Juliet's Story: Overcoming Ambien Addiction & Insomnia
Healing is resolving the separation between the journey of the body and the journey of the soul. ” – Dr. Brit Cooper
My Drugged Love and Hate Relationship
One of the most arduous and testing experiences I’ve gone through in life was overcoming my Ambien addiction, or in my case, changing what felt like the most convincing belief, “I need this drug.”
It all started with my fear-filled nights when a relationship turned abusive in my early adult years. I made myself stay up whenever sleep crept in every night in case my abuser decided to come to my door as he often threatened he would. Slowly, I conditioned myself to stay awake and before I knew it, I completely lost the ability to fall asleep. I went through months of staring at the ceiling wide awake hour after hour only getting some light sleep in the morning hours, just enough so I could go through life in a zombie state.
The situation escalated when I feared for my life almost every minute of every day and I turned to the only solution I could think of – going to a psychiatrist and receiving medical help.
I was diagnosed with depression and given a fancy cocktail of drugs. I didn’t care how many prescriptions I had to fill as long as I could find a way to escape from the painful reality. I placed all my faith in those bottles of pills I received from the pharmacy believing they would somehow turn the situation around.
The much needed and promised salvation came as soon as I began taking the medications. I was told the antidepressants were tricky and I had to try a few to get them right. Within the first couple of days of being on Lexapro, the heaviness lifted and I felt as if I could soar through life with a smile on my face for the first time. Sadly it gave me digestive issues and was quickly replaced by Zoloft. I will never forget about the two weeks of my Zoloft experience as it put me in what felt like deep slumber with the most vivid, intense and gruesome nightmares every night. I woke up in terror drenched in cold sweat every morning not being able to differentiate whether the torture truly occurred. Finally, it seemed a large dose of Paxil, Seroquel and Ambien did the job.
I followed the recommended dosages and lived in a state of bliss. No matter how bad life was and how much abuse I endured, my pills kept me in a happy bubble and nothing on earth would infiltrate my bubble.
Every night whenever I wanted to go to bed, I would pop a handful of pills and the sweetest dizziness and sleepiness would sweep over and bring me a long night of restful sleep. Nothing on earth was going to take that away from me.
The bliss was so powerful that I was unable to see the warning signs. I began gaining weight rapidly. I would fall asleep while still being on the phone at night and waking up in odd corners in my apartment with the light on and phone underneath me. My short term memory began deteriorating and I could barely recall what I did moments ago. Feeling as if life had absolutely no consequences and I was on top of the world, I drank heavily and mixed alcohol with the meds so I could double the bliss. I began committing outrageous acts I would never do such as walking on deserted streets or going to bars at 2 am just because I could. I felt invincible and powerful and the best part was I didn’t have to deal with any struggle in life, I simply couldn’t feel or interpret anything as painful, whether it was the continued death threats or abuse. It felt like I lived life wearing a pair of rosy glasses and everything appeared to be so lovely.
Fortunately, my therapist noticed my changed behavior when I stumbled into her office one morning after drinking all night attempting to share my adventures with her in what she described as rapid speech, and pushed me into the psychiatrist’s office so he could begin a taper off meds without delay.
He deemed the antidepressants were unsafe for me and within a couple of months, I was left with nothing but 10 mg of Ambien and all the problems in my life.
Attempts to Quit
For anyone who has taken Ambien, one of the most common complaints is that it stops losing its desired effect after a while unless dosage is increased. Slowly, my insomnia found its way back, despite my nightly rituals of swallowing the pill that used to work such magic.
I would lay wide awake in bed wondering where my next salvation would come from.
I was, like many others, under the belief that all solutions to our internal problems can be found using external means, and I looked high and low for the one magical solution to miraculously appear in my life. I was also a believer in the power of modern medicine and convinced that if only I found the right pill, my sleep would return.
After finally having found a way to leave my abusive relationship years later, my insomnia remained. I tried Sonata, Lunesta, Xanax, Ambien CR and Trazodone; none of it brought back my old bliss of 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Trazodone mixed with Ambien recommended by a sleep specialist seemed to do the trick, although I sank into another depression and experienced frightening auditory hallucinations every night.
As little as I slept, I was holding onto the Ambien for dear life. The occasional good nights of sleep reinforced my belief that the only reason I even slept was because this pill helped me. Whenever I went on a trip, I would double and triple check my pill case to make sure I had enough pills to last for the whole trip, as the idea of ever missing a night of Ambien terrified me. I never associated my thoughts with the word addiction – to me, I was only taking it for sleep and did not abuse it. Of course I didn’t have a choice; I needed sleep to function.
One day while being in a beautiful resort in Mexico during my vacation, I sank into a panic when I realized my pill case opened during the flight and some of my pills went missing in the suitcase. I felt as if I was going to have a heart attack and dumped the content of the entire suitcase onto the floor in an attempt to search for the missing pills. I caught the reflection of a young woman shaking and kneeling on the floor scrambling through piles of clothes in complete dismay. The cold hard truth hit me like a ton of bricks. I was overcome by what I could only describe as waves of shame and self-loathing; it was then I decided it was time to taper off.
Over the next few years, I did extensive research on the safest ways to get off of Ambien. I went through a process of cutting a chunk off every night for a period of time until I hit another pit of insomniac nights, then going back to the original dosage feeling defeated and hopeless. If I cut off too much, I experienced mild seizures and splitting headaches at night on top of rebound insomnia. Sometimes I would cut off a crumb yet still felt I couldn’t sleep without the tiny crumb. My plan was to continue cutting and increase the crumb size I cut off so perhaps one day, I would be Ambien free. I failed again and again. Every time I reached a certain percentage decrease, I would completely lose sleep for weeks until I gave in and went back to my old dosage.
Healing Is the Union of Body, Mind and Soul
When I finally came to the realization that neither an allopathic physician nor laboratory-produced drugs composed of chemicals were going to heal me, I began taking matters into my own hands.
As a spiritual seeker from a young age, alternative/holistic healing methods began calling me from all directions in life. I ended my almost-decade-long psychotherapy and began searching for answers elsewhere. I was still hanging onto half of my Ambien pill but was ever more determined to free myself from it. The combination of hot yoga, meditation, herbs and nutrition didn’t take away my insomnia, but did allow me to pay more attention to my body and mind.
Slowly, I began realizing that my insomnia was a symptom rather than a disease. By keeping myself alert every night, my body and mind were desperately trying to communicate something to me, and by covering up my symptom with drugs, I was putting a band-aid on deeper, hidden issues I couldn’t bring myself to face. As holistic beings, the human body is not merely a sophisticated clockwork mechanism in which all parts are isolated from the whole.
Whenever a part is exhibiting symptoms, it is signaling to us that there is a misalignment between our body, mind and soul, and change needs to be made in order for the whole to rebalance.
Having grown up in a household of two physicians, I have always witnessed the limitations and drawbacks of allopathic medicine. Not only the side effects and health risks which can often impede the healing effects and lead to new health concerns such as drug resistance, but there are also a growing number of illnesses that simply do not respond to traditional treatment methods. Most importantly, Western medicine derived from the Newtonian model focuses only on the chemical and structural components of the human body, which paints an incomplete picture when it comes to healing.
Soon, my path led me to Reiki. Deeply healing and restorative, the life force energy that flowed through my veins slowly brought repressed emotions, disempowering beliefs and unconscious patterns to surface and triggered what is known as the healing process, which is similar to a detox, except mine occurred on an emotional level. I realized just how out of alignment I was and how much my consciousness played a role in my health.
For several months while working with my coach combined with daily Reiki self-healing, I went through a rough emotional roller coaster where I felt my old world came crashing down. At the same time, a new world was being built. Beliefs that I had no idea I was holding onto came up and needed to be processed. Old wounds were opened again and in the midst of the pain, so much love and light poured into them and brightened up the darkest corners in my life.
On some days, I was bombarded with such intense emotions it would leave me curled up in my room crying for hours. Yet even during the most violent storms, I did not drug myself or hide from the crashing waves. I felt the energy of those emotions slowly being released from my body. I knew for the first time in my life that no matter how difficult it was to face all the memories and emotions I shunned for decades, they were there because they desperately wanted to tell me something. I had to own them before I could disown them. For every tear I shed and every pattern I let go of, I felt lighter and clearer.
The last disempowering belief I let go of was the belief that I needed Ambien to fall asleep. By then, I was on 1/3 of a pill and had begun to help others on a similar path. My final push came from my sweetheart who gave me quite a speech that summed up to be, “You don’t need this anymore, it’s in your head.” That night, after having meditated to Wayne Dyer’s “I Am” meditation, I told myself that it was time to let it go.
It was the first night in 14 years that I went to bed without Ambien. I fully prepared myself for a night of turning and tossing, or worse, headaches and seizures. I managed to get about 4.5 hours of sleep which was nothing short of a miracle. The second night, it was about the same. For the next few nights, my sleep gradually increased. Little by little, I began sleeping more and more and what was elusive for 14 years of my life finally returned.
The rest of the Ambien went down the toilet along with any remaining self-doubt.
Knowing Who You Truly Are
Living in a universe of vibration and frequency where energy is the building block of all matter, it is no mystery that we are all beings of energy and the physical layer is merely the densest layer that is visible to the human eye, surrounded by a network of interactive subtle light bodies of aura, chakras and meridians. Any disturbance in this intricate and dynamic equilibrium can have an effect on the whole.
Conventional treatments, whether it is antidepressants or chemotherapy, often fail to heal as they are not addressing the root causes of the energy imbalances that eventually manifest on a physical level. Our beliefs, thoughts, emotions, words and actions all carry powerful vibrations that can either boost our health or weaken it. As harmless as disempowering beliefs such as “I am doomed to fail in life” or “I’ll never be healthy” may seem, their energy patterns participate in the expression in life and creation of distortion in our energy fields which eventually lead to dis-ease that can range from anxiety and depression to chronic ailments.
Today, I use Reiki, coaching and hypnosis to help others heal and transform. I believe vibrational medicine, which encompasses the integration of any form of energy healing with living organisms from sound and crystals to herbs and foods combined with mindfulness tools such as yoga and meditation derived from Eastern and Western Spiritual teachings, is the missing piece in today’s world of medicine.
After having worked with many clients who suffer from issues of low self-worth, which is one of the most common disempowering beliefs we carry, I found the energy pattern of that belief often results in digestive issues as well as chronic throat infections and thyroid issues. Not surprisingly, our third chakra, the solar plexus, is located in the center of the stomach and determines how much we can step into our personal power. Our fifth chakra, the throat chakra, enables us to speak our truths and express our needs to the world. For as long as we remain unconscious of these limiting beliefs, we are allowing them to dictate our overall health.
In this day and age, there is no shortage of information on how we can take care of our bodies: eating healthy, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, for example. However, many of us continue to walk through our lives without taking care of our consciousness and inner alignment. We hypnotize ourselves with negative self-talk. We condemn our emotions when they’re merely messengers looking out for our highest good, and we feed our mental and emotional bodies with “junk food,” drugging ourselves when symptoms such as insomnia and anxiety begin to show up and disturb our daily routines. It is my hope that as the world is waking up, more of us will awaken to our true nature, heal ourselves by shifting our consciousness and shine our light just a little brighter so that we may light the path for others.
Thank you, Ambien, for allowing me to remember Who I Am.
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