By Matt Samet
It is with a mix of personal trepidation but also hope — for myself and for anyone suffering from dependence on, addiction to, or withdrawal from psychiatric drugs — that today arrived. February 12, 2013, just another grey, chilly late-winter day in North America but also the day that a memoir I’ve written about my experiences with benzodiazepine addiction and trying to escape the psychiatric system, Death Grip, comes out.
If you’ve found this excellent site, Beyond Meds, or any of the similar resources on the Web, chances are you or someone you know is in the same predicament in which I once found myself: in a deepening spiral of anxiety, despair, terror, and depression, wondering if maybe, just maybe, all those “perfectly safe” pills your doctor is giving you aren’t the root of your problem, and if there isn’t a viable way off them and some more natural, alternative way to live or to face your problems. One free of diagnoses, of med check-ins, of hospitalizations, and of course of chemicals.
I have only lived four decades, but I hope never again in life, even at its end, to experience suffering like I felt while taking and withdrawing from the drugs. At essence, looking back six years after swallowing my last psychotropic medicine and feeling saner, healthier, and happier than ever, all I can see is a vast black storm behind me: the physical illness, emotional lability, and compromised cognition caused by the pills; the hopelessness of being told that this chemical abomination was some underlying “organic” and “lifelong” “disease”; and the even bleaker hopelessness of having my autonomy stripped away in the hospitals, of forced drugging on a host of ever-more dangerous and unnecessary pills.
Often I wonder, just what the hell was I thinking, entrusting my brain — the very seat of my soul — to other people?
The answer, of course, is that like so many of us I didn’t know any better. We are trained from early in life to trust doctors, and, psychiatrists, at least on paper, are medical doctors. Nonetheless, never have I been more ill than while under their nominal care; never have I seen such an abuse of trust and power, such a disconnect between caregiver and patient.
My hope is that sharing this story — a not uncommon one — and reiterating the fact that I did escape and have gone on to lead a normal, healthy, productive life will give some measure of hope to anyone foundering in the same dark straits. There of course exist many versions of the “truth” about these medicines and psychiatric practices in general, but it’s my assertion that patients both current and former will have the most accurate picture.
Matt Samet is a book author, magazine writer, and editor based in Colorado. The former editor in chief of Climbing magazine, he holds a master’s degree in English from the University of Colorado-Boulder and has been an avid rock climber since the mid-1980s. Once diagnosed with panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and major depression, Samet has been happily living medication-free since 2006 after a hellish and byzantine journey through the psychiatric system, and in particular off benzodiazepines. He maintains a Facebook page and has detailed his story in a memoir, Death Grip, available February 11, 2013, from St. Martin’s Press.
Be sure to also read Samet’s Mad in America blog, “The Other Side.”
And on Amazon: Death Grip: A Climber’s Escape from Benzo Madness
And for Kindle: Death Grip: A Climber’s Escape from Benzo Madness
To learn more about benzodiazepine use and withdrawal see here: Benzo Info