Xanax Panics: How Quitting Xanax Nearly Cost Me My Life
I sit on a cold hospital table hooked up to wires. In and out of consciousness, I can hear the doctors talking. I cannot speak or move, but I hear it all. I am trying to scream or say something to them as they talk about me in a vegetative state, but to no avail. I want them to know I’m alive inside but I can’t move a finger or say a word. Suddenly, I hear my heart monitor flatline. I feel them trying to save me, but also feel myself fading. I’m scared, powerless, circling the drain. That is when I hear the doctor say, clear as day:
9:39 p.m, call it.
The thing is, none of this was happening. I was in my own bed in my own apartment detoxing from Xanax which I had taken to sleep pretty much every day for 8 years up to that point. I would not have ceased my intake had I known just how deadly Xanax withdrawal is. I would have tapered, but I went in naive. Put it this way, booze and Xanax are pretty much the only drugs that can straight up kill you if you quit.
Your body goes into shock from not having something it was used to having for X amount of years. But don’t think that opening story above is some attempt to shock you. The ironic part is, I did very much end up in the hospital surrounded by scared doctors and hooked into I.V’s and other strange contraptions meant to keep me alive. My hallucination ended up being more of a foreshadowing than I would’ve liked.
Here, for your edutainment (entertainment and education), the story of me currently trying to quit Xanax and it currently trying to kill me.
My Doctor is a Drug Peddler
The main thing is, I have been Hunter S. Thompson my whole life. Drugs never scared me because I was strong enough to take them and not take them again. I was also always strong and wise enough to walk away from the stuff that would do any real or long term damage. So imagine the genuine shock when the one drug that brings me to my knees was the ONE DRUG THAT I WAS OBTAINING LEGALLY VIA DOCTOR’S ORDERS. Yes, I wanna smack my doctor in the fucking face for being that irresponsible with such a life threatening drug. To even allow me to be on it for more than a year was a huge misstep in his work, and once I can fully form cohesive sentences with my mouth again, I intend to sit with that man and ask him why. Why the fuck he put me in such a dangerous position without telling me just how dangerous it was.
Oh wait. Big Pharma has all the doctors under their thumbs right now so I bet the fucker got a bonus (maybe a new yacht or some shit) for getting me hooked and ALMOST making me a motherfucking statistic.
Fuck that. You need something bigger with sharper teeth to kill a Remy. Nice try.
What Made Me Quit
I’m not a bitch, straight up. I was bringing my nightly Xanax dose to my mouth before bed and I found my hand stopping before popping. I knew that was my brain saying “wait a second.” It was that point that I realized I had been taken these fuckers to sleep for YEARS and that, in itself, probably fucked my internal clock and my ACTUAL ability to fall asleep unaided. So at that point, I threw the Xanax down. I won’t be a slave to any pill, and once I looked back in hindsight, that is kind of what I was, at bedtime at least. Considering I had quit every bad drug I have ever taken without a problem, I stupidly assumed that this would be no different. I could not have been more wrong. Cue a week without Xanax and I am lying in bed, puking everywhere. I got SO SICK, I cannot put it into words.
But here is another kicker. I just thought I was sick.Like “flu” sick. I was so naive to the destructive power of Xanax I didn’t even make the connection. Come to find out, there are tons of musicians and artists and celebrities who will openly admit that Xanax was harder to beat than booze or heroin. Add that to the fact that cold turkey’ing Xanax can kill you and send you system into shock, and I was essentially a hot piece of coal sitting on some very thin ice, but with no idea I was there.
The “break” as I now sadly refer to it happened about 14 days into myecleaning up. My brain just snapped. It went somewhere else. Suddenly, I was in a serious dementia. I was seeing things that weren’t there, clearly, in front of me. I was overhearing conversations about me while sweating out in a bed in an empty house. You know the withdrawal scene from Trainspotting that everyone assumes is exaggerating? The one where the dead baby crawls on the ceiling? Well, that scene is not exaggerating and if I could have experienced it all in a weekend like the character in that film did it would have been a blessing. Problem is, when you break you don’t know you are broken because all the hallucinations are a reality to you. It culminated with me getting up in the middle-of-the-night, buck ass naked, and inexplicably putting a mallet through my bedroom window. I responded to this by stepping in broken glass and going back to bed. Woke up the next day confused as to why my feet were bloody and my window was broken.
But it was only getting worse…
I Was Dying
It’s true. I could feel myself slipping away a little more each day. Like I was becoming an insane husk and who I was up to that point was fading away inside the mess. I could feel it but could not do anything to stop or change it. Now what is even more horrifying is my queen (that’s what you call your lady if you actually love her) was constantly trying to get me help and call an ambulance and somehow, I would rationally talk her out of it each time. Another thing I have NO recollection of.
I was out of my mind, fading fast, and knew NOT what to do. Thank god I made a terrible choice that ended up almost killing me but saved my life. I told her (my queen, that is) that I thought a ride might do me some good. She had her doubts but at this point wanted to do anything she could to help me so she wasn’t against it. I will now describe one of the scariest instances in my entire life.
It’s the Time of the Seizure
So of course we live on the third floor of a building so I took to the top steps and began making my way down, and this is when life stopped. The walls in the hallway were distorted, and as soon as I was down three steps I felt my legs giving out. The walls of the building were squeezing in on me and I fell backwards onto the stairs. The ceiling was coming down slowly and I could feel my body overheating, sweating, screaming.
My legs gave out and I hit the landing in front of the second floor (which happens to be inhabited by a good friend of mine, who heard the noise and reacted). By the time he opened his door I was flopping on the floor, foaming at the mouth. Yup, that is when I essentially died. My body was in full shock, and I have no memory of the four days after that. No memory of ambulance ride. No memory of getting into hospital. I just remember coming back to consciousness, tied to machines and surrounded by doctors just like in my death hallucination I mentioned earlier. This (obviously) freaked me out and it took a minute of them soothing me and settling me down for them to explain. Suddenly, everything made sense when the doctor said “you don’t cold turkey xanax, you madman. You have no idea how lucky you are to be alive.”
SO WHY THE FUCK DID YOU GUYS PRESCRIBE ME IT AND NEVER TELL ME THAT???!!!!!
Yeah, they didn’t have an answer for that one, oddly enough.
So at that point, I had the stuff out of my system long enough that the thought was, I had already pretty much beaten it. That is very far from the truth, but I did (probably) miss my death window which is unreal and I am incredibly humbled by. I stayed in the hospital one more day (actual hospital BTW, not mental) and then they told me I should have the worst behind me but still stay very much aware of my mental and physical state at all times and if another similar episode happens in the next 3 months (150 days to fully detox, fuck me) react quickly! That is not a difficult thing to be told when you were hallucinating your own death (and some stuff even more disturbing than that) five days earlier. I wasn’t scared of quitting or thinking I would miss it. At this point I just wanted THAT DEMON XANAX out of me.
Coming back home was surreal because I just kept thinking to myself how I may not have had that chance. So at first, everything seems new. You have a new lease on life and you feel blessed you even got it. But there is also a darker reality that goes along with that. You are back where you used. Back in the place where you hid a stash and liked to lose yourself now and again. That, alone, can be a trigger for some people. But I had a couple other wake up calls, once released. A very close friend of mine had a friend who did the exact same thing at the exact same time I did, except when he had his seizure, he coded and died. Shocking shit, but to know that is to know just how close I was and just how lucky I am. It also brings a little survivor’s guilt, but you do your best to bury that.
Then, after being home one full day I got a phone call. My grandmother, whom I adored, passed away in her sleep the night before. It was devastating news and EXACTLY the kind of thing I would have wanted to emotionally run from before, but I no longer have that crutch. I no longer have that “easy button” in the form of a pill. Now, I have to wake up and actually face this shit. So far, it has been tough but I am almost 30 days sober and above all else, I survived something that kills a great many people (even though very few know it). Something kept me here so I need to use this information to help others. I won’t squander my second chance.
So that means it may be my job to say:
PLEASE Stop Using Xanax!
Yeah, my new sleepless life is tough, I’m not going to lie about any of this. I am NOT sleeping and I need to rework myself internally and rewind my clock and just keep trying to get right, but if that is my one setback, I can live with it because it means I get to keep living, period.
But I do have a plea to all of you who may be taking Xanax, legally or not.
STOP THAT SHIT!
You are taking something that actually packs more risk than heroin even though no one told you that. Xanax may take away the anxiety SHORT-TERM, but at what cost? For me, it was my sanity and nearly my life. Fuck that noise. There is no drug on earth that packs any kind of high worth that.
So take my warning to heart. You probably aren’t 8 years into daily use like I was, which means stopping for you (if you taper like smart people do) is totally manageable and could truly save your mind, soul, and life in the long run.
And don’t think the irony of all this escapes me. It doesn’t. A drug I took legally via doctors to help with anxiety ended up giving me the most anxiety-ridden episode of my life, while also attempting to take that very life I thought it would help. Wow, how fucked is that?
Now granted, I’m not going to stand up and pretend I beat this. I still have a few months and I could totally still seize and die, so I cannot undermine that. But I also won’t live dancing around it. It is what it is, and whatever will happen will happen. I am just going to do all I can to ensure the thing that happens is me surviving and beating this shit.
Fuck you Xanax. I ain’t’ goin out like that.
Featured image by Domiriel via Flickr.