BENZO STORY: Linda from Christchurch, New Zealand
Updated: Mar 23
An amazing story of success from a New Zealand woman who tapered successfully from Ativan (via a diazepam substitution) to find new feelings, new sensations, and a new outlook on life.
Key Topics: Anxiety, Benzos, Dependence, Withdrawal, Ativan (lorazepam), Valium (diazepam), Alcohol, Doctors, Symptoms, Success, Positive outlook, Bipolar Disorder,
Listen on the Podcast (Original Story): https://www.easinganxiety.com/post/relationships-intimacy-and-sex-in-benzo-withdrawal-bfp019
Listen on the Podcast (Update Story): https://www.easinganxiety.com/post/symptoms-sensitivities-and-uplifting-stories-bfp046
Stories presented on Easing Anxiety may contain triggering content. If this is a concern for you, please refrain from reading any further. These stories are provided for informational purposes only and should never be considered medical advice. Opinions stated are those of the author only. See our disclaimer at the bottom of this post for more information.
I am writing from the city known for earthquakes and terrorism — Christchurch, New Zealand. I would never have believed that these terrible events could happen in this small and innocent city when I moved back home in 2007, after living in the UK for 14 years.
My memory is so impaired after years on Ativan that I can’t remember when I started it or when I increased it from 1 pill, to 2, to 3 and then, worst of all, taking 4 and mixing them with alcohol in a terrible binge this January. I lost a job in December because I couldn’t remember anything. I was severely cognitively impaired and this made me dreadfully depressed. I know now this was from the Ativan.
Just recently, I found your podcast and it means so much to me. The podcast, the information, the letters, and the community of us listening. I am no longer alone. You feel like a loving brother to me and I listen and re-listen when I wake up to cope better with my day. I am sounding very dramatic and wish I could joke about it, as is my way to cover up my sadness. I will briefly tell you my experience, strength and hope.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008…
I was always a highly sensitive person who bounced from highs to lows. I was diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder in 2008 after a week in a hospital when I had clinical depression. In the UK, I had functioned well managing my difficulties by isolating myself. I didn’t want anyone to see how I really was and I managed to mask really well outside of my flat, so no one knew how anxious and depressed I really was. Back in New Zealand, I was unable to hide my depression. I came back because I couldn’t function in the UK anymore.
I went to a doctor here and started mood disorder drugs, an anti-psychotic, Prozac, Z-drugs and later on, here’s where I can’t remember, Ativan, one pill a day. It was probably around 2011 after the deadly quake and I can’t remember if I got it because my anxiety got worse. We had four huge quakes, one deadly, but all in all they happened constantly and there were over 10 thousand, yes, 10 thousand over two years, from 2.5 to 7.1.
I loved Ativan and was hooked.
I loved Ativan and was hooked. I was allowed to increase my dose to 2 pills a day but usually I took 3 and called in my prescription early, you could have it again after 3 weeks. My guess is that because I had made a suicide attempt, my doctor let me stay on Ativan thinking if I didn’t take it I might overdose again. Oh dear, D, this isn’t cheery at all, I will come to my strengths and hopes shortly!
I am a person with a lot of dark humour and boy that helps. So, I have taken Ativan for 6 or 7 years without being told to stop. I didn’t want to stop and I didn’t educate myself. I didn’t care if I only felt better for a few hours, it was still a few hours. I have only educated myself listening to your podcast and reading the Ashton Manual plus your articles.
Ok, time for strengths! I stopped Z-drugs last year, alcohol this February, and I switched to diazepam from Ativan in February. It has made it so much easier to taper doing this. I had tried with Ativan several times but I couldn’t cope with the withdrawal symptoms and being back to my depression and anxiety. Diazepam doesn’t give me much relief, not like Ativan, but it is much easier coming off this longer lasting benzo.
If I stick to my schedule, which I asked my doctor for, after reaching the rock bottom in January which I spoke about earlier, then I will be done next month. Benzo free. I have isolated myself — my hypersensitivity makes me so easily triggered — and giving up both benzos and alcohol is so hard. I know I shouldn’t isolate, but being home alone is comforting. I volunteer once a week.
By the way, the interview with your wife Shana made me cry, it was so beautiful and what Shana said, that a soup kitchen might be too much when you are in withdrawal, so look and and see what’s needed close to home, that’s easier for you. Such good advice. Thank you so much D and thank you and hi to everyone who listens, these wonderful honest letters.
My strength is my determination to be off diazepam next month…
My strength is my determination to be off diazepam next month and my hope is to start my life anew because at the moment my life is nil and I am almost totally isolated, apart from my cat. Like Bear, my cat Daisy is a godsend, a loving fun tortie who was found as a kitten wandering the city streets. I think we are a godsend to each other.
By the way, I love the meditation minute at the end and would love it if you read maybe children’s classics to us to help us sleep. What a soothing voice.
Warmest regards to you, Shana and Bear, and best wishes to all of you listening. We can do it!
Update from Linda (11/4/2019)
You read out my sad story to your listeners about five months ago. My story since then has changed dramatically.
I have turned my life around since coming off benzos. I was on them for perhaps six years, lorazepam and diazepam. My memory is still a bit shot, but it’s a ton better than it was! I lived between benzos. I cried when I ran out. I slept most of the time and was depressed and anxious most of the time. What happened was as I came off them it was like I came alive. I could remember things. I felt things. I felt love again, for life and people. I thought about what I was going to do.
…as I came off them it was like I came alive.
I was too out of it to even think about that before, and decided I would do a CELTA course. Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. It was eleven weeks of the most intense hard study. I could never in a million years have done that on benzos. The course finished six weeks ago and now I’m a relief teacher on a refugee and migrant programme. Can you believe it?
It didn’t just come out of the blue. I studied languages at school and I was reasonably bright until I was on benzos and quickly addicted. It’s like I’ve come back to myself. I’ve woken up. In January this year, I was drinking in the morning and taking lorazepam three times a day. That was rock bottom and I was on the way out, heading towards accidental or deliberate overdose.
I don’t know how, but I decided to do something about it. I couldn’t work, I’d just lost a job because I couldn’t remember anything. I switched to diazepam because it’s easier to come off, with the longer half-life and besides, I hate it — lorazepam I loved.
But now I feel so good and I get to help refugees speak English.
I cut down a quarter every two weeks. I went to AA and that worked with my drinking. It was so hard for five months. But now I feel so good and I get to help refugees speak English. Some women have never even held a pen in their lives. I can help them to become part of New Zealand society by teaching them English and I’ve got a place in the world again.
To your other listeners, please, please persevere. Switch to diazepam because it’s long-lasting. Cut down like D says, very slowly. Mine I guess was fast, quarter every two weeks. Don’t go faster than that. Have faith in it, that it’s worth the short-term pain for getting your life back. Never mind being pissed off with doctors, although I was enraged at times, but never mind that now, get off that shit and back to you and your possibilities in life.
D, thank you for your Benzo Free podcast. Did it with you, there on air like a loving friend.
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All stories shared on Easing Anxiety are done so with the author’s permission. These stories are provided for informational purposes only and should never be considered medical advice. The views and opinions expressed within are those of the author only, and do not necessarily reflect those of Easing Anxiety or its founder. Stories presented on Easing Anxiety may contain triggering content for certain segments of the population. While provided as an informational resource to our community, some stories may not be beneficial to those who are sensitive to their content. Regarding benzodiazepine withdrawal or BIND, most people can withdraw safely, successfully, and without serious complications if they are informed and have a solid support system. Many of the stories shared on Easing Anxiety are extreme and should not be used to create any expectations of one’s individual experience. Please read the Ashton Manual formore information and work with your doctor. Withdrawal, tapering, or any other change in dosage of benzodiazepines, nonbenzodiazepines (Z-drugs), or any other prescription medication should only be done under the direct supervision of a licensed physician. View our complete disclaimer for more info.