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If you don’t mind, indulge me and let’s pretend we’re in a secular confessional, you and I. You’re the witness and I am the confessor. And since the only confessionals I know of are Catholic, let’s go ahead and give some good Catholic flair: imposing confessional booth divided by a dark screen, a wall of lit candles somewhere in the vicinity, hushed tones, people kneeling, whispering prayers that fill that deep, cathedral space like smoke. I’ll likely be wearing something over my head. A scarf, perhaps. Elizabeth Taylor comes to mind, but without the glittering smile. My hands will be shaking but I will keep them in my lap because I’ll be hunched a bit, curved like a comma, halted.

Here goes:

I’ve been a benzo addict for over two years.  Benzos. Benzodiazepines. Also known as Xanax, Klonapin, Ativan, mothers-little-helpers and etc. They’re a class of drugs known as ‘sedatives,’ ‘hypnotics,’ ‘anti-convulsants,’ and ‘anti-anxieties.’ I call them the Hammers. And, when I started taking them, I needed a hammer.

It was the summer of my second pregnancy and I had sudden, unexplained and pathological insomnia.I was awake for days, weeks. I watched dawn break morning after morning and in a short time I was having hallucinations, burning in my arms and fury. This wasn’t your “have some Chamomile tea,” insomnia. No warm milk. No hypnosis. I was haunted. My doctors said, “You must sleep and these work.” And so I took them. The little white pills. The hammers. I took them until my body started to feel very wrong and now I’m trying to get off and most doctors have no idea how to get off. They simply know that the hammer works. They know little of how or why.

One night, deep in junky territory, I YouTubed “benzodiazepine withdrawl.” The results were astounding. More than I could count and each an awful narrative of agonizing physical and mental anguish. The only thing the doctors tell you is not to go cold-turkey. “It’s very likely you’ll have seizures if you go cold-turkey.” Seizures? Great, thanks for the heads-up. So, I began by cutting my dose in micromilligrams. Junky-style. And the next morning I’d be shivering. By mid-afternoon my heart would be a jack hammer in my chest. My breath was erratic, as if my very diaphragm had forgotten it’s place in the body.

Oh yes, and I was full of anxiety. A tsunami of anxiety that left me sobbing in my car

Christiaan Tonnis ~ William S. Burroughs / Vid...

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because, it seemed, there was no one, no one to call. Who do you call when you’re in a William Burroughs back alley with Donna Reed stepping on you with her heels? I felt like a cliched casualty. I felt betrayed by the medical industry whose interests are often in what works and in what the pharmaceutical reps tell them. Hammers. Great. Lots of people need hammers in this world. We’ll dispense.

Wait. Have I leapt onto the soapbox with too much fervor? It was, after all, my decision to enter this particular Faustian bargain. But I didn’t know it would be this hard. I didn’t know that some addiction specialists say you’ll never get off them at all. That’s f***ed up. That’s an invective I’d like to fit with a sword.

Ok. I’ve run off again. Only because I haven’t eaten in two days and I know that it will get better but I don’t know how long it will take before it gets better. I’m an herbal tea drinking, yoga loving, tree-hugging, pill-hater at heart. I’m humbled to arrive at this place, with my head down, hugging the pillows and wanting it to just stop. The nausea. The aches in my joints. The emotions soft as marshmallow man.

Thank you for witnessing. I’ll keep you updated on my progress. And for those who might understand, and need someone who can help, check Heather Ashton’s website. She’s the queen mother of benzo withdrawal. She’s the only one who knows.


Good luck.