Still on that boat…

Strawberry blonde in a dizzy world!

Getting the right help with benzodiazepine withdrawal…or so I thought


So, after my rather disastrous withdrawal attempt it was clearer than ever that I needed more help. I went to see my GP and his advice was to just go slow which isn’t that helpful. What exactly is slow? I thought I was going slow when I ended up in an ambulance. I understand it’s not his fault, withdrawal from benzodiazepines is poorly understood and not always taught properly. I don’t expect my doctor to know about everything but it worries me how easily doctors start these medications without understanding the complexities of how to come off them. I was advised to find a local drug and alcohol service and this seemed like a sensible plan.

It was a really daunting process sitting in this cold, smelly, run down waiting room filling in forms about my criminal convictions (none unless parking tickets count) and perusing timetables for needle exchanges when the only substance I’ve injected into myself is vitamin B12! I felt very much out of my comfort zone. I was being stared at by other clients, asked for cigarettes and glared at when I said that I didn’t have any. It was definitely less ’28 Days’ and more ’28 Days Later’ type of vibe that’s for sure. It was really depressing but I knew I had to just suck it up and get on with it if I wanted the right help. I’m sure nobody in that waiting room wanted to be there – we just all badly needed help from the claim these substances had over us.

The assessment with the nurse was equally as intimidating being asked rather personal questions about my illegal drug habits and sex life. I flip out when there is high fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list of a gluten free snack that’s falsely advertised as being a healthy alternative, so you can imagine how that conversation went. When I was asked if I’ve ever sold my body in exchange for drugs I joked that I get mine from my GP for free with absolutely no sexual favours involved. He just can’t seem to give me enough of the stuff. It didn’t go down well. I use humour when I’m uncomfortable. I was very very uncomfortable. She was not impressed and it was very clear to me that this was not a place to joke around.

I was then taken to the bathroom whilst the nurse stood outside the door whist I attempted to pee in a pot. I remember sitting there thinking ‘how on earth had my life come to this?’ I’m so health conscious, I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. I eat Kale for goodness sake and here I am being random spot tested for Heroin! I nervously awaited the results. Yes nervously, like I’d done hard core drugs and forgotten, like you do. What a day. It was humiliating considering I’d never abused an illegal drug in my life and had only ever taken benzodiazepines as instructed, but I understood it was a process that everyone who came for help had to go through.

I was given a plan with a timetable of my withdrawal schedule. It very much followed the Ashton Manual which is the most recognised resource for withdrawing from Benzodiazepines. I would cross over from my Clonazepam to Diazepam (another long acting benzodiazepine) which is done as it comes in smaller tablets so it is easier to reduce in smaller amounts. I would then reduce the dose of Diazepam by 1mg every two weeks. I was to see my caseworker every two weeks and if I was having any difficulties we could discuss it and adjust the schedule. It seemed really sensible plan to me so I agreed, happy to finally get the right help but with this gnawing sense that something wasn’t quite right. I should have listened to my gut.


I was soon to find out:

  • The limitations of the Ashton Manual
  • Why drug and alcohol services are not designed for people withdrawing from prescription medications
  • The difference between addiction and physiological dependency
  • The importance of getting the right support

Stay tuned

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Who am I?

Was – independent, intelligent (with plenty of dizzy moments), successful, busy, funny (depending on how much Prosecco I and the people around me had!), quite stressed out but overall happy, without even realising how lucky I was.

Now  – ? just a mess really! I was diagnosed with Migraine Associated Vertigo (MAV) eight years ago when my life changed dramatically. It’s a variant of migraine that means I feel dizzy and tired nearly all of the time. If I try and do anything ‘normal’ this sparks of vertigo which gradually gets worse and worse until I pass out unless I lie down for hours, sometimes days. What this means is I spend 90% of my time in bed in a quiet dark room. Normal activities like shopping, walking, going anywhere bright or busy, the cinema even visiting friends who have patterned wallpaper or a gravel drive is a nightmare!

I’m continually trying new medications, all of them with quite nasty side effects (worsening of vertigo, weight loss, hair loss and sense of humour loss to name but a few) to try and find the magic one that will work for me. Fingers crossed the one I’m on now will work, time will tell.

A good friend set up this website so I could become a ginger whinger. No I’m kidding, so people can understand what I’m going through and maybe it would help me to have a bit of a rant. I have quite a dark sense of humour, I think that’s the only reason I haven’t gone completely bonkers! I clearly don’t have the most exciting of lives but I live in a small village with some entertaining characters and I’m always having blond moments (I blame the meds but I’ve always been a bit dappy!). Who knows I may even get better, and I can assure you life will be filled with amazing adventures then!

Scrap that! After zillions of Consultants all saying that they know what’s wrong with me and that they can get me better. Endless drugs and procedures I was finally Diagnosed with Chronic Lyme which was great – until I find out that nobody in the UK has a clue how to treat it. That complicates things some what 😉