“I didn’t think for one minute I was going to get hooked on them. Not for one minute…
… I was working night shifts, and my sleep during the day got worse and worse. I was prescribed sleeping tablets on about two or three occasions, and they only gave me about 10 at a time, saying ‘try not to take them every day’ – but they worked for me, they really did. And I ended up buying them off the internet. Before I knew it I was taking 70 – maybe 80 mg a day….
… and I found I was getting a little bit of a buzz off them just before I went to sleep … some weekends if I combined it with a bottle of wine it heightened the effect and I would just lose the whole weekend. I’d black out. I was ordering stuff off the internet, having it arrive 2 or 3 days later, not even remembering that I’d ordered it.
I thought ‘this is becoming a problem now’ – when I started forgetting things … it started affecting my work … I was questioning what I was doing at work even though I knew the job off by heart. It wasn’t an illegal drug, it was prescribed. I used to think ‘well, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke – this is my thing. This is my ‘bottle of wine’’
I’d already seen various different doctors within my practice – I told them I was buying them off the internet, and they just told me to drop one a week – there was no support. I found out later that if I had dropped one a week I could have had a seizure, I was on such a large dose and the doctors really didn’t know anything – until my sister phoned the practice and booked me in with a doctor who was quite knowledgeable on drug addiction. I told this doctor what was going on, and she referred me to DHI (which is Developing health and Independence) and as a result of that I got referred to Colin in the BAT team.
Colin’s advice was tailored to what I was taking. Even the doctor was asking me what Colin thought! Or, say, if I was making a cut ‘does Colin say that’s OK?’ so the doctor was really relying on everything Colin said. If Colin said it was time to make a cut, I’d tell my family and they’d bring me over 6 tablets instead of 7. And we did that in three-weekly increments. Regularly making small cuts.
I wanted to get off them before I went to work, because I’ve been off work a long time – and they’ve been really good with me, and patient, so I needed to do my bit and go back to work drug-free. That was my ultimate aim, and my ultimate goal – and I have achieved it. I have.
“I never felt like I was addicted because I didn’t take it every day”
It was normal for me. I’d wake up with these night terrors, or panic attacks, as they called them … and the doctor would come out every single night to the point where they realised there was nothing more they could do … and they would write a prescription – and my mum would then be in charge of crushing them up and giving them to me on a spoon rather than the doctor having to come out to me every night.
So that was routine really – that was just what happened. I grew up with that thinking that, I guess, was normal. It calmed me down. It did what it was supposed to do, so I guess therefore they thought they’d sorted the problem. It became a need for it; I needed that tablet to sort the problem out. I guess after about 10 minutes of taking the tablet there is a relief…and I guess that’s what you’re after when you’re panicking. you want it to stop and after about 10 minutes you can feel it working. It subsides, and its relief. and that’s what you want. when you’re in despair and you want it to stop that’s what you’re looking for.
It was just total desperation – I would have done anything I could to get my hands on it, as everybody needs air – I needed that to live. That was my life. Without that I had no life.
I never felt like I was addicted, because I didn’t take it every day. An addict, to me, takes it every day. I found that really hard to accept.
It helped me through my life, so I didn’t question it. It was only after a friend of mine had been to a talk by Battle Against Tranquillisers that she realised that the person they were describing, and what they were describing – was me. And she came and she said that she’d been to this meeting and she thought that this was my problem. I didn’t believe her – there was absolutely no WAY that I was addicted to these pills because I didn’t need them. I could go a week or so without any and to me addiction meant every day. And I went along to this meeting – just to humour her really! I was really surprised with what I heard. What I was told. And I came to the conclusion that there was a possibility that she could be right. They were describing me.
I’d been suffering since 5 years old – and 29 years is a long time. I’ve searched and searched, and I’ve seen psychiatrists and psychologists and doctors … because I wanted to be better, and nobody has given me answers until recently. So it was quite a shock to find out that the pills I took to make me better are in fact making me ill. It was a shock. But now I had the answers I was able to do something about it and make MYSELF better. So I was quite happy to have that.
I’ve now been 6 months free. But Colin helped tremendously with support – he was always there to talk to. Knowing that you couldn’t take anything TO stop it, and trying to see it through, and not knowing how long you’d have to live with it FOR was an absolute nightmare. The worst, worst feelings ever. And the coping skills were all I had really, to help me. And a lot of talking and understanding of what was happening to me, why it was happening, and the fact that it wasn’t going to last forever.
… as time passes I’m hoping the good days will become good weeks, and they will become good months … and eventually the bad days will … ‘do one’!.