I have read three books regarding benzo withdrawal: Recovery and Renewal and  Benzo Wise, by Bliss Johns, and The Benzo Book, by Jack Hobson-Dupont. 

All three books were informative about the process of withdrawal and recovery. However, the mental madness that often accompanies withdrawal was downplayed. My guess is it is harder to write about the mental symptoms as there is such a stigma about mental illness. Those of us in recovery do not have an organic mental illness in withdrawal, we simply have brain damage that makes us temporarily think and feel within the DSM boundaries of illness.

Dr. Reggie Peart was put on Valium for vertigo. His recovery story is heart breaking. A robust young man with no history of mental illness, he was put in an institution five days after his cold turkey and diagonalized as schizophrenic. As if this was not bad enough, he would be put back on and taken off benzos numerous times, with more hospitalizations that included electric shock treatments and continuous narcosis along with other psyche medications.

After my cold turkey from 19 years of using Klonopin as prescribed by my doctors, ( a cold turkey at the hands of an uneducated “addiction specialist”) I had both visual and auditory hallucinations for a month. I lived in extreme terror that is so far out of the normal life existence it difficult to describe. Normal sounds such as glasses clinking together would send a shock wave of cold terror through my body. I became terrified of God, and would sob for hours begging God to not hurt me. ( I have always loved God!)

I also suffered with obsessional or intrustrive thoughts that were not in my life pre benzo and extreme paranoia. I could not trust my mind to accurately reflect the world as almost every thought was of something horrific in nature: death or violence. Not having a means to escape these thoughts and feelings is terrifying. I was certain my state was my old anxiety from 20 years ago returning, although I was not rational enough to realize I was anxious years ago, not this sick! I also worried my brain was broken beyond repair and nothing would fix it. I thought I would remain in horrorville forever.

The mental has gone on a long time. I am over a year off and although healed enough to be out in the world on a limited basis, I have a ways to go with my healing.

One day I will write my full story, in hopes it helps another avoid or get through benzo withdrawal.

We need to all lift our voices and talk about our experiences. Not just the body symptoms, but the mental and spiritual as well. My mental symptoms are far more difficult to cope with and more disabling than my body symptoms.  We need to help educate doctors that benzo withdrawal syndrome is real. It is happening to us, even to those of us who were not put on the drug for anxiety.

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