Addiction Survivors


Unread 10-23-2010, 01:49 PM   #1
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Default Hoping for a way out of Anxiety and Stress

Hi All,

You asked for an introduction, so here goes:

Where do I start? At the beginning? Where's that?

I should start by saying that I am also active in the Opiate forum as I am on Suboxone.

A little history of my benzo use:

In the mid-80's I lightly used Valium recreationally, or at least I thought it was recreational.

I was on a methadone program at the time, so once they picked up on the Valium use, that stopped right away, after a couple of months or so.

In 1995 or so I had hypoglycemia and as a result I had a lot of trouble concentrating and doing my work. I saw doctors who dismissed it - this is a nutritional problem, not a medical one. In my case, however, it ultimately (by about 2005) flipped on me and became Type II diabetes. At the time, however, I was flipping out. I didn't understand what was happening to me. I saw my doctor a couple of times on this but again it was dismissed after a basic physical and blood tests were normal.

I didn't understand so I became anxious about my problem. I couldn't think straight and no one was listening to me!

On a return trip from up North, I had a panic attack, not knowing that's what it was I called 911 and eventually made my way to the cardiac ward because my story was that I was having these "attacks" for weeks. After seeing a neurologist, cardiologist, getting an MRI and a buncha other tests my primary care physician came back to see me. I should say that he is a brilliant diagnostician, but has a terrible bedside manner. In medicaleze he told me there was nothing wrong with me, that I was wasting his time and the insurance company's money, that I was a hypochondriac (I will never forgive him for this), and that I should consider "seeing someone" to talk about these issues.

I saw a psychologist and yes, we determined that I have an anxiety problem. We talked a lot, adjusted my brain a good bit, he recommended seeing a psychiatrist about possible medication for anxiety, but I declined.

I have come to the conclusion that the best-adjusted people are those who do see a psychologist/psychotherapist/psychiatrist for talk-therapy from time to time.

Anyway, I repeated six months with a different psychologist a couple of years later because I still wasn't thinking clearly and my anxiety was escalating. By 2007 or so, after the same diagnosis I still refused to go on medication. I did find an old family doctor who brought my kids into the world and he tested my blood pressure and pulse several times in a 15 minute period and observed me bouncing off the walls. I was pulsing 80,100,120,100,125,80, bp 120/80, 150/100, 160/90, 130/90, etc - bouncing off the walls. His high-level observation was that I needed to find a way to settle down and started me on Ativan. He had me take one half to 1mg when I needed it. It really helped, but I wasn't stable. My doctor was onto something, but this was like the 1890's when doctors used opiods as a cureall for whatever ales you.

The fact is that I have a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I went back to my old family doctor with an empty bottle a couple of months later and said it helped and I wanted more. He obliged, but added Effexor XR and suggested I "see someone" to talk about these issues.

Sound familiar? I went back to the psychologist I liked the most and asked for a gentle psychiatrist. I didn't want to get sucked into some big treatment situation with inpatient tests, shock treatments, probes in my brain and everything else I could imagine. I then met a doctor who is in my life, the most compassionate, caring yet competent Psychiatrist I have ever met. He listened patiently to all of the above and more, and promised me that one way or another, I would be feeling better soon. That promise alone made me feel so much better, and to this day, the time we spend together is probably the most productive and therapeutically relieving time I spend with a medical professional.

We structured a plan that includes taking 3mg of Ativan in divided doses as needed throughout he day, an Ambien 10mg at night (not to exceed 3 nights in a row) and Effexor XR to help with the anxiety (although I'm not sure it does very much as I'm only on 112.5mg a day (3 x 37.5mg caps a day). He knows I'm on Suboxone and my Sub doctor knows I'm on benzo's. My shrink says that in a pinch I can take more Ativan (up to 8mg in a single isolated day, but beyond that he would consider abuse). All agree I am a compliant patient so there's no issue all around.

So, now for the interesting part of all this:

- I am an opiate addict in recovery, tapering off Suboxone ever so slowly. I have been stuck at 1mg every other day for a variety of unrelated reasons. I don't abuse Suboxone. I used to abuse my Opiod drug of choice (Hydrocodone), however, so I have addictive tendencies that I believe I have been correcting through behavioral therapy. I enjoyed opiates when I abused them and I suppose I will always be at risk of relapse.

- There is some level of physical dependency on Effexor XR, and I would like to pull the plug on that and taper, but my doctor tells me that the stability I enjoy today is because of the combination of psychiatric medications I take today, so I continue on that for now. I have no affinity for this drug and I'm not even convinced that it's doing anything.

- I don't think I have any dependency on Ambien (Z-class drug Zolpidem Tartrate) as I don't take it all the time. It is useful, however, especially while tapering off of other medications. I keep it as a useful tool. I don't have any affinity for this drug. I don't like the way it makes me feel, but it knocks me out in a pinch.

- I absolutely do have physical dependency on Ativan, even at 3mg a day. I know that if I cease taking this benzo I will go into withdrawal possibly resulting in siezures or worse. In the process of selecting Ativan, we tried Xanax, which was too strong for me, Klonopin, which was way, way too strong for me, and I remember Valium from earlier years, which would mess me up if I used it as a tool to control anxiety. Ativan (Lorazepam) is the only drug my shrink offered that allows me to function, drive, work, take a half a tablet and it doesn't impact my thinking.

In the case of my diabetes medications, I know I have to take them until I don't have to take them any more.

In the case of Suboxone, it is just a matter of time and I am confident I will be off of it. I have pretty much found a way to deal with my pain problems and with the new film format I can do a granularly slow taper I shouldn't even feel, and I should have no further use for the drug. I have no cravings, urges, and have not slipped.

In the case of my psychiatric medications, however, I don't see any way out. I have used all kinds of stress techniques, but my life is my life and short of a lobotomy I don't think there is any cure for my anxiety disorder. My life is my life, between two mortgages, insecure employment, unstable US government, increasing taxes, car payments, a wife and kids who want everything, escalating health and other insurance costs and a shrinking bank account I see no end in sight. I have very real issues that cannot be talked away.

So, I take my benzo's, every day. I am not unhappy or depressed, just stressed and anxious - the kind of anxiety that cannot be cured with Yoga or Accupuncture. I educate myself on the risks and rewards of my treatments and I am doing the best I can for now.

What's interesting is that my shrink tells me that he has many patients like me who have real life issues that would otherwise spin out of control if not for benzos. He also has many who abuse them, but many who do not.

I would love a way out, but I fear the only way would be to abandon my responsibilities and that I cannot do.

We are all living proof that there is life after addiction.
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Unread 10-23-2010, 06:28 PM   #2
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I can identify with several parts of your post. What really caught my eye was the following paragraph:

"In the case of my psychiatric medications, however, I don't see any way out. I have used all kinds of stress techniques, but my life is my life and short of a lobotomy I don't think there is any cure for my anxiety disorder. My life is my life, between two mortgages, insecure employment, unstable US government, increasing taxes, car payments, a wife and kids who want everything, escalating health and other insurance costs and a shrinking bank account I see no end in sight. I have very real issues that cannot be talked away."

This is so true. Life is just out of control these days and it cannot simply be talked away. I'm middle-aged (43) and can see how things just get more complicated every year. With science and technology, far too many consumer choices and over-saturated markets, credit cards and living beyond our means... it's just too much. Please, slow down or let me off! Life should not be so stressful, but it is.

I too am on Suboxone (almost 4 weeks) b/c I abused Hydrocodone. Yes, I liked the way it made me feel. When I was using, I felt like everything was alright amd life was manageable. It even gave me motivation and energy to do things. But I was confronted by my significant other about my use and was given an ultimatum.

I've been on several different SSRI's in the past 10 years since I quit drinking. I don't feel they make any difference and would like to give it a try without. I've suffered from depression for years and the older I get, the less worthwhile life seems. Fortunately, I didn't have any children to drag down with me.

I've seen a few psychiatrists on and off over the last 15 years. About 4 years ago, one diagnosed me with ADHD and put me on Adderall. That is where the Ativan came in. I've always had trouble sleeping and the Adderall just made it worse, so I was prescribed Ativan. It started at 1 mg and is now up to 3 mg due to time and tolerance. I've tried taking it for stress and never "feel anything". The only effect it has is making me sleepy. So I can't say I've ever abused it, but I don't think I would sleep without it. When I was on 2 mg, I would run short every month for a few days. Those few days were hell for me b/c I just couldn't get to sleep. The first couple of years I was on Adderall, I was definitely over medicated at 120 mg a day. I now take 30-60 mg a day, but I still take 2 mg of Ativan at night. The doctor who has me on Suboxone knows all of this, BTW.

I'm thankful for this website. I'm pretty isolated and don't get much support, so I need to take advantage of what this has to offer. Hopefully, we can all learn a little from eachother, but if nothing else, at least know that we are not alone.
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Unread 10-23-2010, 11:29 PM   #3
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Hi Packrat, SLIP67, and anybody else here!

It seems like whenever "life on life's terms" throws me a curve ball, my stress and anxiety levels are off the charts. When life is cool, like it is right now, I can flow with it.

Here's my story:

8 years clean--recovering crystal meth/cocaine/alcoholic/addict (21 year addiction)

Dx'd with borderline personality disorder at age 13 (untreated, well self-medicated, really)

Dx'd with depression, panic disorder, anxiety, and tachycardia in 2003 (prescribed Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft...everything they could give me...nothing worked without side-effects of racing heart then sleepiness)

Dx'd with ADD and high blood pressure in 2007

Today, I take 1 mg Xanax 3x a day as needed for anxiety; 20 mg Propranolol 4x a day as needed for tachycardia; and 12.5 mg HCTZ once a day for HBP.

I just ran out of samples of Lexapro for depression. I really don't want to take any more meds.

My doc says I'm not BPD...he says "those people really piss me off; you don't piss me off." So that's untreated.

The ADD...I tried Adderall and it just made me so sleepy, so he gave me Provigil. That made my heart pound even worse.

I have a theory about my tachycardia...every doc I've mentioned it to says it makes total sense...but nobody has studied enough crystal meth addicts to see if it's true...

The heart is a muscle. Muscle has "memory." I used meth/coke for 21 years. My heart knows more about racing than it does about beating normally. I think I've conditioned my heart to race.

So, my best guess for myself is:

stress+anxiety+life+depression+tachycardia = more of the same, a cycle that at some points can be treated, some I just have to deal with.

I don't have trouble sleeping. I have trouble staying awake. I can sleep through anything...not good.

I suppose I have a sleep deficit that would make the federal deficit jealous. It's bad but not that bad.

Yeah, the government sucks, the economy's tanked, I don't have a job, my husband works his ass off, but my kids are cool...they don't need or want everything they see...neither do I.

I'm just grateful that I managed to get my homeless, pregnant, jobless, drug-fiending self out of that life...

And into this one.

It may not be the best, but it can always be worse.

Have an awesome, dopeless day,

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Unread 10-24-2010, 12:57 AM   #4
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Hey, do you all ever wonder if we're just over-diagnosed (and/or misdiagnosed) as well as over-medicated? I know that the health/medical field has made great advances even in my lifetime. It just seems like we keep discovering more and more disorders and diseases every year. Have people always had these problems or is that just the way humans are "evolving" now? I am being sincere when I ask this, not judgmental.

About 15 years ago I took no prescription medicine. Since then I'm up to 5 or 6 meds that I take on a consistent basis. None are for a medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes. They are for depression, insomnia, ADHD, addiction, etc. That's not to say that these are not medical conditions. I think my point was, these are meds that if I did not take them, it isn't likely it would be fatal. I don't know. I'm just thinking out loud I guess. I just feel like, for the most part, I'm no better off today taking these meds than I was 15 years ago with nothing. Sometimes I want to put them all aside and try life with nothing. But then I think about the Suboxone that I've been on for only 26 days and feel like I would be back to abusing opiates if it wasn't for that. Then I think about the Ativan that helps me go to sleep at night and don't want to go back to lying in bed for hours while my mind runs through all the negative things in my life...

Okay, so maybe I really do need some of these meds.
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Unread 10-24-2010, 12:39 PM   #5
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Wow, I really feel so much better reading your posts knowing that I'm not alone in this.

Slip, I'm not a doctor, but y'know when you talk about Adderal, I think about what it really is - speed. Its an amphetamine and when I was younger, along with taking downers I took uppers, too. At that time stuff like tuinal, seconal, acid, dexedrine, benzedrine (black beauties), dope, coke and pot were the main drugs of choice. The ingredients in Adderal, at that time, were used strictly for weight loss and depression (can you imagine that, if you are depressed, just take speed, and there was even a formulation to deal with the sleeplessness called Dexamyl which included sodium Amytal, a barbituate. When I used to take dexedrine or benzedrine (amphetamines, just like Adderal) I got so cranked up I didn't sleep for days and then hadda come down with tuinals and sleep for a coupla days. Now, physicians prescribe huge doses of amphetamine for ADD and ADHD (the same amounts on a daily basis that I used to take once a week to crank me up for a weekend) and I'm sure they are effective for that disorder, IDK, but they must have long term affects like you describe making your heart race. Mine sure did. Now, because of so much abuse of uppers of all kinds (coke included), my central nervous system is too sensitive to do anything more "up" than coffee without feeling ill, so I did some damage somewhere. I can definitely see how you ended up in the Ativan/Adderal cycle.

DHF, I wish I could sleep like you - I mean, not all the time, but at least get a good night's sleep once in a while. I have trouble sleeping many nights regardless of what I take, and must have a sleep deficit of some kind. I'm afraid its gonna hit me sometime when I'm driving. I would love to eliminate all my psychatric drugs - yeah, it wouldn't kill me, but i would start bouncing off the walls again and my quality of life would suffer. So, off I go to the pharmacy to pick up my monthly refills and work hard every day to change my life situations so I don't have so much anxiety, or at least make it manageable without meds.

By the way, has anyone tried Provanax? My primary once suggested that I try herbal supplements instead of prescription medications, so I did some research. Since herbal supplements are like vitamins and don't require FDA approval, unless they are a controlled substance like Salvia, there really are no regulatory controls, testing or drug interaction checks. I tried Provanax and did some research and found that certain ingredients can be damaging to the liver over long term use, and one of the ingredients is considered addictive.

I feel like there is no way out! Yes, the basics, good diet, plenty of exercise and taking care of myself, but it isn't any where near enough to deal with life's real problems.
We are all living proof that there is life after addiction.

Last edited by packrat; 10-24-2010 at 12:43 PM..
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Unread 11-08-2010, 11:17 AM   #6
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I loved reading your story though I am sorry you went through all that. Was all that "bouncing around" and anxiety issues before, during, or after your opiate addiction? I was just curious I didn't know if you said that already or not. I'm glad you found a psychiatrist you like a lot, as do I. She is so nice. Her and her husband have a practice together, they are both psychiatrists though I can't say I like him very much. I had to see him because she's always backed up/behind (everyone loves her) so they asked if I minded seeing him the last time I went. He always bugs me about being on Klonopin and ALWAYS telling me it's dangerous. I told him, "I heard it's not dangerous with Sub as long as your not abusing it" and he agreed. So I said, "Well, I don't abuse it but your not going to believe me because I'm an addict" He wrote the script. Why would he keep pestering me about being on Klonopin if he didn't think I abused it? He wouldn't have so I see his thoughts. She doesn't give me a hard time at all - I don't abuse benzo's I probably take them only a few times a month. I wish he'd just right down my script and shut up!! LOL
Just remember, Life goes on..
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Unread 11-08-2010, 12:36 PM   #7
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LMAO- Miss Survivor, you're so funny.
Just wanted to say I'm enjoying this thread, everyone have a great day!
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Unread 11-11-2010, 07:23 PM   #8
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Hi MissSurvivor,

I know I don't always jump into every thread - I don't always have something productive to add, but I wanted to say that I always enjoy your posts and they make me feel better.

Anyway, most of the bouncing around came long after my Opiate addiction was in remission, but on a methadone program.

I think twin shrinks are a problem because you get conflicting opinions. My shrink's daughter started with his practice, but I stick to him even though I have to wait because I'm confused enough as it is without having two shrinks! -

Generally speaking doctors frown upon Sub patients on benzo's because of all the warnings - even right on As I understand it all of the negative publicity sub/benzo treatment has received has come from a few students experimenting with intravenous recreational abuse. The way I understand it, and my doctors have agreed: If you are on a stable dose of Sub and a stable dose of a benzo, there s/b no issue.

There's lotsa threads on this subject on the Sub forum.


We are all living proof that there is life after addiction.
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Unread 11-14-2010, 01:01 PM   #9
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i hope there are docs out there that agreethere is not a problem with bups and benzos given together if you are on a stable dose. i jst moved to another county and am going to have to find another doc. i take 24mg of sub and 6mg of xanex and have been doing so for a year now. i know i am hopelessly strung out on both. however i have become stable and my life is improving. so the only problem i see in the near future is being cut off. i am also takinf effexer ,guanfacine,and a small dose of adderal
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