Breakdowns can be breakthroughs right?
Carolyn Myss poignantly says, “don’t ask why this is happening to you, but maybe this is happening FOR you”. Or maybe it was Mastin Kipp. Idk. I have benzo brain right now. I am an accidental addict. In fact, the fact that I am even an ‘addict’ makes me laugh. Like, god, are you kidding me?? I haven’t had a drink in over twenty years (not because of sobriety but because I have a condition called Interstitial Cystitis), when I smoke pot (which was a good decade ago) I start to shake and tremble, I don’t smoke, drink green juices, avoid prescriptions and antibiotics like the plague, do yoga (or at least used to), walk, meditate..so how did I get here?
Like many of you accidental addicts I got here by accident.
25 years ago when I was in my twenties and developed a pain in my bladder that kicked me to my knees I was given a million and one prescriptions. My urologist prescribed valium, “don’t worry, this won’t be a problem at such a low dose, use it 3x per day”. Not even knowing what alternative medicine was at the time, being a dutiful Jewish New Yorker who believed in doctors and their word, I did what I was told. Thankfully, when others tried to push Vicodin, anti-seizure meds, antidepressants, you name it, I said no thank you. Some people say I am stubborn. I think this stubbornness saved me from having a morphine pump put in and becoming addicted to pain pills. I endured it. Year after year. I am talking 8 years. Every day. Relationships fell away, friends at some point felt “ I wanted to be sick”, but in the meantime I pushed on… fighting a silent battle that no one could see.
I went to grad school, built a business, worked around the clock, some way somehow I did it. And I did it in excruciating pain. IC pain has been compared to end stage cancer pain. I can tell you, it brought me to my knees shaking more than once.
Back to valium. It was in my life, at first daily, and then when I went on disability infrequently but it was there—always at low doses and definitely during ‘flare ups’. My dog even overdosed on my valium –but all the while I never gave those little pills a second thought. I would go on/off them seemingly with no problem…. Yeah… right. So I thought.
I was 25 when this first dark night of the soul happened, It started with bloody violent dreams of death and terrorism. I knew intuitively that the freeze state I had been living in for my whole life was now starting to thaw. It had to. I wrote a poem and crumpled it up, not wanting anyone to see or discover anything about me. I had lived a life up until then as the "lost child"--perfectionistic, don't talk, don't feel, don't see me. I didn't even know this was the beginning of a spiritual journey, for years I thought it was just a medical issue I needed to fix but couldn't. Then by 34 my pain miraculously lifted. I was in a new relationship that I felt safe in, I was desperate to get well. I had read all the right books, meditated on my chakras, gone to healers, gurus, mystics and medical intuitives. What was I missing? With the help of elmiron and ozone therapy, I got into a remission at last.. Other factors too that helped which I will get into. At about 18 mos or so I stopped thinking, talking, feeling pain. Now I was still fragile and scared it would re-emerge but once off the drug (elmiron) after 2 years my remission just stuck around for 7-8 more years.
Valium was no longer in my life. Pain was no longer in my life! I was free! Slowly but surely I went from being sick to well yet still having the scars of that relentless experience. I was still careful with everything I ate, shunned wine, coffee, chocolate, sugar and so many other things.. not having pain was a gift in itself, I never felt deprived , I felt so BLESSED I was one of the recovered ones. Why can others just move on and let go of traumas? I know many people who suffered from many things equal or worse and move on psychologically,emotionally and spiritually. For the most part I did. I got married, traveled, started drinking decaf coffee (anyone who has IC will knows this is big!), even indulged in sugar here and there, but I was always cautious but free. I no longer thought about illness or doctors, or my pain pain pain. That chapter was over. My new friends never even knew that this was a part of my experience at all. I would mention it here and there but unless you have experienced it, there is no point in talking to others about it. It feeds the pain, and creates alienation because people just look at you like you are crazy. The valium stayed in my cupboard and when friends came over in crisis I happily gave my ‘stash’ away if they needed it. I was happy. I was content. I felt like one of the lucky ones. I made it out of this illness and created a big full life for myself.
So what happened to lead me to this blog?
Enter infants, sleepless nights, anxiety about sleep deprivation, money, kids, lack of connection and constant illnesses, frustration, working to the point of exhaustion… then it happened. I took a course of Cipro and my pain came back with a vengeance within 5 days. My beautiful wonderful 8 year remission was broken. I felt broken. Betrayed. Enraged. Terrified. “ I can’t do a decade of pain again” I kept thinking and saying over and over again. My relationship had been strained for some time and was about to be put under the test again.
But my amygdyla was already firing ANGER ANGER FEAR FEAR FEAR HELP HELP HELP oh no not again….
Once that switch went on, it was hard to turn it back off. My whole body became dysregulated. Now I also know benzos interact with this category of antibiotics. I burned in places you shouldn’t burn for months. More than the pain, I felt terror, horror, dread. I had two boys at this point and was always afraid of being a sick mother and now, it was happening. I couldn’t stop my fear. The pain diminished over 6-7 mos, but many other symptoms continued. There was always something. Valium was still in my life, here and there as an innocent friend I didn’t realize was the ultimate poison that was destabilizing my nervous system. Still using it sparingly (once every two weeks who knows? Or in spurts?) I never kept track but those rescue doses count! I never felt that ahhhh feeling. I never looked for that ahhhh feeling. I just wanted my bladder pain to go away, and this was what I was instructed to use by a nice urologist back East. So I applied what I had been told again. And used it to help me sleep when I went out of town.
Somehow I don’t feel like finishing this story at the moment. I have switched gears. I am so used to memorizing this story, my trauma story, my benzo story, my wounding story, I know I need to get the details out and I will but I want to practice sharing my story and then RELEASING the story. Making up a new story as I go. As I taper down off this medication (easy to say when not in the thick of it believe me) it’s time to create a new story for me, my life and my children. Done with pain. Done with fear. Done with anger. I want more peace, courage, joy, liberation.
Just got back from my recovery group that involves meditation. I don’t quite belong there as most people in there are hard core addicts, purposely, deliberately getting loaded, over using their drugs, lying, stealing, cheating to get their drugs. Amazing stories of courage and struggle. But I don’t quite know where someone like me belongs…. In the rooms of AA? NA? No, not really. In these recovery rooms? No, not really, But it’s a place to feel less alone. These people certainly get addiction, detox, and withdrawal. They seem like they are built differently but that could just be me thinking I am somehow unique and different. Maybe we all are. We all have our stories and we all get to choose what we put our attention on each and every day.
I listened to Joe Dispenza today and got inspired. I had a talk with a fellow accidental addict and he inspired me yesterday. I was feeling so low. So alone, so down. I haven’t been seeing friends, socializing, I feel I can’t talk or be present. I am in a bit of a cocoon. But me and this other fellow traveler talked and it inspired me. I was on a hike and I got inspired to run up the hill, breathless, and cold but I did it. He told me-“stop acting like a monk, why are you beating yourself up for needing some relief or pleasure or connection?” I have shunned pleasure my whole life. Always on the outside of it. I want in now. I want to create something different for myself. This benzo freaking breakdown is pushing me to look deep within. I have done this before in my twenties, and now it’s come again. My whole life, my whole body needs an overhaul. Everything, I mean everything is changing. I am in acceptance of that in this moment. I am somewhat excited and scared of what is ahead. But I am ready….
Someone who found themselves accidentally dependent and suffered an iatrogenic injury from medications that were prescribed. Sharing experience, strength and hope with others. This is written as a person on this winding path and NOT as a professional. Please contact a licensed professional for any medical/psychological care or advice. This is NOT a substitute for medical or psychological care. What is written here reflects my own personal experience ONLY.