Ultimately, I ended up using Clonazepam as needed for serious bouts of anxiety or full-blown panic attacks. However, due to its disorienting effects I typically just decided to deal with the discomfort without medication. 6 months after I landed on Klonopin I was in a fairly severe car accident. (Not due to the medication in any way)
As a result, I was prescribed Vicodin and Oxycodone for pain. In the past I had always refused pain medications. I felt tough and manly if I didn't need them, but this wasn't getting your wisdom teeth pulled. I needed to take them. Having very little knowledge of opiate painkillers at the time I began taking them as the doctor prescribed. When I took the first dose I felt amazing. The opiates completely eliminated all my anxiety and depression. I felt like I was invincible. This lead me to take more medication than prescribed, more often than it was prescribed. On some level I knew it was foolish, but I justified it by telling myself I had tried everything else and that they were legal prescription medications. It wasn't like I was shooting heroin I thought, when in reality I was pretty much popped synthetic heroin pills.
Slowly what I came to know as opiate dependence and withdrawl creeped up on me. The positive effect it had on my anxiety was gone and I was more depressed than ever. I could not believe how horrible I felt if I did not take the pain meds. I would never have imagined how physically and mentally painful withdrawal is. When I had to call in sick from work one day I knew I was in trouble. I called my doctor and that afternoon I was beginning an outpatient opiate detoxification program. I was prescribed Suboxone (I was completely unfirmilar with the drug at the time, but am know quite knowledgable) and weaned off it over 1 and a half months. And even when I stopped taking the Suboxone I felt pretty sick and out of it for a couple weeks. In hindsight, part of me wishes I would have just dealt with the original withdrawl. In the end I sort of looked at Suboxone as just another pain medication, although it is somewhat different. Ultimately, I just felt like I replaced the Oxycodone with Suboxone for 45 days. Regardless, I got off everything without any issues and am very happy about that. Still...withdrawl...WOW...unreal...unimaginable unless you've been there.
So, I was niave and stupid when I decided to self-medicate. Even though I had little success with the anti-anxiety drugs available, there was still no justification for my actions...as much as I tried to rationalize one in my mind. It was by far the worst experience of my life. And not because of the physical pain, but rather the shame and guilt. It has been over a year since I have ingested any kind of opiate and I still feel guilty and foolish for putting myself in that position. I never in a million years would have guessed that I could become addicted to drugs. However, as bad as I feel about my behavior, I did take a lesson from experience which changed my life for the better.
First, the experience opened my eyes to how hard dealing with addiction can be. Before my addiction and recovery, I looked down on drug addicts. I saw no reason why a person could be addicted to a drug unless they wanted to be. I now realize that drug addiction can get its claws into anyone. I now see how tough it can be for addicted individuals to get sober. Not just because of the physical and mental control these substances can have, but also because, unless you are decently wealthy or have very good health insurance...getting good substance abuse treatment is nearly impossible. I thought that the condition of mental health services was poor in the United States. When I did my research on substance abuse treatment I was astounded.
Beyond the stigma that is placed on addicts, namely opiate addicts, it seems as though many of the programs set up patients for failure and are only interested in making money. I was very lucky to be refered to a Suboxone doctor by my primary physician. The day I started my treatment I started doing research about Suboxone. Finding that many doctors only accepted cash, that they charged upwards of $200 per visit just to write a prescription, and that no plan for tapering the drug was created...that the docs would just keep taking money instead of encouraging progress. It felt as though addicts were viewed as less than human and could be taken advantage of by these "treatment centers."
I realized that every addict's situation is different. I was very lucky to have a supportive and honest team of doctors. Ultimately, I really feel for anyone who is putting forth an effort to quick using drugs only to be abused or taken advantage of by their doctor. If an addict is going to stand up, admit their mistakes, and ask for help they deserve to be treated with respect. I would love to have the opportunity to help our country restructure its approach to substance abuse treatment. It needs to happen. I am not an expert by any means, but I would be willing to bet that we are losing some very incredible human beings because of a system that has so many flaws. Our rehabilitation systems need some rehabilitation of their own. AMEN.
I wish anyone who is struggling addiction the best of luck. You deserve to be treated like anyone else with a harmful health condition. I pray for your strength and success. You can do it.
I am incredibly grateful for my success in quitting opiates. As I said I am thankful for the doctors I had, for the support of my family, and an amazing girlfriend who has stuck by me through everything. However, when I got off the medication I still did have mental health issues to deal with. I had spent 3 years trying all those different anxiety drugs, dealing with all the nasty side-effects, and not once did a doctor suggest anything besides drugs. The counseling that I recieved during my Suboxone treatment turned me on to congnitive therapy. My Suboxone doctor (a psychiatrist) was actually pretty saddened when I told him that none of the previous doctors ever suggested therapy for my anxiety and depression. After I finished my Suboxone taper and my drug abuse counseling I continued therapy with anxiety specialist.
In the beginning I saw my therapist every week, but with the tools I was given I was quickly able to take hold of my anxiety without medication. Now I see my therapist maybe everything 3 weeks to a month. If you are dealing with anxiety and depression and medication just isn't working, or maybe it is and you need something a little extra...talk therapy is amazing. Even for people that don't have any issues it would be great. If you reseach patient reviews of various anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications they are typically rated between 5-6.5/10, while talk therapy consistently recieves reviews around 9/10 by patients. (these numbers are from revolutionhealth.com)
Beyond my now occassional talk therapy, I have daily routines that have strengthened my body, mind, and spirit...in turn providing even more relief to my anxiety and depression.
My holistic approach consists of the following DAILY regimines and activities:
1. A very healthy diet based around my personal needs.
2. Daily morning stretching / brief in-home workout (push ups/crunches)
3. Hot shower ending with a cool rinse while music playing on IHome to start the day
4. Glass of Citrucel Fiber mix and Life Force Multi-Vitamin with healthy breakfast. (must have breakfast)
5. Practicing organization at work; always have a seperate legal pad for notes - post-its get lost! (constantly taking notes while researching clients, or on calls, even things I know I will remember...because I do forget...and that causes anxiety for me)
6. Always bringing a healthy packed lunch from home to avoid vending machines or ordering out. (it is the healthy option...and it also saves money, which is another source of stress for me)
7. Daily weight-lifting (45mins) and cardio (45mins) (after work is a great time, clears the mind)
8. Post work-out Whey Protien Shake (maximizes effect of workout)
9. Healthy dinner eaten at least 2-3 hours before going to sleep,
10. Pre-sleep meditation, or brief in-home yoga routine.
11. While laying in bed before going to sleep, practicing controlled breathing techniques. (many are explained online, or guides can be bought on Itunes)
12. No TV in the bedroom...no reading lamp either...bedroom should be for sleeping only and as dark as possible...will provide the best sleep.
(I know it seems like a lot, but when I add it all up these 12 things probably only take 3 hours of my day divided up)
Other non-daily practices:
1. Massage Therapy (I go once maybe twice a month...anxiety is physical as much as it is mental)
2. Accupuncture (Was skeptical, but very impressed...not a permenant solution, but very helpful)
3. Peppermint Tea for upset stomaches associated with anxiety
4. Music Therapy...rock out to your favorite songs
5. Comedy...funny movies, laughing makes your feel calmer and happier
6. Hobbies...anxiety keeps me from trying new things, don't push too hard, but try to get yourself to try new things...the feeling of accomplishment builds selfesteem which combats anxiety.
So thats my story. Again I hope it helps someone. I am definitely not a doctor, this is just my expierence and the things that have worked for me. If anyone out there lives a similar lifestyle and has some other tricks that I missed please post them...I am always looking for new things to try out.
Thank you for posting your story. I really like your suggestions especially the hobbies, + comedy you are so right.
I have four kids. Do you have family or are you in a relationship? Just curious as it ceratainly, while helping me + fulfilling also brings more stress and less 'me' time.
Also I, with a pretty good job + working husband/four kids/2 in college/big mortgage/how did I get here? just cant afford (or justify) 90 Euro a week for therapy. I would love to get it. Do you pay a lot for that where you are?
Therapy is pretty pricey here as well. Luckily I have really good insurance through my work. They cover 80% of a visit...which is about $30 american...a visit to a therapist is usually around $120-150 where i live.
Though I'm not an addict, I used to look down on people with addiction problems as well, until I did more research about the subject and read people's stories. That opened my eyes to see what people with an addiction face when trying to become sober and stay sober. It helped me understand a lot more, and I lost that attitude that peole with drug addictions brought it on their self, should quit using, etc... Whatever else a typical stranger to addiction would think... I'm glad I took time to read things people shared to shatter those thoughts and attitudes.
I hope more awareness of the subject can be brought up to non addicts, because I believe it will help with a lot of the problems you're facing, such as the negative attitudes from doctors, society, etc...
BTW, have you tried posting this topic in the addiction community?
I mean it is okay where it is in the depression community, but I think it could be very helpful in the substance abuse forum as well.