God Bless Dr. Maria Zayas, of Wilmington, N.C. who believed me and my Valium theory and who helped me all she could for absolutely nothing. Medicaid wouldn’t pay her and I couldn’t, so she helped me out of simple human kindness. One of the first of many angels on my spiritual/recovery path.
A Cardiologist…..who ran ALL his tests (and made a LOT of money doing so) and who made the determination that there was nothing wrong with my heart despite my complaints of severe pain, constant anxiety, racing heart and palpitations. He thought it was all in my head!
A Medical Doctor….who treated me for a long list of routine, minor health problems and of course referred me to all the others. By the end of our 5 year long relationship he started to believe me and what I was telling him about protracted, benzodiazepine withdrawal, but he just didn’t know what to do for me. None of the pill pushers seem to know how to reverse the damage they cause and doctors like him knew that no matter how many specialists he sent me to they all pushed more pills! I was reacting to every medication as though I were highly allergic to them so he, in his infinite doctor wisdom prescribed a steroid drug called prednisone that is sometimes used to treat allergies. He thought that if only I could take that drug successfully, maybe I wouldn’t react so poorly to the 6 other drugs that my team felt were so essential to my treatment. Nope. Thant didn’t work either.
An Endocrinologist…..who came on board my team after the cancer free hysterectomy, when, at a follow-up appointment, cancer cells were found on my genitalia. After I did my research on that topic I wanted a gun, not an operation but I was given a prescription for Atavan to help me cope with the fear of loosing my external female parts while undergoing a surgery called a “Vulvectomy” to remove the post-op genital cancer. Cancer of the vulva is very rare, fast spreading and the most potentially fatal female cancer of them all. Pretty scary. Naturally, at the time, no one understood what caused that problem either, but I understand now, that it was caused by the overload of toxins in my body from all the prescription meds, lack of water, excess toxic food and exposure to environmental toxins all combined. Unfortunately either our Doctors don’t get that or they won’t admit that they get it, because they wouldn’t be able to generate the funds they do by over prescribing all these medications. I can tell you that since I stopped taking all the prescription and over the counter drugs I was told to take, I have very few health problems and I have never had cancer again. I am ok following the surgery, everything intact, and I Thank God for that daily.
A Neurologist……I can’t remember what his role was, it’s all became such a blur but he somehow worked with the big shrink guy. (It makes me sick to write all this, to relive it again, but there IS a happy ending and you gotta know it was the hardest fought battle and the greatest victory of my life!)
From 1992 – 1997, from age 37-42 I had no life other than that of the good patient, keeping all my appointments with all my doctors, taking all my meds, having all those tests, procedures and surgeries, following all their orders and of course going to the pharmacy to fill all those prescriptions. It was totally exhausting and left me with little strength to do much else. Sadly, in all that time I never once felt a single step closer to sanity, or the slightest bit healthier unless I took Valium! I felt like they were slowly but surely snuffing out my life and spirit with poisons that they call medicine.When I told them that, they called me hysterical, homonal or mentally ill.
In my case (as well as in the cases of many others), there were NO answers from any doctors, rehabs or mental health organizations and only after being further hurt by them, after listening to their riduculous theories and diagnosis, nearly a 100 of them in 8 different United States and never once getting any relief from the protracted withdrawal and iotrogenic illness caused by the very pills they push, did I, finally turn, in a new direction for help. It was not until death was at my doorstep, my children in tears pleading for their mommy not to die, that I, in total desperation, turned to God. I got down on my knees in that dumpy little trailer, and prayed with all my heart for a cure, for the way to Get Well, once and for all. I prayed for a way out of the modern medicine machine. And, miracle of miracles, when I finally listened for the prayer answer, I heard it loud and clear. It made absolutely no sense at all. It is a most remarkable part of my recovery story. From my impoverished, agoraphobic life-stlyle of isolation and fear in N.C. (in Oct. 1997, with 17 years in hell and already feeling like I was on my last leg) the prayer led me, one month later, to MONTANA, USA, 3,000 miles away, on a Greyhound bus, with my 9 year old daughter and with nothing more than an intuitive knowingness, a new found faith, that I was finally on the right path to recovery….. to “getting well”. It was a matter of trusting my gut and ignoring the fact that what I was doing was completely illogical. (My folks thought I’d gone crazy! I had my own doubts about my sanity.)
We arrived safely and in a very short time, I met a man who liked us and wanted to help us get settled. One month later we moved to a beautiful place called Paradise, Mt. It was a far cry from our little trailer in hot and humid, hurricane alley, North Carolina. I felt so much better just knowing I had a man to help us and also that there’d never be a hurricane! I only had access to 5 mgs. a day but it was such a positive lifestyle change that I really thought I could finally get off completely and move on without further suffering and medical assistance. I was wrong. After a sort of health honeymoon I began sliding downhill AGAIN and I ran completely out of pills. After another year of doctors and their torture and more and more prayer I was led (by spirit) to a lady, (an angel) here in Montana who owns a little business she calls “The Get Well Clinic”. Well I had prayed so often and so hard specifically to find the way to “get well”, that the name of her clinic, was to me, a pretty powerful indication that God had heard my prayers. Her name is Barbara and once I was in her care I was able to recover completely from the 19 years of devastation the valium had caused my health and in a record time of only 5 months!
I worked very hard for my recovery and she worked hard to help me. She gave all the credit to God for her healing wisdom and insisted she only allowed herself to be a channel for God’s healing powers. It was a brand new concept for me. “I ain’t never been one for religion” as they say, so it was quite a life/spirit altering experience for me. I made a promise with God, (more than once) that if I ever recovered I would spend my life helping others, if only I could find them!
In December of 1998, 3 months prior to my first Get Well Clinic visit and after repeated internet searches for information on topics of benzodiazepines, tranquilizer addiction or Valium addiction resulted in zero matches, I finally found a website called very simply “Valium”. There was very little information on the site but there was a guest book. Thank-you to “Borderline Personality Betty” of Schenectedy, N.Y. for her effort. (it’s an inside joke ) I made my first connection with another human being who was suffering from the wrath of a benzodiazapine drug! I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t imagining things. WOW! That was another major turning point. Just knowing I wasn’t alone anymore was such a relief. Signing in Betty’s guest book at that first Valium website led me to our benzo support group founder, Ms. Geraldine Burns, who was also looking for “the others” and for information on benzo withdrawal. I consider her to be the 4th angel on my growing team! I am forever in her debt. First for ending my benzo isolation and giving me what I needed most, S_U_P_P_O_R_T! She was a bright light in my dark and terrifying nightmare. Her heartfelt phone and email support helped me in my quest to survive my fifth and final benzo-withdrawal-detox attempt and to succeed at my recovery. And secondly, for opening the door for “the rest of us”, for connecting us so that we are able to exchange our stories and all of the information we have and do exchange, for all discussions and debates we have now, and for wonderful websites like Ray Nimmo’s benzo.org.uk. and benzoliberty.com that might not be here for us if she hadn’t started that first internet support group. My prayers were answered again! Honestly folks, It was getting to be too much!
United Online and Off, We Stand…….
Now and since the group started in 1999, we (the victims) are finally joined together by the internet and the tireless efforts of the original pioneers for the benzo cause and, we ARE making progress in benzo research. We are the test group of the millennium. We are the long term study group and we know much more about benzos than all the doctors and pharmaceutical companies put together. We are the solution to this problem. The more we share our findings and stories, the more active we are in our discussions, the more open minded we can be to all the possible explanations for what we endure getting off these drugs and how we do it, the sooner other people will be spared the suffering that we’ve all endured to one degree or another.
I was one of the first ten people to join the benzo support group at it’s inception in the spring of 1999. I felt extremely blessed to be able to share the whole process of my recovery with the benzo group online as it unfolded. (Still there in old archives for those interested) I thank God for the Internet. There are many people who need support, I wasn’t the only one. We need to talk to another victim who understands, preferably a recovered victim if for nothing more than reassurance. I sincerely want to help anyone I can, in any way I can, keeping my promise to God to do so. In the fall of 1999, when my own recovery was completed, I agreed to accept calls from people in the group who emailed a request. I wasn’t sure that I could help but I shared what I had learned and I was there for a lot of hurting benzo victims when they had no one else who understood. I spent thousands of hours on the phone. I continued to take those heartbreaking calls for over three years while living here with John. When we split up 2 years ago my need for income quickly became my new priority. I have had many jobs since then but none that I love as much as being a phone support person for other benzo victims. However helping out one person at a time just isn’t the ideal solution to the bigger problem and I think a website is so, I am working on it now.
I’ve also posted a petition on behalf of B.A.N. and all the benzo victims. Please take time to read and sign it at: http//www.petitiononline.com/benzo/petition/html
if you have not done so already. And now for the good stuff!
My RECOVERY Naturally
The only reason I am alive and well and able to share my victory is because of the natural approach I finally used to achieve it. I know that in our groups “natural healing modalities” are sometimes controversial but I am living proof that less toxicity, more nutrition, water, natural calming supplements, acupuncture, yoga, and more that I’ll share here,…….DO…… HEAL…… a sick body.
I arrived at the Get Well Clinic for the very first time in March of 1999 and believe me when I tell you I was extremely ill and just about out of any hope. I was severely depressed as it was the 5th or 6th time in my life that I’d experienced severe protracted withdrawal and the loss of my health, body, mind and spirit. I was grossly OVER weight (in my opinion) for the first time in my life, another great side effect of prescription drugs. I had such pain in my lower back and legs I could barely walk. Any effort to do so resulted in only more pain. I had all the symptoms known to our group.
Chemical Sensitivities, sensitivities to light, touch and sound
Restless Leg Syndrome
Stomach, digestive and colon problems of all kinds
Rashes and lesions all over my body
Metal taste in my mouth
Tight band around my head
Disassociation and derealization
and so on.
I honestly didn’t think that a “natural healer” could do anything for me, and admit that I may have had some preconcieved notions about the concept of “natural” myself, so I was pretty impressed by Barbara’s level of confidence. While she readily admitted she was not well versed on the specific dynamics of Benzodiazepines per say, she did understand the enormous toll that all these modern drugs take on a person’s health. She agreed that I was severely ill and assured me IT WAS NOT MY IMAGINATION! Using an energy diagnostic tool called EDS or EAV she was able to “diagnose” everything that ailed me in 20 minutes with nothing other than a computer, a program (that cost her a fortune) and a magnet and well, her natural ability. She determined that my liver was barely functioning, my CNS was shot, my hormones, adrenals, lungs, teeth, brain, pancreas and gall bladder had all been negatively affected but she pointed out that my heart was strong! We proceeded from there.
Everything she said made sense to me and the way she explained her findings was with love and compassion in a warm little clinic that made me feel very comfortable. I learned that in order for the damage to heal and for my health to be restored, I had a lot of work to do. I never doubted her advice for a moment and just as soon as I began taking it I saw improvements in my health for the 1st time in 20 years! She never once pushed me to buy anything I didn’t actually need and when I was in a financial bind she helped me anyway. I owe her my life. She determined that I was blood type A and using the Eat Right For Your Type diet guidelines she helped me understand what foods would be of most benefit and which would hurt me most as well as those that are neutral. I still use this approach because I know it works.
Recovery Phase 1
Barbara advised me to:
*Eliminate: Sugar, wheat, dairy, pork and salt, gradually. Avoid fast food, caffeine, aspartame and black tea as much as possible.
Replace with: Honey, alternate grain products, soy and yogurt, turkey, chicken, tuna, sea salt, fresh fruit and raw veggies.
*Add 64 oz. water daily to diet (WHAT?…..yes you heard it, flush out those toxins!)
*Take EmergenC drink daily with tsp. of MSM powder for minerals and Vitamin C
to support my immune system
*Take green powder drink daily for additional nutritional support and for detoxing
*Take female hormone balancer (natural blend of herbs that worked in only 1 month (to end those problems)
*Take Magnesium/Calcium/Zinc blend daily
*Take 6 droppers Mugwart (cousin to St. John’s) in water daily for blood purifying
*Take digestive enzymes and acidophillus for leaky gut and digestion
*Have acupuncture 2 times monthly to open blocked energy caused by surgical scaring from the hysterectomy (it was so great to end that feeling in my gut)
*Eventually remove Old root canal causing head problems (WOW, that was major!) Do not underestimate the negative impact dental work plays here. Removing that old root canal improved my overall disposition by at least 20%!
*Take Candida and parasite formula for treatment of those 2 issues
*Clean my colon……(I had to grow up and get over it and I did.)
*Trips to the potty………. approximately 32 times a day!
*Sleep as much as needed………(12-16 hours a day!)
Yes, I admit, I was a little overwhelmed at first and it did seem alot, but I did it all as she advised and the results were so phenomenal that it PROVED to me the important role our diets play in recovering from prescription and non-prescrption related health problems.It also proved to me that the right natural supplements at the right time do work! EDS, energy diagnosing, takes the guess work out of the process. Nothing she advised me to take ever made me sicker. Our bodies require certain fuel to run efficiently (just like a car does) and the more we support ourselves nutritionally the sooner we eliminate toxic buildup that causes us to feel sick, anxious, tired, achy, depressed, scared, exhausted, over sensitive, agoraphobic and so on.
To support my bodies need to detox I used several different approaches, all of them natural. At different stages of my recovery I did different things. In phase I, I drank large quantities of water and took various detoxing herbs.I juiced vegetables daily. Later, in phase II, when I had gained some strength, I did a Master Cleanse, a lemonade drink mixed with grade B maple syrup and cayenne pepper. It was delicious and filling and it really supported my recovery. It is a world renowned recipe that had been known to reverse many health problems for many people over many years. Ask any health food store. Remember though, timing is important and less is more .
Recovery Phase II
Feeding Mind and Spirit Also
Once I had regained some of my strength and was feeling more optimistic and less fearful and depressed I moved on. I began to incorporate daily deep breathing exercises, gentle walking, audio tapes of spiritual nature (Carolyn Myss, Deepak Chopra, Maryanne Williamson, Gary Zukov for ei.) yoga on video tapes and books such as: Detoxification and Healing, by Dr. Stephen McDonald—Yes, a doctor who totally agrees with this approach. Please read this book.
Food is Medicine
Because of the enormous improvement in months one and two of my work I needed less and less product but ever more lifestyle changes. I did a lot of juicing to extract the liquid nutrients from veggies, carrots primarily, but also garlic, beets and celery. Garlic is a natural antibiotic. Celery loosens flem. Carrots are full of life sustaining, immune enhancing nutrients.There are books and websites galore on this.(www.hacres.com) I used my blender daily to combine fresh or frozen fruits with juices, protein powder and vanilla soymilk and or yogurt, (not commercial brands) for making morning drinks. Mmmmm. And, as I said I did the Master Cleanse, a lemon drink fast for about a week. Sounded scary to me too, but I was fine, even enjoyed not having to think about what to eat and the weight loss was phenomenal. lost 20 pounds of the target goal of 40 in 3 months. As the pounds fell off the level of toxicity in my system decreased dramatically. I felt SO much better! AT that point I would have done nearly anything she advised. Remember over 100 doctors visits resulted in NO improvement and usually made me feel even worse. What a waste of time they are.
While I was learning how to do all the above, I was also developing a whole new consciousness about everything I ate, drank, sprayed on myself or in my home, washed myself and cleaned my house with, and with each revelation I did what I could to use something else more natural and less toxic. Out with Lysol, scented candles, incense, commercial cleaning and laundry products. Out with toxic make-up, hair products, lotions and deodorant and in with the good stuff. One item at a time over time. And, it ALL makes a difference. I developed a new “consciousness” regarding electronics, TV’s, cell phones, microwaves, etc. and the role they play in hurting our health. I have changed so much, I am a stranger to myself. A beautiful stranger though.
Waging Holy War on Benzo Related Illness
We are fighting the hardest battle of our lives here and if we don’t wage war on our benzo related health devastation. we will suffer endlessly and needlessly. We each have the power to learn about how our bodies really work, how stress affects us for example and how to deal with it in a positive manner.( I wound up with shingles and herpes from all the benzo stress.) How high levels of internal toxicity cause liver and other problems and how that makes us feel depressed and scared and so on. (I attempted suicide twice from severe depression). What candida really is and what it does to us and the same for parasites. I no longer suffer from yeast related infections after years of being treated for female infections and toe nail infections. I had my big toe nail ripped off twice by a doc with a pair of pliers! Once I treated the candida I had no further yeast related issues. If we are also using other chemicals, OTC’s, cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine and aspartame for example, we need to ask what role they play in our overall health. We have to work even harder to keep the balance between our healthful intake and exposure and our toxic.
Our spirits have also been crushed by benzo’s but there is much we can do to support and regenerate our own spirits. While I don’t think 12 step’s programs are beneficial for most people in our group, I do think that it’s important to establish an open line of communication with your own individual version of God and start a dialog, to tap into your intuition and then to learn to trust it. And, whatever other support you can find for benzo withdrawal, use it!
As I came down the homestretch in October I was delirious from all the changes, improvements and healing that had occurred in my life, in those 5 short months since March. I had been transformed body, mind and spirit and I had been given the tools (the knowledge) I needed to do my own maintenance for life. No need to depend on DOCTORS anymore. I learned to Honor Myself in every way imaginable and even wrote a poem that was published at poetry.com titled “Honor Yourself”. I was able to appreciate my blessings. In spite of the poverty we lived in, there were many. For Barbara and her determination to learn and practice natural medicine alone, my gratitude overflowed. My benzo nightmare was finally over, 19 years of insanity, mystery, confusion, sickness on all levels, Dr. visits and PILLS! Over, done finito! Nothing beats feeling healthy, not money, or love, prestige or knowledge, absolutely nothing is better than having good health. I Praise God for mine every day! It is now nearly December of 2003 and soon I will celebrate my 5th anniversary of healthy living.
Passion to share with other benzo victims
Following the completion of my transformation, that was shared online, I noticed two general reactions from our group members, negative and positive. Hmmm, just like in real life! I was amazed how many people called me a liar, told others that taking natural products was a waste of time and money, and nothing more than a hoax, and blah blah blah, it went on and on. I was attacked and harassed and accused of many ridiculous things. And my response? The same as my teenage daughter’s, many times: “Whatever”.
I wasn’t that interested in the nay sayers most of whom are still not recovered. I enjoyed a flood of positive reponse from those who understood or wanted to and who agreed. I answered questions and responded to requests for support both on the phone and in person. The benzo cause is my passion. While there is still plenty I don’t know, there is plenty that I do. so…………… watch for more on my new.com.
While I most definitely agree with Heather Ashton and her taper schedules and ever so wish I would have had a manual in my day, and, while there are several benzo books, groups and websites with volumes of information on the problem, there’s a lot missing regarding the enormous role that all of our personal lifestyle choices play in our recovery. That explains to me why, no matter how long I stayed off Valium and no matter what OTHER drugs I tried, I never saw any improvement.
And that’s why I took the time, to write this all out for you to help you now.
These damn benzos change our chemistry, our metabolism, our energy, our immune systems and all the other parts of us that are connected. We need to be treated Holisticly, not like machines with separate systems. The knee bone really is connected to the ankle bone! Once our bodies become over “toxed” whether it is from environmental toxins, pharmaceutical toxins, or others, the body responds, and starts screaming for help in all kinds of maddening ways, for help detoxing. The more we cooperate with nature and avoid the addition of any further toxins the sooner our bodies stop screaming. It really is that simple. It is not simple however, to change thinking and habits and it helps to have support. A beginners guide to Natural Health and Benzo Recovery, so to speak. I have started a new benzo group at Yahoo called Benzo Recovery-Naturally. Please stop by and share your story.
We can focus on the problem or we can focus on the cure it’s our choice. If I had known then what I know now, I would have made the changes a long time a go.
I hope you benefitted in some way from reading my story. (I sure feel better) If you need more specific info or support, please, email me. I have a lot of angels on my team.
Food for thought
2000 B.C.—Here, eat this root and heal.
1000 A.D.–That root is heathen, say this prayer and heal.
1850 A.D.–That prayer is superstition. drink this potion and heal.
1940 A.D.–That potion is snake oil, take this pill and heal.
1985 A.D.–That pill is ineffective, take this antibiotic and heal.
2000 A.D.–That anti-biotic is artificial, take this root and heal.
For more information about benzos and how to more safely discontinue them see here