The following has been submitted by an alumni.
It was my double-edged sword. From childhood, I lived with a panic disorder. A constant state of fear and discomfort. It was torture; truly hell on earth. Eventually, as I grew up, my doctor and I found a reprieve from my insanity…Xanax. Soon, I would come to find out that my life-saving medication was actually killing me faster.
Where It Began
From as early as I can remember, I was afraid; constantly; of everything. I was afraid of what people thought about me. Afraid of what I thought people thought about me. I couldn’t go to sleep at night without my mother staying with me until I fell asleep. When I would wake up in the middle of the night, I would scream in anguish because I couldn’t find her. Talking to people for the first time, walking into class by myself, joining clubs and teams at school…they all seem like average tasks for anyone. For me, they were nearly impossible to accomplish without going into a full-blown panic attack first.
My first sign of alcoholic tendencies came around 7 years old. I can remember my mother always struggling to get me to bed. I would literally lay awake in the middle of the night, suffocated by fear; absolutely irrational fear. I thought my parents were going to die in their sleep or that someone was going to come to my house and kidnap my brother or me. It finally got to a point where my mom would get so frustrated and exhausted, she would occasionally give me a spoonful of cough medicine to help me fall asleep.
It wasn’t like a got a euphoric feeling from the medicine, but I do remember being able to fall asleep faster without anxiety or racing thoughts. For that sole purpose alone, I loved the stuff. I would even go as far as begging and bribing my mother for more. When my attempts failed, I began sneaking it in the middle of the night. This went on for some years; and in hindsight, I see where it all began; ironically enough, in a medicine cabinet.
That habit continued into my teen years. For many, high school is a fun experience, a time to meet new people and do new things. For me, it was an utterly painful and awkward process. Every day was like having an out-of-body experience, watching myself literally stumble through life. I had exactly two friends during this time. One of which, knew and understood my struggles, because she was going through them herself.
One day, after third period, she met me outside the Chem Lab. Something seemed off. She typically would have her face stuffed in a book, so no one would see or talk to her. That day, I found her talking and giggling with three girls I had never met before. When I caught her eye, she quickly scurried away from the chattering bunch, grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into the closest bathroom. After checking under each stall, she said, “I have something to show you.” She quickly pulled out a medicine bottle. She went on to explain that her parents brought her to a therapist who said this medication would help with anxiety. Apparently, although she felt a little groggy, her anxiety was gone. The racing thoughts were gone. The sweaty palms. All of it. I immediately accepted her offer to try one.
That’s when I became brave enough to venture into pill bottles that didn’t have my name on the label. I began frantically searching medicine cabinets throughout my house, my grandparents’ house, even the home of the woman I babysat for. I convinced my mother it was time for me to see someone for my anxiety and panic attacks. Conveniently enough, my friend’s doctor had an opening.
The Xanax Spiral
I was surprised at how simple it was to get my first prescription for Xanax. I only met with my dealer, I mean my doctor, for 20 minutes before I had a script in my hand. He asked a few questions, jotted a few notes, and as easy as that, I no longer had to rob people’s medicine cabinets to get my fill.
Initially, it was great, as all addictions are. I honestly didn’t even believe I was addicted. Justifiably, I had a real life panic disorder which Xanax helped to cope with. How could I be addicted? Slowly, but surely, things began to spiral, as many would expect. Instead of taking the prescribed dose, I would subconsciously tell myself I was feeling more anxious than usually, and give myself permission to take more than prescribed. As my prescriptions began to run out faster than expected, my doctor became “concerned”. He suggested I begin to taper down.
That was simply not an option for me, seeing as I had a legitimate disorder which needed treatment. (As you can tell, I also got my medical & Psych degree during this time). I began seeking out more doctors that “knew what they were doing” and were willing to write me more prescriptions. It eventually got to the point where I was traveling 100 miles in each direction, to see a handful of different psychiatrists. What started off as one pill a day as needed, eventually turned into as many as I could ingest without killing myself.
I started to lose pieces of time. Not just minutes or hours, but days and weeks were completely erased from my memory. I would wake up not knowing what day it was, what month it was, or how I ended up on my kitchen floor. As I would stumble into the bathroom or bedroom, I would find new items of clothing, makeup or other meaningless items, that I had no recollection of purchasing. It appeared, I turned into a kleptomaniac in my Xanax-induced blackouts.
Even with all of that, I still wasn’t able to realize how Xanax was ruining my life. The realization came after my third failed suicide attempt. Here’s the piece doctors don’t tell you. Although your symptoms of panic and anxiety subside (for a time), feelings of hopelessness and depression skyrocket. What’s worse? The fact that when I was out of my prescription, which happened quite often, withdrawal from the drug only amplified my anxiety, panic and racing thoughts. It was a never ending perpetual cycle of torture. If I took the medication, I turned into a thief, lost chucks of my life and memory, and became extremely depressed. If I didn’t take the medication, I went into withdrawal, which only intensified my panic disorder, among several other undesirable symptoms.
There was only one thing left to do. End it all. My last and final suicide attempt would have been a success, if my roommate didn’t barge into the bathroom when she did. (I actually hated her for a while for that). I don’t remember much of that night, as I lost a lot of blood and passed out. I woke up 2 days later in a lock down psychiatric facility. After weeks of psych treatment, they transferred me to a drug and alcohol program. Although I was angry that I had to continue on with treatment, I was relieved to be out of that place.
By this time, I was stable on nonaddictive anxiety and depression medication. While it didn’t give me the instant relief that Xanax did, I ultimately felt better. At rehab they taught me that I could not rely on medication to do the work for me. Between the medication I was currently on, continuous therapy (both on an individual and group basis), and grasping the understanding of the 12-steps, I felt better than I ever had before. Of course I still had moments of anxiety, even panic attacks, but as time went on, they subsided and I got better.
I can’t say that I’m cured. Unfortunately, no one with either of these diseases can. What I can tell you is that on a daily basis, I try to do better, to be better. I still take my medication, as prescribed and have a continuous working relationship with my therapist. I also find reprieve in the 12-steps, working with my sponsor and now working with others who are suffering from the same disorders as myself.
All I can say is this. Medication is not always the answer. At least it wasn’t for me. I thought I was safe because I have a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis and my doctor prescribed the medication. When I broke free of my denial, I realized how addiction took over and my manipulative thinking and actions ruled my life.
Now, please don’t mistake my story as the final rule. I do not claim to be a doctor, nor do I believe my sufferings happen to everyone. This is simply a story of how Xanax ruined MY life. Please consult with your doctor before beginning or stopping any kind of medication, especially those of the narcotic variety, or if you are experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression, etc.
Contact Clearbrook For Xanax Addiction Treatment
Are you or someone you love struggling with Xanax addiction? Clearbrook can help. For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been a leader in chemical dependency and alcohol addiction treatment. Contact our Admissions Specialists today to begin your road to recovery.